Recognition of the potential for vegetated coastal ecosystems to store and sequester carbon has led to their increasing inclusion into global carbon budgets and carbon offset schemes. However, kelp forests have been overlooked in evaluations of this ‘blue carbon’, which have been limited to tidal marshes, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds. We determined the continental-scale contribution to blue carbon from kelp forests in Australia using areal extent, biomass, and productivity measures from across the entire Great Southern Reef. We reveal that these kelp forests represent 10.3–22.7 Tg C and contribute 1.3–2.8 Tg C year−1 in sequestered production, amounting to more than 30% of total blue carbon stored and sequestered around the Australian continent, and ~ 3% of the total global blue carbon. We conclude that the omission of kelp forests from blue carbon assessments significantly underestimates the carbon storage and sequestration potential from vegetated coastal ecosystems globally.