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Great Keppel Island The Southern Great Barrier Reef's natural waterpark

By Katrina Lobley

Great Keppel Island, near the town of Yeppoon in central Queensland, is one of the best island getaways on the Southern Great Barrier Reef. It’s easy to see the appeal, with the option of snorkelling right off the beach or spotting wildlife while hiking its rugged hinterland. Day trips to Great Keppel include aquatic adventures such as boom-netting, or you can stay overnight and admire the magical sunsets and brilliant starry nights that are visible from the sandy shores.

Map of Great Keppel Island, Queensland

Find a new beach

With 17 beaches on Great Keppel Island, it’s possible to discover a new one every day. Roam the web of hiking tracks across the island's interior to evocatively named spots such as Wreck Beach, Red Beach, Clam Bay, Butterfish Bay and Monkey Beach. You might be the only one leaving footprints in the sand.

Meet the wildlife

Even from the island's main beaches it's possible to see dolphins cruising past in the water. From April to November, humpback whales migrate through Keppel Bay and you could spot them from the coast. Head inland and you might see blue-tongue lizards, possums, bright rainbow lorikeets and clouds of jewel-coloured butterflies.

Strike out on a hike

Those who like to ramble can explore the island via a network of bush tracks. Residents consider the unnamed walk up Mount Wyndham – the island's highest point – to be a highlight (most of the island's walking tracks do not have names; simply ask a local for directions). One of the most challenging hikes is the three-hour return Lighthouse Walk, from Fishermans Beach to the 2.5 metre (8 foot) high lighthouse on Bald Rock Point. 

Discover another world underwater

Hire a snorkel set or bring your own to see the underwater marvels just off Great Keppel's beaches. Shelving Beach, Monkey Point and Clam Bay are among the island’s best snorkelling spots, where you can easily see fish, corals, turtles and starfish. There's also good snorkelling right off the main beaches. 

Sign up for an "ocean spa"

Pressed for time and can only visit Great Keppel on a day trip? Head out from Rosslyn Bay near Yeppoon with Freedom Fast Cats, which offers an adventure cruise to Great Keppel four times a week. The best part is the boom-netting – also known as the ocean spa – in which you hang on tight to a net at the back of the boat and experience the thrill of being towed through the water.  

Stay the night

While there are plans to build a major resort on Great Keppel, for now the accommodation options are more low-key. Stay in a beachfront cabin at Great Keppel Island Hideaway overlooking Putney Beach. At Svendsen's Beach, an eco-sensitive accommodation retreat on the island's quiet side, choose from a house, studio or luxury safari tents.

Try out every kind of aquatic sport

Head to Keppel Water Sports on the island's main beach, Fishermans Beach, and see which of the aquatic activities on offer at the Bali-style hut takes your fancy. The company offers guided jetski tours, wakeboarding, tube rides and waterskiing. You can hire kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and snorkel sets. Avid anglers will love fishing in Great Keppel's clear waters. Grab a rod and bait at the Keppel Lodge.

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