Although our plan was to do only a few dives, we liked scuba diving Great Keppel Island so much that we ended up doing 10 dives. But if you’re planning a trip to Great Keppel Island just for scuba diving the southern Great Barrier Reef, you may want to reconsider. Feeling confused? Let me explain.
Are you covered for scuba diving by your travel insurance? It’s worth double-checking. If not, I recommend DAN (Divers Alert Network) for those who dive regularly. WorldNomads* and Covermore* also make it easy to add adventurous activities like scuba diving to your plan.
Why you should choose Wop-Pa (Great Keppel Island) vs other islands
Budget holidays are possible on Wop-Pa (Great Keppel Island)
Scuba diving Great Keppel Island (Wop-Pa) can make budget-friendly holidays if you come from Brisbane or South Queensland:
- It took us one day (8 hrs without counting breaks) to drive up to Yeppoon (660km), which is a lot cheaper and greener than flying. Then, the boat transfer is very quick and cheap.
- Accommodation on Great Keppel Island is a lot cheaper than on other islands: check out the rates from Great Keppel Island Holiday Village* and Great Keppel Island Hideaway*.
- You can bring your own food to Great Keppel Island: some accommodations are self-contained, or you can also bring an eski, so that you don’t have to eat every meal at the restaurant.
- You can hire scuba diving equipment or fill up your tanks at Keppel Dive* and go for a cheap shore dive or with your own boat. However, we prefer going with the dive shop as it is always safer and they can share their knowledge of the sites.
Activities on Great Keppel Island
There are many things to do on Great Keppel Island when you’re not underwater. We loved hiking and kayaking. But you can also simply enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches.
We also enjoyed a lot watching the landscape from the scuba diving boat. We approached different islands in the Keppels archipelago and they looked amazing.
Other destinations you may prefer for scuba diving
The coral on Wop-Pa (Great Keppel Island) looked healthy and we saw many fish. The reef is easy to access, the boat trips were rather cheap and the staff were both passionate and attentive to customers, which make some of the reasons why we kept wanting to do more dives.
Still, for scuba diving holidays, I’d recommend going to the Southern Great Barrier Reef instead if your budget allows it. Dives on Lady Elliot or Heron Island offer more impressive coral formations than Wop-Pa (Great Keppel Island), but it’s a lot more expensive to stay there. For a day trip, we had a wow effect at Lady Musgrave outer reef too.
How to scuba dive Great Keppel Island (Wop-Pa)
Scuba diving boat tours
The easiest way to go scuba diving on Great Keppel Island is to book a tour with Keppel Dive*. They can cater to all levels (even for those who have never dived). Their team is very friendly and keen to share their knowledge about the island and the reef.
Cheap shore dives
If you are a confident, certified diver, you may be interested in hiring equipment and organising your own dives. We didn’t have time to try the shore dives on Great Keppel Island (Wop-Pa), but we looked into it when planning our trip.
The best way to find information about shore dives on Great Keppel Island (Wop-Pa) is to directly ask the team at Keppel Dive*. They know about the sites and what you should take into consideration (such as tides and winds) to pick the best site that day. They can also help you with navigation tips. In general, it’s better to dive at slack time at the top of high tide to increase the chances of having good visibility and lower the risk of strong currents.
It’s too far to walk with your scuba diving equipment from your accommodation to do a shore dive on Great Keppel Island (Wop-Pa). If you don’t have your own boat, you will need to organise a drop-off with Keppel Dive*. But if you don’t want to spend money for a boat transfer, you can hike with your snorkel gear.
Shore dive sites on Great Keppel Island (Wop-Pa)
Monkey Beach is the closest (hence cheapest) spot for a shore dive as the boat transfer will take less than 10 minutes. It’s well protected from the wind (except for south-west to west winds) so it can be a backup option. It’s quite shallow (8 meters), so we chose to snorkel there. Monkey Reef has staghorn coral and you can often spot rays and turtles.
We preferred our snorkelling session at Wreck Beach compared to Monkey Beach. However, it’s a long hike to get there and the boat transfer (25 minutes) will be more expensive too. It’s not an option for east and south winds, but it is protected from west and northerly winds. It’s known to be a great spot for those who love macro – which was too hard to see when snorkelling. We did spot a turtle there and saw big coral boulders.
Big P is another site accessible from the beach around the corner reputed for macro (and also good for south winds), but we didn’t go there. We also didn’t have time to check out Red Beach, which is a good option protected from Northerly winds. It takes about 20 minutes to get there by boat and we read it has impressive corals (boulders but also staghorn).
What we saw when scuba diving Great Keppel Island (Wop-Pa)
We were lucky to explore different sites around the Keppel Islands, some with Keppel Dive* and some on our own.
We did two dives at Egg Rock, which was by far our favourite dive site. Unfortunately, you need no wind and swell to visit this site. The current can be quite strong too. It was one of the first green zones around the Keppel Islands. It has beautiful corals and many sea snakes (too freindly for some of our buddies’ taste).
We did three dives at Humpy Island, which was a good option to find protection from the northerly winds as there are a variety of sites to explore on the southern side of the island. We coupled one of the dives at Humpy Island with one dive at Halfway Island, which is between Humpy Island and Great Keppel Island (Wop-Pa).
We did two dives at Barren Island. We mostly saw corals there, including staghorn corals.
We did two dives at Outer Rock, which is a stunning island that we enjoyed as much underwater as from the boat. This is a good site to spot pelagic fish, big rays and sharks.
When is the best time to scuba dive on Great Keppel Island (Wop-Pa)?
The best time to scuba dive on Great Keppel Island (Wop-Pa) is when there is no wind. Strong winds will make the visibility drop for a few days and will limit the number of sites you can visit. But there are still things to see (especially for those who love macro!).
As often when scuba diving on the east coast of Australia, winter is a more reliable season. It’s when you have higher chances of getting good visibility underwater. The water will be a bit chilly (20°C) so you’ll need to wear layers to keep you warm underwater and on the boat during your surface interval. Humpback whales migrate along the east coast of Australia in winter, so you may hear them underwater when scuba diving during this season.
But it’s still worth going to Wop-Pa (Great Keppel Island) in the summer. It’s more comfortable with warmer temperatures in and out of the water. Plus, you have a higher chance of seeing pelagic fish. However, there’s a higher risk of annoying northerlies kicking in and ruining your dive plans.
Where is Wop-Pa (Great Keppel Island)?
Great Keppel Island is on the east coast of Australia, halfway between Brisbane and Townsville. It’s easy to get there by boat as multiple ferries connect Great Keppel Island to the mainland, leaving from Yeppoon.
It took us about 8 hours to drive to Yeppoon from Brisbane, not including our break for sleeping. It wasn’t a problem to leave our car at the marina in Rosslyn Bay for the week. But if you prefer to park in a secure car park, you’ll find one nearby at 422 Scenic Highway, Rosslyn Bay.