Agnes Water & Town Of 1770
Not so long ago the twin coastal towns of Agnes Water and Town of 1770 were tipped by property speculators as Australia's next Noosa or Gold Coast. Thankfully for visitors to this lovely outpost 70km south of Gladstone, hemmed in by national parks, hidden red rock coves and the Pacific Ocean, little has changed and the tourism boom was more like a fizz.
Yeppoon has slowly evolved from a tiny village known as a launching pad for trips to Great Keppel Island to today's more established seaside town. The long, beautiful beach serves as a holiday destination or residential highlight for many graziers, miners and other folk from nearby Rockhampton seeking to beat the heat.
Great Keppel Island
This jewel of the Capricorn Coast is synonymous with deserted island fantasies of the urban travel set. Once home to one of Australia's most iconic resorts, the 4-sq-km island – natural bushland covering 90% of the interior – has 17 beaches, all in the category of 'bloody beautiful'.
The central highlands, west of Rockhampton, are home to two excellent national parks. Blackdown Tableland National Park is a brooding, powerful place, while visitors to Carnarvon National Park will be gobsmacked by the spectacular gorge. At Emerald, 270km inland, try fossicking for gems in the heat and rubble – you'll be surrounded by the good people and vibe of the outback.
The Gem Fields of Central Queensland are a tough landscape when the sun scorches sun and are sparkles on the horizon. The fields draw heart-strong prospectors who eke out a living until a jackpot (or sunstroke) arrives. Fossickers descend in winter – in the hot summers the towns are nearly deserted.
Great Keppel National Park
The secondary islands of the Great Keppel National Park are equally as gorgeous as the eponymous tourist island, Great Keppel. Formerly seconded by a beer company, Pumpkin Island, is the most exclusive, while neighbouring North Keppel is predominantly used by lucky school kids from Yeppoon reinventing the school excursion.
Byfield is a village in Byfield National Park, a well-concealed landscape of rare diversity: empty sand dunes running up to rocky pinnacles, wetlands and semi-tropical rainforests. It’s difficult to get a sense of the place from the winding main roads that cut through pine tree plantations.
Heron & Wilson Islands
Part of the smaller Capricornia Cays group, Heron Island is ranked among the finest scuba-diving regions in the world, particularly in terms of ease of access. Visitors to Heron generally know what they are coming for – underwater paradise – but the island's rugged beauty is reason enough to stay above the surface.
Lady Musgrave Island
Wannabe castaways look no further. This tiny, 15-hectare cay, 100km northeast of Bundaberg, sits on the western rim of a stunning, turquoise-blue reef lagoon renowned for its safe swimming, snorkelling and diving. A squeaky, white-sand beach fringes a dense canopy of pisonia forest brimming with roosting bird life, including terns, shearwaters and white-capped noddies.
Carnarvon National Park
Carnarvon Gorge is a dramatic rendition of Australian natural beauty. The 30km-long, 200m-high gorge was carved out over millions of years by Carnarvon Creek and its tributaries twisting through soft sedimentary rock. What was left behind is a lush, other-worldly oasis, where life flourishes, shielded from the stark terrain.
Eurimbula & Deepwater National Parks
South of Agnes Water is Deepwater National Park, an unspoiled coastal landscape with long sandy beaches, freshwater creeks, good fishing spots and two camping grounds. It’s also a major breeding ground for loggerhead turtles, which dig nests and lay eggs on the beaches between November and February.