Great Keppel Island: Capricorn Coast Visitors Guide

Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa): Fantastic Queensland Holiday Destination


Great Keppel Island Visitor Guide


Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. About Great Keppel Island
3. History
4. 17 Beaches of Great Keppel Island
5. Things To Do on Great Keppel Island
6. Fishing on Keppel Island
7. Snorkelling on Keppel Island
8. Surfing
9. Sailing
10. Best Time To Visit Great Keppel Island
11. Getting There
12. Places to stay on Keppel Island
13. Food

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Read Time: 15 Minutes



If you love remote, not-easy-to-get-to beaches then Great Keppel Island should definitely be on your beach bucketlist!

One of the best islands in Queensland, Wop-pa, as it is known in the local indigenous language, has no less than 17 different beaches located on its 1454 hectares!

Situated at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef these scenic 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.


the island is known for its warm tropical climate, fish diversity, coral reefs and some 27km of glorious, sunkissed beaches.


About Great Keppel Island

Great Keppel Island is located 15 km off the coast of Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast in Queensland, Australia.

It is about 30km 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 option for those wanting to engage in outdoor adventures, view underwater wildlife in Keppel Waters, partake in eco-friendly tourism or simply just relax in this particular area of Queensland’s coastal beauty.


Beautiful White sand at Great Keppel Island in Queensland



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 other exploration parties visited later 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 murdered at least 84 indigenous people. By 1882, having successfully procured secure tenure for the island via land dummying, he was able to graze over 4000 sheep on the island.

The stockkeeper for Ross was one 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 island’s 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 by 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, a 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.


Want the very best views on the island? Then do the hike along the Mount Wyndham circuit!


17 Beaches of Great Keppel Island

All told, Great Keppel Island has 17 sensational beaches you could potentially visit.

They are:

  • Fisherman’s Beach
  • Putney Beach
  • Putney Point
  • The Spit
  • Leeke’s Creek
  • Leeke’s Beach
  • Second Beach
  • Svendsen’s Beach
  • Butterfish Bay
  • Secret Cove
  • Wreck Beach
  • Red Beach
  • Clam Bay
  • Wyndham Cove
  • Long Beach
  • Monkey Beach
  • Monkey Point
  • Shelving Beach
  • 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, you should visit 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 is long and may challenge some, but it is worth the effort.

    For you should see turtles, dolphins and various other species of 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.


    Walking Trails on Great Keppel Island
    1. The Lookout Trail – 2.6km return , approx. 1 hour
    2. Monkey Point (inc Long Beach) – 10km, approx 2-3 hours
    3. Leeke’s Beach Circuit – 3.8km return approx. 2-3 hours
    4. Mount Wyndham Circuit – 3.5 hours
    5. Clam Bay Trail – 10.6km return, 4 hours
    6. The Lighthouse, Wreck Beach & Butterfish Bay – 15.4km return, full day


    Things To Do on Great Keppel Island

    Offering something for everyone, there is so much to do on Keppel Island. Boredom is not an option!

    Some of the activities include the following:


    Walking Trails on Great Keppel Island

    Great Keppel Island is one of the best islands on the Great Barrier Reef for Bush Walking. 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.


    Stunning Beach at Great Keppel Island in Queensland


    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 recently upgraded boardwalk as part of a joint initiative between Landcare Australia, Bunnings, Capricornia Catchments, Woppaburra Elders, Livingstone Shire Council and Gen Yadaba 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 at Fisherman’s Beach and winds its way for 3.8km through stunning 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. 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 ascended to the island’s highest viewpoint, 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, some steep inclines and descents to and from the lookout overlook 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 Grylls or Indiana Jones and put aside the whole day for an exciting Keppel adventure!

    Definitely not for the unfit or novice hiker, this trail is known as the hardest hike on the island.

    The 15.4 km return trip will showcase the stunning natural beauty of Keppel Bay Islands National Park.

    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.


    Amazing Sunset over Great Keppel Island in Queensland


    Fishing on Keppel Island

    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 Great Keppel Island 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 the months of April and November, you might also get to see whales. During this time migrating humpbacks often make their way through Keppel Bay and other Queensland islands along the east coast.


    Best Snorkelling Spots on Keppel Island
    1. Shelving Point Reef
    2. Clam Bay
    3. Monkey Beach Reef
    4. Butterfish Bay
    5. Wreck Beach


    Snorkelling on Keppel Island

    Great Keppel Island offers plenty of superb spots for snorkelling.

    The Southern Great Barrier Reef, including Keppel Bay, is one of the healthiest, most pristine and most beautiful parts of the entire Great Barrier Reef to explore.

    The opportunity to see spectacular coral formations, stunning tropical fish and some of the ‘Great 8’ of the marine life in the Great Barrier Reef should not be passed up.

    This ‘Great 8’ of marine life includes 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 reefs that are perfect for snorkeling and diving.

    Some of the best of these spots include:


    1. Shelving Point Reef

    The closest snorkel site to all Great Keppel Island accommodation providers, 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 to and there is always something to see.


    2. Clam Bay

    During northerly or easterly winds, head to Clam Bay – it one of the best coral cays in the area.

    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 walk to Clam Bay Reef via the island’s airstrip or access it by boat.

    When it is mid-to-low tide, wade into the water at the beach and then swim to the reef’s edge.


    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, delightful Butterfish Bay is a tiny cove that is backed by huge sand hills and flanked by rocky outcrops.

    It is a great spot for viewing hard coral, but 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 a long trek, but once there you could be rewarded with sights of dolphins, turtles and a host of other marine life whilst 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 snorkelling be sure to watch the tides and currents. As a general rule, the best time to snorkel is on a mid-tide.

    Whilst snorkelling, 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 opportunity to see spectacular coral formations, stunning tropical fish and some of the ‘Great 8’ of the marine life in the Great Barrier Reef should not be passed up.



    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.


    Gorgeous Beach View at Great Keppel Island in Queensland



    If you are passing or visiting Great Keppel Island by boat during an island hopping adventure, 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 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 Great Keppel Island

    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 or 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 wanting to spend a night or a few on Great Keppel Island there is a range of accommodation options for you to choose from including Keppel Island Camping.


    Getting There

    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 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.


    Shimmering Ocean view at Great Keppel Island in Queensland


    Places to stay on Keppel Island

    If you are wanting to spend a night or a few on Great Keppel Island there is a range of accommodation options for you to choose from including Keppel Island Camping.

    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 Great Keppel Island accommodation providers is as follows:

  • GKI Hideaway
  • Great Keppel Island Holiday Village
  • Keppel Lodge
  • Great Keppel Island Beach House
  • Keppel House Holiday House
  • Svendsen Beach Retreat
  • Keppel Cottage Holiday House
  • All of these Keppel Island Resorts and camping options provide good facilities and are well maintained.



    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.



    How long is the ferry ride to Great Keppel Island?

    The ferry ride to Keppel Island from Rosslyn Bay harbour in Yeppoon takes about half an hour to complete.


    Can I visit Keppel Island on a day trip?

    Yes, you can. Keppel is not privately owned, which means anyone can catch the ferry from the mainland over to the island and enjoy its beaches or eat at its restaurants there.


    How often does the ferry go to Great Keppel Island?

    The Keppel Konnections ferry from Yeppoon to Keppel Island runs every day of the year, including Christmas Day. Currently, there are two ferries over in the morning and two ferries back in the afternoon. This schedule might be affected by adverse weather conditions though.


    What are the best beaches to snorkel on Keppel Island?

    The likes of Clam Bay, Monkey Beach and Shelving Beach rank among the best snorkelling spots at Keppel. On all of them you can see turtles and other marine life like dugongs and dolphins and stunning corals.


    Can you take dogs with you to Great Keppel Island?

    Great Keppel Island is not a national park, so your dogs are welcome to join you there. However, if you are not visiting with your own transportation, you should check with the Keppel Konnections ferry service as to what their current pet policy is.


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