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Imagine an island filled with crystal clear creeks and lagoons, rocky headlands, tall sand dunes and long stretches of beach. Add a historic lighthouse and ruins of World War II forts to discover and you’ve got Moreton Island National Park. It’s hard to believe this natural wonderland is just 75 minutes from Brisbane, with the ferry terminal located just 10 minutes from Brisbane Airport by taxi. Moreton Island is home to the world’s highest coastal dune – Mount Tempest – which offers stunning views of the surrounding area but most people come here to feed the famous pod of wild dolphins which have been visiting the Tangalooma Island Resort jetty since the 70s. 

Just before sunset each evening people wade into the tranquil waters of Moreton Bay where they’re coached by a team of friendly marine biologists – ‘hold your herring like an ice-cream cone’ – while dolphins wait patiently in the shallows. You can book a day trip or stay overnight. Moreton Bay is home to approximately 600 bottlenose dolphins but this small pod are all descendents of Beauty, the first dolphin to be handfed at Tangalooma Island Resort. Watching from the jetty as the dolphins hunt, swim and play with each other is free and makes for some wonderful photos.

Dolphin feeding at Tangalooma
Tangalooma dolphin feeding

Staying at Tangalooma for a few days gives you the chance to fully experience Moreton Island. Resort guests can sign up for complimentary activities such as archery, badminton or croquet or discover Moreton Bay’s marine life with a qualified eco-ranger on a marine discovery cruise. If would like to take a closer look at stingrays, wobbegong sharks and a kaleidoscope of colourful tropical fish, there is also a snorkelling tour of the Tangalooma Wrecks.

This easily accessible dive and snorkel site located just offshore is made up of 17 vessels which were deliberately sunk to create a break wall for small boats and an exciting wreck dive and snorkelling site. Although you can swim to the wrecks at low tide, the current can be a challenge if you don’t time it right. It’s much easier to take a guided tour, especially since the snorkel boat has a very civilised set of steps instead of a ladder.

Snorkelling at Moreton Island
Snorkel on Moreton Island

If you love the beach but would prefer to stay dry, a Segway tour offers a unique way to enjoy Moreton Island’s pristine surrounds. A staff member hands out safety gear, provides instruction on how to ride safely and reminds everyone to watch out for sunbathers – then riders are ‘let loose’ to whiz along the beach. Joyous whoops fill the air as riders of all ages push their machines up to 15kph before heading back to the resort. Moreton Island is the world’s third largest sand island which means you need a 4WD to explore further afield. However, there is no need to drive yourself. 

An entertaining Northern Safari 4WD Tour travels along the western beaches on the bay side of the island, passing WWII gun emplacements sunk deep in the sand, paperbark swamps, mangroves, salt marshes and swathes of banksia trees where tiny honeyeaters flutter in search of a snack. The island’s tidal wetlands and bays are home to hundreds of migratory and resident seabirds. Informative commentary gives visitors a new appreciation for the island along the way. This more isolated section of Moreton Island offers a whole new look at this beautiful destination.

4WD trip
Beach driving

The sturdy 4WD bus ventures to the tip of the island known as North Point which is home to Champagne Pools, a natural foaming ocean pool, and the wild beauty of Honeymoon Bay.  There is time to wriggle your toes in the water or even go for a quick swim while morning tea is set up on the beach. After a cup of tea and a muffin, it’s time to drive to Cape Moreton to see the historic lighthouse and breathtaking view which stretches from one end of the pristine 34 kilometre beach to the other.

Dolphins, turtles and manta rays swim in the gently foaming ocean beneath the lighthouse. Humpback whales hug the coastline during their migration between June and November. With its towering sand dunes, crystal clear waters and rocky headlands, Moreton Island is the jewel in Moreton Bay’s crown. It’s a must-see if you’re visiting Brisbane, even if you only visit the island on a day trip.

Disclosure: The writer travelled as a guest of Tangalooma Island Resort.

If you’re after some things to do in and around Brisbane, try some of our favourite activities along the Brisbane River, take a Brisbane Greeters free tour, go on a Brisbane day trip, or buy unique handmade souvenirs at Brisbane’s best markets.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.