Great Keppel Island, If this isn’t on your East coast itinerary yet, it should be!
The most popular island spots on the east coast are easily Fraser Island, Whitsundays & Magnetic Island but I think within the next few years Great Keppel will be up there with them. Great Keppel is just as beautiful if not more than its fellow islands, plus It’s also cheaper to visit and less crowded(for now).
I’ve been visiting Great Keppel Island nearly weekly for the last 7 months, I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of this tropical paradise. Every time I post a photo of the island I have people messaging me asking “where is this!”, “I want to go there” etc etc. In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know about how to get to Keppel, where to stay and what to do when on the island. I’ve also included things to do while in Emu Park which is the coastal resort town you would also be visiting during your Keppel visit. Enjoy!
What is Great Keppel island?
The Keppel Islands are a set of 14 islands with Great Keppel being the largest. They were named after Admiral Keppel by James Cook when he was cruising by back in 1770. The traditional owners of the land are the Woppaburra. Great Kepepl, the largest and most popular of the islands has 17 white sandy beaches with hard and soft coral reefs just a short swim from the shore. The islands sit on the Southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and are home to many species of fish, turtles, sharks, dugongs, stingrays and much more marine life. Every time I’ve been on this island we have swam with turtles in the waters of Shelving Bay or Monkey Beach, it’s definitely my favourite place to snorkel on the east coast of Queensland. The white sandy beaches are home to thousands of turtles who migrate back every few years to nest(approx 8,000 nesting turtles) which makes the waters around Keppel a very popular turtle spotting destination.
How to get there
I would recommend staying in Emu Park at the Emu Park Resort and taking the ferry over to the island for a day trip. Rockhampton is the nearest city to Emu Park and is easy to access via train or bus from other major cities. There are two trains going into Rockhampton, the Spirit of Queensland (Brisbane to Cairns /Cairns t Brisbane route) or the Rockhampton Tilt Train (Brisbane to Rockhampton). Depending if you are going North or South and what time you prefer to leave will determine which train suits you best. You can plan your train trip on the Queensland Rail site. The Greyhound bus service is another easy option to use. Once you are in Rockhampton, you will need to take a transfer bus to get to Emu Park, this can be arranged via Emu Park Resort and needs to be arranged in advance.
Cost of the transfers through emu park is $55. If you have a car and can transport yourself to the ferry terminal, you can save $10 and only pay $45 for the return ferry prices. Ferries can be arranged via Keppel Connections, they also have early bird specials that run on weekends and tickets are only $30.
If you’re looking for a hassle-free fun way to travel the coast of Aus, check out Loka Travel and join one of their hop-on hop-hop-off tours. They take you to Emu Park and organise everything mentioned in this post for you!
Where to stay
Emu Park Resort is a cosy little resort in the little town of Emu Park, a bed in a 4-bed room costs $35 per night. There are no bunk beds, or TVs in every room and the beach is just across the road. It’s the perfect spot to relax and unwind. The resort also has a swimming pool, bar and fully equipped kitchen. Guests often say that the resort is one of the nicest backpacker accommodations they have stayed in on the east coast. I would recommend having 2 full days at Emu Park which gives you plenty of time to explore and enjoy the area on one day and visit the island on the other day.
Planning your days
One day is enough to see the best parts of the island and has a really great day but if you do want more time, there is the accommodation on the island at the Great Keppel Island Hideaway . To see some of the most beautiful beaches on the island, swim with turtles and go on a little adventure, then follow my lead.
We usually take the 9 am ferry which gets you over to the island between 9.30 am and 9.45 am. You will pull into Fishermans Beach which is the main hub of the island. You can rent your snorkel gear from Keppel Adventures hut for $15 for the day and there’s also a little restaurant there if you want to enjoy a cold drink or coffee. This is a good spot to fill up your water bottle and use the bathroom too, as there aren’t these facilities on the beaches later in the day. Summer days in Aus can get up to 40 degrees so please make sure you’ve got enough water for the day.
Depending on the time of year, you may have to wear a stinger suit in the water. Please talk to the crew at Keppel Connections to seek to advise on this matter.
Once you’ve got your snorkel gear I would recommend going over to Shelving Bay, it’s around a 20-minute walk over the headland that is on the far end East side (right-hand side) of where the ferry drops you off. Once you arrive you will be greeted with the crystal and turquoise blue water of Shelving Bay. Most times I’ve been here there’s only been a handful of people on this gorgeous little beach, paradise is ours!
The tides will determine how far the reef is from the beach, on low tide it’s only a short swim out but on a higher tide, you’ll have a little more swimming to do and it may be too deep to see the reef. I would recommend timing your snorkelling session on a medium-low tide, this will ensure you can see the reef below and have a better view of the marine life below. The reef extends all the way along the beach, I’ve literally spent hours in the water here exploring. Keep an eye out for sting rays hiding in the sand below, some times I’ve seen over 10 in one snorkel session!
Okay.. snorkel session number 1 is done! Where to next? Time to go exploring!! If the tide is low enough, you can walk around the rocks that connect Shelving Bay and Monkey Beach. If not, you can walk up the same way you came and follow the Monkey Beach inland path. Definitely try and do the rocky walk if the tide allows, it’s a much shorter walk and the views are incredible. Don’t do this walk barefoot as there are a bunch of sharp rocks you could easily cut yourself on.
Monkey Beach is a long beach, much larger than Shelving and the reef is just as good(if not better) than Shelving. This beach is stunning, I can’t choose a favourite out of these two. Okay so yeah, settle in, have some lunch and go explore the waters looking for turtles again. This reef has a bit more colour than Shelving and is much larger. I’ve had the most success snorkelling on the far right side of the reef( right side if you are standing on the beach facing the water). There’s no shops on these beaches so you will need to pack lunch before you leave the mainland.
Note: Coral bleaching is evident on these reefs. It’s not completely dead but you can definitely notice it. There is still an abundance of marine life including lots of turtles and rays living here though 🙂
If you’re catching the 4 pm ferry, you’ll want to head back around 2:30 pm. Start walking East and head to Long Beach to make your way onto a walking track that takes you back to where you started. The trails on the island aren’t marked very well so I would recommend downloading the smartphone app Maps.Me downloaded this area beforehand(the signal is not great on the island). Maps.me is such a cool little app that has a bunch of walking tracks on it, it’s become one of my favourite apps to use while travelling! Follow the walking track back through the forest and make your way back to the Adventure Hut where you can return your snorkel gear and enjoy a nice cold drink and ice cream after a hot day in the sun.
If you have some time left still, you can also rent Stand Up Paddle Boards or take part in a guided Jetski tour from the Keppel Adventures
Please be respectful and do not touch or stand on the reef and remember to take ALL rubbish with you, and don’t leave anything on the beaches or in the water!…. Or I will find you and kill you 😉 The ocean is not a trash can, there’s nothing I hate more than seeing rubbish in the ocean. And if you’re snorkelling or exploring the beach and see any rubbish that someone else has left behind, please pick it up.
Koorana Crocodile Farm & Bluff Point Lookout
There are two 2-hour tours a day, at 10:30 am and 1 pm. The cost is $35 but if you need a transfer, this can be arranged via the Emu Park resort for $10 per person. There are over 5000 crocs on this farm including some big guys up to 700kg. It’s pretty epic! If you haven’t seen crocs yet, this is the perfect time! The tour is pretty cool and they are very informative. It is however a farm, which means the crocodiles do get bred for meat and leather. If you are not comfortable with animal farming then I wouldn’t recommend going to this farm.
One of my other favourite things to do in Emu Park is the Bluff Point Lookout. Not only do you get awesome views of the coastline but you may see turtles swimming in the waters below. The walk is only 2.3km and should take just one hour(going at a slow pace and spending time looking for turtles). It’s a great walk to do at the end of the day just before sunrise. Transfers can be arranged via the resort.
Where to eat
The Emu Park Resort often puts on meals for its guests for $5-$10 depending on what night of the week it is. Meals are either a BBQ, chicken curry or creamy pasta. Have a chat with reception and see what meals are available during your stay.
The best breakfast and coffee in town is at Brew, just a 10-minute walk from the resort. They have an epic breakfast meal called the SUPER BREW and it includes waffles, eggs and a drink of your choice for only $20.
The Emu Park town is small and has limited food options. There is a Drakes supermarket, pub, bakery, fish and chip shop and pizza place.
Total cost for 2 nights at Emu Park Resort, Great Keppel island transfers, Koorana Crocodile Farm Approx $170
I hope you have an awesome time in Emu Park & love Great Keppel Island as much as I do! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me. If you’ve followed this guide, I would love to hear how your experience was. Drop a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org