17 WAYS TO EXPLORE GREAT KEPPEL ISLAND
Great Keppel Island is an undeveloped, natural island paradise in the Capricorn Region. Plan your ultimate trip to Great Keppel Island and the world heritage Southern Great Barrier Reef with this local guide.
Everyone raves about the Whitsundays Islands while the Central Queensland locals enjoy keeping Keppel Bay Islands mostly to themselves. There are 18 islands in the Keppel group with Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa) being the largest at 1454 hectares.
Here you’ll be on the doorstep to the Southern Great Barrier Reef, without the crowds or costs you’d find in the Whitsundays. Snorkel straight off white sandy beaches and you won’t have to swim far to encounter spectacular marine life.
While spending six months on the Capricorn Coast, we visited this beautiful island four times in four different ways and wanted to share what we learned. Whether you go to Wop-pa to spend a day, weekend, or longer – this guide to help you plan your holiday.
In 2020, the Woppaburra people were formally recognised as native title holders of the 13 Keppel Islands including Woppa (Great Keppel) and Konomie (North Keppel).
The best time to visit Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa)
With warm water temperatures year round, there’s no bad time to visit Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa). However, here are a few key dates and seasons to consider:
- February to April – is turtle hatching season on the Keppel Bay Islands.
- August to September – is whale watching season. Keep reading to find out about whale watching tours around Wop-pa.
- October to May – is jellyfish season in the Capricorn Coast. Although stings are less common then further up north, they can still happen. Tour companies like the Keppel Explorer will provide optional stinger suits for snorkelling.
- December to January – is the high season, as well as during Queensland school and public holidays. Read more in our guide on the best time to visit Queensland.
If you’re keen on hiking and snorkelling then winter and spring may be the best bet, with better underwater visibility and milder temperatures. In winter, the high temperature is 22C with an average water temperature of around 20C.
Local tip: Great Keppel Island Hideaway hosts many live events including celebrity chefs and tribute shows. See their events page for upcoming shows.
How to get to Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa)
Before you can get to Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa), you’ll need to travel to the harbour. Rosslyn Bay Harbour is a 12-minute drive from Yeppoon and a 45-minute drive from Rockhampton. For those without a vehicle, you can order a taxi, organise a van transfer through CQ Connections, or take the route 20 local bus which starts in Rockhampton and passes through Yeppoon. If you book a day trip through your mainland accommodation provider, they may offer transfers to Rosslyn Bay.
Once you’re aboard your chosen vessel, it’s just a thirty minute trip across the water to Wop-pa. Below is information about each option to help you decide choose between a ferry or day tour.
Ferries from Keppel Bay Marina to Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa)
There are two ferry companies with daily transfers from Rosslyn Bay Harbour to Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa). Both are comparably and reasonably priced.
Slip off your shoes before getting off the ferry at Wop-pa. You’ll be disembarking straight onto Fisherman’s Beach and probably don’t your shoes soaked like I did the first time.
Located within the Keppel Bay Marina, Keppel Konnections has daily ferries departing from the mainland as early as 7:30 am and returning from Wop-pa as late as 4:00 pm or 6:20 pm on Fridays. We took this ferry on our first day trip because we it gave us the maximum amount of time on the island.
Keppel Konnections is owned by the same company as Great Keppel Island Hideaway so you also have the option of packages with lunch, snorkel hire, and/or accommodation.
How much: $50 return per adult for the ferry transfer only. $70 with lunch or $90 to add-on lunch & snorkel hire.
Where to book: The Keppel Konnections website or through Great Keppel Island Hideaway if you want an accommodation package.
Freedom Fast Cats
The schedule for Freedom Fast Cats varies with the earliest departure from the mainland at 7:30 am on a Saturday and 3:45 pm return on any day except Tuesday. We went with Freedom Fast Cats on our second day trip because Keppel Konnections was fully booked. They have a bigger boat, which may be a more suitable option if you’re taking heavy eskies or watersports equipment over to the island.
Freedom Fast Cats also offers four different tour options which you can see below.
How much: $50 per adult for return ferry transfers.
Where to book: The Freedom Fast Cats website.
8 tours of the Keppel Islands & Southern Great Barrier Reef
Boomnetting and Glass Bottom Boat Tours
After Freedom Fast Cats drops passengers off at Wop-pa, the boat stays to run additional tour options. There are four variations, which at first I found to be a little confusing. But essentially all of them include the ferry plus the glass-bottom boat tour, which operates daily.
Then depending on the day and your desire for adventure, you can add on meals, snorkelling, and the unique activity of boom netting. The crew will put down a net at the back of the boat which passengers can sit on. Then the boat starts up creating an ocean spa effect.
See the breakdown below of each tour with inclusions, pricing, and which days they operate.
- Adventure Cruise (Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday): $149 per adult for morning tea, one-hour glass-bottom boat tour, lunch, snorkelling, boom netting, afternoon tea, one hour of free time, and return ferry.
- Combo Tour (Monday only): $119 per adult for a one-hour glass-bottom boat tour, lunch, snorkelling, two hours of free time, and return ferry.
- Coral Lunch Tour (Tuesday only): $107 per adult for morning tea, one-hour glass-bottom boat tour, lunch, and 45 minutes of free time
- Glass Bottom Boat Tour (daily): $86 per adult for a one-hour glass-bottom boat tour, around five hours of free time and return ferry.
Where to book: The Freedom Fast Cats website.
If sailing to Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa) aboard a 60-foot catamaran is your style, then check out Funtastic Cruises. Choose between the sunset cruise of 1.5 hours or the day cruise of around seven hours.
The full day tour includes snorkelling and stand up paddle boards. Funtastic Cruises is perfect for a relaxed day out on the water.
How much: $150 per adult for the full-day day cruise, including lunch. $70 per adult for the sunset cruise, including a glass of champagne and a cheese board. BYO drinks.
Where to book: The Funtastic Cruises website.
The Keppel Explorer is the only tour company that ventures beyond the western end of Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa) and visits other Keppel Bay Islands. On our fourth visit to Wop-pa, we booked the popular Keppel Explorer. The tour runs from 9 am to 2 pm and at first I was worried that it would feel short. However, the day trip was so action-packed that I appreciated coming back in the early afternoon so I could take a nap.
It’s a small boat with only 12 seats, but the Keppel Explorer flies across the surface of the water at speeds of up to 65 kilometres per hour. Each tour is unique depending on the wind and conditions of the day. Ours started by darting across the bay to the uninhabited Humpy Island (Bur-ye Bur-ye), which is not accessible by any other commercial company unless you hire a charter boat.
After exploring exciting sea caves and taking a wander along the short walking track on Humpy, we shot over to Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa) for snorkelling at six different sites. It was the greatest snorkelling experience we’ve had in Queensland, with an incredible array of fish, coral, stingrays, and even swimming with a turtle. By the end, we had fully circumnavigated around Wop-pa stopping along the way at white sandy beaches and reefs for aquatic adventures.
How much: $160 per person including lunch and snorkelling gear
Where to book: The Keppel Explorer website.
Whale watching around Keppel Bay
From 1st August to 30th September only, Keppel Konnections runs a three-hour whale watching tour. Departing from the Keppel Bay Marina four times per week at 11 am. You won’t step onto Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa), but you’ll be able to see the island from the deck of the boat while watching out for majestic marine mammals.
How much: $75 per person including a light lunch.
Where to book: The Keppel Konnections website.
9 best things to do on Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa)
Whether you’ve booked a ferry over for the day or decided to stay longer on the beautiful Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa), it’s important to know that the island is completely car free. All the ferries and the majority of accommodation options (except for Sveden’s Beach) are clustered on the eastern end around Fisherman’s and Putney Beach.
Fortunately, there are plenty of hiking tracks spanned across approximately 3500 acres of land. Or you can book a beach drop off and aquatic adventures through Great Keppel Water Sports. Below is an overview of the best things to do on Wop-pa.
- Choose from six hikes on the official Great Keppel Island visitor map with many more signed trails on the north side of the island. The northern tracks have been largely maintained by the owners of Svendsen’s Beach, which they have documented in an exclusive guide for their guests.
- Swim at one of 17 white sandy beaches. We recommend Long Beach or Leeke’s Beach if you’re walking from Fisherman’s Beach.
- Visit a sacred aboriginal site on the peninsula between Long and Monkey Beach.
- Surf at Red and Wreck Beach. You’ll need a boat to take you over to the eastern side of the island, from $100 return per person through Great Keppel Water Sports. Or if you stay at Svendsens Beach, your board over to Wreck Beach.
- Look out over the Keppel Islands from 1st Lookout and Mount Wyndam. We walked up from Fishermans Beach to the peak of Mount Wyndam, then doubled back to the lookout trail and cut across to Long Beach.
- Kayak to Middle Island. Kayak hire starts at $20 per hour and a kayaking tour starts at $60 per person from Great Keppel Water Sports.
- Snorkel the Southern Great Barrier Reef with visibility of 10-15 metres (weather dependent). If you aren’t taking a tour, you can hire equipment from Great Keppel Water Sports. We own cheap masks that we carried in our backpack to Monkey and Shelving Beach.
- Scuba dive the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Great Keppel Water Sports offers multiple diving experiences from beginner to intermediate. You’ll have the opportunity to see turtles, reef fish, clown fish, moray eels, rays, sea cucumbers, sea snakes, and dugongs.
- Clink cocktails at Great Keppel Island Hideaway. The perfect end to an amazing great on Wop-pa.
Where to stay on Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa)
Here is an overview of the best accommodation options on Great Keppel Island (Wop-pa).
Great Keppel Island Hideaway Resort – Choose from motel-style rooms, studios, cabins, and a house for up to six people per location. Packages are available with ferry tickets and meals.
Great Keppel Island Holiday Village – Budget boutique accommodation with a kitchen to cook your own meals. Comfortable and simple decked tents, twin or double bedrooms are available.
Svendsen’s Beach – Over on the northeast side of the island, Svenden’s Beach is an eco-sensitive experience for up to only six adults at a time. That’s right – no children allowed!
This secluded spot is also not always open as they shut down sporadically for rest and repairs, but we recommend emailing to check availability as it’s an absolute natural paradise.
About the Author: Chantell Collins is a Pinterest Advertising Consultant, eco enthusiast, and occasional Travel Writer. Her work has been featured in Skyscanner, Yahoo, MSN, and many more. After living abroad for almost ten years, she’s renewing her affection for Australia through slow travel.