About Queensland: the North-Eastern (Capricorn) Coast
This section covers the coastline of central Queensland, which lies opposite the Capricorn group of islands, that forms the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. Together with the inshore islands, these are the best places to visit and have almost everything you’d expect of tropical islands. Some are remote. Many are uninhabited and undeveloped (though it’s possible to camp on most of them). Almost all have superb beaches, excellent reef diving and hosts of wild birds. A few have been heavily developed, and a few others are blighted by exclusive luxury resorts.
The islands from the Heron group south to Lady Elliot Island are true reef cays, 80 km or so from the mainland. The Keppel Islands, on the other hand, are the peaks of submerged mountains and lie only 10 km or so from the coast. Besides their superb beaches, several of them also have paths through the rainforests which cover their steep slopes.
The mainland at this point is another matter. There are beaches within reach of all the main towns along the Bruce Highway, but the towns themselves are of little tourist interest. Rockhampton is ‘the beef capital of Australia’, Mackay is ‘the sugar capital of Australia’, and Bundaberg makes Australia’s best-known dark rum. Yes, this is sugar cane and grazing country. The towns are also staging posts for the islands.
If you want to see some of the islands you should allow at least a week to cover this stretch.
Trains and regular buses connect all the main towns along the Bruce Highway. Local buses connect with the coast, where you can catch the ferries to the islands. It’s also possible to fly to several islands. A car is an advantage for exploring the mainland, but you can’t take it to the islands.