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What to do on Moreton Island (Mulgumpin), Queensland


Words Amelia Mansell Pics Chris Whitelaw and Supplied

Now that you’ve arrived on the island and set up camp, it’s time to explore the third-largest sand island in the world!


North West Beach, Moreton Island (Mulgumpin), Queensland

North West Beach, Moreton Island (Mulgumpin), Queensland


Moreton Island (Mulgumpin) is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise and is visited by more than 170,000 people each year, making it one of the 10 most visited areas managed by the QPWS. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life or an adventure along the island’s sandy terrain, there’s something for everyone on Moreton Island. 

In the first two parts of this series, we covered key information on how to get to the island and the required permits, as well as some of the best campgrounds to stay at during your visit.

Now, we’ll kick the adventure into full throttle and discover some of the best activities you can enjoy during your time on the third-largest sand island in the world. 

While Moreton Island can be enjoyed as a day trip from Brisbane, the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast, we recommend giving yourself a few days or more to truly experience all this fabulous island has to offer. 


Sand tobogganing

Moreton Island’s sand dunes offer an exciting and perhaps first-time experience for many visitors — sand tobogganing. All you’ll need is a waxed board (or even a cardboard box if you’re in a pinch) and moderate fitness and balance to tackle some of the world’s tallest sand dunes. 


Sand tobogganing at Moreton Island by TEQ

Sand tobogganing at The Desert (Credit: TEQ)


Once you reach the top, all you’ve got to do is lie down on the board, push off and let gravity do the rest. Be warned, this is considered an extreme sport by some, and you will reach speeds of up to 60km/h, so this isn’t for the faint of heart! The rule of thumb is the higher you climb the faster you’ll come down. 

For those wanting to challenge themselves, bring a sand board (like a snowboard) and ‘surf’ down the dune.

If tobogganing isn’t down your alley, the dunes can still offer a spectacular experience if you climb to the top — the views are worth the effort. 

Sand tobogganing can be enjoyed at The Desert near Tangalooma Island Resort and at the Big and Little Sandhills in the island’s south. The Desert and Little Sandhills are better suited for beginners and kids, while the Big Sandhills — which reach up to 90 metres — have longer, steeper slopes. 

There are several Brisbane-based tour operators that include sand tobogganing in their Moreton Island trips or organise one through the Tangalooma Resort. But if you’ve got your own gear and vehicle, you can organise your own adventure — just remember to take plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat. 

Four-wheel driving

There are no sealed roads on Moreton Island, and all four-wheel drive vehicles should have high clearance and low range function. You’ll be greeted by deep, soft sand as soon as you leave the MICAT barge ramp and drive onto Tangalooma Beach, so ensure your tyre pressures have been reduced appropriately and lock in your hubs (the MICAT has air hoses to reinflate tyres on your return journey). 


Ploughing soft sand at a beach access point

Ploughing soft sand at a beach access point


All vehicles must be registered and have a valid Mulgumpin vehicle access permit displayed on the windscreen (fees apply) — permits are organised via Mulgumpin Camping. Drivers must be licensed, and all Queensland road rules apply when driving around the island. 

Four-wheel drivers can explore the 70km+ of drivable beaches which connect the settlements on the island. And if the tides are in your favour, it’s possible to completely circumvent the island. There are distance markers (yellow triangles) every 2km along the eastern beach to help you navigate and judge the state of the tide. Avoid driving two hours either side of high tide, and often leave it even longer as some areas are more effected by tidal activity. Research your route appropriately before departure. 

There are five main island roads that will help you explore the heart of this beautiful island and reach its many campgrounds and attractions: the Tangalooma Bypass, Middle Road, Bulwer-North Point Road, Bulwer-Blue Lagoon Road and Mirapool Lagoon Bypass.


Navigating swamplands along the North Point Road

Navigating swamplands along the North Point Road


Stay safe on the sand

As Moreton Island is almost entirely made of sand — minus two small sections in the north — it’s important to have some basic sand driving techniques under your belt. 

The most important of which is to ensure you’re carrying recovery gear, as getting bogged in soft sand is easier than you might think.

Your recovery gear kit should include: 

  • Tyre pressure gauge
  • Long-handed hovel
  • Snatch strap
  • Tow rope
  • D shackles
  • Sand boards or traction mats
  • Air pump
  • Compressor
  • Jumper leads 
  • Puncture repair kits
  • First aid kit


    There is a private vehicle recovery service operating on Moreton Island: 

    Phone Lindsay on 0414 949 876 or 07 3408 3545, or John on 0475 563 642 or 07 3408 393.

    It’s also important to note that you’ll use up to 30 per cent more fuel when driving on sand, so ensure you’ve planned ahead as there is only one spot on the island to get fuel (Bulwer) and it isn’t always available. 

    For more information on sand driving, the Hema Maps K’gari (Fraser Island) and the Brisbane Islands Atlas & Guide offers plenty of helpful advice. 

    Best 4WD tracks

    Before heading off on a 4WDing adventure, always check the latest conditions report on the QPWS and be aware of tide times and weather conditions. 


    Northern & Southern Island Discovery Drive


    Northern Island Discovery Drive

    Grade: Medium
    Time: Six hours, plus time to stop and explore
    Distance: 50.3km circuit

    Starting from the MICAT vehicle barge near The Wrecks, this drive heads north along the island, stopping in at Cowan Cowan and Bulwer (don’t miss visiting the Bulwer Wrecks) before heading east along the top of the island along the Bulwer North Point Road towards Honeymoon Bay, Champagne Pools and Cape Moreton Lighthouse. Once you’ve ticked those locations off your bucket list, head down the eastern coast, visiting the many tidal and freshwater lagoons along the way. Take care not to be caught by the tide along this stretch and use the tide markers every 2km judiciously. Before you turn west again, detour to Mount Tempest and check out the walking trail to the summit for panoramic views across the island’s northern hinterland. Once you’ve taken some pics and caught your breath, head back to Middle Road and complete the last stretch back to The Wrecks. 


    Cape Moreton Lighthouse stands atop a sandstone cliff

    Cape Moreton Lighthouse stands atop a sandstone cliff

    Southern Island Discovery Drive
    Grade: Medium
    Time: Six hours, plus time to stop and explore
    Distance: 59.9km circuit

    Explore the southern end of the island with this fantastic drive, that will take you past sandblows, shipwrecks, oyster farms and the island’s various WWII military relics. Departing from The Wrecks, the circuit can be driven in either direction. 

    The circuit can be driven in either direction, but Hema Maps’ favourite route is departing from The Wrecks and heading towards The Desert — perfect for a spot of sand tobogganing if you’re game — then down along the western coastline to Kooringal before heading north back up the island’s east coast. There are distance markers every 2km along the beach to judge your location and monitor the tide. Stop in at Rous Battery to explore the remnants of the WWII artillery fort and then at White (Camel Rock) before continuing on to Middle Road which is a scenic trek back across the island to The Wrecks.


    The Desert carpark

    The Desert carpark


    There are plenty of bushwalking tracks around the island where you can immerse yourself in the area’s natural beauty, enjoy birdwatching or spot historic relics. The tracks can range from easy five-minute walks to longer routes that can take four hours or more to complete. 

    Here are our top picks:

    Rous Battery Track (3–4hrs/9.8km)
    This is the only formal walking track in the island’s southern half and follows part of the service road constructed during WWII to move troops, supplies and ammunition between Cowan Cowan and the Rous artillery fort. It departs from a trailhead near The Desert, and at the southern end there is a short detour to visit the remnants of the Rous Battery fort where walkers will also enjoy fantastic sea views. 

    Honeymoon Bay Track (20mins/700m return)
    This is another short walk and departs from North Point camping area. There are some attractions for history lovers to keep an eye out for, and stunning views over Honeymoon Bay, North Point and Cape Moreton.

    Mount Tempest Lookout Track (2hrs/2.5km return)
    This walk takes you up the world’s tallest coastal sand dune, meaning it’s long and steep with many sandy sections and steps. There are seats if you need to take a short break, but those who persevere will enjoy stunning panoramic views from the summit.

    Always ensure you have the appropriate gear, including plenty of drinking water, sunscreen and insect repellent before heading out on a bushwalk. And make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you expect to be back as there is not always mobile phone reception on the island, particularly the further inland you go. 


    The track to the top of Mt Tempest

    The track to the top of Mt Tempest


    Snorkelling, diving and fishing

    Moreton Island’s west coast features beautifully calm waters that make it the ideal spot to go snorkelling and diving to appreciate the aquatic environment and potentially spot some marine wildlife. 

    Dolphins and dugongs can often be seen in the western shallows, and if you visit between November and February, you might luck out and see the green and loggerhead turtles as they swim to and from their nesting sites on the island’s beaches. 

    Tangalooma and Bulwer wrecks are accessed from shore or from boats anchored in the adjacent channels. Swimmers should be cautious of strong rips and currents that are often present. It’s best to visit with another swimmer or join a guided snorkelling tour run through Tangalooma Resort. Alternatively, hire a glass-bottom canoe or kayak from Sunset Safaris on the beach to explore the area at your own pace.  


    The Tangalooma Wrecks

    This is a collection of 15 shipwrecks that were deliberately sunk in a row just off the beach north of the Tangalooma Resort in order to create an artificial breakwater. The wrecks vary from decommissioned barges and dregs to two former navy vessels, the HMAS Bermagui and HMAS Uki.

    The breakwater created by the wrecks provide calm waters for small recreational boats to set down anchor. The Wrecks has also become vastly popular as an artificial reef covered with coral formations that a bounty of marine life calls home. It’s a great spot to see colourful tropical fish, turtles, wobbegongs and dolphins while snorkelling or diving. 

    The Wrecks is also a popular location for recreational fishers seeking trevally, kingfish and yellowtail which are found around the reef. 


    The Tangalooma Wrecks Moreton Island by TEQ

    The Tangalooma Wrecks (Credit: TEQ)


    The Curtin Artificial Reef

    Located on the west side of Moreton Island, north of Cowan Cowan, this artificial reef was created over 30 years, starting in 1968, by the Underwater Research Group of Queensland, with the main purpose of creating a haven for tropical marine life and a site for the increasing interest in scuba diving.

    This reef is essentially a 40,000sqm underwater wrecking yard — comprised of 32 vessels, 2000 concrete pipes, 60 car bodies, tyres, pontoons, navigation buoys, a dry dock gate and a Brisbane tram — which now feature corals that support a thriving marine life. It’s Moreton Bay’s largest artificial reef, however, it is too deep for snorkelling and there are strong currents meaning it’s best explored by experienced divers.

    If you’re looking to do a spot of fishing, there’s plenty to find here, including trevally, kingfish and barracuda. Keep an eye out, as sharks, rays and turtles also inhabit the area.  

    The Bulwer Wrecks

    The Bulwer Wrecks are a popular spot for snorkellers looking to experience the island’s vibrant marine wildlife. The first three ships — the Kallatina, Hopewell and Mount Kembla — were scuttled just offshore from Bulwer in 1930 to create a breakwater for smaller boats. In 1938 a fourth ship, the 35-foot launch Achilles, joined the group after striking the Mount Kembla wreck during a storm.


    The adventure begins now

    If you haven’t already checked out the previous two parts of this Moreton Island series, they can be found here: 

    How to plan your trip to Moreton Island (Mulgumpin), Queensland

    A guide to camping on Moreton Island (Mulgumpin), Queensland

    And for an even deeper dive into Moreton Island and the other famous sand islands near Brisbane, the K’gari (Fraser Island) and the Brisbane Islands Atlas & Guide can be purchased on the Hema Maps website. 


    Related articles:

    How to Clean your 4WD after a Beach Trip?

    Hema’s guide to outback travel and survival

    4WD and Environmental Etiquette in Australia


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