Leaving city life far behind isn’t hard when Brisbane’s Moreton Island is involved.
It’s easy to overlook the simple beauty of Moreton Island; Captain Cook certainly did.
In fact, the illustrious explorer mistook it for part of the mainland as he sailed past in 1770, dubbing the main headland Cape Morton (Moreton is the result of a clerical error that came later), for James Douglas, the 14th Earl of Morton.
Perhaps it’s this knack for flying under the radar that has protected it from major development since European settlement began more than 200 years ago?
Or perhaps it’s that, unlike North Stradbroke with its paved roads and seaside towns, Moreton Island remains largely untamed; it’s 98 per cent national park, and a majority of the island is still only reachable by 4WD.
For an island located 40-kilometres off the coast of Brisbane, it gives the impression of being much, much further away. To reach Moreton Island, you’ll have to access it by a 75-minute ferry journey. Daytrippers and weekenders can walk onto the MICAT ferry at the Port of Brisbane for roughly around $60-$90 (changes during the seasons). If you’re staying at the Tangalooma Resort, which is generally a big portion of the visitors to Moreton, you can board a resort ferry at Holt Street Wharf in Pinkenba that is bound for these tranquil bayside waters. There are four services a day in each direction, and it’s recommended to pre-book your spot on the boat. The resort is easily accessible for those sans 4WD.
What to do
The rusted bones of Tangalooma’s famous wrecks sitting below the surface are snorkelling magic in a jade-tinted world, filled with flashes of silver and pops of colour as fish streak between the corroded hulls of 15 sunken ships and coral outcrops.
Night kayaking is something that everyone has to do when they head to Moreton Island. The company Australian Sunset Safaris has a tour in place, offering a ‘guaranteed experience of a lifetime’. The meeting place is at the Tangalooma Wrecks and you will be provided with a fully transparent kayak, fitted with LED lights that shine straight into the water. This gives you the perfect opportunity to witness colourful coral, schools of fish, wobbegongs, turtles and even parts of the Tangalooma Shipwrecks.
4WD day tour
Head over to the company, Moreton Bay Escapes, to book a 4WD tour through the island. You’ll be taken all over the bay and beach terrains of Moreton while stopping throughout the day to experience a session of sandboarding, snorkelling and kayaking. This is a jam-packed day of adventure that is pretty unforgettable in our books. Gather a small group of your mates to have a private chartered tour and head to the bays of Moreton Island.
Moreton Island is home to the world’s tallest coastal sand dune and that’s something you’re going to want to experience sledding down. Mount Tempest is measured up at 285 metres. Reach up to speeds of 60 km/h while you’re gliding, or tumbling in a lot of peoples’ cases. Hop on a bus with Moreton Island Adventures and get ready to burn some calories as you run up the hill to get another turn at the dunes.
Scenic day tour
If you’re more of a history buff, why not head along on the Australian Sunset Safaris’ Cape Moreton Scenic Day Tour? You’ll get some adventure while you’re carted around in a 4WD all-day, but you’ll learn about the local Indigenous clan the Ngugi people, what they ate (bush tucker), and their way of life on the island. Coast along down to the Champagne Pools, Honeymoon Bay and search through the Eastern Surf Beach to find some delicious pipis.
For more advanced snorkelling and diving, head to Flinders Reef, Brisbane’s only true coral reef.
If you want beach on beach, The ‘Surfside’ (as it’s known by locals) is 27 kilometres of almost uninterrupted Pacific Ocean glory, where you can swim, surf and lay in the warm sands of six unpatrolled beaches. But if you’re feeling more Brooke Shields than Baywatch, dash behind the dunes to Blue Lagoon, a large freshwater lake that’s a welcome reprieve from all the salt.
Your ocean quota won’t quite be reached yet, so head north to float in the best kind of pool: the Champagne Pools, named as the water froths as it cascades over the breakwall – because nothing says ‘island holiday’ like bubbles.
Where to eat
There are only a handful of places to eat on the island, due to the fact that Moreton Island is 98% National Park, so many areas are still undeveloped. Right down on the south end of the island is The Gutter Bar. A local and tourist favourite, this place is filled with epic eats at incredible prices, given the location. With juicy burgers, crunchy chips and fresh seafood on the menu, you really can’t go wrong with a midday stop in at The Gutter Bar.
But if you’re staying around the Tangalooma Resort and don’t feel like venturing out to the other end of Moreton, the resort is home to a stash of eateries that’ll make your belly burst. Fire Sichuan Chinese Dining, Stone Dining, Beach BBQ and the Beach Cafe are all available to island-dwellers and visitors. The Beach Cafe is the resident takeaway fish n chips place, frying up greasy dishes that are perfect for that after swim sesh. Whereas Fire, Stone and Beach BBQ are for those fancier dining experiences, with extremely fresh seafood, spicy Sichuan dishes and modern Japanese bites. Here’s a tip, make sure you order the deep-fried octopus balls and the beef udon noodle soup from Stone.
Where to stay
Filled with endless accommodation options, you can choose from hotel rooms, budget rooms, suites, villas, apartments and holiday home rentals. These room types are a comfy place to rest your head at night and most have lots of amenities to use during your stay. The best part about this place are the budget rooms. Available for those who don’t want all the flash and are only around for a couple of days. It’s the best option for those who are wanting to spend their whole time exploring the island. But for those who are wanting something a little more relaxing, each accommodation type has the option of doing wild dolphin feeding during their stay.
Camping and Glamping
Firstly, you’ll need a permit and to pay your camping fees before you head for the island. But glamping on Moreton Island is extremely popular and located in the small township of Bulwer at a place called Castaways. It’s super affordable and is comfortable, with a heap of facilities available for you. There’s a communal camp kitchen, private ensuites with hot showers and flushable toilets, and even a queen-sized bed in single-tents.