REST A WHILE: Emerald Botanic Gardens is a wonderful spot to relax.
REST A WHILE: Emerald Botanic Gardens is a wonderful spot to relax. Nathan White Images

Gem ready to be explored

EMERALD, named not after the gem but for the lush green pastures that surrounded the town, was established in 1879 as a base to build the western railway, the Gateway to the Outback.

We all now know it as a great retail and business hub of Central Queensland. Probably less known are the great days out in the town itself. And as we have events on in Emerald just about every weekend, there's plenty to do for visitors.

When I have friends or family in town, after a leisurely breakfast in one of the many great cafes I point them to the Strawbale Visitor Information Centre to see what is going on and chat to the local volunteers for some great insights.

The Eastern Bearded Dragon at the front of the centre made from recycled farming equipment is always a popular photo spot.

Locals know the area was once a famous major sunflower producer. Those days are gone but Emerald is now home to the world's biggest Vincent van Gogh Sunflowers painting, located behind the information centre in Morton Park.

Here you can also walk the Mosaic Pathway leading you through 100 years of Emerald's colourful history.

Continuing through town to the railway station. Built in 1900 and restored in 1986, it is now listed by the National Trust. With its wrought-iron lacework and pillared portico it is another great photo opportunity.

After the surprising hustle and bustle of the highway junctions, Emerald Botanic Gardens is a great place for relaxation and reflection for some, while for others it makes a great exercise venue with walks, bike rides, running tracks and fitness equipment. However, for everyone the gardens are great for picnics and gatherings.

Located on the banks of the Ngoa River, the 42ha of gardens include a rose garden, maze, bush chapel, sculptures, rainforest and playground. Six kilometres of walking and bike tracks lead to different plant communities of the Central Highlands.

The Ngoa River itself is also great for canoeing and kayaking. If you are looking for inspiration to be more active, join the parkrun held every Saturday.

At the end of the day there are many quality pubs and restaurants to try and there is usually some quality night entertainment

You can pick up maps, stories and leaflets from the Visitor Information Centre to make sure you enjoy Emerald to the full.