Great Keppel Island, lies just north of the Tropic of Capricorn and was known as the ‘Ibiza of the Capricorn Coast’ 10 years ago. Nowadays it is a secret paradise only known by locals. It’s also the perfect place to hit a quieter section of the Great Barrier Reef and discover one of the faces of the ‘real’ Australia.
Exploring Great Keppel IslandPLAY VIDEO
“Get wrecked” was the slogan for all 162 hectares of the iconic party resort which used to dominate Great Keppel Island but is now completely abandoned.
However, Great Keppel also has a dark past and its history involves intrigue and violence. The traditional owners of this land are the Ganomi-Woppaburra Aboriginal people, who have lived on the island for 700 years. It wasn’t until 1770 that Captain James Cook sailed into Keppel Bay and named the bay and the island after his superior in England, Rear Admiral Augustus Keppel. However, white use of Great Keppel Island began in 1866.
When the Europeans arrived, the island changed dramatically. It is believed that one of the first locals, Robert Ross, murdered 84 indigenous people to obtain the leases over both Great Keppel Island and North Keppel Island in order to “prepare” the island as a cattle property.
Nevertheless, the largest island in the Keppel Group remains today as a relatively undeveloped beauty, with 17 sandy beaches, crystal water and a sanctuary with extensive native flora and fauna. This makes it the perfect playground for explorers looking for bush and sea adventures.
Here are our top 4 things to do in this magical place located in the south of the Great Barrier Reef:
1. Hike To The Easternmost Point Of The Island — The Lighthouse
Despite the fact that the lighthouse isn’t very pretty, this bushwalk is a good challenge. Like many great adventures, the thrill is in the journey rather than simply reaching the destination. The hike is 17km in total and will take you the whole day if you start from Fishermans Beach, where the ferry drops you off. Though it’s long it isn’t too strenuous, and you’ll be too busy being immersed in nature to realise you’ve gone all that way. At the end of the trip, you will be able to relax on the helipad next to the lighthouse while eating your well-deserved sandwich.
Tip: Don’t forget to bring good walking shoes, sunscreen, food, water and a camera!
2. Snorkelling At Wreck Beach
This spot is the most beautiful place for snorkelling on the island. The isolation of this place preserved much of the underwater beauty, be it the colourful coral or the various species of marine life calling Wreck Beach home. If you are an ocean lover, this is a magical spot because you might be able to find the “treasure” of the beach: a brain coral of 420 years old, around 2m high.
Tip: Don’t forget to bring snorkelling gear, sunscreen, walking shoes to get there, food, water and an underwater camera!
3. Swimming With Turtles — Monkey Beach And Shelving Beach
From Fishermans Beach, it only takes around 40 minutes to get to these two beautiful beaches. The reef might be more damaged than Wreck Beach, but it’s a favourite place for turtles to be fed. However, the less impact and interaction these creatures have with humans the better. If you want to go swimming with them, remember that you are visiting their home, so be aware of the harm you can cause by touching sea turtles — damage to their shell can lead to death or disruption to their feeding or breeding regime.
For more info on how to be ocean aware whilst adventuring see here: There’s A Crisis Beneath The Waves (Don’t Krill My Vibe)
Tip: Don’t forget to bring walking shoes, snorkelling gear, water and food if you want to spend the day at the beach.
4. Sunset Chill At Putney Beach
One of the most beautiful things Australia has to offer are its sunsets and what better place to see one than surrounded by little islands? Putney Beach, next to the main beach (Fishermans Beach), is the best spot to see how the sun goes down and watch it dye the sky with hues of purple, orange and red. So grab few beers and enjoy the views of Middle Island.
Tip: Bring insect repellent or the sand-flies will eat you alive
Basecamp: Svendsen’s Beach Retreat
Tame Impala, the Aussie psychedelic rock band, wrote a song called “Solitude Is Bliss”. This eco-retreat is exactly that. Located on an isolated side of the island, you’ll find some time to be away from civilisation as you know it. Grab a spot by the beach and be alone with your thoughts. Moreover, the lovely elderly and well-travelled couple (Carl and Lyndie) that run the retreat are the best hosts and storytellers you will find anywhere. Watching the stars and planets through the telescope with Carl or viewing Lyndie’s art will make your experience more authentic. Basically, they “made” the island and everywhere you go you’ll find a piece of art.
Tip: Bring enough supplies for your stay, as you won’t be close to any food stores! Also, don’t forget insect repellent and an open mind to see the world and future with a different perspective and attitude.