Moreton Island is the best holiday destination if you want to be secluded on the sand within an hour or so of Brisbane.
Your guide to another side of the island is here.
The Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast are packed with Brisbanites when the weekend rolls around, looking for a beach escape without leaving the creature comforts of the city.
But if you want to get stuck into a long weekend or for the school holidays, Moreton Island is the closest thing to a secluded paradise – and you don’t even have to rough it.
While the resort at Tangalooma might be okay for the tourists, locals can avoid the crowds and still sleep in a proper bed – Castaways’ boutique glamping tents give you all the comforts of home, surrounded by island paradise.
Limited to eleven tents, you won’t be bumping into too many of your fellow island hoppers if you’ve come to get away from it all - but our Destination Guide has your complete rundown on what to expect in Moreton Island’s most exclusive address.
Leaving Brisbane in the morning, you can be on Moreton Island with time for a swim before lunch, but there are some necessities to pack before you jump on the barge.
If you’re driving yourself, you’ll have to pick up a ticket for the ferry – fares start from $199 for standard 4WDs, the driver and one passenger (off-peak bookings.) Moreton Island Adventures can also arrange your Vehicle Access Permit to let you drive on the island, if you haven’t already gone online to buy one.
Check the tides before you go, driving down the beach will be a lot easier if you’re not fighting against the tide. Because mobile reception is patchy at best, bring a physical tide guide (even take a screenshot on your phone for the dates of your trip!)
If you are taking your own vehicle, make sure to take an adequate recovery kit for beach driving – a shovel, vehicle recovery tracks, snatch straps, tyre deflator and maybe a compressor to pump your tyres back up once you’re back on the road in Brisbane (although there are four air hoses on the MICAT for you to use, as well as a petrol station down the road from the ferry.)
Outside of the resort, there is no readily available potable tap water available on Moreton – the water collection points around the island are useful to refill your camp shower or do the dishes, but because it’s untreated; you’ll want to save space for a few litres of drinking water in your luggage.
If you’re planning on telling some stories around the campfire, make sure to bring firewood – the general store at Bulwer stocks some, but if you want to have a fire each night fill up a tub before you head out. You’re allowed to bring an axe (no chainsaws) to split your own wood and cut kindling, but because you’re in a national park, you can’t collect firewood from the island.
Bringing kids? You might find Moreton Island beautiful, but they might not find the peace and quiet as interesting. Still, there are miles of open beaches to wander and rock pools to explore! At night, bring a torch so they can hunt for sandcrabs, or for younger ones, it might help to pack a bag of toys and activities if they have any energy left after a big day exploring!
Thankfully, the MICAT barge takes care of a lot of the heavy lifting to get to Moreton Island. But it is an easy drive to get out to Port of Brisbane – there’s never too much traffic on the way out.
Caltex Lytton is the final place to get fuel on the mainland – Bulwer’s General Store only sells fuel in 20L drums, so fill up the tank before you get onto the island and you should be set.
Crossing Moreton Bay, especially early in the morning, is very relaxing. The trip over is a bit different than going to Brisbane’s other island getaway, Fraser – for one thing, you can be on Moreton Island before brunch with the barge doing all the driving – you can sit back and relax with a coffee. You get on to the island in half the time of getting to Fraser, a lot more relaxed than if you’d spent a few hours battling traffic up the Bruce Highway, and using a lot less fuel!
We stayed in the four person Glamping Tents at Castaways – with a very comfy king bed and two full-size bunk beds for the kids, all freshly made with clean linen, towels; the full hotel treatment – even complete with cosy mood solar lighting!
Our tent came equipped with an ensuite bathroom – fitted out with a full pressure hot shower, as well as a flushing toilet.
There was even a full size trampoline just outside the tent – kids loved it, plus some nice grassy areas to run around. The communal firepit was a real hit when the sun went down and the marshmallows came out!
The tents at Bulwer are located about 20 minutes’ drive up the beach from the MICAT landing near the Tangalooma Wrecks. They back onto Castaways General Store where the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful and can help you with breakfast, lunch and dinner or there is a fully stocked camp kitchen where you can prepare all your meals – it is really up to you how lazy you are feeling. The communal kitchen includes a couple of fridges so you can leave your food for a few days.
The camp is incredibly quiet and relaxing – wake up to the birds chirping, at night, when it is clear, you can see so many stars and see Brisbane glowing on the horizon. During the day, you can watch the container ships passing through the bay from the beach with the northern half of the island open for exploration from your base at Bulwer.
From the Glamping Tents, you can zip around Moreton Island and explore:
Moreton Island is the perfect weekend escape, you can Escape the Fake by bringing your own (or hiring) a 4X4 to cross the island, take part in some world class fishing, get out in a kayak or canoe (available for hire from the shop), or just chill out on the beach and head for a swim.
If you can drag yourself off the beach to take a day trip, pack lunch for everyone (or have the team at Castaways pack you a picnic lunch), jump in the 4WD and leave on the inland Bulwer-North Point Rd, passing through wetlands and vast areas of native flora and fauna on the tracks before hitting the beach at Yellow Patch.
Drive a bit further north, and loop around the top of the island to the stunning North Point. If the tide is low, you can drive right out to the rocks. Make sure you take a dip in the Champagne Pools – where when the tide / swell combine, you get an occasional dunking of fresh water over the rocks, creating a natural Jacuzzi. From here, there are a number of rock pools full of colourful plant life, crabs and small tropical fish.
A short walk from North Point is the stunning Honeymoon Bay. This iconic beach is one of Moreton’s most remote and hard to get to beaches, but arguably its most stunning. With its beach largely protected from the large southerly swells and wind, it can we an ideal spot for lunch, out of the wind.
You can’t come this far and not make it up to the Moreton Island lighthouse – the first lighthouse built in Queensland back in 1857. This is a great spot to capture your Instagram moments – not to mention an awesome platform to spot migrating whales.
A short drive down from Cape Moreton and you are on the Eastern Beach. Where you join the beach is Harpers’ Rocks, an interesting spot for a rock climb to discover some hidden beaches, rock pools and check out its unique landscape.
If the surf is a little rough (it is unpatrolled – safer swimming at North Point usually), Blue Lagoon is well worth a visit. Blue Lagoon is a sand-bottomed lake in the middle of the island formed through the natural catchment of rainwater over thousands of years. Infused with natural tea tree oils, the fresh water and white sand make it a great place to cool off (the locals say the soft tea-tree oil-filled waters make you appear years younger!).
As you rejoin the beach, head south down to Middle Road. This is the main road back to the Western Beach. Half way along the track is a stop that will let you climb Mt Tempest, the highest vegetated coastal sand dune in the world, standing tall at 285m. Once you reach the top, you have unrestricted 360 degree views from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane.
Rejoining Middle Road, head back to the Western Beach. As you hit the beach, turn left and you can drive down to the Tanglooma Wrecks. It is probably getting late in the day, so a lovely spot for a quick snorkel, swim or quiet drink to watch the sunset over the wrecks.
If you've been there, done that and taken an Instagram, check out Visit Brisbane for more Island inspiration.
One of the least favourite parts of camping – the pack up – is easily sorted when you glamp at Castaways. Simply pack up your clothes, load up the car and you’re away.
Our advice is to take three nights to fully unwind on Moreton – but if you can’t swing a long weekend, two nights will at least let you get some sun and sand before you head back home.
Make sure bring your camera – the sunsets on the western side across Moreton Bay are spectacular, as well as some extra bags of marshmallows for the firepit!
To book your glamping getaway, book online with Moreton Island Adventures' Escape Team or get connected straight through to the Island on 07 3909 3333.
And to get your 4X4 ready to explore the great South East, see the team at Motorama- who can make sure all you have to worry about is vacuuming out the sand.