Nicknamed “Rocky,” Rockhampton has a population of almost 78,000, is situated around the banks of the Fitzroy River (Queensland’s largest river), and is 395 miles northwest of Brisbane.Â Rockhampton was established in 1853 as a river trading port.Â It shot to prosperity with several nearby gold and copper discoveries in 1858 and 1882 which can be seen in the town’s many Victorian-era buildings.Â While ranching continues to be the primary industry in Central Queensland, Rockhampton is considered the beef capital of Australia with about 2 million head of cattle grazing within 150 miles.Â The many large cow statues around town are pretty good tip as to how important ranching is to the community.
Cow Statue in Rockhampton
The Great Western Hotel is owned by Australian country music star, Lee Kernaghan.Â Its marketing material describes it best:
“Located in Rockhampton, Australia’s Beef Capital, The Great Western Hotel is one of Australia’s most renowned and iconic hotels.
First Licensed in 1878, the 130 year old Great Western Hotel has been the meeting place for many generations of Central Queenslanders and tourists alike. Now in the 21st century it is a national tourist destination. Built on 4115 square meters, the Great Western Hotel pays tribute to contemporary Australian bush Culture with its walls showcasing the history of local people and surrounding areas.
The Great Western Hotel has always been known for providing great steaks and cold beverages. It features 4 Bars, an award winning Steakhouse, air-conditioned Gaming Saloon and Boardroom along with a Western Retail store. The undercover entertainment venue is the largest in regional Australia with seating in excess of 2,000 people.
The Great Western is the only known hotel in Australia with a covered rodeo arena and entertainment venue. This makes this unique hotel a constant hive of activity with Rodeos and an ever increasing array of entertainers.”
Honestly, our steak dinner was not that great.Â The concept of the steakhouse/watering hole is so exceptionally well done in Queensland (I mean exceptionally well executed, not well done since I’m a medium rare gal myself!), so an average steak really stands out.Â But, we grabbed a couple of XXXXs and established a beachhead for the rodeo festivities.Â
The buckin’ broncos kicked off at 7:00 p.m. sharp, but the people-watching kept us more than occupied before the show officially started.Â Andy and I were both struck with the authenticity of the entire atmosphere — how familiarly rural and country-western.Â The travel guidebooks describe The Great Western Hotel like the movie set of a spaghetti western.Â But, it was just like being in Ft. Worth or Amarillo or Tulsa … right down to the hats, belt buckles, rodeo clowns, the down-home announcer, and even the advertisements for country music radio stations, auctioneer services, earth-moving rentals and quarry supplies. Â This rodeo ring is not just entertainment or schtick, but a real stop on the international professional rodeo circuit – we’re talking about competitive bull-riding!Â A Friday night at The Great Western Hotel can make or break a rodeo cowboy.
The Infamous Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton, Queensland.
After the competitive riders finished, the ring opens up to kids (tons of help and supervision, very cute too) and drunk patrons (hysterical).Â Evidently, America’s litigiousness and love of personal injury attorneys hasn’t made it to Central Queensland yet.Â A couple of guys from New South Wales had apparently a lost a bet on State of Origin and their punishment was public ridicule while lasting about a half second on the bull.Â Luckily, we needed a designated driver so I was sober, but I fear if we were both on the sauce, Andy would’ve taken a spin.Â What could possibly go wrong?
The rodeo kids were hysterically cute. I loved this guy going for the style points!
After the rodeo festivities concluded, we moved inside to watch the U.S. versus Slovenia match.Â At that late hour, only hard-partying locals were left which was interesting and stereotype-reinforcing.Â We got some pretty strange looks from this crew … evidently not much of a soccer crowd!Â
With about 30 minutes left, the score was Slovenia 2 and U.S. 1, and the bartender decided to close and kicked everybody out.Â We jumped in the car and raced to the after hours bar about 5 blocks away.Â At 2:30 a.m., bad drunken karaoke was in full swing, but the match was on the television so we elbowed our way to a good view.Â The U.S. tied it up (and had the winning goal wrongly disallowed), and Andy thwarted two different pick-pocket attempts … definitely time to head home.