Whether you’re planning a long stay or just a day trip to Great Keppel Island, this article will help you organise your holidays. After spending one week on the island, I’ve noted tips on:

  • How long to stay
  • The best activities
  • Food and packing
  • Where to stay
  • When to go
  • What to look for.
View of Wreck Beach on Great Keppel Island
Wreck Beach – Great Keppel Island

How long should you stay on Great Keppel Island?

We had a hard time answering this question ourselves. Of course, as long as you can is always the recommendation. However, annual leave days (and budget!) are limited. There are so many places on the Queensland coast to explore that you cannot stay on the island forever!

Some people only visit Great Keppel Island for a day trip. If it’s your only option, you’ll find fun things to do on Great Keppel Island even for a very short stay. But you’ll probably only be able to do one of the many activities on Great Keppel Island.

Ideally, you’ll stay for at least three days on Great Keppel Island, and more if you want to scuba dive many times. We stayed on Great Keppel Island for one week and had a blast.

View of Shelving Beach on Great Keppel Island
Shelving Beach – Great Keppel Island

What to do on Great Keppel Island

We’ve visited a few islands on the Southern Great Barrier Reef (Lady Elliot Island, Lady Musgrave Island, Heron Island), and Great Keppel Island was very special for the number of land-based activities available on the island. Many visitors going for a day trip to Great Keppel Island stick to the beach near the resort, Fisherman’s Beach and Putney Beach. In my opinion, they’re the “worst” part of the island. If you can, take time to go a bit further and explore.

This map from the tourism information website will help you plan your trip to Great Keppel Island (it is available at the resort reception).

View from the lighthouse on Great Keppel Island
Lighthouse – Great Keppel Island

I’ve written an article about things to do on Great Keppel Island with more details on each activity. Here’s an overview:

  • Enjoying the beach: Great Keppel Island offers stunning beaches to relax or play.
  • Scuba diving: there’s a dive centre on the island that will take you to great spots around the Keppels.
  • Snorkelling: you can snorkel directly from the beach or book a tour with the dive centre (they also rent snorkel gear if you need).
  • Hiking: there are many short and long trails around the island; we walked for more than 50km around the trails on the island and it was stunning! The island is known for having no vehicle (although I read about a 4WD tour from Great Keppel Island Holiday Village* on TripAdvisor but didn’t find it advertised on their website) so hiking is one of the best way to see most of it.
  • Kayaking/SUP: you can hire kayaks and SUPs and explore the coast at your own rythm, or sign up for a tour. There was no jet ski for hire when we visited.

For all water-based activities, head to Keppel Dive‘s hut near the cafe on Fisherman’s Beach. They rent equipment and have valuable tips to help you make the best decisions.

Scuba diver posing behind corals on Great Keppel Island
Scuba diving – Great Keppel Island

Food on Great Keppel Island

The cafe at the resort has splendid views and offers a nice selection of meals. But if you’re planning an adventurous day far away from it all (like we did most of the days!), you don’t want to rely on the cafe food only. Bringing your own food is also obviously a lot cheaper.

It wasn’t a problem at all to bring food in our luggage; it’s actually very common. Not all accommodations are self-contained though. So if you plan to cook, it is something to consider when planning your trip.

Where to stay on Great Keppel Island

Our choice of where to stay on Great Keppel Island was dictated by accommodation availability. Great Keppel Island is a popular destination. So it can be hard to find a room if you’re going for the weekend or during school holidays.

We stayed in two different rooms at Great Keppel Island Hideaway*, which is the resort with a lovely cafe and restaurant with a view. Our first room was fully equipped for self-catering whereas our second room only had a kettle and a bar fridge. The rooms were quite basic but we didn’t mind as we spent most of our time outdoors.

Great Keppel Island Holiday Village* is just next door, and might be a better option if you are on a budget. They have a fully-equipped communal kitchen and barbecue area for guests to cook their own meals. There are also a few private holiday houses (maybe five) at the end of Fisherman’s Beach, opposite the resorts.

If you want to stay in a quiet area, you may be seduced by Svendsen’s Beach Resort. But it won’t be a good option if you plan to do activities with the dive shop. Indeed, it’s 50 minutes away by boat or 6 km walking.

When we visited, we found many piles of waste on our way to the hiking trails. They weren’t really fitting with the island views. It wasn’t a problem, just a weird surprise. Hopefully, it means the resorts are renovating and will offer better facilities when we’ll visit next.

When to plan your trip to Great Keppel Island

We were told winter and early Spring are great times to visit the island. You don’t want to wait for the hot days, especially if you love hiking. The visibility underwater is also usually better in winter. We visited Great Keppel Island in early October and had a perfect week, with 8-meter visibility underwater.

If you can only visit during the warmer months, it’s still worth going. The water will be warm (it was only around 22º in October!). Plus, if you’re scuba diving, you have a higher chance of seeing pelagic fish!

Panarama image of Svendsens Beach on Great Keppel Island
Svendsens Beach – Great Keppel Island

What to pack for Great Keppel Island (and how to pack)

I won’t go through the usual list of things to pack for beach or snorkelling or hiking holidays. But there are a few items that may not be obvious although you should really consider bringing them for your trip to Great Keppel Island:

  • Hiking shoes (or at least running shoes): if you plan to hit the trails, most of them require good footwear to progress at a decent pace. The paths are often steep with many rocks and unstable gravels. However, you do not want to wear your hiking shoes on the ferry. They land on the beach and you’ll get your feet (or even your legs) wet when embarking or disembarking.
  • Beach towels: our accommodation only supplied bath towels.
  • Rash vest or shark skin: it’s always the best way to avoid getting sunburnt when snorkelling, but it’s also good to stay warm: the water was colder than we expected early Spring!
  • Snacks: the best things to see are not close to the couple of shops on the island, so you don’t want to rely on the them for snacks. You may even want to pack food (see more details below).
  • Water bottles: you cannot drink water from the tap on the island, so you’ll want to fill in your water bottle from your accommodation or the bar before exploring the island.
  • Soap and shampoo: our accommodation only provided a small soap, so we packed our soap and shampoo bars (smaller than bottles, more eco-friendly and with less risk of leaking).
  • Earplugs: if you struggle to sleep when it’s noisy, you may want to bring earplugs – the cute stone curlews are very noisy at night.
  • Insect repellent: there weren’t too many mosquitoes during our trip to Great Keppel Island but after being eaten alive by midgies on Hinchinbrook Island, I always recommend packing insect repellent.
  • Enough clothes for your entire stay: don’t plan to wash your clothes as they don’t really dry with the bore water; you don’t need many clothes to stay on the island anyway.

Responsible travel tip: Did you know your sunscreen could harm the reef? The best way to protect your body from the sun is to cover it. If you do have to use sunscreen, choose a mineral one (like zinc) and apply it at least 20 minutes before entering the water.

Ferry services impose a limit on your luggage weight (23kg per person with Keppel Konnections for us). They stipulated they would enforce rules about the number of items and weight. But they actually showed no interest in our luggage when we arrived (despite our enquiries as we were unsure of the weight of our diving gear bags). When I asked over the phone, they indicated we could add items for $20 (up to 20 kg).

On Keppel Konnections, we had to put our bags ourselves on the boat. Keep this in mind when you’re packing if you have multiple items. It wasn’t too hard for us as we had a suitcase with wheels and we could push it with another bag on top all the way to the boat.

You’ll want to keep your day bag and any fragile items with you. Once on the island, if you’re staying overnight, our bags were transferred to the “luggage area”. Things were staked under some heavier luggage. If you wouldn’t check your bag for a flight, then keep it with you.

Also, if you have one of these common blue eskies, you may want to add a ribbon or something to recognise it!

What to look for on Great Keppel Island

A visit to Great Keppel Island is a fantastic opportunity to spot wildlife. It’s always easier to see things when you know what to look for. Here’s a list of the animals we spotted:

  • Echidnas: at sunset on the trail near the first lookout, and a few times (mostly at sunset and at night but also during the day) at the resort and near the bar
  • Dugongs: spotted at sunset from Fisherman’s Beach (next to where the ferry drops people) and while kayaking along Leeke’s Beach.
  • Turtles: so many times… spotted from Fisherman’s Beach, while kayaking along Leeke’s Beach, while snorkelling on Wreck Beach…
  • Wild goats: everywhere after leaving the resort area and main beaches.
  • Reptiles: we saw so many lizards of various size on the island, and goannas.
  • Possums: cute possums can be spotted around the resort.

Have you been to Great Keppel Island? Share your experience in the comments below!

Where is Great Keppel Island?

Great Keppel Island is on the Capricorn Coast of Queensland (Australia). A few ferry services will take you to the island multiple times a day from Yeppoon, near Rockhampton. The boat trip takes about 30 minutes, but you’ll need to add loading and unpacking time that almost took as long in our experience.

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.

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