Moreton Island is a large sand island on the eastern side of Moreton Bay. It is the world's second largest after Fraser covering 170 square kilometres and extending 38 kilometres from north to south. It is part of the southern Queensland sand mass, along with Cooloola coast and Bribie and North Stradbroke Islands. It's a sandboarder's heaven.
It was named Cape Morton by Captain James Cook in 1770, who assumed it was part of the mainland. (The 'e' appeared later due to a clerical error). The island was a key centre in the early days of Brisbane's penal settlement
Cape Moreton on the north-eastern tip of the island is its only rock outcrop. Mount Tempest, at 278 metres, is the highest coastal sand dune in the world. Most of the island is contained within Moreton Island National Park.
Aborigines have lived on Moreton Island for 20,000 years, with European settlement coming in 1848. With the increase in coastal traffic, a lighthouse was needed. It was the first in Queensland and built on a rare rocky promontory from sandstone quarried on the island.
During WWII, defence installations were run by the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army to protect the port of Brisbane. The sites included anti-aircraft guns and mine control buildings.
Between 1952 and 1962, Tangalooma, on the western side of the island, was the site of Queensland's only whaling station, with humpback whales being harvested in tragic numbers on their migration north.
The site of the station is now the Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort. The flensing deck is part of the resort, but presents no fear to the creatures. The island is now a friendly place for them.
There are many activities on Moreton. Feeding dolphins, snorkelling in shipwrecks and parasailing. Camping and 4WD vehicles are permitted. Motor vehicle access is by ferry for 4WD vehicles only, as there are no sealed roads on the island.
The Tangalooma wrecks on the western side offer sheltered diving and snorkelling around 15 year old dredges and barges which were sunk 35 years ago to create a breakwater for boat anchorage. Since that time, many species of temperate and tropical fish have made their home amongst the hard coral growing on the wrecks.
A number of habitats are supported on Moreton Island beach and dune communities, the rocky headland, lakes, streams, sedge and paperbark swamps, Banksia heathlands, open woodlands, forests, mangroves and salt marshes. Birdlife includes the red-capped dotterel and thousands of waders which live along the beaches and in the wetlands and scrub.
Moreton Island has three small townships Bulwer, Cowan and Kooringal and the large tourist resort Tangalooma. It is serviced by three barges the Combie Trader from Scarborough to Bulwer, Micat from Whyte Island to Tangalooma Wrecks and Kooringal Trader from Amity Point to Kooringal.
The Combie Trader II leaves Scarborough Harbour on the Redcliffe Peninsula, just north of Brisbane. It operates six days a week, carrying vehicles and passengers. The two-hour journey on the 35-metre ferry is relaxing and there is a licensed canteen on the middle deck. Views of Moreton Bay from the upper bridge deck are spectacular.
MiCat Moreton Island is a vehicular ferry business which transports 4WDs, passengers and freight to Moreton Island. The 58-metre luxury vessel cost $10 million and has the capacity to carry over 500 passengers and 52 vehicles. It visits Moreton Island twice a day and is a great way to begin a holiday.
Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort has around 200 rooms, with options for every budget. Deep Blue 4.5-star luxury beachfront apartments have views of Moreton Bay and Glasshouse Mountains. Close to the nightly wild dolphin hand feeding location, they have a private outdoor recreational, entertainment and barbecue area.
In subtropical settings, the air-conditioned apartments have European stainless steel appliances, quality finishes, lift access, use of a private pool and optional lock-up garage.
Kookaburra Lodge has 96 air-conditioned rooms with private balcony, lifts and most have ocean views.
Resort Suites have been renovated and are now air-conditioned, have new floors and large, sliding windows. There is a dining table and kitchenettes have ovens and bar fridge. They have one queen bed and three single beds.
Villas are fully self-contained two-bedroom, two-storey townhouses with cooking and laundry facilities. They have absolute beachfront and two private balconies with great views. They sleep eight.
Things to do there are quad bike tours, whale watching cruises, jet skiing, scuba diving and snorkelling, parasailing, sand tobogganing, spa, squash, tennis and beach bikes.
The Marine Research & Education Centre was set up as an activity centre, combined with education and research facilities. It supports the dolphin care and feeding program and is the first contact for guests wishing to take part in the feeding.