Keppel Bay, a coastal indent with about 30 km of shoreline on Queensland's central Capricorn Coast, runs southwards from Emu Park to Curtis Island, a large island extending to Gladstone. Keppel Bay was named by Captain James Cook in 1770 after Augustus Keppel (1725-86), a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty and later First Lord of the Admiralty.

Keppel Bay has three centres of population: Keppel Sands, a seaside holiday place, Great Keppel Island resort and North Keppel Island. The islands are off Yeppoon and north of Emu Park, and are in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Keppel Sands began as coastal grazing and farm lands, and the nearby Sandhills State primary school opened in 1893. Access was poor, with the condition of the roads being a frequent cause of complaint by the 1930s. By then, Keppel Sands was a local holiday place with three boarding houses. A hotel and dance hall were opened in 1935. During this time self-contained cottages were built on North and Great Keppel Islands, but it was in the years after World War II that the Keppel Bay area's tourist potential was developed. The Keppel Sands Advancement League extended the beach-front road, laid out foreshore parks and installed a protective groyne. Nevertheless, development has been sedate - the town's population was 339 in 2001. Nearby Joskeleigh only received electricity in 1974, and a bitumen road connection in 2001. Keppel Sands has the Sandhills primary school, a hotel-motel and a sailing club.

Off shore, the Great Keppel Island Tourist Company (1945) began with grand intentions, but it was not until the late 1960s that substantial holiday units were built, coinciding with the development by TAA of an airstrip. Ultimately over 150 units were built, along with golf, swimming and other sports facilities. Most of the island is national park, as is North Keppel in its entirety.

Tropical cyclone Marcia crossed the coast at Shoalwater Bay in February 2015 as a Category 5 cyclone, having escalated from Category 1 in just a few hours. As it progressed southwards it was downgraded but caused widespread damage and subsequent flooding. The destructive winds and rain cut power, water, phones and damaged residences and businesses and agricultural crops. Several holiday cabins on Great Keppel Island fell into the sea. 

Leo Carpenter, Livingstone: a history of the Shire of Livingstone, Brisbane, Boolarong Publications for Livingstone Shire Bicentennial Community Committee, 1991

Keppel Sands Historical Society, The history of Keppel Sands and district, Yeppoon, Capricorn Printing, 1995

Emu Park and Yeppoon entries



Copyright © Centre for the Government of Queensland, 2018. All rights reserved.

UQ Logo