It’s ages since we visited Moreton Island, off the coast of Queensland. Back then we fed the dolphins at Tangalooma, toured the wrecks, and lighthouse at Moreton Point, and loved every second. But is Moreton Island still a must-do on your Australian travels? Fly Isabella’s Liz Stark sent us her thoughts – and it seems the answer’s a definite yes!
Wow weeeeee this place is off-the-scale stupendous! I’ve been to Fraser Island before and was expecting something similar of a Moreton Island getaway, a sand island – seemingly unknown to many Queenslanders even – off the coast of Brisbane. The comparisons are there (sand dunes, beach driving, escapism) but here there are no dingoes and you can swim in the water without fear of tiger sharks. Hallelujah.
As you draw nearer the boat jetty it smells tropical, as if instead you’re stepping off a long-tail boat in Thailand, and an abundance of wildlife and exotic plants are thriving all around. This isn’t a super cheap getaway (airfare + $80 return on the ferry + $50 return taxis + accommodation prices vary), however if you’re already near Brissie and don’t need to add-on the cost of flights I’d highly recommend it for a low-level Mad Max adventure.Landing at Tangalooma
3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
4 WHEEL DRIVING | not essential in order to visit, but really a must if you’re already making the effort to go over for a Moreton Island getaway. We were a big group of 30, travelling for a special friend’s special birthday, so I’m unsure of the exact cost breakdown for the 3 cars, but it was so much fun to bomb it up and down Moreton Island on the beach highways. Without a 4WD you’re confined to (very beautiful) Tangalooma.Beach driving
NORTH POINT | I loved the wild remoteness of the top end of the island: the Coral Sea pounds against the rocks from the east; Cape Moreton lighthouse – built in 1857 – is Queensland’s oldest lighthouse; to the west the waves roll across at right angles to the beach. This Moreton Island getaway can only be reached with a 4WD.
Also check out: there is a beautiful – although forceful! – effect of fizzing bubbles at Champagne Pools as the Coral Sea explodes over a band of volcanic rock and sandstone, acting as a surf break.Champagne Pools
Cape Moreton Lighthouse
TIME-WARP | I don’t know how, but it feels like time stands still on Moreton Island. Most of the group were only there less than 2 days and regardless we were able to cram so much fun in and totally relax at the same time. It’s that old saying: ‘Island Time’, where everything moves beautifully slowly in the vacuum created by the ocean’s presence. My advice: if you achieve nothing else, just pack a good book and enjoy some chill time.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
TANGALOOMA | is the main resort on the island, and for the most part I was pretty impressed: it doesn’t impose on the gorgeous landscape too much (apart from the two ugly older blocks), and there’s enough facilities like a coffee bar and little convenience store to make it useful. Resort criticisms aside, there’s no escaping the fact that the slim curve of white sand that hugs the aqua water as you step off the ferry is totally and utterly idyllic.
Also check out: We rented two large holiday lets on Tangalooma Drive – a steep, short walk that rewards with amazing views – which at least allows you to get away from the central bustle.
DOLPHINS | you are 100% (don’t actually quote me on that!) guaranteed to see wild dolphins within 50 metres of the shore, which is pretty spectacular. My only slight niggle is that because the Tangalooma Resort is feeding them (in a carefully controlled manner – it is a Marine Education and Conservation Centre) every evening at 7pm, they’re evidently still conditioned to the routine and there’s an inevitable waft of theme park to the set up.
WRECKS | this is another great option if you didn’t bring a 4WD over, as there are several sunken shipwrecks within a <30 minute walk that act as a breakwater and are a popular spot for diving and snorkelling. Again, they’re visible from the ferry boat as you disembark. 3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR OF:
SAND-BOARDING | now remember that this is me: an adrenaline-aphobe. Point me in the direction of a huge sand-dune and ask if I’m going to be hurtling down it head first on some flimsy ply-board, and you’ll likely get an eye-roll. I’ll just stay here and watch thanks. So no, it wasn’t for me: the whipping, scorching sand blown in to a frenzy by some high winds that day; the mouth and eyes and ears and nose and butt crack full of grit; the 1 step-forward-4-steps-back battle to climb back up. But everyone else swears it was amazing.Sand Boarding
FERRY CONNECTIONS | they aren’t ‘frequent‘ but there are enough running, so this is simply a word of warning! The ferries book out in peak seasons and at key times (like trying to return on a Sunday afternoon), and can cause a fair amount of stress with connecting flight times if you’ve been a little too optimistic with your getting from A to B. The website states 75 minutes, however allow 90 and more if you check in luggage, as well as 20 minutes for the taxi to Brisbane airport.
GETTING STUCK | blame the driver, blame the car: who knows. Either way, we just couldn’t get one of the 4WDs up what looked like a very gentle, albeit soft, sand slope despite a couple of attempts. Even more disastrously, we had to simply leave one rental car in ‘The Desert’ as the ignition shaft was all out of sync! Bit of an arse on any Moreton Island getaway.Stuck in the sand
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
CAMPING | Better yet, I would have loved to camp. I’ve been camping a couple of times recently, on Phillip Island and at Ninety Mile Beach, and quickly realised it’s great fun, however having the gear is a big part of pro-camping. I think somewhere this remote you’d be happy to have some outdoor luxuries like a decent camp stove, camping chairs, a torch! You know, the basics.
AND KNOW THIS: ‘Moorgumpin’, meaning ‘place of sandhills’, is the aboriginal name for Moreton Island, and Tangalooma (so famous for its dolphin experiences) actually means ‘where fish meet’.