Queensland does island weekend getaways better than most, whether you want to stretch out on your sun lounge and have cocktails by the pool, or have sand blown in your face as you fly down a dune on a toboggan.
I was just chatting with a mate the other day and we both remarked at how many islands there are to explore in Queensland. But he’d never been to Moreton Island.
After our recent weekend getaway to Moreton, I told him it’s a mini Fraser Island and easy to access from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
You MUST still go to Fraser, there’s only one Fraser Island! But Moreton Island is an excellent alternative and one we knew nothing of until our visit.
In the past when I’d hear the name Moreton, I’d immediately think of Moreton Bay Bugs. Now, I think of adventure, getting back to nature, and family fun!
Moreton Island is just 25 km’s off Brisbane’s shore and is the third largest sand island in the world.
Our adventure started on the 75 minute Ferry ride across Moreton Bay when we kicked off our shoes and chatted with Greg and Nicole from Sunset Safaris who were were touring the island with.
The girls were entertained at the front of the ferry in the toy area, Caz caught up on some writing, and I enjoyed one of their smiley face pies that Moreton Island Adventures are famous for.
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Day 1, Our family weekend getaway on Moreton Island
If it’s true that first impressions count, then I immediately knew this was going to be a fun weekend getaway.
I looked left, I looked right, and I looked directly over the Tangalooma Wrecks as we came into the beach to disembark off the ferry. Moreton Island was putting on it’s best “first impression”. The water looked amazing and people were having fun in and out of the water.
And I saw the kind of highway that we like best – nature’s highway!
Transparent kayaking at the Tangalooma Wrecks
First up we stripped down into our boardies and swimmers in preparation for a new kind of kayaking. We paddled straight off the beach to explore the Tangalooma shipwrecks in these very cool and unique “Transparent Kayaks”.
It felt like we were sitting on top of the water as we glided over the top of the sunken ship wreck with clear vision through the bottom to get up close with the fish and coral. We didn’t spot any turtles on our paddle but as we found out later they are around.
So cool that this wreck is just off the beach. Easy access for families with young kids like ours. And these kayaks are something else!
4×4 beach and bush driving on Moreton Island
After quickly drying off we threw our gear and ourselves in the back of Greg and Nicole’s purpose built 4wd midi coach and headed north to check-in at our accommodation.
It was our first glance at the 4wd beach driving fun on Moreton and as much as I like to get behind the wheel with an open beach and little traffic, it was great to kick back and take in the scenery as Greg drove and shared some local knowledge of the island and the day ahead.
Glamping at Castaways
A short drive later we arrived at Castaways, and I don’t know who was happier, me or the kids?!
When you’ve just spent 18 months traveling around Australia and taking 90-minutes to set up your camper trailer over 100 times, having no tent to set up, no beds to make, and our own private bathroom, daddy got a little excited!
And who couldn’t use a bit of glamping anyways?
When your away for a short break and traveling light, you want to spend as much time as possible getting amongst the activities and enjoying the destination, not unloading and packing up!
Our tent was furnished with a queen size bed plus a set of bunks, and a nice deck to chill on. We grabbed a quick bite to eat for lunch at the on-site cafe – I recommend one of their burgers – then jumped straight back in the truck for an afternoon of adventure!
Scenic Day Tour with Sunset Safaris
We headed towards the northern tip of Moreton Island down bush tracks with stunning views of the ocean. Kalyra rode shotgun up the front with Greg and Nicole and little Savannah was happy to bounce around in the back with us.
No traffic lights or congestion here. Just nature tracks, fresh air and beautiful beaches.
They call this spot “Yellow Patch” because of the sand patch in the side of the hill. It’s also the place they make Coca-Cola on Moreton Island, just look at how many free refills you can get. Don’t forget your straw, lol.
We stretched our legs here for a bit, met some of the local pelicans, and watched a few surfers carving up what was a very nice wave just off shore.
A pretty stop on the north eastern tip of the island is Honeymoon Bay. If you go for a swim here, beware as it can get quite rippy so stay in close to shore. We just sat and admired the view.
Around the headland from Honeymoon Bay is North Point and a rock pool area called Champagne Rocks. If you’ve been to Fraser, this is a mini-version of its Champagne Pools.
A band of volcanic rock and sandstone forms a break wall from the surf and on the beach side of this rock there’s a crystal clear water pool with waves that cascade over.
The surf wasn’t doing its thing for us whilst we were there, but looks like a great spot to relax in as the water foams and bubbles around you.
Cape Moreton Lighthouse
On a rocky promontory near North Point sits the 23 metre high Cape Moreton Lighthouse, the first lighthouse built in Queensland and lit for the first time in 1857, built by tradesmen and convicts.
Inside the old caretakers cottage, there’s an excellent museum that highlights the history of the lighthouse and Moreton Island, and the views from the lighthouse down along the rugged east coast of Moreton Island are spectacular – we saw a whale breaching in the distance!!
From Cape Moreton Lighthouse, we took on the open east coast shoreline. The tide was coming in which made for some fun maneuvering as we made zig-zag tracks in the sand.
If it was me driving with just Caz and the kids in our vehicle I’d have been a little concerned at the tide and being isolated, but no problem for someone as experienced as Greg and his truck, which I’m sure could pretty much go anywhere.
Moreton Island has a few natural freshwater lakes and one of the popular stops is Blue Lagoon, a lake infused with tea tree oils which was formed through the natural catchments of rainwater over thousands of years when the water table meets the ground surface.
The water temperature was a little chilly for us to jump in, and being there late in the day the sun wasn’t in the best location for photos, and I’m guessing sunrise would be an optimal time for nice light to be shining on the lake.
Apparently this lake is also great for wild flowers and bird watching.
The sun was going down fast and we had to make quick tracks back to the west coast of the island for sunset on the beach overlooking the Tangalooma Wrecks. The tide was basically all the way in now and any higher and things could have got REAL adventurous!
Sunset drinks, Moreton Island style!
What better way to end an adventurous day exploring an island than with champagne and canapés on the beach watching the sun go down over the wreck. We had a mixture of fruits, berries, cheese and crackers and bubbly and couldn’t have asked for a better sunset.
I’ll drink to that, cheers!
Once the sun had dipped below the horizon it was time for one of the most interesting kayaking experiences we’ve had. It was back in the transparent kayaks for an illuminated nighttime paddle of the Tangalooma Wrecks.
Little Savannah was having none of it and stayed on shore with Nicole as me, Kalyra, Caz and Greg paddled out in darkness with our torch lit floating kayaks showing us the way.
It was eerily awesome as we explored the shipwreck in silence.
Bait fish jumped into our kayak attracted by the lights, giving Kalyra a thrill, and we must come back to Moreton and do this activity again at a different time of the year. Not to be missed and unique to Sunset Safaris.
Here’s a short video on YouTube shared from the Sunset Safaris website:
We headed back to camp at Castaways tired but full of memories from one of the best day tours we’ve experienced in Oz. Dinner at the cafe was delish and great value and consisted of barramundi, steak and one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time!
And don’t miss the bacon & egg rolls for breakfast after waking up from your night of glamping – recommended by the chef himself and went down a treat.
Our stay at Castaways was unfortunately over and it was time for part-two of our Moreton Island weekend. Greg drove us back down the south-west coast of the island to check into our next accommodation stay.
Besides Castaways or camping with your own equipment, the main accommodation option on the island is Tangalooma Island Resort.
Day 2 – Tangalooma Resort
After checking in to our room it was time to grab lunch. There’s several dining options and we went for the Beach Café which has uninterrupted water views and your typical island cafe menu.
Marine Discovery Cruise
After lunch, we jumped on the two hour Marine Discovery Cruise which took us along the coastline in search of dolphins, dugongs, green sea turtles, and rays!
It was a relaxing activity compared to day one of our trip with lovely views back over the island from the water and, we got lucky, spotting several dugong, a few turtles, eagles and enjoyed another close-up view of the shipwreck.
Sandboarding on Moreton Island
Back on land and it was time for the adrenaline activity of Moreton.
The inland Tangalooma desert is home to some impressive sand dunes and as part of the Desert Safari Tour we grabbed ourselves a board, popped on some goggles and went sandboarding down the dune at speeds up to 40km/hr.
It was a ton of fun, besides the workout walking up the soft sand dune – but hey we needed the exercise – and we got sand in places you can only imagine! Do yourself a favour and go inland for some fun!
You can book your ticket for a day tour of Moreton which includes either sandboarding or the marine cruise.
Dolphin Feeding time at Tangalooma Resort
Before dinner and meeting the dolphins, the kids had a play on the beach as we took in another pretty Moreton Island sunset.
Tangalooma is well known for its wild dolphin feeding program, which originally came about around 35 years ago when lights were fitted to the jetty attracting bait fish in the nighttime which the dolphins would hunt.
Now around 10 dolphins regularly show up after sunset and there’s an opportunity to hand feed them, following strict guidelines put in place by the dolphin care program.
Here’s a shot of the jetty just before the throngs of people arrived and the dolphins were just starting to play near the shore.
We chose to stand on the jetty the whole time and just watch the dolphins frolic near the shore. Being nighttime with bright lights and the movement of the dolphins it was hard to get any good shots.
Because we have already seen the wild dolphin feeding in Bunbury and Monkey Mia in Western Australia, this wasn’t as exciting for us as it may be for you if it’s your first time. And the challenge was that it was right on dinner time, the kids were hungry and tired after a long day and the line was quite long.
If you do this, wear the appropriate clothes and fill your kiddies tummies early to avoid any meltdowns, and don’t forget to book in to avoid missing out.
Day 3 on Moreton Island
Waking up to breakfast with island views and a morning beach walk never gets old. Day three started off in a relaxing manner as our time on Moreton wound down. Today we only had two activities left until it was time to return home to the mainland.
Snorkeling the Tangalooma Wrecks
It was mummy and daughter play time as Caz and Kalyra took to the water to go snorkeling around the Tangalooma Wrecks – yes, there are many ways to explore this shipwreck. Savannah is too young for snorkeling so I stayed on board with her and fed some fish and took some shots.
It’s a guided snorkeling tour with all gear included, and from all reports it was definitely worth getting wet for and to get a different up close perspective of the wrecks – and excitingly they saw a wobbegong shark and puffer fish!
Quad bike adventure
Last but not least, Caz took off on her own adventure on a Quad Bike Tour whilst I took the kids for a swim in the pool. I did the last quad bike tour in WA so it was her turn to tear it up!
She went up behind the back of Tangalooma Resort through the dunes and bushland with views over the water and shipwreck, then back down along the beachfront.
This is a guided tour and kids from 10 years old and up can operate their own bikes, otherwise they can jump on the back of mum or dads.
Plan Your Trip to Moreton Island
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We partnered with Tourism Queensland for this family getaway and they also have great blog posts and videos on Moreton Island to get you even more informed and excited for your visit.
Have you been to Moreton Island? Share any tips or stories in the comments down below!