In this study, the adsorption of Ni2+ and Fe3+ metal ions from aqueous solutions onto graphene oxide (GO) have been explored. The effects of various experimental factors such as pH of the solution, initial metal ion concentration and temperature were evaluated. The kinetic, equilibrium and thermodynamic studies were also investigated. The adsorption rate data were analyzed using the pseudo-first-order kinetic model, the pseudo-second-order kinetic model and the intraparticle diffusion model. Kinetic studies indicate that the adsorption of both ions follows the pseudo-second-order kinetics. The isotherms of adsorption data were analyzed by adsorption isotherm models such as Langmuir and Freundlich. Equilibrium data fitted well with the Langmuir model. The maximum adsorption capacities of Ni2+ and Fe3+ onto GO were 35.6 and 27.3 mg g−1, respectively. In addition, various thermodynamic parameters, such as enthalpy (ΔHO), entropy (ΔSO) and Gibbs free energy (ΔGO), were calculated.