Camping on the Keppel Islands
If you’re searching for a laid-back island experience, the Keppel Islands offer the perfect mix of beautiful beaches, good snorkeling, and glorious sunsets. Camping on the Keppel Islands is a great way to experience the best of the Capricorn Coast, without paying resort prices.
If we’d had enough time and money we definitely would’ve chartered a boat here. Alas, we took the quicker, cheaper way over.
After a relaxing few days camping at NRMA Yeppoon, we hopped aboard the 7:30 ferry to Great Keppel Island. There are 2 ferry companies that leave from Keppel Bay Marina. We went on the earlier boat with Keppel Konnections.
The ferry ride was about half an hour, and the sea was very calm. The gloriously clear water and distant island peaks got us even more excited to leave civilization behind for a few days!
An Impromptu Dive
We’d been put on a wait list for diving at Keppel Dive, and after chatting to the staff going over on the same ferry, were pleased to learn they had space for us! We dropped our bags behind the dive shop and shimmied into double wetsuits for 2 dives out among the reef.
Only having dived 4 times to get my Open Water certification in Bali last year, I was a bit nervous. Resident PADI dive expert Aemon made me feel very comfortable, helping me descend slowly and safely to a depth of 10 meters.
With a water temp of 16°C (60°F), Andrea and I had a major case of the shakes, but Bobby was loving it so much he started doing somersaults in the water. I was a bit too focused on breathing and not freezing to death on the first dive, but on the second the coral and fish were so pretty I barely felt the cold. I also borrowed a diving hood (made out of the same material as wetsuits) but it was too big, ballooning with air and making it extremely difficult for me to stay down. Bobby held my hand for the dive in a romantic but also necessary gesture. Lesson learned - Don’t use new gear underwater unless you’re sure it will work!
Getting to Middle Island
There are no ferries over to the other islands, so you'll need to charter a boat or book a private ferry. Keppel Dive was able to arrange this for us.
After warming up on dry land, we grabbed burgers with a new friend from the dive boat until the tide was high enough to ferry us over to Middle Island. I was happy about food but even happier to FINALLY see an echidna in the wild! He was just so darn cute!
Camping on the Keppel Islands
You can camp on Great Keppel Island, but at $25 per person there are far better options. 13 out of the 18 Keppel Islands are reserved as national park land, so if you’re willing to take your own supplies you can camp for less than $7/night. Book online here.
Keppel Bay Islands National Park has a few great options, but after chatting with the staff at the dive shop we decided on Middle Island. North Keppel and Humpy are more popular, but Middle Island is limited to 3 camp sites (1 on each beach, with a max of 6 people) so we had the whole place to ourselves! Read more about the different islands here.
We brought all of our food over from the mainland and paid $10 for the resort to fill up our portable water tank. Fresh water is ferried over to the island, so bring it from the mainland or be prepared to pay. We also had all of our camping gear, snorkeling gear, and an inflatable kayak. Keppel Dive ferried us over and we had a few days to explore.
Bobby had some fun flying his new drone, with great results...
The pristine beach was white and smooth, and the only footprints were ours. The sunset was lovely and we enjoyed the view until the sand flies chased us into our tents. We slept well, cozy above the dunes, with the crashing tide erasing our footprints along the nearby beach.
We spent the entire next day lazing around reading our books. It was heavenly.
I wish I'd felt warm enough to go snorkeling but the water was so cold I just went in for a few quick dips. No one landed on our beach, although a boat did anchor off shore a bit. From the screaming we heard, it was too cold for them too! Next time we'll come back in summer for the full experience.
Bobby and I did take his inflatable kayak out for a paddle around to one of the other beaches. We floated over the best snorkeling spot on the island, looking for fish and coral below the water.
And that night Andrea gave me an astrophotography tutorial that turned out better than I ever could've expected. I have to say my new camera is living up to expectations! Check out that Milky Way, huh?!?
The next day we hung out and explored the cliffs and tide pools until our dive friends came to give us a ride back to Great Keppel. We got some food at the Hideaway resort before our ferry back to the mainland.
We made a wildlife friend, the Queensland Bush Stone-curlew. Less aggressive than the gulls, he was still checking out our fries...
We were sad to leave after such a short time, but sun-kissed and ready to sleep somewhere a bit less sandy.
We got back to the marina and our ute (Aussie for truck), driving the 10 minutes to Yeppoon to get takeaway before heading back to camp and our trailer. Instead of an easy trip back, disaster struck, and the ute started leaking diesel. RACQ was there in what felt like 2 seconds flat, towing the truck to a mechanic for a closer look in the morning. We were all a bit crushed that our trip had been delayed...
Read more about our unexpected but lovely stay in beachfront Yeppoon.
Tips and tricks
Middle Island has mobile service in some places. Do yourself a favor and pretend it doesn't. Unplug for a few days!
Great Keppel Hideaway is the main resort on the island, with great food, cold drinks, and a lovely view while you wait for the ferry back to the mainland. They were doing a $5 add-on breakfast deal when we booked our ferry. Bargain!
There are sand flies here, so bring bug spray and layers, and have the itch cream ready when you get back to the mainland.
Be sun safe. We covered up and climbed into the hills to get shade in the hottest parts of the day.
Watch out for seagulls. They will steal your food and rip apart your trash bags if you leave anything out.
Drone photography © Bobby Hale