Pumpkin Island has been recently reimagined as a stylish, eco-conscious island escape – it’s the laid-back and secluded tropical getaway you’ve been dreaming of.
You’ll find no pumpkins in the waters off Yeppoon in the Southern Great Barrier Reef, just a low-slung wedge of land that’s shaped like a butternut cut in half and laid out horizontally upon the sea. But this impersonator is in fact Little Pumpkin, a rotund hillock tethered to Pumpkin Island itself by a ribbon of sand, which appears only during the lowest tides. The main island snakes squat and narrow – just 150 metres at its widest point and 450 metres at its longest – into the Keppel Islands region of the southern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
In summer the caterpillars nibble pockmarks into the island’s tropical foliage; later in the season they retreat into their cocoons, hanging like tiny white sausages from the trees; and in early autumn – when the breeze blows warm and soothing across the bay – butterflies emerge in their thousands, decorating the island like confetti.
It’s a 45-minute cruise from Yeppoon’s Keppel Bay Marina across a choppy ocean and into the calm embrace of Pumpkin Reef. It’s an unassuming view from the water: a scattering of beach shacks peeping out from behind the palm trees; a headland rising in rocky, volcanic aggregations on the southern side; and Little Pumpkin looking over its big brother’s shoulder from the east. The solar panels, wind turbines and rainwater tanks that power and quench this island are hidden from view.
And the beach shacks are illusory, for although Pumpkin Island has been used by families and fishermen since 1964, it has been recently reimagined by managers Wayne and Laureth Rumble as a stylish, eco-conscious island escape. The couple has incorporated all the elements of a casual beach holiday – troughs in which to rinse your sandy feet, barbecues on which to grill freshly caught fish and shucking knives for easy dislodgement of oysters from the nearby rocks – without sacrificing any modern comforts.
Pumpkin Island’s seven self-catering cottages and bungalows (accommodating up to six people) are distinguished from one another by unique decorative touches: candy-striped deckchairs slung from hooks on a distressed weatherboard wall; linen bedclothes in this cottage, waffle-weave in that; mint-green accents here, blue over there. The theme is expanded with unobtrusively elegant touches, such as the driftwood towel rails and the pottery water filters in just the right shade of blue.
Hammocks and swing chairs hang temptingly from trees, the tideline just beyond reach. A pair of legs dangles from one – someone has fallen into a deep afternoon sleep.
The island’s accommodation is self-catering so we arrive with enough food for an army: supplies pre-ordered from award-winning restaurant The Waterline at Keppel Bay Marina and packaged by request. Inside the cold boxes we discover fresh prawns, tropical fruit, meze platters, salads, scones, jam and cream, along with fat steaks that come straight from Banana Station, a renowned Central Queensland beef exporter that permits just one Australian outlet to serve its produce: The Waterline.
We’re staying in the most luxurious of the cottages, Pebble Point, which is located in a secluded spot over the rise from the main beach with a view of North Keppel Island. From here we could launch ourselves off the island in a Perspex kayak, exploring the reefs at a thin remove. We could snorkel or paddleboard, go fishing or oyster harvesting or follow the boardwalk to the Sunset Lounge, which sits on the west-facing beach, ready to capture those exceptional tropical sunsets. Or we could loll in the plunge pool on our private deck, wondering how on earth this paradise was kept secret for so long.