Living the Private Island Dream on the Great Barrier Reef

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By Aefa Mullholland

South African couple, Wayne Rumble and Laureth Craggs bought Pumpkin Island in Australia’s Keppel Islands in 2003. Drawn to the area by the surrounding waters’ fantastic fishing and the desire to have a tropical hideaway for family get-togethers, they fell head over heels when they first saw this pristine private island in Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Today, Wayne and Laureth still live on the idyllic island and their charming resort — perhaps the ultimate home business — offers five comfortable beach cottages at the ocean’s edge. Cottages are self-contained and eco-friendly, powered by wind and sun. Each has its own private bathroom, fully equipped kitchen and large deck with BBQ and sunset views.

Pumpkin Island consists of two separate parts that join during low tide. The main part of the island is 15 acres with three beaches, six cottages, a shed, campground and the “Look Out”, an oceanview beach bar lounge. Laureth adds, “What we call Little Pumpkin is also 15 acres and although you can explore, snorkel or fish from Little Pumpkin it has no buildings or facilities — we like to keep it as untouched as possible. It’s almost like our own little ‘national park’. Little Pumpkin is an untouched, uninhabited island microcosm, great for nature walks, snorkelers, fisherman, bird watchers or the avid explorer. The views from the top are spectacular.”

Pumpkin Island provides an idyllic and very non-commercialized take on paradise. The duo chose to make the island a truly environmentally friendly retreat. Wayne says, “The island is a showcase of pure, unbridled nature and the landscape and surroundings are pristine and diverse. With our environmental initiative plan, we’re able to conserve, protect and enhance this paradise. All of the island’s energy needs are met by solar power and wind generators, while water used is provided solely by rain. Native trees are planted to offset carbon emissions.” All these measures ensure a sustainable commercial and ecological future and Wayne and Laureth report that Pumpkin Island is the only carbon-positive island getaway in Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Pumpkin Island offers people a chance to get back in touch with nature, and learn about conservation, preservation and the importance of taking care of the environment, while enjoying a tropical island getaway with all the modern luxuries. Wayne adds, “We believe that luxury, quality and green integrity can indeed go hand in hand.”

Pumpkin Island is within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which has some of the most diverse, beautiful coral, tropical reef and game fish species in the world. In addition to the ocean life in surrounding waters, an abundance of humpback whales, dolphins and turtles live and play round the island. Humpback whales give birth to calves every year between August and November. Flatback turtles — unique to Australia — nest and hatch on the island between October and February. Numerous bird species can be seen, including curlews, quails, honeyeaters, kookaburras, brahminy kites, ospreys, pied and sooty oyster catchers, sea eagles and the rare peregrine falcon. The island has no snakes, but is home to harmless lizards including bluetongues, Burton’s legless lizards and skinks.

When asked what a typical day on the island is like for their guests, Laureth enthuses, “It could be as relaxing or adventurous as you prefer. Guests can experience the Great Barrier Reef as they never have before; fish and dive the surrounding waters, lounge on the beach, read a book, go bird watching, float in the water or delve into the adventurous side of Pumpkin Island.” Guests can explore part of the world’s largest reef with or without a scuba tank. Fishermen can test their stamina at the famous Giant Trevally cove or pit their wits against the Spanish mackerel, coral trout and cobia out in the deep sea. Alternatively, visitors can simply take a leisurely day exploring Little Pumpkin on foot or with a glass bottom kayak. Hikes up Little Pumpkin’s three peaks reveal incredible views of the surrounding islands and reefs. At mid tide, the adventurous can swim round the island’s own coral lagoon and see a multitude of colorful coral, giant clams and fish. The less adventurous can settle down for a picnic on the coconut palm-shaded lawns. Guests can sip Sundowners at the Lookout where the silence is broken only by the rustle of palm leaves and the gentle sound of waves breaking on the reef — or end their evening with some squid fishing or a beach bonfire.

When asked what the typical day on the island is like for island owners, it doesn’t sound all that different to that of the guests. Wayne says, “The greatest thing about living on Pumpkin Island is waking up with the soothing sound of waves breaking below our deck. Taking care of enquiries and administration usually takes a couple of hours a day. We often take guests snorkeling, fishing or squid fishing or we might do a bit ourselves. We’ve also started a little hydroponics garden to grow our own veggies and fruit — they compliment the fresh oysters harvested from our rocks, just a stone’s throw from our front door. On quiet days we might head back to the mainland for a bit of shopping or just enjoy the peace and quiet of our secluded island. For the most part, living on the island is like being unplugged from the world, but with all the modern amenities to keep us in touch when we want to be.”

Island guests (and owners) can opt to stay on-island or make the easy 45-minute boat trip to mainland towns Yeppoon, Emu Park, Byfields and Rockhampton, where golf courses, day spas, scuba diving stores and award-winning restaurants await.

Prices for Pumpkin Island start at $330 AUS per cottage per night for up to four guests. The whole island can be rented from $2,165 AUS per night for up to 30 guests. Those wanting to experience the reef without the hordes of tourists can book for a minimum stay of three days in-season and two days off-season. Those wanting to stay indefinitely will have to try and persuade Laureth and Wayne to give up this pristine piece of paradise and the incredible lifestyle that goes with it.

Access to Pumpkin Island is by private boat, helicopter or the resort’s chartered boat, the Pumpkin Xpress. Rosslyn Bay Harbour is 8.5 miles from the island, or ten minutes by jetski or 25 minutes by boat. Pumpkin is 45 minutes by helicopter from Rockhampton. 