Rockhampton and Keppel Island, Qld

Apparently, when it comes to crocodiles on the east coast of Australia, any that appear south of Gladstone are relocated north, due to density of human population. Those north of Gladstone fall into 3 categories, 1/ requiring relocation due to aggressive behaviour or straying into areas where humans live, 2/ requiring monitoring, but leave them alone unless they pose a problem 3/ requiring humans to relocate as the croc was there first.

Had we know about this when booking into Rockhampton Riverside Caravan Park, which is on the bank of the Fitzroy River, I might not have asked for a camp site as close to the river as possible. Crocs in the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton fall into the second category. Any sightings in Queensland are reported to the government crocwatch. However there was a nice steep embankment between us and the river and the only crocs we saw were in the zoo.

Sunsets here are magical, photos below are from our camp site and from Mt Archer National Park, a 20 minute drive from town.

Signs of Cyclone Marcia’s ferocity were very obvious through out Rockhampton, boats stranded, roofs off houses, fences damaged from fallen trees. The Botanic Gardens and Zoo had a lot of damage. The animals were ok except for one macaw which was killed when a large tree fell across the cage, the other macaw flew away but came back, and one of their black cockatoos escaped.

Rockhampton Art Gallery.

We booked a day tour to Great Keppel Island for some snorkelling. To get there we travelled through the town Yeppoon, the first town hit by cyclone Marcia it suffered severe damaged, 8 weeks later there are still several large areas where roads are closed due to landslides. However big signs on the road in declared ‘Yeppoon is open for business’.

Tim went to Great Keppel Island for a day about 35 years ago, when it was a popular resort run by Contiki and marketed to young backpackers, the slogan was ‘get wrecked on Great Keppel’. The resort had been operating since the late 1960s and had its heyday in the 80s when Contiki took it over. However in recent years the resort had started losing money, the buidings were dated and full of asbestos and five years ago it was bought by  Mercure Resorts for $16m.  The resort takes up 80% of the island land and with a planed  $2billion redevelopment they closed it down overnight and the entire resort was enclosed in construction fencing to keep people out. For the past five years it has sat empty, like a time capsule, if you peer through the fencing you can still read the old menu boards with 5 year old prices, chairs and tables are still in the eatery and bars. It looks a little bit like Sleeping Beauty’s castle, overgrown with weeds and vines, the bats have made themselves at home and the buildings in disrepair. It was like visiting a ghost town. There were some business not part of the resort and they still operate, but their buildings are quite dated and also in a poor state of repair. One is a gift shop, another a  place that hires out kayaks, paddle boards and snorkelling gear. The third and last was a pub with stunning views of the ocean and surrounding islands, but again in disrepair and very dated.

The beaches and water are absolutely superb, the water crystel clear and the sand clean and soft.  There is no jetty so the boat pulls up on the beach. We toured two reefs on a glass bottom boat with a fantastic guide, he was so enthusiastic about the reef and its welfare, we all came away feeling much more informed and made the snorkelling later in the day even more interesting. Although there were no tropical fish, there were plenty of others, the coral is brown, but alive and well, thats’s just its natural colour in that area due to the cooler water. We had a fabulous time, a man in a small boat stayed on the perimeter of all the snorkellers (about 12 of us) ready to help if needed. So much more relaxing than our last snorkelling misadventure in Byron Bay.

Heading north to Cape Hillsborough National Park for some bush camping.

Helen and Tim