One of Australia’s best kept secrets, Pumpkin Island is a tiny gem nestled in the glorious waters of the Southern Great Barrier Reef - an easily accessible 30 minute ferry ride from Yeppoon in Central Queensland.
From the minute the Pumpkin Xpress threw its gang plank down onto the pristine, white sand of Main Beach, we couldn’t help but feel we had entered a real life Neverland.
Palm-framed beaches give way to grass tree covered hills, with glorious views across the sea to neighbouring islands.
The steep, narrow path down to mysterious Mermaid Cove reveals a secret inlet covered with clinking coral and shells (and my kids assure me it has a distinct smell of pirate treasure).
Monolithic cliffs drop vertically into the sea, and we marvel at untouched beaches with nothing but seagull footprints on them.
Each pocket of the island has secrets, and a personality all its own.
Owners Laureth and Wayne, have created an Eco Resort, relying on sun and wind to power the island. Single use plastics are banned not only on the island itself, but also on the ferry.
"We are fully committed to operate as sustainable an operation as possible, saving and improving usage of water, power, fuel and emissions and thus minimising our environmental footprint".
Pumpkin Island was awarded Advanced Eco Tourism certification in November 2009.
Where to stay:
The island’s accomodation consists of 7 self-catering cottages and bungalows, all of which are powered by wind and sun. Each is unique and well appointed, positioned far enough away from each other to ensure privacy, and sporting front row seats to magnificent sunsets over the Pacific ocean.
We stayed in Coco Pine, a gorgeous cottage nestled amongst the Norfolk Pines and coconut palms, and a literal hop step and a jump from its generous deck onto the white sands of Main Beach.
Our bedroom was beyond comfy, with luxury linens and a huge window facing out to sea.
The kids were able to spread out (and bed hop) in their bright, breezy room boasting four singles.
The accommodation is perfect for couples and families, however, the absolute kicker is that Pumpkin offers ‘whole island’ bookings for up to 34 guests!
That’s right - you can have the whole place to yourself!
What to eat:
Pumpkin Island is self catering, and has no restaurants or shops, therefore some planning is required when it comes to food.
The website offers excellent local foodie advice for the departure town of Yeppoon, and with barbecues on each deck, fully operational kitchens and a wood fired pizza oven on offer, guests can easily transport and cook their own food.
The island even has its own herb garden at guest’s disposal.
For those wanting the leg work taken away, look no further than the award winning Waterline Restaurant, located at Rosslyn Bay Marina (your point of departure).
Beloved by locals and tourists alike, The Waterline offers Pumpkin Island guests a preorder menu, including a selection of fresh, local seafood.
With 48 hours notice, The Waterline’s chefs will prepare your day’s meals, and send it over with the ferry.
This trip, we decided to cook in our cottage kitchen and eat by the bonfire as we looked out to the twinkling fairy lights of far off Yeppoon at twilight.
Spaghetti Bolognese never tasted so good.
Perhaps most importantly, there is a licensed bar in the Sunset Lounge offering craft beers, wine and cocktails to wet your whistle as you take in the sunset.
Caretaker Josè made me a very impressive Margarita (ok two).
Free coffee is available here as well.
What to do:
Crystal clear water, hiking paths, rock formations and reefs, meant we were never stuck for something to do.
Non-motorised water sports are free for guests, so snorkelling and stand-up paddle boarding were a hit with the kids, as was exploring the rock pools and caves in the conveniently provided reef shoes.
My husband was happy to monitor his fishing rod from Coco Pine’s deck - occasionally making a wild dash on to the beach to reel in a flathead (one even ended up on the barbecue for lunch).
The glass bottomed kayak was tempting (especially with the abundance of marine life around), but I eventually decided to take advantage of one of the strategically placed hammocks, armed with a book and a cold drink.
When the kids needed a break from the sun, they found plenty of board games in the Sunset Lounge to keep them amused.
Yeppoon is an easy 25 minute drive from Rockhampton Airport.
The Pumpkin Xpress leaves Rosslyn Bay Marina daily by request.
To visit their website, click here: www.pumpkinisland.com.au
I travelled and stayed as a guest of Pumpkin Island with my husband and 3 children. We are beyond grateful to the owners and caretakers for their amazing hospitality and generosity.