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During our Australia East Coast road trip from Brisbane to Airlie Beach, we went on a day trip to Great Keppel Island. Great Keppel has been on my must-visit list for a very long time and I was thrilled to finally get to go. Next time, I’ll definitely plan a longer stay – but a day trip was a great way to experience Keppel Island. 

Going on a Great Keppel Island day trip allowed us the opportunity to visit the island for the day and enjoy the Southern Great Barrier Reef without it taking too much time out of our road trip itinerary as well.

It was a really fabulous and inexpensive day out. I had no idea what to expect from our day trip and I found it difficult knowing what to pack for our big day out, so I’m happy to share our experience in this post so hopefully it can help you get organised for an upcoming day trip to Great Keppel Island (or maybe it will inspire you to book one!). 

This article about our day trip to Great Keppel Island contains affiliate links. We paid for our day trip and all opinions are my own. 

Great Keppel Island day trips overview | Yeppoon to Great Keppel Island

The beach and turquoise waters at Great Keppel Island

Considering taking a Great Barrier Reef day trip to enjoy the clear waters of this tropical island, experience secret beaches and laze around in paradise? A day tour to Keppel gives you a fantastic taster of what island life is like. If you have longer to spare, staying for a few nights is even better. 

We went on our day trip to Great Keppel Island during summer just outside the official Queensland school holidays. We visited on a Sunday in mid-December which I thought might make it busy. It really didn’t feel too busy at all though. There was quite a small group on the boat and there were plenty of spare seats. 

Choosing a Great Keppel tour | Which ferry to Great Keppel Island  

The ferry for a day trip to Great Keppel Island

I looked at ferries to Great Keppel to consider our options. There are two choices of Great Keppel Island ferry: Freedom Fast Cats or Keppel Konnections. Both run Great Keppel Island ferry day trips. There were other options of structured day tours but we decided a ferry option would give us the freedom we wanted for our day trip. 

Freedom Fast Cats depart from Pier One, John Howes Drive, Rosslyn Bay and Keppel Konnections depart from Waterline Way, Rosslyn, and both return from Fisherman’s Beach at the same location where you’re dropped off.  

You can book either of the two Great Keppel Island ferry options as just a ferry ticket (which you would do if you were going to be staying over on the island). There are also options for day trip packages. We felt the day trip package with Keppel Konnections was the best value for our family. 

The Keppel Konnections Great Keppel Island trip we booked was a package deal. Our ticket included return same-day travel as well as lunch at Great Keppel Island Hideaway (this gave us a choice of a burger or other lunchtime meal with a glass or wine, beer or soft drink, and a kid’s meal for those with children’s tickets) served in the Hideaway Bar and Bistro. It also included snorkel hire. 

You can find the day tour we booked here on Get Your Guide

Ticket costs for our day trip to Great Keppel Island

Our Keppel day tour ticket costs were: 

$90 per adult
$50 per child (5 – 14 years)
(You could also choose to book the day trip to Great Keppel Island including lunch but without the snorkel hire for a little cheaper – $70 for adults and $40 for kids – you can find that tour here. I only noticed this option after I’d booked!). 

We had options of a 7.30am or 9am departure, and a 2pm or 4pm return. We went with 9am and 4pm – while the early start would be ideal to miss the heat of the afternoon, we aren’t morning people and getting three kids ready and out of the door at that hour didn’t sound like something we wanted to do on our holiday! The later start and later return suited us perfectly.    

You can check out the tour that we booked here on Get Your Guide. I chose to book with Get Your Guide because I wanted our booking to be flexible (you never know if somebody is going to fall ill or the car breaks down or whatever). I like the ease of being able to book and manage the booking from my phone in the app. 

I have friends who had warned me that the crossing on the Keppel Island Ferry can be choppy and it’s not ideal for people who get seasick (as most of my family do!) For this reason, I made sure my kids (and hubby who suffers the worst of all) had seasick wristbands on and that they all took travel sickness tablets before we travelled.

The good news was that nobody suffered, even on our return journey which was choppy and stormy, so that was good news and I’m really glad I didn’t let it put me off booking as I was a bit hesitant about it! My tip though is if you think you might get seasick, take something to prevent it as you don’t want the ferry crossing to Great Keppel to spoil your day out. Shop for seasick wristbands and other remedies on Amazon Australia 

Parking for the Keppel Konnections tour was in the second car park along at Keppel Bay Marina and there were plenty of parking spaces. You can also pull up next to the little green ticket shed (see the photo below) by the water’s edge to drop your things if you’ve got heavy bags. 

Upon arrival, report to the green ticket hut by the water and show your tour voucher and you’ll be given your paper tickets. These include tickets for your snorkelling gear and your food as well as the ferry. If you’ve booked for children (5 – 14 years), make sure you get tickets for them too as they get a kids’ meal at the resort. (I only mention this as the person at the hut forgot to give me our kids’ tickets so I had to ask for them!)  

The ticket hut for a day trip to Great Keppel Island

Just a note about booking. Initially, I’d looked at booking directly through Keppel Konnections, but as I went through the checkout process it asked if I wanted to pay $10 extra to add a kids’ meal which confused me. I was already buying a kids’ ticket which was supposed to include a kids’ meal.

I looked at Get Your Guide and decided to book through them instead – I wasn’t prompted to pay any extra for a kids’ meal with them. Just be aware that if you do book directly, your ticket INCLUDES the kids’ meal if you’re paying for a kids’ ticket for a 5-14 yo so you shouldn’t need to pay an extra $10 for it on top of the package price. (I assume that extra fee is aimed at those booking for kids under 5 who may still want a meal but it’s definitely not clear).  

For transparency, it was going to work out a little cheaper booking directly with Keppel Konnections as they offer a family package for 2 adults and 2 kids (whereas Get Your Guide didn’t offer that family ticket) but I felt the benefit of the flexibility was worth the extra. Earlier in the trip I’d booked a Whitsunday Island tour directly with the tour company to save a little money and then realised I was locked into the date. Now I’m happy paying a little more for that flexibility especially as you never know what the weather is going to do.  

Taking a day trip to Great Keppel Island

What to take to Great Keppel Island

I found myself Googling what to take for a Great Keppel Island day trip before we went as I wasn’t sure exactly what we’d need there or what we could actually take with us. I found info quite limited so I wanted to give you an idea of what it’s worth packing for your Great Keppel day out as well as sharing how we spent our day so you can think about what types of things you’re going to need. 

Snorkel gear

To the watersports hut at Great Keppel Island

The Great Keppel Island day trip bundle that we booked included the transfer on the smaller boat (Keppel Konnections) rather than the larger ferry – along with full-day snorkel hire. We decided to take our own snorkelling gear mainly because I have a prescription mask, my hubby has an expensive mask that he loves, and the kids also have some really well-fitting kids’ masks so it seemed a shame not to take our own things that we were comfortable using. This proved to be useful as it turned out we could use the voucher at Great Keppel Island watersports for paddleboard and kayak hire instead. 

My advice is if you have your own snorkelling gear, it’s worth taking it then you can use your voucher for non-motorised watersport hire which is a lot of fun in the clear, calm water. Or you can instead buy the cheaper day tour and save money. 

If you plan on snorkelling, speak to the GKI watersports hut when you arrive to ask where to go for the best snorkelling. They run snorkel tours, and I highly recommend you book onto one if you’re only visiting for a day. After talking to them, my hubby decided to go on his own scenic adventure. He spent a lot of time walking to the beaches via the walking tracks and didn’t feel like he got to see the best snorkelling spots. He really regretted not booking onto a snorkel tour as he spent a lot of his day walking around the island (rather than hanging out with us).

Booking a tour means you’ll get access to local knowledge (plus transport) which is really useful, so don’t underestimate the value of that! You live and learn though. When your time is limited, it’s worth paying to be taken to the best spots to maximise your time on the island. 

Beach shade with beach rug

A CoolCabana on a beach at Great Keppel Island

While there were a few trees to sit under at the back of the beach, I was so glad that we took our CoolCabana with us. We set it up on the sand as soon as we arrived and it gave us a shady base for the day that we could come back to. You could hire them for the day from the watersports hut (from memory I think it was about $60 for the day) but for the cost it was way better to take your own. I was so glad we made the effort to take ours.

Water bottles, drinks and snacks

Of course, you’re visiting this pristine island – you’re going to need to stay hydrated! We packed plenty of insulated water bottles, along with a cool bag filled with snacks (things like grapes and cold strawberries were super refreshing!) and cold cans of soft drink. You can of course go to the beach bar for drinks whenever you want, but it’s handy having easy access to water. 

Sun protection

We all wore rash vests and sunscreen and kept reapplying it regularly. The kids still managed to get a little burnt – sun protection is something you need to stay on top of when you’re enjoying your Great Keppel Island tour! We also all wore wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses. 

This is Queensland – the sun is incredibly fierce! It’s far easier to stay covered than it is to keep up with the constant sunscreen applications. 

Beach towels 

I love our Dock and Bay lightweight towels as with five of us, towels can be bulky and heavy. These easily fit into one bag, and they dry quickly. 

Buckets and spades

My kids still love digging, so this was an essential item for us!

Rucksack filled with the basics for a day out 

I also always take a camera, travel first aid kit, book and a few beach games like a frisbee. 

Exploring Keppel Island 

The beach at Great Keppel Island

As we travelled with the kids and it was pretty HOT on the day we visited, I spent my day on the main beach with the kids, swimming, doing watersports and just hanging out. My hubby did explore and he walked over to Monkey Beach with his snorkel gear to explore the pristine waters. You can explore the walking tracks and find deserted beaches, and there are also options of water taxis to bring you back if you don’t fancy the return walk. 

When we go to stay, we will definitely enjoy the walking tracks more. The kids enjoy a walk but I’d prefer to hike with them when we don’t have a return ferry deadline hovering over us! We were also travelling with five bags bit of stuff (cool bag, CoolCabana, towels etc.) so that made it easier for us to set up a pitch and stay close for the day. 

Weather Great Keppel Island 

We checked the Great Keppel Island weather before we travelled. It was an intense, hot and sunny day and ended with a big storm as we travelled back. It’s probably not the best day trip to do if the weather looks terrible as there is just the beach and bar there but we were very lucky to have the best time during our visit.

Weather conditions did turn during our Keppel day trip, and the rain began to come down on the ferry home but it didn’t actually impact our day out at all. So my tip is to keep an eye on the weather if you’ve chosen to book a flexible ticket and consider moving the date if it looks like it’s going to be stormy. 

Food on Great Keppel Island

Lunch on day tour of Great Keppel Island

Included in our day trip ticket was a lunch item each. Between us we choose either the burger (see photo above) or fish and chips. All of the food was delicious – there were plenty of salad and toppings on the burger so it was fresh and non-greasy. It was so good that one of my sons went back and bought a second meal (it wasn’t that the kids’ meals were too small – he is 14 and in that phase of having hollow legs – he just really enjoyed it and wanted more of it!). The food was much better quality than I’d expected and I think it would be a great place to eat for a few days if you came over on holiday. It reminded me of sitting in a beach bar in Fiji – it had the same kind of tropical island vibe. 

Things to do Great Keppel Island

A girl on a beach at Great Keppel Island

As for what to do on Great Keppel Island, really it’s all about enjoying the tropical island. Go for a hike, swim, snorkel, kayak, stand up paddle board, take a tour, spend the afternoon in the beach bar with a glass of something cold. It’s all about simple pleasures! 

My husband was keen to snorkel but for this trip I decided I wasn’t too bothered to experience Great Keppel Island snorkelling – we’d had a big road trip and I just wanted to mess around with the kids, kayak and laze on the sand. It was blissful! When we go back for a longer stay, we’ll definitely make plans to snorkel Great Keppel Island and explore the best snorkelling spots. 

Accommodation Keppel Island | Hideaway Great Keppel and camping

If you have more time to spare, you can stay at Great Keppel Island Hideaway. You can stay in a cabin or villa, or you can try Great Keppel Island camping if you fancy a more rustic experience. 

You can stay at Great Keppel Island for an amazing price if there are four of you or less (there are rooms available for $140 a night for four people!) It’s more for the accommodation suiting families of five or six, and I know that in the past I’ve struggled to find availability for our family as there are less options for larger groups. I am determined to go back  to stay so need to get organised and book in advance. 

Find out about accommodation options on Great Keppel here.

Where to stay for Great Keppel day trip

For our Great Keppel Island trip, we stayed on the mainland at the Discovery Parks caravan park near Yeppoon in a two-bedroom cabin. It was a good option as a base as it was close to Rosslyn Bay Harbour and it meant we didn’t need to set off to park the car too early for the morning departure time. As we were going to spend the whole day at Keppel, we arrived at the caravan park the night before and stayed the night after so we didn’t need to rush.

Staying for two nights gave us plenty of time to relax and enjoy the day trip without stressing or rushing. A longer stay would obviously have given us more time to enjoy Yeppoon and the holiday park’s facilities (like the fabulous water park and jumping pillow) and the surroundings but on this occasion, we were really only stopping there to do our Great Keppel day trip so it was a fleeting visit. 

Things we loved about Discovery Parks Coolwaters: 

  • It’s proximity for our Great Keppel Island day trip
  • The pool and water park
  • The jumping pillow
  • The activities on offer such as sports equipment and pedal carts
  • The shaded playground
  • The customer service ( we had an issue with our fridge out of hours and somebody quickly came out to check it out, and they checked in on us first thing the next morning to make sure it was fixed before we went on our day trip. We were really impressed.)

Find out about accommodation at Discover Parks Coolwaters at Kinka Beach near Yeppoon here.

Review of our day trip to Great Keppel Island

A family on a beach at Great Keppel Island

A visit to Great Keppel Island is a must-do experience. We loved the turquoise waters and pristine beaches. There were a range of activities, or you could be as lazy as you liked. It was peaceful and relaxing – we absolutely loved it! The prices are great too – both for a day trip or to stay over. 

We had a fabulous time on our day trip to Keppel Island and will definitely be back to stay for longer!

I hope you found this review of our day trip to Great Keppel Island useful!