FROM beaut beaches to idyllic islands, and awesome adventures and amazing activities, the Southern Great Barrier Reef is an ideal place to reconnect with family and friends. Here’s 15 sensational spots to help you get started.
The Yeppoon foreshore has recently undergone a $53 million redevelopment including the new Yeppoon Lagoon. This 250-square metre resort-style lagoon boasts several areas including a children’s shallow play area, an informal lap pool; and infinity edge which is as deep as 2.4 metres deep. What makes this lagoon unique from others along the Queensland coast is that it is so deep in parts, that you can learn to dive here. There’s a shady picnic and barbecue area, plus a café downstairs and upstairs restaurant in the huge timber building designed to look like a boomerang. Yeppoon Water Play, at the northern end of the esplanade, is home to mountains of fountains, sassy star fish and other sea creatures which sprout water.
At The Rockhampton Zoo, the chimps have recently given birth in which is being hailed as a rare occurrence for these animals in captivity anywhere in the world. You’ll also find crocodiles, snakes, a bird aviary and koalas here. Wander around this free, shady zoo with its giant figs and which sits on Murray Lagoon. For another awesome animal adventure, head to Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to more than 300 animals including dingoes and a successful cassowary breeding program.
Step aside Batman. the Capricorn Caves are cool in every sense of the word. There’s a number of adventures here including the Cathedral Cave tour and the Geo Discovery plus more challenging adventures where you can crawl, squeeze and climb your way through some of the tighter spaces. Immerse yourself in abseiling, high ropes challenges and a climbing wall among these limestone foundations and fossils which were discovered in the late 1800s.
Freedom Fast Cats will take you to Great Keppel Island, the largest in the Keppel group with its 17 beaches. Upon arrival at the island you will be transferred to a glass bottom boat tour where you’ll see giant clams and staghorn coral and cruise to the reef drop off where the larger reef fish like to hang out. This delightful day cruise includes morning tea and lunch on the boat before allowing you time to explore the island and swim and snorkel its tiramisu waters. For some friendly-friendly accommodation with a retro holiday feel, stay at Great Keppel Island Holiday Village or Great Keppel Island Hideaway.
Drive to Mount Archer National Park where, high on the hill, you can enjoy the new canopy walk. This safe and stilted walkway offers a birds-eye view of the Rockhampton region, including west towards the mighty Fitzroy River and north to the region’s volcanic plugs. There’s also plenty of walking trails for those who wish to get among this National Park, and even mountain bike tracks.
This tour is a lark. Or should that be Larc? Board the giant pink amphibious vehicles for the LARC! Paradise Tour which begins at the Town of 1770. You’ll learn all about Captain Cook and plenty of interesting Indigenous history too. You’ll cross four creeks, drive along rugged coastline framing national park with spinifex, pandanus and casuarina trees and witness the largest section of littoral rainforest in Queensland. After lunch, the Larc will make the steep climb to Bustard Head Lighthouse where you can view the lighthouse keeper’s cottage, historical artefacts and climb the spiral staircase of the lighthouse itself. Billy tea heralds afternoon tea before sand boarding and the drive home.
Considered the most popular walk in the Town of 1770/Agnes Water, the Paperbark Forest Trail is only 400 metres long, but it packs a punch. Walk through these towering paperbark trees before you encounter some wetlands, and some perfectly positioned sturdy stepping stones to carry you across. There’s another set near the end which makes this a fun and fascinating forest walk.
The Reef to Beach Surf School, which conducts lessons along the tame Agnes Water Beach, caters for everyone. Costing only $25 for three hours, it’s not only the cheapest surf lesson in Australia, but you will learn on the most northerly surf beach in Queensland.
There’s a simple rock formation here which honours Captain Cook but the real highlight of the 1770 headland walk are the broad views over the ocean with which you are rewarded from the lookouts. This walk is only 250 metres long, making it an easy one for all ages and abilities and if you’re lucky, around May, blue and black spotted tiger butterflies inhabit the area.
Liquid Adventures at 1770 offers kayak hire as well as several different types of tours. There’s a family-friendly journey which paddles through the mangroves for fish feeding and also out to the sandbank. For those who venture a little further out on one of the other tours, look out for Australian humpback dolphins, green and hawksbill turtles, spotted eagle rays and four types of stingrays.
It’s no secret that Mon Repos Beach in Bundaberg North Burnett is best known for its turtle spotting tours under strict supervision
by National Parks employees and volunteers. But what many people don’t know is that the earlier you book your encounter actually determines whether you are placed in the first group to enter the beach when the turtles arrive to lay or hatch their eggs.
At low tide at Elliot Heads, you can walk out to nearby Dr May’s Island but locals know to keep an eye on the tides, or you will become stranded. The island is closed for periods of the year as it’s an important nesting location for beach-stone curlew, little terns, pied and sooty oystercatchers.
Bundaberg’s only hill, The Hummock Lookout, is an ideal location to catch a family snap at any time of the day as it has 360 degree views which allow you to catch either sunrise or sunset (or any time in between) framed by the rich reds and emerald greens of the region below. It’s also the highest point in the Bundaberg/North Burnett region.
At Alexandra Park Zoo, near the centre of Bundaberg’s CBD, each day the zoo keepers take the resident dingoes on a daily dingo walk. These two brother and sister dingoes were born in captivity. Now five years old, they spend the night in their den but once let out in the morning, they become lively and active.
If you wish to capture pristine beaches and striking black rock formations for your Instagram account, drive along Woongarra Scenic Drive at Bargara. If people watching is more your thing, stroll along the Bargara Esplanade around sunset when it comes alive with all manners of walkers, runners and bike riders. There’s some cool playground equipment here too.
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