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Sailing The Capricorn Coast: Great Keppel Island

Corner Beach Girl Great Keppel Island
A girl enjoying the corner beach on Great Keppel Island

The east coast of Australia has a well worn travel path carved into it, running from Cairns to Melbourne in either direction.  Along the way there are a set of stops which virtually everyone picks, and all the tour agencies promote.  These include from south to north: The Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Sydney, Byron Bay, Gold Coast / Surfers Paradise, Brisbane, Fraser Island, Agnes Water / 1770, Airlie Beach & The Whitsundays, Townsville / Magnetic Island, and finally Cairns.  Most people don’t stray very far off this path, but some of these places were not even that developed until fairly recently, so why do people not explore new places more often?  Recently I took a road trip from the Gold Coast up to a place called Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast, where we set off for a sail around the Great Barrier Reef and Keppel Islands.

Relaxing On Catamaran Keppels
Relaxing On The Funtastic Cruises Catamaran while sailing the Keppels

We stayed at Emus Beach Resort which is about a 10 minute drive from Rosslyn Harbor where our sailing tour left from. Its a nice little place, we got a giant private room for a decent price, especially considering we were there for Easter Weekend. There are a couple ways to get to Great Keppel Island, theres a ferry that goes, and 2 sailing boat tours. We selected to go on a day trip with a small group aboard a luxury Catamaran run by Funtastic Cruises. We didn’t know when booking that it was privately owned and run by a couple who have sailed it around the world. More on this in a sec…

Great Keppel Boat
Another boat docked just off Middle Island

I highly recommend you go out with Funtastic Cruises. Funtastic Cruises are a dutch man and Australian woman who built a 17 meter Catamaran from the ground up in their backyard. We didn’t get too much time to speak to them, but you can tell they have a ridiculous amount of stories from their travels. They once selected a group of 6 young backpacker type travelers to sail with them for 6 months to Greece, then did the same thing for the trip back to Australia. The hosts Hans and Dianne are all about the experience, not all about the money. Their boat could easily fit twice as many people, I believe the legal capacity was something like 37 people, but they limit the day trip group size to 12.

Blue Spotted Stringray
A Blue Spotted Stringray swimming along the bottom near the reef

The Funtastic Cruises day tour through the Keppel Islands stops a few times to allow people to go for a swim and a snorkel. Not world class snorkeling, its still quite good, and all equipment is provided on the boat for free. If you don’t have time to make it to any of the other popular spots to see the Great Barrier Reef, you get a nice glimpse of it in the Keppel Islands.

Snorkeling Keppel Islands Great Barrier Reef
Snorkeling the Keppel Islands along the Great Barrier Reef, unsure what kind of fish these are
Middle Island Beach Keppel Islands
The first stop of the day, Middle Island Beach in the Keppel Islands
Great Keppel Island Beach Resort
Looking down the beach with the abandoned Great Keppel Island beach resort in the background

I believe the tour is different every day depending on the weather, currents and tides, but the main stop at Great Keppel Island is guaranteed for 2 hours. Here you get off the boat and can explore the island. Theres an abandoned resort which has been run down, and some other accommodation and bars/restaurants which are still open. We grabbed food and explored the beach a little bit when we went. Great Keppel Island has an interesting shape, if you zoom out on the map below you’ll see, its got all sorts of little arms that stick out. One near the main beach forms a 90 degree angle and makes for some interesting waves when they collide coming in from 2 different directions. I had never seen that before and found it cool.

Shark Great Keppel Island
A plaster shark jaw greeting visitors on Great Keppel Island
Corner Beach Waves Great Keppel Island
Great Keppel Island has something I've never seen before, a 90 degree angle beach. Waves come from two directions and collide, fun to play in

Overall the tour was really cool, Hans and Dianne were great hosts, the boat they built is amazing and you can tell they’ve lived interesting lives (in a good way). If you’re heading up the coast I’d highly recommend a stop off along the Capricorn Coast, give Hans and Diane a call and let them take care of you for a day.

Sand Great Keppel Island
Posing on the nice sand of Great Keppel Island
Enjoying Sunset Luxury Catamaran Seat
Enjoying the sunset from a chair on the luxurious Funtastic Cruises catamaran
Keppel Island Sunset
Sailing into the sunset on our way back to the Capricorn Coast
Rosslyn Bay Harbor
Returning from the boat trip to Rosslyn Bay Harbor at sunset
Fishing off the boat as we cruise out to the Keppel Islands

Funtastic Cruises Day Tour of the Keppel Islands Info:

Funtastic Cruises Brochure
The Funtastic Cruises Flyer

Great Keppel Island Map

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