If Cinderella’s carriage had turned into Pumpkin Island on the Southern Great Barrier Reef instead of the edible kind, she would have been laughing at her evil stepsisters.
The only footprints on the beach outside my eco-friendly hut at on the six hectares of paradise known as Pumpkin Island are mine.
There are others on the island, but it feels like I have it all to myself, and I am loving the seclusion. My afternoon has been filled with lazy beachcombing and picking small but sweet oysters off the rocks.
I’m not the only one who appreciates this island. It also is the 2018 winner of the Australasia’s Most Sustainable Hotel award presented by Boutique Hotel Awards in November.
PUMPKIN ISLAND IS PART OF THE KEPPEL GROUPI’ve got my favourite beach swing chair just a few metres from the water’s edge, a bed where I am lulled to sleep by gentle waves lapping the beach. There’s also a plunge pool if I don’t want to take the few steps down to the water for a swim.
The island, located 14 kilometres from Yeppoon in Queensland’s Southern Great Barrier Reef, is part of the Keppel Group. It once was XXXX Island where people came to drink, drink and drink. Now it’s a 34 person (maximum), seven self-catering unit holiday island.
SUSTAINABLE PUMPKIN ISLAND ACCOMMODATION You’ve probably already thought, “this sounds like the perfect place for a wedding/party/celebration” and you would be right. That means hiring the whole island, and that is perfectly possible too.
The eco cabins are very beach chic and powered by sun and wind. The cottages only have sustainable 12 volt solar and wind power which keeps the water pump, fans, lights and fridge going. There is a USB port where you can charge your phone.
Rainwater keeps the tanks filled. It’s the sort of play where you want to curl up with a book or play board games with the kids after a day of water and beach activities.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH PUMPKIN ISLAND?If there is one flaw here, it is that the phone reception is excellent, although you could pretend otherwise. All this bliss does come with the proviso that you bring your own food, although the managers will stock it up for you if requested.
Although small, the island is big enough and hilly enough to provide interesting walking. There are a few secluded spots for swimming and some great diving available.
The Pumpkin Express leaves from Keppel Bay Marina and takes about 45 minutes to reach the island.
ROCKHAMPTON is the major centre of the Capricornia region which extends from the Capricorn Coast west to the Central Highlands at Emerald, north to Mackay and south to Gladstone taking in the Southern Great Barrier Reef and the spectacular Great Keppel Island and inland natural wonders like Carnarvon Gorge. And the one food experience not be missed aside from the seafood is of course – the beef.
Keppel Bay Marina. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Waterline Restaurant at Keppel Bay Marina, outside Yeppoon, takes the win. Family-owned and renowned for Banana Beef from their own cattle property, it’s the only place to sample their prize-winning steaks. It’s got great views, service and locally-sourced fresh produce.
The stunning Great Keppel Island.
Great Keppel Island is the hero destination of the region. Stay in beachfront cabins or eco-tents and wake up to spectacular views. Two ferry operators run a 30-minute service between the island and Yeppoon. The calm waters surrounding Great Keppel Island make it perfect for all types of water sports such as snorkelling, stand-up paddleboarding and water-skiing. There are also day tours and sailing trips on the crystal clear waters of the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton holds live rodeo entertainment as well as claims of the best Steakhouse in Queensland. Picture: Lachie Millard
The Great Western Hotel on the outskirts of Rockhampton is home to the largest indoor rodeo arena in the Southern Hemisphere. Every Wednesday and Friday, they put on a rodeo show. It’s a thrilling feeling to have a ringside beer and steak and watch bull riders battle colossal beasts.
Water meanders through the Carnarvon Gorge National Park. The spectacular sandstone feature was created by water erosion over millions of years. Picture: Bruce Long
BEST NATURAL ATTRACTION
Carnarvon Gorge National Park is like something out of a David Attenborough documentary. It is a natural wonderland, with more than 30km of dramatic sandstone cliffs, lush gorges, creeks and waterfalls. It is also the site of some of Australia’s finest aboriginal rock art.
Judging the Brahman cattle section at Beef Week, Rockhampton. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
No Bull. Australia’s national beef expo is one of the world’s great beef cattle events. It is a celebration of all facets of Australia’s beef industry. This year’s event, held at the start of May, featured more than 4500 cattle from over 30 breeds; international trade talks; 500 businesses at a trade fair, and celebrity chefs in a culinary extravaganza of meat. The Paradise Lagoons Campdraft (July 19-22) and Gemfest Festival (August 9-12) should also be on your to-do list.
BEST PLACE TO STAY
Pumpkin Island, famously known as XXXX island for three years, is an exclusive island eco-retreat with seven cabins. Owned and operated by Wayne and Laureth Rumble, it is your own private piece of paradise on the Southern Great Barrier Reef. You can snorkel fascinating coral reefs off the beach, cook fresh-caught fish, and pretend you’re the Swiss Family Robinson.
BEST TOURIST WALK/DRIVE
–– ADVERTISEMENT ––Dig the Tropic is a self-drive geo-trail that follows the Capricorn Highway from the coast into the Outback. Explore the limestone Capricorn Caves and dodge the micro-bats on a caving adventure. Fossick for thunder eggs at Mt Hay Gemstone Park or visit the historic gold mining town of Mount Morgan. Take Australia’s largest Underground Walk-In Sapphire Mine Tour at Miners Heritage or fossick for sapphires at the Sapphire Gemfields.
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