Location Summary - high continental islands with fringing reefs

Great Keppel Island – Lat: 23° 10.7’ S, Long: 150° 57.6’ E

North Keppel Island – Lat: 23° 4.4’ S, Long: 150° 53.8’ E
Distance from mainland

Great Keppel Island - 18km

North Keppel Island – 15km

Accessibility Some parts of the Keppels are in Marine National Park (Green) Zones and Conservation Park (Yellow) Zones. Peak Island is located in a Preservation (Pink) Zone. More information on Zoning.
 Traditional Owners  Woppaburra

Zoning maps

Keppel Bay Resilience Project - No Anchoring Areas

Four sites within Keppel Bay have been selected for No Anchoring Areas following feedback from the community. The four sites are Barren Island, Great Keppel Island (Big Peninsula and Monkey Beach Reef) and Humpy Island.

The markers were installed in early November 2008 to protect these areas from future anchor damage. This will help to keep the reefs healthy and give them a greater chance of surviving the impacts of climate change.

For more information visit Keppel Bay No Anchoring Areas.

The Keppels

This region is a popular recreation and tourism destination, with a focus around Great Keppel Island and several other islands, which provide campsites and other amenities. Boating, fishing, camping, diving and snorkelling are the most popular activities in the area. Ready access for Central Queensland University and local schools means that the Keppels are a focus for research and education programs. A relatively small but longstanding marine aquarium fish and coral collecting industry is also based in the Keppel Bay region.

Many of the islands in the Keppel Bay region are National Parks and provide camping and day visitor facilities such as toilets and picnic tables. Visit the Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sports and Racing for more information.

Coral Reefs

Many of the islands are surrounded by fringing reefs. In many areas the coral communities are abundant and have an unusually high coral cover (60 to 70 per cent). Most areas are dominated by fast growing Acropora species which extend into shallow waters. Plate corals and small bommies are also present.

Reefs within the Keppel Bay region have been affected by both flooding and bleaching events at regular intervals over the last 20 years. Most notably, a severe flood devastated reefs in the area in 1991, the mass bleaching events of 1998 and 2002 impacted reefs here, and in the summer of 2006 most sites experienced at least 40 per cent bleaching-induced mortality of corals due to a highly localised and severe warming event. Further, during the latter half of 2006 an extreme low tide coincided with a heavy rainfall event killing reef flat corals in several localised bays in the region.

An extreme La Niña-induced monsoon season in north-east Australia during 2008 resulted in another major flood of the Fitzroy River, but surveys have shown that both bleaching and bleaching-induced mortality was minimal (<5 per cent of corals). For more information, visit the Fitzroy Basin Association.

A biophysical survey of the reefs was undertaken in 2007.

The results have been published in the following document: Biophysical assessment of the reefs of Keppel Bay: a baseline study April 2007

Climate Change

As climate change starts to affect the Great Barrier Reef, it is important that management approaches evolve to deal with this emerging threat.

The following reef-wide management responses have been employed to help mitigate the threats of climate change:

  • The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan ensures all of the habitat types in the Great Barrier Reef are adequately protected. By preserving a portion of each habitat type in a network of protected areas, plants, corals and animals are protected, and connectivity between habitats is maintained.
  • The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is also working to reduce pressure on the reef from declining water quality through the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan. The aim is to develop on-ground initiatives that help decrease water pollutants from entering the reef. The latest results for marine water quality can be found in the Annual Marine Monitoring Report 2006.
  • The Coral Bleaching Response Plan has improved our ability to predict bleaching risk, detects early warning signs of major coral bleaching events, involves the community in monitoring the health of the reef, and raises awareness about bleaching.

At a local level, reefs within Keppel Bay have been affected by coral bleaching, making the area a suitable location to trial management responses to climate change. No Anchoring Areas are one approach being employed that will increase the resilience of Keppel Bay against future impacts from climate change and other disturbances such as flooding.

In consultation with the community, four sites have been selected for the installation of reef protection markers to create No Anchoring Areas. This project is an opportunity to trial management responses to help maintain the health of the reef so that it is more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

For more information on this exciting project visit Keppel Bay No Anchoring Areas.

Following the 2006 bleaching event, the peak Queensland marine aquarium fishing industry body, Pro-Vision, instigated a voluntary moratorium on the commercial take of certain anemonefish and anemone species, as a pro-active measure to aid their recovery. Read more in Issue 20 of the SeaRead newsletter.

They are also conducting a monitoring program linked to BleachWatch, to provide information on ecosystem health at sites they regularly visit.


Peak Island is a major nesting site for flatback turtles, and forms one of the two largest nesting populations in eastern Australia. To protect this valuable nesting site the island and surrounding waters are located in a Preservation (Pink) Zone. Entry to this zone is prohibited unless in accordance with a written permission.

Cultural and heritage values

The Woppaburra people are the Traditional Owners of the Keppel Islands. Archaeological evidence linking the Woppaburra to the islands include midden sites, burial sites, a bora ring, huts, stone artefacts and campsites. Some of these remains are thought to be approximately 5000 years old2. The totem of the Woppaburra is the humpback whale.

On 22 June 2007 the Dharumbal-Woppaburra Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreement (TUMRA) was accredited, prepared by the Woppaburra Traditional Owners. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the Queensland Government have accredited the TUMRA, recognising the responsibility of the Traditional Owners for managing the traditional use of marine resources and associated sea country issues for the Keppel Islands region. The GBRMPA is assisting the Woppaburra with the implementation of their agreement.

Captain Cook sailed through the bay from 25-27 May 1770 and gave the bay it’s current name, after his superior Rear Admiral Keppel3.

There are 14 shipwrecks in Keppel Bay, which were sunk between 1847 and 1913.

Anchoring and mooring

No Anchoring Areas were installed at Barren Island, Great Keppel Island (Big Peninsula and Monkey Beach Reef) and Humpy Island in November 2008. For more information visit Keppel Bay No Anchoring Areas.

There are currently a small number of permitted private moorings in the Keppel Bay region. The GBRMPA encourages permitted mooring owners to develop agreements to allow other operators to use their mooring when the permittee is not using it.

View Responsible Reef Practices for Anchoring and Mooring.


Two Public Appreciation Areas are located in the planning area.

One is adjacent to the western coastline of Great Keppel Island, and another in Considine Bay adjacent to North Keppel Island. In these areas the following activities are prohibited: spearfishing, aquaculture and harvest fisheries.

Additional spearfishing closures are in effect along the western coastlines of Great Keppel and North Keppel Islands under Queensland fisheries legislation. For further information, refer to the 'Boating and fishing in the waters of the Capricorn Coast' brochure.

Tourism operators

A range of tourism experiences are offered within the Keppel Bay region, such as sailing, charter fishing, bareboat hire, snorkelling and scuba diving.

Prospective and current tourism operators are encouraged to visit Onboard the Tourism Operators Handbook for the Great Barrier Reef.

Further information

CapReef community-based monitoring project

CapReef was formed in 2005 to collect information on the effects of management changes on fish and fishing in the Capricorn Coast region. This is primarily achieved through recreational fish catch surveys and fish tagging and monitoring programs.

Capricorn Coast Local Marine Advisory Committee (LMAC) 

The Capricorn Coast LMAC is a key advisory group for marine management issues in the region. Find out about the Capricorn Coast LMAC.

The Capricorn Coast LMAC has produced a brochure – Boating and fishing in the waters of the Capricorn Coast - which provides useful information for recreational users of the Keppel Bay region. This can be ordered from the GBRMPA’s Public Information Unit by calling (07) 4750 0700 or emailing info@gbrmpa.gov.au.

If you would like more information or wish to provide comment, please contact the GBRMPA on (07) 4750 0700 or email info@gbrmpa.gov.au.

Fitzroy Basin Association

The Fitzroy Basin Association is the natural resource management group for the central Queensland region, including the catchments of the Fitzroy River and adjacent coastal waters including the Keppel Bay area.

Updated November 2008

1 Limpus, C. 2007, A biological review of Australian marine turtles, Queensland Government.
2 Queensland Heritage Council, 2003, Time and Place: Indigenous Heritage, Issue 6.
3 Lucas A. 2003, Cruising the coral coast, 8th edition, Alan Lucas Cruising Guides, Point Clare.