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Moreton Island - Day Trip

A great place to get away from it
right on Brisbane's doorstep

Mostly national park, Moreton Island (20,000 hectares) is the world's second largest sand island.   Though mostly national park, it includes several small villages, expansive beaches, freshwater lakes and a 'coloured sand desert'.   Sand taboggan mammoth dunes, hand feed wild dolphins or tackle excellent four wheel drive exploring tracks.    A whole additional world also awaits beneath the surface with scuba diving and snorkelling available.


It is a unique island wilderness with sparkling clear water and white sandy beaches.    It is one of the few untouched areas of natural wilderness along the East Coast of Australia.    Moreton Island is situated just 35 kilometres from Brisbane in the Moreton Bay Marine Park.     The island is 98% National Park, protecting the flora, fauna, sandy coastline, freshwater lakes, wetlands and forests.     The island is 38 km long and 19,000 ha in area.     It is one of the largest sand islands in the world.

(Photo left  -  Combi Trader arrives at Bulwer on Moreton Island.
Bulwer wrecks are shown in the foreground

(Photos below  - Unloading the Combi Trader )

Moreton Island provides a fragile north easterly boundary for Moreton Bay and supports an amazing variety of vegetation.    Its white sandy beaches, clear sparkling water and delightful fresh water lakes make Moreton a popular destination with campers, fishermen, bush walkers and naturalists.

Fishermen pour onto the island via the Combie Trader vehicle ferry. The ferry leaves from Scarborough boat harbour and touches Moreton Island at Bulwer.     Moreton Island is the mecca for the weekend fishing party - both a sport and social occasion for the fishing fraternity of Queensland's south east.    The trip took about 2 hours on board the Combi Trader.    Views of both the mainland and the island from the deck were spectacular and the time the trip took passed very quickly.    On both our to and from our trips the sea was very flat, making the voyage very pleasant.


The ferry trip finished at the mainland side of Moreton Island at Bulwer.     This is the main residential area.

At Bulwer there is a general store, albeit with limited stocks, a garage, state emergency service volunteer group to help out in times of trouble and a helipad for emergency helicopter access.   There is also a refuse recycling station provided by the Brisbane City Council.     In spite of this it is surprising how much litter has just been dumped along the island’s foreshore and tracks by inconsiderate visitors.   It is such a pity that such a beautiful place has to be spoilt by a few inconsiderate people.

Photo above show vehicles travelling
along the beach

Photo right - vehicle transverses beach
near Tangalooma Resort


If you don't have a vehicle you can still explore Moreton Island.    Walking is a great way of discovering the Island.    The vast array of birdlife will sing to you while you walk.     There are plenty of beautiful walking tracks around the island.    Moreton is a sand island formed by prevailing winds, wave action and sea level changes.    Over time, deposits stabilized and became vegetated.    Wind and water action, sand deposition, erosion and plant colonization has made Moreton the place we know today.

Freshwater Lakes are a major attraction on the island. They are formed as the water table beneath the Island fills with rain water the swamps and creeks flourish and the large lakes are formed.   Blue Lagoon, the major fresh water lake is an excellent swimming spot.     It is also great for wild flower displays and bird watching.     The Sand Hills are awe inspiring mountains of pure white sand whilst the bare sand dunes provide the slopes for an exhilarating toboggan.

Photo above  -  Blue Lake


Photo above  -  Sandhill on west coast
of Moreton Island

The Desert is a major sand blow reached by either 4wd or a scenic walking track.    Mount Tempest is a vegetated sand hill in the centre of the island.    It is the highest sandhill in the world.    It is approximately 280m above sea level.     It makes a challenging climb but is well worth the effort for the view of the Island is breath-taking.    The heath lands viewed from Mount Tempest are dominated by Banksia and Grass Trees.    The Scribbly Gum and Pink Bloodwood dominate Moreton's extensive forests.    As the soils are low in nutrient, trees and shrubs rely on the efficient recycling of surface nutrients for food.    Wild flowers are at their best in spring with beautiful displays along the tracks.

The foreshores and tidal areas are rich in marine life supporting many resident wading birds.   Between September and April, Moreton plays host to thousands of migrating birds from the Arctic tundra, eastern Siberia and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere.   Spinifex grass and other salt resistant ground cover plants, which are vital preventing erosion and nesting birds, protect the sand dunes.

Back on the beaches. It is not uncommon to see whales and dolphins swimming in close to the beaches.    The dolphins, whilst still in the wild do not appear to be too distrustful of humans as they come in close to the beaches.    On our visit in November the dolphins came into our fishing and swimming spot each day.     Both parents and calves played in shallow water not too far off the beaches.    They appear to be very inquisitive.

Moreton Island has had a checkered history.

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Cape Moreton was the first lighthouse to be built in Queensland, but was not the first lighthouse built by the Queensland government, indeed it was built as a New South Wales light in 1857 before Queensland became a separate colony.    It was built because of the increasing traffic to the northern coast , but for a long time was the only light on the 3,236 miles of coastline.

The entrance into Moreton Bay, near the island, is scattered with wrecks that attest the notoriousness of the bay.    The tower is constructed of sandstone quarried on the island.      It stands on a rare rocky promontory on a sand island.

The tower was extended in 1928 and is now 23 metres.     The original light source oil wick.    It was converted in in 1930 to pressurised acetylene gas.    This installation did not continue for long as in 1937 the apparatus was converted to 240v electricity.     Solar conversion took place in 1993.     The lighthouse is on the northern point of Moreton Island.

(Photo right  -  landscape of Moreton Island with
Moreton Lighthouse in the background)


On the west side of the island is Tangalooma which was also once home to Queensland's first and only whaling station from 1952 to 1962.     Moreton Island Resort now occupies the area where this former whaling station stood.    Whaling is still important to Moreton island but now as tourists enjoy whale watching.    Whale watching season runs from late June through to late September each year, when Humpback and Right whales move north from Antarctica to their winter feeding and birthing territories.


As a result of fears of invasion during World War the Queensland Main Roads Commission was directed in 1942 to erect buildings, anti-aircraft gun emplacements, command and battery observation posts, underground plotting room, magazines, accommodation for officers and men, a 20,000 gallon concrete tank, and a 20 bed hospital at Cowan Cowan (aboriginal Kau-in Kau-in) on Moreton Island.    There were also instructed to build a controlled mines station with accommodation for officers and men of the Australian Navy. The former Navy Signal Station at 25 Dorothy Newnham Street, Cowan Cowan (Fort Cowan).    Fort Cowan was armed with in particular with 2 x 6" gun emplacements and mountings.

Photo left (Remains of Fort Cowan)

The remains of that establishment are still evident on the island.

Beach camping is very popular with fishermen.    A tarp, gas fire and an esky sustains many campers overnight or over a weekend.     A great way to spend a couple of days - fishing - drinking - visiting Moreton Island.  

Today Moreton Island is part of Brisbane City, cut off from the mainland with access only available by sea or air.    A great place to get away from the pressure of city living.

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