Moreton Island

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The spectacularly beautiful Moreton Island is a mere 40 kilometres or so east of Brisbane but the contrast with the hustle and bustle of Queensland’s capital city could scarcely be greater. This still-pristine island, which is 98% national park, might well have been ‘built’ for grey nomads (or at least the ones that don’t mind a bit of sand driving). It offers breathtaking scenery, abundant wildlife, mind-boggling bushwalking, fridge-filling fishing, idyllic camping … and, perhaps best of all, no sealed roads!

If you’re looking for a safe haven to chill out after a long spell on the bitumen on your way north or south, then this is most definitely the place for you.

OVERVIEW
The island – reputedly the third largest sand island in the world – covers an area of approximately 170 square kilometres, and extends for 38 kilometres from north to south. At its widest point, it is eight kilometres across. At least five lighthouses have been built on the island and the many shipwrecks littering the coastline offer clues as to why even more were probably needed!

Moreton boasts what can only be described as ‘Western Australia-standard’ white sandy beaches, as well as sparkling freshwater lakes and lagoons – including the stunning Blue Lagoon. The highest point on the island is the 280-metre high Mount Tempest which is apparently the highest coastal sandhill in the world. Nearby – at a trifling 264 metres – is Storm Mountain, which is presumably the second highest coastal sandhill in the world.

WHAT TO DO
Now, talk of all these monster sand dunes brings us neatly on to the activities that are available for you to pursue on Moreton Island. If your grandchildren are tired of you emailing them pictures of you bungee jumping or – yawn – skydiving, or – zzzzzzzzz – abseiling down a sheer cliff face, it’s about time you got their attention again by toboganning down a sand mountain at …um … breakneck speed. I told you this island was ‘built’ for grey nomads, didn’t I?

Joking apart, for those of you who have chosen to hang up your daredevil boots, there are plenty of more sedate – but far from sedentary – pastimes available to keep you busy. Foremost among them are snorkelling and diving, bird watching, bushwalking, fishing, and even dolphin feeding.

In the waters around the island you can see humpback whales during their migration from June to November, green turtles and dugongs. For bird watching enthusiasts there are reportedly some 125 species of sea, wetland and forest birds … so don’t forget your binoculars.

Right then, with no sealed roads, and on an island as magnificent as this, the bushwalking is obviously going to be outstanding. The island is laced with walking tracks, ranging from short, easy strolls to half-day hikes. They can take you past coastal heath, rocky headlands and abundant wildflowers, and to some stunning spots including Cape Moreton Lighthouse, Honeyeater Lake, Five Hills Lookout, the Blue Lagoon and Mount Tempest.

And what about this no-roads business? If you’re bringing your own wheels, high-clearance 4WDs are the only realistic way to go, and then you are free to explore the inland tracks and move along the 40 kilometre beach at will. All vehicles though must have a valid Moreton Island Recreation Area vehicle access permit (VAP) which costs $39.35 for one month and $197.20 for one year.

Obviously, you will also need to make sure your sand driving skills are up the mark as you explore the island at your leisure. For those, however, who have chosen not to bring their own vehicle across, there are naturally a variety of 4WD tours and trips available.

After a big day fishing, snorkeling, toboganning, bushwalking and exploring, a great place to set up camp is naturally a must and Moreton delivers in style … and it even offers eco stay options as well.

Right then, camping. First the bad news, camping is prohibited in all areas besides the five designated campgrounds and five designated camping zones that are marked with a totem. Now the good news. These are all superb camping spots and most of them offer basic facilities and most allow campfires in designated fireplaces. Camping fees are $5.15 per person per night but you must obtain a camping permit in advance.

There are four small settlements on the island and the Bulwer General Store is where you can buy fuel, firewood, fill up your gas bottle and get other basic supplies.

All in all, as a grey nomad destination … and an adventurous one at that … Moreton Island ticks all of the boxes and then some. It is beautiful, exciting and endlessly interesting. While its geography and its lack of ‘proper’ roads make it challengingly remote, its beauty and its ever-changing appeal ensure that, wherever you venture, you won’t be too far away from other travellers with whom you have something in common. After all, if nothing else, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll all be in love with the magic of Moreton Island.

GETTING THERE … AND BACK
The only vehicular ferry service from Brisbane to Moreton Island is the drive-on, drive-off MICAT service which is run by Moreton Island Adventures. The purpose-built vessel carries up to 52 vehicles and 400 passengers across Moreton for 364 days of the year.

WHERE TO CAMP
• The Wrecks campground is accessible by 4WD but vehicle must be left on the beach leaving a short walk to the camping spots. It is not accessible for campers with trailers, caravans or buses.
• Ben-Ewa campground is accessible for trailers and caravans. It is located in a valley on the western side of the island and offers protection from strong winds.
• Comboyuro Point campground is also on the western side of island and is within walking distance of Bulwer township. There are a maximum of 49 sites here and it is accessible for trailers and caravans.
• North Point campground is located at the northern tip of the island, is close to surf beach and within walking distance to Honeymoon Bay. It can however only be reached by 4WD and is not accessible for trailers or caravans.
• On the eastern side of island, Blue Lagoon campground is within easy access to ocean surf beach and is within walking distance to Blue Lagoon. The campground can be reached by 4WD and although it is accessible for trailers and caravans, access via Middle Road is not recommended as this track is one-way and narrow and the soft sand makes it easy for heavy vehicles to get bogged.

There are also five beach camping zones. The North-west camping zone and the Yellow Patch camping zone are both accessible for trailers and caravans. Vans and trailers can also be taken to the South-west camping zone and the South-east camping zones but access via the single-laned Middle Road is not recommended for these larger rigs. Finally, the North-east camping zone can be reached only by 4WD, on foot, boat and kayaks.

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