Originally named ‘Sand Hills’ when it was first settled in the late 1800s, Keppel Sands was founded on fishing and farming. To this day it remains an idyllic village-style township with a unique way of life.
40kms from Rockhampton via Emu Park Road, Keppel Sands is somewhat isolated by geography from the more tourist-oriented coastal towns to the north. It is also very limited in potential future growth due to being bounded by two creeks and backing on to extensive wetlands.
As you travel towards Keppel Sands, approximately five kilometres from town, you pass through a low wetlands forest of beautiful palms, eucalypt, bamboo, and tree ferns.
During heavy rains, these wetlands become swollen and in extreme weather events, their waters join with the surrounding Coorooman and Pumpkin Creeks, and the town essentially becomes an island. During the floods of 1991, Keppel Sands and neighbouring Joskeleigh were cut off from Rockhampton by impassable flood waters for fifteen days.
The challenges of this unique geography does create a sense of isolation, however it also gives the seaside village a very special feel. One really does have a sense of stepping back in time when you enter Keppel Sands.
For a town of only a few hundred people, it is also surprisingly self-contained. It has a local store, hotel with accommodation, a primary school, and caravan parks. There are several picnic areas plus showers and toilets at each end of the beach.
Keppel Sands Community
The history of Keppel Sands is closely interwoven with that of its near neighbour, Joskeleigh. As a result, both towns have a robust and culturally rich South Pacific Islander community.
Both towns are also part of a larger close-knit rural community that extends to the township of Cawarral, taking in Coowonga, Tungamull, and Mount Chalmers.
Keppel Sands is separated from the nearest coastal town of Emu Park by the broad-mouthed Coorooman Creek. Although only 8kms separates the two centres by sea, the distance by road is 35kms.
Due to Keppel Sands’ location, and despite being a coastal town, residents tend to identify more with Rockhampton as their nearest ‘big smoke’ rather than Yeppoon. The local high school children also go to Rockhampton.
On the southern fringe of Keppel Sands is Pumpkin Creek, and 25 kms further south is the Fitzroy River.
All of these life-giving waterways impact Keppel Sands, making it a popular fishing ground, and the vast shallow beaches are a haven for families with young children.
Accessing Keppel Sands
Keppel Sands Road is the only bitumen road into town and joins with Emu Park Road at Tungamull, approximately half way between Rockhampton and Emu Park. Diagonally opposite the turnoff is the road to Cawarral which joins with Rockhampton-Yeppoon Road. Further access from Yeppoon is via Tanby Road on the way to Emu Park.
In extreme wet weather, Keppel Sands Road is prone to flooding near the Joskeleigh turnoff, and during prolonged monsoonal weather, the road can be impassable to all traffic for several days.
Via Boat: An all-tide boat ramp is situated at Coorooman Creek, and a tidal ramp at Pumpkin Creek. The Coast Guard is located at South Head with access via Pumpkin Creek.
Vehicles are not allowed on the beach except at the Coorooman Creek boat ramp for launching and retrieving boats.
Photo Gallery: Pumpkin Creek to Coorooman Creek
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Andrew Thompson, editor | historian