A Sydneysider does Moreton Island

I’m growing to love Queensland more and more these days. There are people reading this who will have a shot at me for that! As a Sydneysider, I have some of the most beautiful beaches relatively close to home and enjoy them whenever I can with the family. It’s nice to pass on the way I grew up with the kiddies.

But, and it’s a big one, if you want to take two things my family love, camping and the beach and combine them, it isn’t as easy down here.  

Over the last 6 months I got to spend my fair share of time north of the border. The first was Moreton Island tagging along with The Offroad Adventure Show. Whilst it was a short trip, it definitely gave the Ziflian family a taste and we will almost certainly be back before the end of the year for a week at least!

Given we were heading up as a family, our Track Trailer Tvan was coming along. This was a slight concern for me, which I’ll talk more about later.

How was it? Thoroughly amazing! Warm, beautiful water and the ability to camp within a few strides of it. Some nice easy off-roading to add to the adventure and the ability to get to any corner of the island within an hour or so.

Superb camping just strides to the water’s edge with The Offroad Adventure Show

Getting There

This is a story on its own. The East coast was copping an absolute battering at the time and it seemed to be well concentrated pretty much right where we were heading! Once we got the final running order for the few days we were going to be there, I got to making the appropriate bookings for camping and vehicle access. We chose the North West camping zone – given that it’s on the sheltered side of the island, ease of access and plenty of sprawl space pretty much on the waters edge. Jumping on the Mulgumpin Camping website, I was able to book the site as well as the vehicle permits that were required for just over $100 for 3 nights – I’d come to realise afterwards what amazing value this was.

The next step was booking passage over on the Micat Ferry which departs from the Port of Brisbane, the cost was about $111 each way. Not inexpensive, particularly in comparison to the cost of camping, but the boat was clean, well maintained and had on board air-hoses for inflation which was very handy on the return leg.

Given we were commuting from Sydney with said family, the intent was to do a stop or two. The Coffs region was a logical choice and given it was a weekend when we were heading up, it meant there was plenty for the kids to do in the area. Getting closer to our planned departure, the weather took a real turn for the worse, with a predicted 100mm of rain and a king tide the day we were to arrive. The prospect of navigating an island I’d never been too, with a trailer and the kids in tow, then setting up and living in pouring rain was less than attractive.

Ultimately we decided not to go ahead with the planned Sunday arrival, and I was really thankful that I was able to adjust my booking with Micat (for a small fee). Travel bookings were adjusted and we decided to stay at Woolgoolga Beach Holiday Park for the weekend. Despite the weather, we were in a basic but comfy cabin with great amenities right by the water and even got a swim or two in during the stay.  

Monday morning we hit the road bright and early to get the 1pm Micat ferry over to Moreton. Old Murphy was there to greet us though, with gale force winds predicted for the Moreton Bay region. We witnessed every bit of that forecast as we killed some time at a local shopping centre, with trees getting blown over and the entire region blacking out! A short trip to fuel up before getting on the island (you can get fuel on the island but it’s quite expensive) was a little more challenging than I’d like as a result of the blackout, but we were soon in the queue at the ferry terminal, airing down and ready to board!

The Micat Ferry

The terminal for the ferry was easy to find and the staff were very helpful despite the weather throwing out timings and just generally making everything a bit of a drag. I took the time to air down here and do some last minute checks in preparation for boarding. One thing I’ll say is I don’t fair very well on boats and was pretty nervous about it, but the 1 hour-ish trip was pretty smooth and easy (and the pills helped!)

So I’ll be honest, the weather and disembarking on sand was something I was a little apprehensive about. I was coming off on my own, with the trailer and onto a sand island. I did find a great Facebook page called Everything Moreton & Fraser Island where I was able to ask some questions and they were quite informative – the power of social media! But it didn’t prevent the jitters and fear of ending up back on the same page bogged to the axles in the Club 4X4 Raptor! I decided to take a conservative approach, despite knowing that the recent rain was going to see the sand more hardpacked and easier to navigate. At the terminal I had aired down our Toyo’s to 17psi front axle, 18psi rear axle and 16 psi on the trailer. Thankfully an elegant disembarking of the ferry and a short trip up the beach on an incoming tide was simple on the hard packed sand. I decided to duck into the inland track to play it safe, as I really wasn’t sure how far up I was needing to go and was keen to get setup and have a swim with the kids.

The Campsite

The Northwest camping zone is well known for being a protected and open area close to the beach – which seemed a good option with the kids. It only took about 25 minutes to get there from the ferry and we were lucky enough to have a spot right by the water. So a quick setup of the Tvan and ensuite tent (there are no facilities at this camp zone) and it was into the brine with the littlies.

The Tvan made for a great base camp at the North Western Camp zone

The water here is so incredibly clean and the WW2 bunkers dotted up the beach serve as a great reminder of the history of the place. I have to say, having never actually set the ensuite up – it was a welcome addition to the setup with a hot shower greatly appreciated by all after a day in the saltwater and out on the tracks.

With the right tyre pressure the Rapor and Tvan towed beautifully

Activities

So the schedule was jam packed and there’s good reason why I want to go back. Some time to just kick back and enjoy the surroundings, have a fish and a swim would be great as a recharge.

Our first stop was to meet the Offroad Adventure Show team at the wrecks near Tangalooma for a swim and a snorkel. This is a popular part of the island, with kayaks for hire or tours to participate in. It was high tide when we got there which meant a bit of a swim in current out to the wrecks, so the kids stayed down near the beach and played which was still great fun. Driving inland over to the east coast of the island on the inland tracks gives you a sense of the size of the place and proved to have a couple of sections where a bit of momentum and right pedal helped, but I never felt like we’d get into any trouble, even when traversing them on our own. Bear in mind though a good compliment of recovery gear including recovery tracks like our Tred Pro’s is a must out here in case you do find yourself in trouble. If all else fails, there is a recovery expert on the Island though and we did see him pull out a later model Discovery which was dropping a vessel in off the beach on one of the days. I spent a lot of the time in high range, but as I mentioned before, the island is known for soft sand particularly during long dry spells.

Entry points to inland tracks can be very soft

The west coast was definitely more wild and open to the elements, but what struck me was the private little campsites dotted along the beach there. I will definitely consider them for the privacy factor and remoteness when I go back, but they’re definitely not as calm and serene as the North West zone.

Jamie checking some crossings on the way to Cape Moreton Lighthouse

The trip up to the lighthouse was an interesting one. With an incoming tide, we ducked inland, but at the top of the island came across some pretty deep water crossings. Jamie did the right thing and walked them (I think he quite enjoyed that really) and ultimately we decided that the bottom was too soft and they were just too deep to pass without risking the vehicles. With the tide pretty much at its peak, it meant we couldn’t proceed via the inland route.

Taking a break as the tide receded

The advice on Moreton is not to travel for 2 hours either side of the high tide – and it’s wise to observe this. This can cause uncertainty and may result in a tendency to rush, or worse, see you stuck. But here’s the kicker and something to remember when planning a trip here. It’s OK! All it meant was we cracked out some snacks, a drink and some coffee and swam for a couple of hours until the tide retreated! The white sand and the turquoise water was incredible at this part of the island, so everyone enjoyed the time out.

It’s really something I took away – at home you’re always thinking about the next meeting, the next thing you need to do and you’re pacing yourself at each step to make sure you don’t forget anything or run late. If you go somewhere like Moreton with that attitude you’re doing yourself a disservice. I guess this is why we all love the off-roading and camping caper right?

Cape Moreton Lighthouse – originally a NSW light

The walk up to the lighthouse was beautiful, with a pod of dolphins and a group of sea turtles to watch in the distance, along with a great story about a lighthouse that was actually built as a NSW light before Queensland became its own colony! The latter was a fun fact to repeat on the way back to camp on the radio! The day wound out with one of the most beautiful sunsets I’d seen with drinks nibbles and lots of laughs.

Afternoon nibbles
Enjoying a beautiful sunset

Tangalooma

Following a spot of lunch at Castaways after filming the next morning, we headed over to Tangalooma Island Resort to round out the trip. With the water tank in the Tvan depleted, the girls were excited at the prospect of a hot shower at the end of the day, but not before some activities!

The first cab off the rank was quad biking. The team at Tangalooma have done a really great job here, with a mix of pre-formed tracks for the adrenaline junkies to try out, but also the chance to tour around parts of the property and drink in the great views of the resort and the ocean. After some white knuckled fun for my eldest who was riding with me, it was time for some dinner at the restaurant before the hotly anticipated final activity of the trip, wild dolphin feeding.

Quad biking at Tangalooma Island resort was white knuckled fun!

Incredibly, these dolphins visit the shores of the resort near the jetty each evening and provide an opportunity to get up close to these magnificent creatures. We had the opportunity to wade into the water up to waist level and feed Tinkerbell and her offspring, Scout.  This was such a magical experience. To have them come over, take the small fish from mine and my eldest’s hand, then brush up against us as if to say hello is an experience that I’ll remember for a very long time to come. If you ever get a chance, this is highly recommended.

And what a wonderful way to end our short trip – the Ziflian’s are hooked and we will be back.

If you’ve ever thought about it, stop thinking. Pack your fourby grab your family or friends and head up to Moreton Island – I reckon you just may like it as much as we did!

Queensland, you do alright!

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