Aerial of Tangalooma wrecks, Moreton Island. Photo / Delivered.
Art, culture, sport and hospitality? Bet on it, but Brisbane Islands offer a whole new experience.
Brisbane is not only a growing metropolis with booming arts, culture and hospitality scenes – it is also just a stone’s throw away from picturesque islands with pristine white sand beaches, tropical reefs and wildlife.
Two of the largest sand islands in the world, Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island, are just a short boat ride from Brisbane, perfect for day-trippers or weekenders – or even longer if you’re a serious adventurer.
Magic of Moreton Island
Accessible only by 4WD vehicles – and just 22 miles and a 75-minute ferry ride from the heart of Brisbane city – Moreton Island is a haven for the adventurous, nature lover, and serious surfer.
If you’re more of a traveler with a scenic route, opt for the Amity Trader Barge, which takes a little over two hours from the mainland and arrives in Kooringal – a small community on the southern tip of Moreton Island.
Don’t forget to try the fresh local oysters or a bucket of prawns at The Gutter Bar, a relaxed eatery with a dress code to match.
Snorkelers can enjoy Moreton Island’s breathtaking reefs, including the Tangalooma Wrecks, which are located north of the Tangalooma Island Resort. Steeped in history, the wrecks are home to all types of reef fish, coral formations, and marine life. Between the 1960s and 1980s, a total of 15 ships were sunk in the area. Visitors can explore by snorkel or even a sea scooter – and with a little luck, you might even spot a dugong.
Speaking of rare experiences, you can’t walk past the Freshwater Blue Lagoon – a great place for swimming and bird watching. Also nearby is Honeyeater Lake, a peaceful and picturesque place to watch its namesake, the local honey eaters that settle in the nearby Banksias.
Home to Mount Tempest – the largest overgrown sand dune in the world – no trip to Moreton Island is complete without trying your hand at sandboarding. At 285 m above sea level, the trip is worthwhile because of the incomparable views of the fascinating Moreton Bay and beyond to Brisbane and the surrounding regions. When you have the game, grow a board and throw yourself down the dune.
Some of the best activities on Moreton Island are reserved for sunset. At Tangalooma Island Resort, a group of wild bottlenose dolphins visit the jetty every evening at sunset. Elsewhere, thrill seekers at night can kayak around the wrecks at night: Australian Sunset Safaris offer an experience where you can view a brilliant spectrum of marine life and shipwrecks using transparent kayaks with LED lights.
Wildlife and culture on North Stradbroke Island
Just an hour by car ferry (or 25 minutes by water taxi) from East Brisbane, North Stradbroke Island is a great group destination. Unlike Moreton Island, 4×4 isn’t a must-have to visit Straddie, but it helps if you’re here for more than a day.
Consisting of three townships – Point Lookout, Amity and Dunwich – each part of the island has a unique offering for all types of visitors.
But no matter where you are on the island, native wildlife is abundant. Dolphins end the day at Amity Point and visit both sunrise and sunset. The North Gorge Walk is a daily spot to spot local kangaroos at breakfast and dinner at the top of the 1.2 km boardwalk.
The stunning, crystal clear waters of the North Gorge Walk make it easy to spot all kinds of marine life such as turtles, manta rays, dolphins and even the occasional shark along the way. If you’re traveling between June and November, it’s also a great place to spot humpback whales migrating along the coast.
If you’re visiting on the weekend, be sure to check out the Point Lookout Markets at the Point Lookout Bowls Club. Every second Sunday of the month, these morning markets bring together some of the island’s best local vendors to offer seaside fashion, local produce (including organic island honey), soaps, jewelry, food and even a game of barefoot bowling if you feel like it.
Just five minutes away, Point Lookout Surf Lifesaving Club is a great place to stop for a late afternoon weekend sunset drink or enjoy island-style pina coladas at Kokomo Beach House.
At the heart of the Moreton Bay Islands is their Aboriginal culture. Quandamooka Country encompasses the waters and islands of Central and Southern Moreton Bay, as well as the coastal land and creeks between the Brisbane and Logan Rivers. It breathed life into the Quandamooka people in a time beyond memory – and the distinctive culture remains strong.
A must-see is the Salt Water Murris Art Gallery – founded to showcase and nurture Aboriginal culture through a diverse and inspiring exhibition of traditional and contemporary art.
To immerse yourself in this ancient culture, take a tour with Yura Tours led by the proud Quandamooka mother, daughter and wife Elisha Kissick, who is passionate about sharing her culture and motherland with visitors to the island .