Cruising the Capricorn Coast
BE happy – be free.
The words written on a plaque at the foot of a tree on a remote island have stuck with me since the day of my sailing trip around the Keppel Island Group.
There's always little secrets, mythical tales and traditions waiting to be discovered on untouched islands, and I will share some of those from the Capricorn Coast, a playground, photographic daydream and relaxation remedy.
With a longing to see the ocean, I decided to take the advice of many and go on a journey with my partner through my patch and see what I could discover in the spot that I have lived in for more than 10 years.
And what I found was something truly amazing.
After a short half-hour, scenic road trip from my hometown of Rockhampton to the small beach town of Yeppoon, we stopped at the modern Keppel Bay Marina ready for a day of great food, fun and adventure.
We were treated to a hot big breakfast while on the waterfront, admiring sailors preparing their vessels for an exciting weekend trip away from reality, and others tending to their pride and joy.
The Capricorn Coast has one of the largest ratio of boaties in Queensland per head, and being so close to the numerous surrounding islands, there's no shortage of buzz on the water with so many places to explore.
From the marina, we climbed aboard Sail Capricornia – Anthony and Vicki Lomasney's beautiful, luxury sailboat Grace – for a day of sailing to unknown destinations.
She glided across the clear blue water while we and a small group of friendly guests chatted and had morning tea, admiring the blue ocean dotted with big, beautiful islands.
Our first stop was North Keppel Island, where we were the only people on the beach for what seemed like forever.
We snorkelled and followed some pretty black and white fish in the reefs off the island, kayaked and relaxed on the cove, while Grace dropped her anchor so we could also have a feed of fresh prawns and some hot food for lunch.
We spent hours on North Keppel while an online TV film crew explored the reefs with their cameras, and the presenter showed the world the tranquillity of the island.
I explored the rock pools and found a track leading up to the top of the island, which would have been a good hike.
It is only one of many on North Keppel for those seeking an outdoor adventure and the rewarding, panoramic views.
After a short trip north, we anchored at Pleasant (or Conical) Island, trying not to disturb its only inhabitants: a group of three men with an elaborate camp set up.
They had a street light or two and a home-made TV aerial slung in the trees, a flat screen TV and what seemed like a bottomless esky of beers.
They kept offering another as we finished the one they'd kindly given us.
There was no need for a tent each for these men, just a tarp slung over a picnic table, acting as their kitchen/bar, and some covered camper beds.
They definitely had camping down to a fine art from experience.
Their fishing rods were well stuck in the sand – an excellent hands-free approach.
We followed a short walking track and were soon on top of the small island, and what seemed like on top of the world as we looked down on the beach and surrounding islands.
What a sight!
When we came back, the three men continued to tell us their tale about how every three months for the past 20 years they had spent a few days camping on the island for a traditional boys' getaway.
With a camping permit only allowing six people on the island at once, they always had it to themselves and it seemed they had fallen in love with the serenity.
They showed us around their place and revealed a beautifully worded memorial from a husband to his late wife hidden under overgrown grass and a tree looking out to the ocean.
Reading the plaque with a tear in my eye, it made me wonder what blissful memories this island had held for the loving couple and their family. I imagined the romantic pair sitting at that exact spot at sunset so many years ago, without a worry in the world. We had goosebumps as we stood in silence, admiring the husband's heartfelt expression of grief.
As we sailed back to Yeppoon, we watched a magnificent sunset fall over the mainland. Some sat in silence as the beautiful colours washed over the sky, mirrored on the ocean. Others reminisced about their discoveries while snorkelling.
I felt like we had travelled to another part of Queensland, or even another part of the world, but we were only about two hours from home.
Be happy – be free. Those words will always give me something to smile about.