17 Beaches of Great Keppel Island
If you love remote, not-easy-to-get-to beaches then Great Keppel Island should definitely be on your beach bucketlist!
For it has no less than 17 different beaches located on its 1454 hectares!
Situted at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef these beaches are all remote – to the point that they can only be accessed by walking trails that snake through the island, or by boat.
Once you do reach them though, you will be rewarded with pristine areas of outstanding natural beauty and very few people.
If any at all.
About Great Keppel Island
Great Keppel Island is located 15 kms off the coast of Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast in Queensland, Australia.
It is about 30kms from Rockhampton which is a major transport hub for planes and trains to Brisbane, Cairns and many other major cities.
Reached by a 30 minute ferry ride from Rosslyn Bay in Yeppoon, the island is known for its warm tropical climate, fish diversity, coral reefs and some 27km of glorious, sunkissed beaches.
Because of its close proximity to Yeppoon, the island is both a popular day trip destination and a longer stay holiday destination too.
The traditional owners of the Keppel Islands are the Ganomi-Woppaburra people. They are believed to have lived on Great Keppel Island for around 700 years and on neighbouring North Keppel for around 5000 years.
Evidence of this Aboriginal inhabitance can still be seen today through middens on the island. These are impressive shell mounds built up over 100s of years as a result of countless meals of shellfish.
The first European to discover Great Keppel Island was Captain James Cook. In 1770 he sailed into Keppel Bay and named the bay and islands after his superior in England, Rear Admiral Augustus Keppel.
Although there were subsequent visits by other exploratory parties over the following years, white use of Great Keppel Island did not begin until 1866. When the prominent Central Queensland Squatter, Robert Ross procured leases over Great Keppel and Northern Keppel Islands.
Over the course of the next year he started to ‘prepare’ the island to be a cattle property. In the process ruthlessly murdering at least 84 indigenous people. By 1882, having successfully acquired secure tenure for Great Keppel Island through land dummying, he grazed 4000 sheep on the island.
The stockkeeper for Ross, was W.T.Wyndham, who declared himself the first European to live on the island. Despite the callous actions of his boss towards them, Wyndham is understood to have maintained a courteous relationship with the indigenous Keppel Islanders.
Great Keppel Island’s role as a holiday spot began sometime around 1935 when a local oysterman, James Morris brought fishing parties to the island. Offering them accommodation in bush shelters on Fisherman’s beach that had been built by his two sons.
Visitor numbers to the island began to increase steadily after World War II. To the point that by the late 1950s it had grown enough to warrant the islands first resort to be built – the Silver Sands.
This resort ran until 1966. Before being sold and subsequently replaced by a new resort building which had a swimming pool.
Supported by the building of an airstrip by Trans Australia Airlines, tourism to the island boomed between 1975 and 1990 under the highly successful ‘Get Wrecked on Great Keppel’ advertising campaign.
Qantas took over the resort in 1992, before selling it to a pair of Queensland businessmen in 1998. Under their ownership the resort was operated firstly by Contiki and then Mercure.
In 2006 Tower Holdings, a Sydney based developer took ownership of the island. They announced plans for a major development including a large hotel, hundreds of units and apartments, a marina, a Greg Norman designed golf course, casino and a revamped airstrip capable of landing small jet aircraft.
As yet, these plans have not come to fruition.
To many people’s delight it does not look as if it will any time soon.
All told Great Keppel Island has 17 sensational beaches you could potentially visit.
The main beaches are Putney Beach and Fisherman’s Beach. Both of these are closest to the resorts, with Fisherman’s being the beach you will first disembark from if you arrive from the ferry on the mainland.
On the southern side of the island, Long Beach is arguably the best beach on the island. A wonderful stretch of pristine white sand, this beach was recently ranked in the top 20 of Australia’s 101 Best Beaches.
Offering an idyllic and secluded location, this beach is also a popular spot for nude sunbathing.
If you have the time and energy to visit them, other great beaches you should visit include Monkey Beach and Wreck Beach.
Starting from a headland in the north, to the edge of Monkey Point, Monkey Beach is a stunning 550m curve of white sand and crystal clear shoreline. Facing southwest from Great Keppel Island it is renowned for the fringing reef, stunning coral gardens and schools of colourful tropical fish you will see whilst snorkelling.
Nestled on the far side of Great Keppel Island, Wreck Beach offers the vibe of being on a remote paradise island. The trek there is long and may challenge some, but it is very well worth it.
For you are likely to see dolphins, turtles and a number of other marine life in and around here.
If you plan to venture to any of the beaches on the island be sure to take plenty of food, water and other essentials like a hat, first aid kit, insect repellent and sunscreen with you.
Also be mindful of when sunset is because the trails can be very difficult to negotiate as the daylight fades to darkness.
Things To Do
Offering something for everyone, there is so much to do at Great Keppel Island offers. Boredom is not an option!
Some of the activities include the following:
Great Keppel Island is one of the best islands on the Great Barrier Reef for Bush Waking. It is packed full of outstanding vistas, scintillating beaches and historic sites of interest.
There are 6 main walking trails of varying degrees of difficulty, you can do that will take you all over the island.
1. The Lookout Trail – 2.6km return , approx. 1 hour
One of the easier walks to complete, The Lookout Trail starts from the water sports hut on Fisherman’s Beach. It will take you to the ridge top shelter which showcases fabulous views of the west side of the island.
2. Monkey Point (inc Long Beach) – 10km, approx 2-3 hours
A favourite of regular day trippers from Yeppoon, this trail takes you to Long Beach and Monkey Beach – two of the best beaches on the island.
Along this trail you will pass through the historic shell midden left by the indigenous population who used to live on the island. You will also see verdant, sub-tropical vegetation and even spot parrots and seabirds too.
This trail also features a welcome section of boardwalk which was recently upgraded, as part of a collaboration between Bunnings, Landcare Australia, Woppaburra Elders, Capricornia Catchments, Gen Yadaba and Livingstone Shire Council to preserve many hundreds of years of memories for the Woppaburra people.
3. Leeke’s Beach Circuit – 3.8km return approx. 2-3 hours
A very good walk to undertake if you would like to discover a bit more about the history of the island.
The trail starts from Fisherman’s Beach and winds its way for 3.8km through beautiful bushland to stunning Leeke’s Beach. Which is one of the most spectacular and largest beaches on the island.
This trail is also a good one to do if you’d like to learn a bit more about the history of the island. Amongst other things you can check out the Old Homestead which was home to the Leeke family back in the 1920s.
4. Mount Wyndham Circuit – 3.5 hours
Want the very best views on the island? Then do the hike along the Mount Wyndham circuit!
It is very a challenging hike and perhaps best suited to those with good fitness and hiking experience. But once you have ascended to the highest viewpoint on the island, you’ll forever be grateful that you did.
From here, you’ll get some amazing 360 degree views of many of the island’s beaches that will break you out with goosebumps.
5. Clam Bay Trail – 10.6km return, 4 hours
Although it is a 10.6km return journey much of the Clam Bay Trail incorporates flat and easy walking. That said there are some steep inclines and descents to and from the lookout that overlooks the beach.
Once there though the views are mightily impressive.
6. The Lighthouse, Wreck Beach & Butterfish Bay – 15.4km return, full day
Channel your inner Bear Gryllis or Indiana Jones and put aside the whole day for an exciting island adventure!
Definitely not for the faint hearted or novice hiker, this trail is known as the hardest hike on the island.
The 15.4 km return trip will enable you to explore Great Keppel Island’s outstanding natural beauty.
It features very steep elevations in parts but will take you to spectacular lookouts. Providing you with views that will nourish your soul.
When undertaking any of these trails take plenty of water, food and other essential provisions like a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and first aid kit with you. Also be sure to wear enclosed footwear and charge your mobile phone fully prior to setting off.
As the island is very big to traverse, it is easy to veer off the beaten track. So before heading out it is a good idea to let someone know what trail you are doing.
Great Keppel Island is not part of the Queensland National Parks system and walking tracks are not maintained to QPWS standards. So even for an experienced hiker the trails might be more difficult than normal to undertake.
Fishing is a great activity to do at Great Keppel Island.
Keen anglers can fish directly off the beach or join a day’s charter. There are plenty of good fishing spots across the island, including at the headland near Putney’s Beach, near the mouth of Leeke’s Creek and on Long Beach.
Flathead, Whiting, Queenfish, Trevally, and Coral Trout can all be caught here. But mindful of the tides when fishing. An outgoing tide is often the best time to cast a line.
The accommodation providers on the island can advise on fishing zones and green zones. Just remember that minimum size and maximum bag limits apply to popular reef fish species.
Whilst fishing between April to November, you might also get to see whales as the migrating humpbacks pass through Keppel Bay.
Great Keppel Island offers plenty of superb spots for snorkeling.
The Southern Great Barrier Reef, including Keppel Bay, is one of the healthiest, most pristine and beautiful parts of the entire Great Barrier Reef to explore.
The opportunity to see spectacular coral formations, stunning tropical fish and as some of the ‘Great 8’ of the Great Barrier Reef should not be passed up.
This ‘Great 8’ of marine life include manta rays, whales, potato cods, sharks, turtles, clown fish, giant clams and maon wrasse.
Across the island there are plenty of secluded bays with pockets of fringing reef that are perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Some of the best of these spots include:
1. Shelving Point Reef
The closest snorkel site to all accommodation on Great Keppel Island, Shelving Point Reef sits within Shelving Beach.
A protected bay that lies right next to Monkey Reef. It can be reached by boat, or directly from Fisherman’s Beach.
This is a great easy option for young families, as it is not too difficult to get too and there is always something to see.
2. Clam Bay
During northerly or easterly winds head to Clam Bay.
A breeding ground for coral trout, here you should spot juvenile coral colonies, turtles and anemones on the edge of the reef slope.
You can access the Clam Bay reef by boat or walking there via the airstrip on the island.
When it is mid-to-low tide, wade into the water directly from the beach and swim out along the edge of the reef.
3. Monkey Beach Reef
If you only have time to snorkel for a few hours then head out to Monkey Beach Reef.
Possessing exceptionally high coral cover and some 38 coral species, it is a stunning dive and snorkel site with a plethora of sights to see.
Sitting within a protected bay, you can access Monkey Beach Reef by boat or a 40 minute walk directly from Fisherman’s Beach.
4. Butterfish Bay
Best reached by boat, Butterfish Bay is a small cove on Great Keppel Island.
Flanked by rocky outcrops and backed by large sand hills it is a great spot for viewing hard corals.
As the rocks are quite far from the beach it is best to snorkel here on low tide.
5. Wreck Beach
Located on one of the furthest parts of the island from the main accommodation area, Wreck Beach has deserted tropical island properties.
A pristine stretch of beach, it is accessed via long trek, but once there you could be rewarded with sights of dolphins, turtles and a host of other marine life whislt you snorkel.
Another big attraction of this area is the ‘treasure’ of the beach. A 420 year old brain coral which stands around 2 metres high.
If you plan to go snorkeling be sure to watch the tides and currents. As a general rule the best time to snorkel is on a mid tide.
Whilst snorkeling, always remember coral is a living creature. So never rest or stand on it.
Also be mindful of kicking it with your flippers and don’t touch any of the sea creatures you may encounter.
The Capricorn Coast is not a renowned hot spot for surfing. But there are a few decent places on Great Keppel Island to catch a wave.
These include Wreck Beach and Red Beach. Both of which require a vessel to access.
If you manage to get some swell here, the chances are you may well get to ride them on your own.
If you are passing or visiting Great Keppel Island by boat there are a number of good anchorage spots you could stop at to allow you to access parts of the mainland.
These include Long Beach, Wyndham Cove, Wreck Beach, Svensen’s Beach, Fisherman’s Beach, Monkey Beach and on the headland between Second Beach and Leeke’s Beach.
From all of these places it is easy to make your way to and from the shore.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Great Keppel Island is between May and August.
Throughout the remainder of the year the weather can either be unbearably hot and humid. During the storm season the rain can absolutely bucket down.
If you do visit between May and August you will enjoy cheaper rates for the accommodation.
During this time you will also see some amazing sunsets too.
If you are looking to visit Great Keppel Island, Sail Capricornia, Funtastic Cruises and Great Keppel Cruises all off transport to and from the mainland.
Whilst on Great Keppel Island, both Keppel Connections and Freedom Fast Cats both offer transfers to different parts of the island.
You can get to Yeppoon via train or bus. Whilst nearby Rockhampton can also be reached by plane.
Places to stay
If you are wanting to spend a night or a few on Great Keppel Island there are a range of accommodation options for you to choose from.
The beachfront cabins at Great Keppel Island Hideaway directly overlook Putney Beach. While a house, studio and luxury safari tents are available at the eco-sensitive accommodation retreat at Svendsen’s Beach.
At the Great Keppel Island Holiday Village there are glamping tents, comfy cabins and a stylish house and for true lovers of the beach lifestyle the Beach Shack Holiday House at Fisherman’s Beach is a quaint place to stay.
The full list of accommodation providers at Great Keppel Island is as follows:
Great Keppel Island Hideaway
Great Keppel Island Holiday Village
Great Keppel Island Beach House
Keppel House Holiday House
Keppel Cottage Holiday House
Svendsen Beach Retreat
Use the search box below to find the best currently available deals for accommodation at Great Keppel Island.
Dining options on Great Keppel Island are limited to the Hideaway Café & Bistro and Island Pizza. Both of which serve very good fayre.
However as these are the only two options on the island, it is advisable to bring some of your own food with you.
For those who are adept at fishing, there are plenty of flathead and whiting to be caught.
Interested in visiting Great Keppel Island?
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