I’ve picked a bushwalking loop that traverses Mount Wyndham – Great Keppel Island’s highest point – to give me what I hope will be the best view over th island. The start of the route is not well signposted and there are a few different ways you can take. I head inland on a sandy road, which soon meets up with The Esplanada, a paved road that’s in fairly poor condition.
The track I’m taking initially heads to The Lookout (also called 1st Lookout), and I eventually spot a few signs suggesting I’m going the right way. It’s more of a paved trail than a bushwalking track, although a rough track through the bush (which isn’t signposted) avoids a long loop taken by the paved trail.
The trail climbs steadily up the side of the ridge, with the ocassional view through the trees. Summer is definitely not the best time for bushwalking on Great Keppel Island, and I only see one other person making their way up the trail.
The Lookout, or 1st Lookout, is a little underwhelming. It’s not a bad view… just that after traipsing up to the top of the ridge in 90% humidity, I was expecting something a bit more exciting. I’d describe it as a nice view over Leeke Beach and and the tidal lagoon behind the view, rather than an “excellent view” as I’d been promised…
I continue along the ridge, soon reaching a junction. There is a sign here warning of a “steep grade” to Mount Wyndham, with the more direct route veering off to the left.
The track is in pretty good condition, as it ascends fairly gently to a small (unnamed) hill, from there where there are some nice views to the south.
From the top of this small hill, there’s a good view of Mount Wyndham ahead – the next section is the hardest (mostly due to the heat), as the track drops into a small saddle before climbing up the ridge to the summit. The view of Long Beach below, with it’s white sand and clear water, does make me question the wisdom of my bushwalking choice…
I’m glad when I finally reach the 178m summit of Mount Wyndham, from where I would say there is an “excellent view”! To the east is Halfway Island and Humpy Island (which has the one of the most popular camping areas in the Keppels), and on the horizon is Curtis Island. Directly below Mount Wyndham is Wyndham Cove, the small beach accessible only by boat.
Rather than returning the same way, I continue down the eastern side of Mount Wyndham; this track is not as distinct, and I’m the first in at least a few days to walk here, as I end up walking into or ducking under at over a dozen enormous spider webs across the track. There are some more nice views along the coast as the track descends through low scrub.
The eastern ridge trail veers inland after about 0.5km, before meeting the track to Clam Bay in the middle of the island.
As the track nears the northern coastline of Great Keppel Island, it passes an old woolshed – a reminder of the island’s macabre post-colonisation history. Sheep were firsr grazed on Great Keppel Island from the early 1880s (the exact date is unclear), and in preparation for this it’s been claimed that Robert Ross, who came to Australia from Scotland, drove 84 indigenous people into a cave and murdered them. This is unsubstantiated, but there is little doubt that some of the local Woppaburra people, were shot or removed from the island: “Human lives were sacrificed for sheep!” (Roth, 1898). By 1902, all remaining Woppaburra people had been moved to government reserves on the mainland.
The lease passed through various hands, until in 1971 it was sold to the resort management at the time. The sheep were removed, but replaced by goats. Introduced to Great Keppel Island around 100 years ago as a food source, their numbers have significantly increased since the Great Keppel Island Resort closed in 2008. It’s a condition of the resort lease that feral goat numbers are controlled, and with estimates of over 600 goats devastating the island there have been repeated calls for the state government Tower Holdings (who holds the resort lease) to enforce this lease condition.
A bit further along the track (which is now a wide dirt road) is the heritage-listed Leeke Homestead. The six-bedroom house was the home of Lizzie Leeke, who moved to Great Keppel from Gladstone with her husband Michael O’Neill in 1922 (after Michael acquired the pastoral lease on the island in 1918). When Michael died in early 1923, Lizzie stayed on the island and in October 1924 she married Ralph Leeke, a young fisherman from Keppel Sands. In 1933 Ralph left Lizzie and the island, leaving Lizzie to run the stock by herself until she sold the lease in 1945.
The road follows the edge of a tidal mangrove plain, before a last steep climb up The Lookout, completing the loop.
Its’s not really a bushwalk I’d recommend in Summer – but despite the heath, there are some great views from the Mount Wyndham summit. Even if you don’t do the entire loop, it’s worth continuing beyond The Lookout to the first lookout along the track up to the top of Mount Wyndham.
Getting to the Mount Wyndham bushwalk
The bushwalk to both The Lookout and Mount Wyndham starts on the left hand side of the sealed road 70m behind the Watersports Hut (Keppel Dive) on Great Keppel Island – look for signs stating “The Lookout”. Many of the trails are not well-marked, so having a map is helpful.
- Capricorn Holidays – Great Keppel Island Visitor Map [PDF]
- Michael J. Rowland, Myths and non‐myths: Frontier ‘massacres’ in Australian history – the Woppaburra of the Keppel Islands
- W E Roth, The Aborigines of the Rockhampton and Surrounding Coast Districts: A Report to the Commissioner of Police, Queensland, Mitchell Library CY Reel 208, Uncat ML, MSS, 216, 1898, pp 9–10
- ABC News – ‘Out of control’ feral goat population on Great Keppel Island terrorising residents, causing erosion problems
- CQ Today – Goats destroy Woppa
For more beaches, bushwalks and activities on the island, have a look at Woppa-Great Keppel Island – from party island to nature retreat.