Day Trip to Great Keppel Island

Crystal clear water, white sand, water activities, shady picnic spots, bar with live music and view and an Argentinian Parilla BBQ. Yes please! As part of the heritage listed Southern Great Barrier Reef, Great Keppel Island has the Australian beaches you’ve always dreamed of. It’s only 30 minutes by boat from Rosslyn Bay so you can easily do a day trip to Great Keppel Island or stay overnight at the accommodation on the island. You can book everything you need on the Great Keppel Island Hideaway website.

Great Keppel Island

How to get there 

We travelled over to Great Keppel Island with Keppel Konnections. You can get tickets on the day at the green shed though I’d recommend booking in advance. That way you can secure your ferry time and return ticket if you’re only going for the day like us. Cost is $45 per adult (return) and $30 for children up to the age of 14. Or, for a family of two adults and two children, a total cost of $135.

Things to do 

Depending on your budget you could spend $0 or hundreds of dollars on activities. It will completely depend on your travel style and whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple or with family and friends. These are the things to do at Great Keppel Island that we did, starting with the free activities:

  • swimming in the crystal clear water (they say the best things in life are free!)
  • walk along the beach, no shoes necessary for this soft white sand…
  • have a picnic – you can bring as much food with you as you’d like
  • watch live music at the Reef Bar and Bistro with a view of the beach
  • try the delicious Argentinian Parilla BBQ ($15 for chicken, hot potato and salad)
  • stand up paddle boarding ($25 AUD for an hour or $35 for two hours)
  • tubing from the back of a jet ski ($25 per person for 10 minutes)

We did the stand up paddle boarding and tubing with GKI Adventures. Amie and the team are super busy particularly in the morning so either book with them as soon as you arrive or wait until it’s a bit quieter in the afternoon. Other activities with GKI Adventures include kayaking and jet-ski tours that circumnavigate the whole of Great Keppel Island. That would be pretty interesting actually and will be going on the list for next time!

stand up paddle boarding

If you have a spare two and a half minutes to watch the video highlights of our day trip to Great Keppel Island, you’ll see in the Q&A section that the favourite part of the day for most of us was tubing. So if you’re feeling adventurous, it’s a must do!

General tips

As a Queenslander born and bred, I have some general tips for your day trip to Great Keppel Island as a local and a few reminders to keep our beautiful country beautiful:

  • pack plenty of sunscreen and apply every few hours
  • avoid being out in the sun for long between 10am and 2pm
  • take lots of water including water to refill your reusable water bottles (I took a 5L bottle of water to top up our water bottles during the day)
  • take your rubbish home with you to minimise waste on the island
  • if you notice any rubbish on the beach or nearby, don’t leave it there, set an example and pick it up (especially plastic to protect our marine and bird life) and put it in the appropriate bin. I came across the #2minutebeachclean initiative in the UK and since returning to Australia, my partner and I take at least 2 minutes to go for a walk along the beach and pick up rubbish along the way

Friday – Off to Great Keppel Island!

Friday is my favourite day of the week. You’ve got two free days ahead of you to do whatever you want. No work. Well, unless you work weekends of course. Today was even more of a Friyay as we arrived at Rosslyn Bay harbour and the weather was simply perfect! We had pre-booked tickets with Keppel Konnections for the 9am ferry transfer for three people but we’re such cool cats that we had a fourth person wanting to go to Great Keppel Island with us. Which meant hoping and praying there was room for one more person on the 9am ferry. There wasn’t! It was busy being school holidays but luckily Keppel Konnections could get all four of us on the 9:30am ferry instead. And the 5:15pm return ferry instead of our originally booked 4pm return. Phew!

Half an hour extra waiting time wasn’t long, just enough for us to grab a coffee and get excited about our time on the island. I was very proud of my sister, choosing the coffee option served in a Joco Cup which is a reusable coffee cup that I recommended in my Eco Christmas Gift Ideas post. I got one from Santa and I love it! And at this cafe they offer fifty cents off per coffee purchase if you bring your own reusable coffee cup, so it’s worth the investment and helps save our environment.

Our relaxed holiday attitude and casual stroll meant that we missed out on a seat outside in the fresh air on the boat. Thankfully we got seats next to each other downstairs near a window though. After the safety briefing we were off on our 30 minute journey which felt smooth and quick. The sand was already hot at 10am so don’t kick off your shoes when you see the white sand. Don’t worry, it’s a natural reaction. Depending on your arrival time you might want to leave them on until you find a shady spot. Just avoid the shady spots underneath the coconut trees because the coconuts might fall on your head!

After setting up our picnic in the shade we went for a swim. The water looked so beautiful and it was the perfect temperature. You could stay in there forever but the sun was out and the UV was high so you need to protect yourself from getting sunburnt. Especially if you’re not used to the Australian sun.

For the first few hours we just enjoyed relaxing in the shade, snacking on our picnic supplies and going for a dip every now and then. As a kid growing up in Queensland I was always told to avoid being out in the sun between 10am and 2pm so it’s not a bad idea to just relax in the shade anyway. If you do go out in the sun, keep it brief and apply sunscreen each time especially your face because the sun reflects off the water. For that reason I’d also recommend wearing a hat and sunglasses.

For lunch other than picnic snacks, my sister and I shared a plate of food from the Argentinian Parilla BBQ. It cost $15 for chicken, potato and salad and it was plenty for us to share after one too many picnic snacks. About that time the live music started over at the Reef Bar and Bistro. They’ve got lots of tables and chairs set up with a great view of the beach and their own menu of food and drinks on offer.

At about 1:30pm when the GKI Adventures hut wasn’t as busy, we booked ourselves in for stand up paddle boarding and tubing. About 15 minutes later we were in the water, giving the stand-up paddle boards a try. I’ve only done it once before and it took me a while to get used to popping up onto my knees then into a standing position long enough to paddle. One of the boards was easier to use so I finally paddled long enough to actually go somewhere. But, the water was shallow and there were waves from the jet skis so they pushed me off eventually. You can watch this ‘blooper’ at the end of my Great Keppel Island Day Trip video highlights.

dog at Great Keppel IslandAs we waited for our turn to go tubing, I made friends with this beautiful dog! She came and sat right by me as I took photos of the girls on the paddle boards. She’s certainly living the life! After a while she noticed a bunch of birds (real birds, not the Australian slang for birds) and ran off to chase them. It was my favourite part of the day until I was talked into joining the tubing water activity. Unfortunately we didn’t get any video footage or photos because three of us were on the tube and the fourth was the ‘spotter’ sitting on the back of the jet ski. I tell you what, in the beginning you think 10 minutes isn’t going to be long enough. But after holding on for dear life and falling off twice (and therefore having to climb back on), my arms were so weak I couldn’t last much longer! I also haven’t laughed that hard in quite a while.

For the remainder of our time on the island, we found a safe spot on the sandbags to jump into the water from. And just like that the day was over! We packed up our picnic and headed towards the beach area where the Keppel Konnections ferry dropped us off. Our return transfer was about 10 minutes late but we didn’t mind spending a bit more time on the beach. The boat ride back to the main land seemed to go more quickly than the way over despite being a bit bumpy, but maybe that was because we couldn’t get there quick enough this morning and didn’t want to leave this afternoon! We’d also learnt our lesson and lined up early for a seat on the boat outside in the fresh air. The boat ride itself is quite enjoyable and the view is relaxing.

With sand everywhere – in our bags, towels, hair and even stuck to our skin, we were feeling tired but happy. The day trip to Great Keppel Island definitely topped up our vitamin D levels! After spending two and a half years living and working in London, I think I’ve taken beaches like those at Great Keppel Island for granted. Never again!

December 2017

Sponsored post – ferry transfers and stand-up paddle boarding were complimentary