A tropical escape along the picture-perfect Queensland coastline, Pumpkin Island is a dream destination. Beautiful beachfront cottages, hidden coves and sparkling water await. Spend your days in and out of the water, basking in the warm sunshine then watch the sunset cast brilliant shades of orange, yellow, blue and pink. It’s a chance to escape the mainland and settle into the pace of island life. Here’s everything you need to know about Pumpkin Island and, hopefully, a little inspiration to visit.
How to get there
You’ll find Pumpkin Island on Queensland’s gorgeous Southern Great Barrier Reef around 650 km north of Brisbane and 1,100 km south of Cairns. The privately owned island is open only to guests and will require an island transfer by boat to get there, provided you aren’t bringing your own boat, of course! In all likelihood, you’ll do what we did which is to fly into Rockhampton airport, collect a hire car and drive the 50 minutes to the Keppel Bay Marina, a short distance from Yeppoon. Of course, if you aren’t hiring a car, you can arrange a taxi, airport transfer or bus service to the marina.
The Pumpkin Island Express will get you from the mainland to your tropical escape! Bear in mind, you will need to book your transfer in addition to your accommodation booking. While you’re planning your trip, it’s a good idea to check the boat schedule so you make sure you’ll have plenty of time to get to/from the airport. The latest boat schedule and additional information on getting to Pumpkin Island is available on the Pumpkin Island website here. The transfer takes around 45 minutes and, on the day we went, it wasn’t too bumpy at all.
How to experience the region
Pumpkin Island is absolutely spectacular and one part of a region that has so much to offer visitors. If you’re planning, a trip I would highly recommend taking the time to experience a few of the others too. You might like to spend a little time in Rockhampton, where you can explore heritage buildings and soak in the country vibe at the Great Western Hotel’s rodeo. Relax and unwind in Yeppoon, home to the stunning Yeppoon Lagoon, gorgeous street art and an abundance of fantastic restaurants and cafes. Drive out to Carnarvon Gorge for an adventure into the Australian bush, discovering the awe-inspiring natural beauty and local wildlife. Take a journey through the Gemfields, stopping in Queensland country towns like Emerald, Anakie, Rubyvale and Sapphire where you can fossick for precious gems.
A huge part of what makes this region so special is the people, the stories, the landscape and the history. Scratch the surface of Central Queensland and you’ll uncover a colourful and diverse world. From the picturesque shores of Pumpkin Island to the moss-covered rocks of Carnarvon Gorge and everything in-between. It’s well worth planning a bigger adventure that truly allows you to experience this wonderful part of the world.
The best way to think about it is Pumpkin Island is both the island and the resort! So, it’s not so much a ‘where will I stay?’ situation. It’s more of an ‘I’m staying on Pumpkin Island, which accommodation type looks best for me?!’ situation. There are a few different types of accommodation to choose from and which one you go with will depend on how many people are in your group and the type of stay you’re after. One really cool idea is to hire out the ENTIRE island! If you were thinking of having an intimate wedding or an unforgettable holiday with family/friends, this would be the way to do it. I can just imagine how much fun it would be having the whole island to yourself with your nearest and dearest.
We stayed at ‘Coral Cove,’ a beautiful beachfront cottage located a few steps from the coral reefs and coral lagoon. The cottage was equipped with a full kitchen and bathroom, Queen bed, two singles and a trundle if needed. There’s a fantastic outdoor area, where we spent most of our time cooking, enjoying the ocean breeze and views as well as eating, though there’s also a living room inside too.
Other accommodation types include the luxurious ‘Pebble Point’ cottage and the ‘Tropical Tides, Coco Pine and Oyster Box,’ cottages which appeared to be similar to the one we stayed in. There’s also the Ocean Breeze and Island View Bungalows, which offer a more glamping style experience, taking full advantage of the incredible scenery. I would very happily stay in any of the accommodations, they’re all fantastic! Bear in mind, there is a minimum night stay requirement for all accommodation types.
One thing to keep in mind is the island, being a beautiful tropical island, doesn’t have a restaurant so you will need to decide what you’re going to do for food in advance. Your accommodation is fully equipped with a great kitchen and everything you need to whip delicious meals so you can stop in Rockhampton or Yeppoon to collect groceries before transferring to the island. Alternatively, you can do what we did which is to pre-order meals through The Waterline Restaurant. We chose our meals from the menu and The Waterline packaged up everything we needed, pre-cooking and pre-preparing what they could. When it came to preparing dinner, for example, we simply grilled the fish, put the salad together and finished the potatoes in the oven. You can find more information about the dining options here.
What I loved about the accommodation on Pumpkin Island is the sense of freedom it gives you. You can wander along the network of paths and come and go as you please. With direct beach access, it feels like you have your own slice of paradise. We spent so much time outdoors, soaking in the warm summer air and the fresh sea breeze. It’s a location that truly makes the most of the destination and there isn’t a single moment we felt like we were missing out! Even when we were laying in bed it still felt like we were making the most of our time because we could clearly hear the tide lapping at the shore.
Not only that, but there’s a distinct feel of safety and security. I mean, we’re on an island, right?! I don’t think we were even given a key to our room, now that I think about it. We were just shown to the cottage, given all the information we needed and left to relax and unwind however we saw fit, with assistance just a short walk away. It felt like being a little kid again, as though we could run around in the warm summer sun and come back home whenever we felt like it.
One last important thing to note is Pumpkin Island is an eco-resort, having attained Australia’s highest ecotourism certification. As you move about the island, keep an eye out for the many things being done to protect, nurture and maintain this beautiful part of the Southern Great Barrier Reef. If you’re interested to hear more, be sure to ask the lovely staff for insight or check out the Pumpkin Island website.
Things to do
Oddly enough, the best thing to do on Pumpkin Island is absolutely nothing! Time here moves at a different pace and with no cars, restaurants, busy streets or even many people in sight, you’re free to do whatever you feel like doing, whenever you feel like doing it.
I absolutely love to swim and the Southern Great Barrier Reef is the perfect spot for it so we made sure to explore as many of the different beaches around the island as possible. Getting around is easy, you don’t even really need shoes, just follow the network of paths connecting the different corners of the island and be sure not to wander into anyone else’s cottage or bungalow. Dip in for a swim wherever takes your fancy, sprawl out on the sand or under the shade of a tree with a good book and just soak in that Queensland magic.
Pack your snorkelling gear for a spot of fun in the sun or connect with a local operator for a scuba diving experience. There are stand-up-paddle boards and kayaks available to guests for use, the perfect way to float around the coral lagoon and jump off for a swim at your leisure. We loved taking advantage of the snorkelling and paddle-boards, spending a few hours enjoying both and then dipping in for a sunset swim as well. Then, just as the sky started to come alive with vibrant shades of orange and pink, we wandered up to the Sunset Lounge for a cheese platter, via The Waterline Restaurant, and cold beers.
Afterwards, we got the outdoor fireplace going and sat around talking and watching the last bit of light fade. It was the perfect way to relax and unwind right on the beach and ensured we made the most of every moment. Whether you’re keen for action-packed days in the water or simply lounging in the shade with your feet in the sand, Pumpkin Island has you covered.
Best time to visit
If you aren’t from Australia and/or haven’t visited Queensland before, you can expect a subtropical climate. What that means is, during summer months, it’s going to be hot and humid. For us, that’s not a problem at all as we absolutely love the heat and know how to handle it well. If you haven’t experienced an Australian summer before, be sure to drink plenty of water, avoid going out in the hottest parts of the day, wear/reapply sunscreen and wear a hat. Usually, we would wake up really early and go swimming all morning then retreat back indoors from about 10 am – 2 pm to eat, read books and chill out, then head back down to the beach in the afternoon. Given its tropical location, the weather in the region is wonderful pretty much all year round. It’ll be cooler from May to September and warmer from November through to March.
What to pack
There’s no need to overthink things when it comes to packing. All you’ll need, really, are a few pairs of swimmers and clothes to pull on top of them! We didn’t feel the need to dress up or wear anything fancy, which was really nice. We pretty much lived in our swimmers, putting a pair of shorts or summer dress over the top. Most of the time, we didn’t even know where our shoes were. I would just recommend packing a refillable water bottle you can take around the island with you as well as sunscreen, hat and any other essential sun safe gear. Other than that, you’ll just need pyjamas and lightweight, breezy clothing.
Useful travel resources for your trip to Australia
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Agoda – one of our go-to sites for booking hotels
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RentalCars.com – a great search engine for renting a car
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TourRadar – a great search engine for booking tours
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