Moreton Island is a playground for 4WDers, surfers and fishermen looking for beauty, waves and isolation.
“FOR PEOPLE WHO LIVE ON ISLANDS…THE SEA IS ALWAYS THE BEGINNING.”- JONATHAN RABAN, THE WATER IN BETWEEN
From North Point on Moreton Island, you can watch the sun set over the Glasshouse mountains to the west, their incongruous peaks jutting out of the ocean like distant volcanoes.
As I wade out into the water, my surfboard floating next to me on the glassy water, I spot a pod of dolphins about 100 metres away, lazily rolling in the reflected sunlight.
I smile, jump on my board and paddle, just as lazily, for a peeler that’s only knee-high, but is breaking for about half a kilometer down the arcing sand point.
It’s a long, slow ride. The dolphins must have spotted me, because they’re all around me now, jumping out of the wave next to me, shooting underneath my fins at breakneck speed through the blown-glass water, mineral clear and aquamarine.
I watch one shimmering through the face of the wave, and I have to imagine, he’s watching me too.
The sun glints off the ripples on the wave, and the spray from one of these creatures leaving the water next to me is the only water out of place. And this is the precise moment at which I fell in love with Moreton Island.
Located 40km east of Brisbane, Moreton is responsible for the vast mud flats that Brisbane calls beaches, and is a playground for 4WDers, fisherman and surfers only 75 minutes from the big smoke.
It isn’t the cheapest escape, though. Travel on the ferry to Moreton Island is from $195 return, plus the same again if you’re towing a camper trailer.
It’s fairly easy to justify paying that, though. If you were to drive to somewhere like Fraser from Brisbane, the fuel there and back would probably be about the same, and the crowds at Moreton seem a little more spread out, a little less rowdy, and perhaps it is this ‘tax’ which makes the difference.
The beauty of the place is undeniable. Its emptiness and wildness, so close to civilization, is strange, but welcome.
Aside from Tangalooma and the lighthouse on the Cape, it is virtually undeveloped. Even the small townships here still feel like fishing villages, not holiday towns. Steaming across Moreton Bay is like taking a ship back in time.
Disembarking from the ferry just up the beach from the exclusive Tangalooma Resort, several wrecks hulk just offshore, sunk here in 1963 to provide safe anchorage and, incidentally, an underwater psychedelic diversion for snorkelers.
From here you have two choices, you can run up the beach toward Bulwer and Comboyuro Point, and eventually all the way around the island, or you can cut straight across the island on the Middle Road to the east coast.
The sand is soft here, not unlike most of the tracks on Fraser Island, and it pays to let your tyes down on the ferry over. At around 38km long, Moreton is a great size to explore over a week or two.
If you’re fishing or surfing and you want to try out somewhere completely different, you can cross the island in about half an hour, and get to just about anywhere in 45 minutes.
But its diminutive size hides plenty to do. There is WWII history here in the old concrete pillboxes scattered up and down the east coast.
There are massive sandhills where, if you don’t mind walking up, you can try your hand at sandboarding (or sandboxing, as many people just use a flat bit of cardboard for their ‘board’). And the swimming here is great, without the sharks of Fraser Island.
There is camping all along the eastern shore of the island, including some beautiful sheltered sites up in the dunes among the she-oaks.
If you’re after something with a bit of comfort, i.e. toilets and showers, campgrounds are scattered around the island, offering a mix of bush and bollard camping to suit just about any prevailing winds and weather.
If you’re bringing kids along or like your ocean a bit calmer, the northern and western camps are fairly protected from the south easterlies that normally blow through this part of the world.
My favourite haunt was a little place called Yellow Patch. It’s a few kilometers west of North Point, and it’s a great place to base yourself on the island if you’re self-sufficient.
The island blocks most of the wind off the open ocean, and you can fish right out the front, catch a wave or go exploring in any direction.
Heading west, however, means waiting for low tide or taking the inland track to Bulwer, which is a graded sand road with cool views out over the surrounding heath.
The shop in Bulwer offers the bare necessities: ice, beer, firewood, food; but be prepared to pay something like $9 for a Corona.
The campgrounds along Comboyuro Point and south of Bulwer are right on the water, surrounded by wooden fences and are quite spread out.
There are more wrecks on the beach at Bulwer, but they’re much higher up and usually dry, albeit about 90% buried in the sand.
There are dolphins all over Moreton Island, but one place you’re sure to see a few is off the southern tip, or Reeders Point.
They come to feed at Amity Point on North Stradbroke to the south, and the South Passage is heavily populated with fish, and of course the dolphins chasing those fish.
It doesn’t matter what you are here for, islands are lots of things for lots of people, Moreton shifts and changes, like the giant sand dune it is, to become what you need it to be.