Mention the Great Barrier Reef and most people think of Far North Queensland or the Whitsundays. But the Great Barrier Reef actually covers a huge area. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was is 23,000km long and covers an area of 348,000 square kilometres.
We arrive in Rockhampton, the gateway to the Capricorn Coast, a lesser-known section of Queensland’s Southern Great Barrier Reef region.
Our Hidden Treasure Challenge comes with a box of three clues, each sealed in envelopes to be opened each day. It’s a treasure hunt to discover the exciting adventures the region has to offer.
Clue number one: on the ground
Our first challenge is a 4WD adventure in Byfield National Park, where we meet park ranger, Paul, who takes us on a tour. The roads are rough and the ride is bumpy.
We drive past sand dunes, forest areas and onto the beach. The first big hill on Stockyard Point Track is called Big Sandy and is difficult to navigate. We pass a couple of cars stuck half-way up. I’m glad we’re with a ranger who is experienced at off-road driving.
The park is popular for camping and part of the ranger’s duties is to keep the park’s facilities in working order. So we stop to check on the toilets and I can report that they were all pretty clean and stocked with toilet paper!
Along the way, Paul points out rare and endangered plants and birds, such as migratory shorebirds and little terns.
Stockyard Point is a highlight of the park and has sweeping views of the coastline.
Click this video below to see what it’s like in Byfield National Park.
Clue number two: on the water
After breakfast at Waterline in Keppel Bay Marina, our activity for the day is a cruise aboard Freedom Fast Cats ferry to Great Keppel Island. The sea is a little choppy and sky is grey. At the island, we hop aboard a glass-bottom boat and cruise around the island, where we see colourful fish, coral and several turtles.
Great Keppel Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The island has beautiful beaches but the facilities are tired. A $600 million eco-tourism resort is about to be developed on Great Keppel Island. It will be the first major development within the reef in two decades and will have a 250-room beachfront hotel, 350 apartments, 700 luxury villas, a 250-berth marina and championship golf course designed by Greg Norman.
The development comes with some controversy as environmentalists are concerned about the impact to the environment.
Clue number three: in the air
Day three takes us soaring on helicopter flight in a Robinson 44 with Heli-Central, a business that does aerial surveying and inspections, agriculture spraying and seeding, stock mustering, transporting equipment to remote locations, as well as joy flights.
The ground rushes beneath my feet as we lift off from Emu Park Airstrip. We fly along the coastline and out towards the ocean over Great Keppel Island. It’s exhilarating to see the region from the sky and a fantastic way to put the pieces of the jigsaw in my mind.
As we fly over Byfield National Park, our pilot points out Nine Mile Beach, Stockyard Point and Five Rocks camping area. We fly over an enormous sand blow called the Orange Bowl.
The water is a shimmering aquamarine while the islands are lush green jewels fringed by strips of golden sand.
Echelon Apartments in Yeppoon (18-22 Anzac Parade, Yeppoon, Queensland) has one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments
Beaches Bistro in Rosslyn Bay Resort, Yeppoon
Waterline Restaurant, 1 Waterway Way, Yeppoon
Keppel Bay Sailing Club, The Clubhouse on the Beach, Yeppoon
Coffee Club Yeppoon, Yeppoon Esplanade, Echelon Retail Complex Shop 9, 18-22 Anzac Parade, Yeppoon