The south east coast of Queensland is a very unique place, home to the three largest sand islands in the world. Moreton Island, situated 58km north east of Brisbane in the beautiful Moreton Bay, is a majestic island filled with natural beauty and cultural significance. Named by Captain Cook in the late 18th century, Moreton Island consists of 240km of sandy beach tracks intertwined with a freshwater lagoon, bushland, cultural sites, campgrounds, and enormous sand dunes! The island is a tranquil paradise that’s itching to be explored, and being a national park full of sand, only those with 4WD’s can experience it.
How to get there
While there’s a couple of locations where you can catch a barge to the island, I’ve found the most scenic route is from Victoria Point which is roughly 30km south east of Brisbane. The barge there takes you directly to Kooringal township on the south of the island, taking around 2 hours to get there depending on the tides. It’s recommended to take a 4WD with high clearance and low range function for the best experience, and you can even hire a 4WD from Fleet Crew if you don’t have one.
What to expect
Moreton Island has three townships on the western side of the island, with small holiday villages and campsites scattered throughout. The main road that splits the island and offers access to both the western side and ocean side is conveniently named ‘Middle Road’. Heading north from Kooringal, you’ll pass Cowan and Tangalooma on your way to Bulwer at the northern tip of the island. Tangalooma is home to famous ship wrecks and a lavish resort which offers plenty of marine activities such as scuba diving and snorkelling,
As the entire island is sand, almost everywhere you travel in the figure eight loop of the island is a 4WD adventure. You can access almost everywhere on the island, including Mount Tempest to sand toboggan the highest sand dune in the world, standing at 285 metres in height. From the top, you have panoramic views of the island and Moreton Bay, and you can see the oldest lighthouse in Queensland on the north eastern side of the island. Cape Moreton Lighthouse was built in 1854 by 35 good conduct prisoners and is the only lighthouse in the state built from stone.
If you want to camp on the island, you can choose from 10 campsites which are scattered in various locations. The only campsite on the ocean beach side, however, is Blue Lagoon, which is ideal for families being so close to a tea-infused freshwater lake. The other campsites are established in lush and shady areas in Tangalooma, Bulwer Wrecks, North Point, Comboyuro Point, and Honeymoon Bay.
Before you can drive your 4WD on the island, you must buy a vehicle access permit which has to be displayed on your windscreen. You can purchase these permits for varying amounts of time, from a single day permit to a yearly permit. Bulwer General Store sells petrol in 20L drums only, but if you fill up your 4WD tank before you reach the barge, you should have plenty of petrol for a week's worth of exploring.
It's essential to know the tide times when traveling to or around the island. Only travel to the island two hours either side of low tide when the beach is at its widest and steer clear of driving anywhere on the island two hours either side of high tide.
As all of the island is sand, it's important that you have some experience in driving in sand to make your trip as rewarding as possible. Here are a few suggestions for driving on the island:
- Bring the proper tools like a spare tyre, shovel, well-calibrated tyre pressure gauge, and first aid kit
- Never stop your 4WD when crossing a creek as your vehicle could stall or sink
- You'll likely get bogged at least once while exploring the island. Don't panic and try to force your way out, simply reverse out and try again
- Be careful when driving in soft sand, particularly when there's been no rainfall for extended periods of time. Engage your locking hubs and select low gears
- Always keep your momentum especially when going uphill and always remember to change speeds gradually
Moreton Island has a vast array of activities that the whole family will enjoy, from whale watching (in season), scuba diving and snorkelling, and sand tobogganing, alongside many cultural sites with rich history.
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