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There aren’t too many islands in the Great Barrier Reef where you can escape the crowds for a quick getaway and stay in your own beach bungalow for a reasonable price.
In fact, getting a bungalow of any kind of price ten steps from the beach is rare.
This is why Great Keppel Island, or Wop-pa as it’s known by its original owners, is such a great destination.
It offers visitors a chance to truly escape the daily grind of day-to-day life and chill out and relax on a remote, tropical island in your own little sanctuary…but without travelling to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to do it.
Sit back and relax, or take a boat out to do scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, the opportunities are endless here.
If you’ve ever fancied a trip to The Great Keppel, here is everything you need to know about visiting the island and what there is to see and do.
What is Great Keppel Island?
The Great Keppel island is the largest of eight islands in the Keppel group, located in Tropical North Queensland.
It’s just a short 30-minute ferry ride from the coast of Yeppoon in Queensland, and yet you feel like you’ve been dropped on a remote island miles from civilization.
It’s located at the tail end of the Southern Great Barrier Reef and where you’ll find pristine and healthy coral teaming with brightly coloured fish and marine life like starfish and turtles chilling in Keppel Bay.
The island itself is teaming with native flora and fauna. In fact, 90% of the magnificent island is made up of rugged bushland.
Its wild and untamed habitat attractions more than 100 species of bird, such as kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets, curlews, honeyeaters, and many more seabirds.
The island is often referred to by its traditional name, Wop-pa, given to it by the Woppaburra people, the island’s traditional owners.
Is Great Keppel Island Worth Visiting?
Great Keppel was pretty much our last stop on our road trip around Australia. It was the perfect place for us to unwind and soak in the epicness of our journey with a stunning setting sun and a chilled vibe.
We only had two days on the island, which I don’t think is enough time to unwind fully, but still, a wonderful place to visit for a getaway regardless of your available time.
Many people pop over for a day visit, but we recommend extending that and staying in a beach cabin with ocean views at the Great Keppel Island Hideaway.
It offers a serene break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and it’s all about relaxation. If that’s what you’re after for a vacation, then we would say a trip to Great Keppel Island is worth it.
Great Keppel Island Accommodation
Great Keppel Island has charm – no cars, no highrise buildings, and beach bungalows that look like they belong on a chilled island beach. You know the type you can relax in and walk sand in through the front door – no fear of messing up the shiny, waxy exterior and sculptured interior.
They’re cozy and cute offering you the sound of lapping waves and rain on a tin roof of an evening.
We stayed at the Great Keppel Island Hideaway, which also offers bunkhouses and an A-Framed house. The village has a fully equipped central kitchen and BBQ area to cook your own meals.
You just have to bring your own food and drinks over to the island with you, making it an even more affordable Great Barrier Reef island holiday.
The Great Keppel Island Hideaway Restaurant
Great Keppel feels like something you’d find in the Caribbean – barefoot living, bottles of rum, easy to roam and be who you want.
The place where you feel comfortable lounging around on the chair drinking coffee or beer all day long with your feet up and no one would care.
The managers have done a great job in creating that welcoming atmosphere.
Their restaurant and bar has a large covered outdoor seating area and provides great food and coffee, a pool table, and big screen projector – all complemented by beautiful sea views over Putney and Fisherman’s Beach, as well as a popular grassed picnic area.
It’s just a short stumble back to your cabin along a tropical pathway.
Things to Do on Great Keppel Island
If you’re not sure what attractions on Great Keppel Island to add to your itinerary, then take a look at the below things to do.
1. Sunbathe on the White Sand Beaches
If you want to just spend the day relaxing, or if you want a bit more activity, Great Keppel has 17 beaches to explore.
The two main beaches near the village, Fisherman Beach, and Putney Beach, are safe for swimming and dolphins were swimming past while we were there.
The Great Keppel Island Holiday Village has stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, boogie boards, and snorkels for hire.
You can swim right off the beach, or a motorized canoe trip can take you out to snorkeling spots and hidden coves, sea caves, and remote beaches.
Some of the best beaches on the island worth checking out are:
2. Take a Glass Bottom Boat Tour
On the day we arrived, we headed out with Freedom Fast Cats (the ferry crew) for a glass-bottom boat tour. Our guide was knowledgeable.
We didn’t have the best conditions to see the colours, but I enjoyed learning a lot about the reef through his stories and insights.
3. Take A Sunset Sailing Cruise
While on Keppel you must jump aboard a sailboat with Great Keppel Cruises, owned and run by Terry. It’s a small business only recently started by Terry, who was a great host, especially to the girls, letting them become Skipper for most of the sailing journey.
We swapped travel tales over cheese, olives, dip, and a glass of wine (bring your own!)
We cruised up past Monkey Point and back again to see a magnificent sunset dropping behind the mainland in the distance.
Cheers to that!
4. Go Snorkelling or Kayaking from the Beaches
The best snorkeling spots are Shelving Beach, Monkey Point, and Clam Bay.
The girls loved exploring the underwater world through their snorkeling boogie boards and going for a paddle off the beach on the kayaks.
It was a blissful day on the crystal-clear waters.
5. Scuba Diving the Great Barrier Reef
Scuba diving is one of the biggest reasons to visit The Great Keppel since its located near to The Great Barrier Reef.
If you’re interested in diving, get in touch with the dudes at Keppel Dive, who offer day trips out from Keppel Bay Marina to hot spots on the reef known to be thriving with marine life.
If you’re not into diving, you can rent watersports equipment from them too such as kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.
Keppel Explorer is another reputable company that offers snorkelling and diving tours. They even provide stinger suits, just in case…
If you time your visit right and you’re staying on The Great Keppel during whale migration season, take a look at Keppel Konnections half-day whale-watching tour to get some close encounters with these giants of the sea.
If you want to get around the island, Konnections offer boats and a passenger ferry service.
6. Go for a Bush Walk
The Greak Keppel has many bush-walking paths if you can pull yourself from the beach to explore them.
Some of our favourite walks on the island were The Lighthouse Walk, which is known for being the hardest hike on the island. It takes three hours in total unless you want to take a short detour to Wreck Beach to do some snorkelling (which you should!).
For families, an easy and kid-friendly walk is The Lookout Trail, which takes only an hour to do.
The Lookout Trail is aptly named because it offers sweeping views from all corners of the island. It’s only 2.6 kilometers long and can be done at sunset.
7. Go Camping
If you’re looking for more adventure, grab your camping gear and your tent and hit up a camping spot on the island.
Sure, you can always kick back and relax in a hotel room in your resort, but if I told you that you could sleep under the stars on a clear night surrounded by the sounds of lapping waves, would you be prepared to give up your bed for one night?
The Great Keppel Holiday Village offers the best of both worlds, by giving visitors a chance to stay in a safari tent with access to shared bathrooms.
These glamping tents are a little more luxurious than your ordinary tent with their own private patio, but if you prefer traditional camping you can pitch your own tent at the designated camping spots on the island.
How do you get to The Great Keppel Island?
You can fly direct to the Great Keppel Airport, however, this is expensive. The more cost-effective way is to fly to Rockhampton Airport.
From here, you would need to take a bus or taxi to Rosslyn Bay Harbour in Yeppoon, where a ferry will take you to the island.
Ferries operate from Rosslyn Bay Harbour every day in the morning. The ferries are all operated by private companies, so it’s possible to book in advance. Konnections have passenger ferries and come highly recommended (they also have the latest running ferries, if you do plan to visit for a day).
In general, the ferries operate between 9.00am and 10.30am, and the last return ferries tend to be around 3.45pm or 4.00pm at the latest (sometimes 6.00pm on a Friday).
FAQs About Great Keppel Island
Here’s what people usually ask us about visiting The Great Keppel Island…
Do people live on Great Keppel Island?
There are no inhabitants on the island anymore. Everyone who comes here comes to stay at one of the resorts.
Can you buy groceries on Great Keppel Island?
There is no grocery store on the island, so if you want to purchase snacks or toiletries, it’s best to bring them all with you. Of course, you can eat at the island’s restaurants.
Are there cars on Great Keppel Island?
There are no roads on the island which means there are no cars. The only way to get around is on foot and by boat.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Great Keppel Island
Great Keppel Island is a true, laid-back island getaway.
We visited not long after Cyclone Marcia, so there was still a bit of debris in the water. But, don’t let that stop you from visiting.
It didn’t impact our visit at all, and the crew was out cleaning it at low tide every day. Natural disasters come and go in Aus, and rarely shut down places, even though many people think that.
You can still come to Keppel and have that dream island getaway in the beautiful turquoise water!
It’s a great place for you to get your Great Barrier Reef experience in a more chilled cheaper way. We will be back!
Disclaimer: We stayed as guests of Tourism Queensland, but all the ideas, thoughts, and opinions in this guide are our own.
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Have you visited Great Keppel Island? Share your thoughts in the comments!