After spending a couple of days in Townsville and then two more in Mackay, my journey kept me going south this time to the Capricorn Coast near Rockhampton, named for the Tropic of Capricorn that bisects the region. First stop is Yeppoon, the tourist and commercial hub of the region. Yeppoon has a lovely beach looking out on to Keppel Bay, which was deserted on the mild Autumn day I arrived. The town is still recovering from Tropical Cyclone Marcia which tore through Yeppoon in February 2015. The name Yeppoon comes from the local Darumbal people, the same nomenclature going to Yeppen Yeppen lagoon just south of Rockhampton. Yeppoon was first settled by white cane farmers in the 1860s and was a prominent blackbirding centre.
My motel was further down the coast from Yeppoon at the quieter settlement of Emu Park. Originally named Hewittville it was renamed for the emus found in the area and the park-like setting of its foreshore. The highlight is the Singing Ship monument commemorating the visit of Captain James Cook to the region in 1770. The 12 metre high sails are designed to “sing” in the winds though I didn’t hear any tunes when I was there. No matter, the view out to Great Keppel and the other islands was superb.
The way out to islands was via Rosslyn Bay. Perched precariously at the foot of a volcanic outdrop, it is home to a marina, a fleet of trawlers, a fishing co-op and most importantly for me, the ferry to Great Keppel Island. After booking a trip for the following day, I proceeded to climb up the nearby cliff walk for a great view of the area. The following morning I was back at Rosslyn Bay for the half hour ferry trip to Keppel. There weren’t many of us aboard, and most were talking the daylong package from the ferry company. There were just a few of us who had simply bought return tickets to the island. There is no harbour on the island but the catamaran ferry drops us straight on the beach. The first thing I realise is that I’ve been calling it the wrong name. It may be Great Keppel Island on the maps but to locals and island signposts, it is simply GKI.Having arrived mid-morning, I got off expecting to find a coffee shop nearby. There was nothing directly on the beach where we landed so I took the only bitumen road I could see. But that quickly disappeared into the bush with a crumbling road surrounded by unfriendly razor wire. The only sign of life were a flock of wild goats who fled at my arrival. Had I accidentally disembarked on Nauru?I kept walking until I found a lookout which had good views over the island but no sign of any commercial life and that coffee was receding further out of reach. This was turning into a long and possibly unpleasant day.
I retraced my steps to the beach and found the closed GKI resort. This used to have a reputation as party central but has been boarded up for several years while a multi-million dollar replacement is tied up in the court. The houses behind the resort were also empty. Finally I found two fishermen landing and asked them whether I could get a coffee anywhere on the island. “Right down the other end of the beach,” they told me.
Finally 10 minutes later, I found GKI nirvana at the appropriately named Hideaway Resort. Not only did it have good coffee, it did hot lunches, alcohol and had great view looking down on the beach from the top of the sand dune. Refreshed I was finally ready to enjoy GKI. I saw lovely coral strung beaches with beautiful clear seas, teeming with life and little sign of bleaching. The water was warm and inviting and each new beach was an adventure waiting to be discovered.
After a filling lunch and an enjoyable Corona by the beach at the Hideaway, I continued my investigations to the south of the island. I took a long and tough track (especially when you are only wearing beach sandals) over a hill to Monkey Beach which afforded more great views. In the end I was loving GKI so much I didn’t want to leave and had to rush back to catch the ferry back to the mainland.
It turned out to be a great day after a bad start. There was one final treat back on the mainland. A lovely walk across the top of Bluffs Point between Rosslyn Bay and Emu Park in the setting sun looking across the beautiful Capricorn Coast and lovely GKI. I hope it never changes.