How to Plan your Trip to Moreton Island/Mulgumpin, Queensland
In this first of a three-part series, we’re going to dive into the best that Queensland’s Moreton Island/Mulgumpin has to offer and plan the ultimate four-wheel driving holiday.
Moreton Island/Mulgumpin is the third-largest sand island in the world, and is jam-packed with history, wildlife and adventure-ready attractions — and as it is only 60km from Brisbane, it’s a great destination for a day trip, weekend jaunt or longer stay.
The island is a naturally formed sand formation and is 37km long and 9km at its widest point. It is also part of the traditional country of the Nughi people and has a long rich history that makes for a history-lover’s paradise.
Moreton Island is one of Queensland’s four main sand islands: K’gari (Fraser Island) is the largest, followed by North Stradbroke Island/Minjerribah. Moreton Island comes in third, but with a total coverage of approximately 190,000 hectares, there’s plenty to see and do, from exploring the rich history to sand tobogganing, four-wheel driving and fabulous bushwalks. The fourth sand island is Bribie Island (Yarun), which is another great spot for day-trippers.
Like K’gari and North Stradbroke, Moreton is almost entirely made up of massive sand deposits that were swept against Cape Moreton at its northeast corner over tens of thousands of years and shaped by continuous southeast trade winds into rolling sandplains and tall dunes.
There are four small settlements on Moreton Island — too small to count as towns really — and all are located on the western side of the island. Bulwer is at the northwest corner, Cowan Cowan is approximately 4km south of this, Tangalooma Resort in the central west and Kooringal near the southwest tip. A variety of small holiday rentals or forms of accommodation can be found throughout these settlements for those travelling without a camper.
The Tangalooma Resort
The Tangalooma Resort settlement is the largest of the group and is the main access point for visitors arriving via the ferry and offers approximately 300 rooms, varying from hotel units, villas and apartments.
Almost the entire island — 95 per cent — is a designated Recreation Area, including the Gheebulum Kunungai (Moreton Island) National Park and the Cape Moreton Conservation Park, to protect the island’s natural environment right down to the highwater mark on the beaches. The waters and tidal wetlands around the island for up to three nautical miles offshore are protected as part of the Moreton Bay Marine Park which is managed by QPWS. Anglers should note that the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) regulates recreational and commercial fishing and bait collection in the marine park, including setting bag limits. Boating within the marine park and around Moreton Island is largely unrestricted, and recreational line fishing and crabbing is permitted barring national park zones. More information can be found on the QPWS website or the DAF website.
With crystal clear waters, endless sand dunes, vibrant marine life and iconic attractions such as Honeymoon Bay, Champagne Pools and Cape Moreton Lighthouse, the island has something to offer everyone.
How to get there
There are three ways to reach Moreton Island — by vehicle barge, passenger ferry or private vessel (boat, plane or helicopter).
Vehicle and passenger service crossings take approximately 75–90 minutes, and bookings are essential for all services. The ferries and barges operate daily on a demand-based timetable, but in peak seasons there are extra services.
Please note, if you’re wanting to take a vehicle and perhaps a camper trailer to the island for a weekend in the summer, it’s advised to book at least four weeks ahead of time. If the trip is during the September, Easter or Christmas school holidays, MICAT recommends booking six months in advance.
With a camper trailer and/or 4WD
If you’re visiting Moreton Island with your camper in tow, the Moreton Island Adventures (MICAT) vehicle barge is your go-to.
The barge departs from the Port of Brisbane and arrives at Tangalooma Wrecks.
For bookings call 07 3909 3333 or head online here.
Passenger or walk-on:
The two main passenger ferry operators are:
Moreton Island Adventures (MICAT) departs from 14 Howard Smith Drive, Whyte Island (Port of Brisbane, Brisbane River southside) and arrives at Tangalooma Wrecks.
P: 07 3909 3333
Tangalooma Island Resort Fleet departs from Holt Street, Pinkenba (Brisbane River northside) for resort guests and day-trippers only.
P: 1300 652 250/07 3637 2000
There are a number of other commercial and charter operators that also provide passenger transport to the island.
It’s recommended to book at least a week before your trip but allow two weeks or more during peak periods.
If you’re visiting with a boat but no camper or car, you can make your own way to the island for day trips and camping — however, permits are still required.
There are limits on accessing the island via private plane or helicopter, so ensure you plan accordingly.
When to visit
The island enjoys a subtropical climate and is camping-friendly all year round, so there’s no single ‘best time of year’ to visit. Autumn is great for clear blue skies and prime swimming and snorkelling experiences, while September is a good option for whale watching. The only times of year to truly consider are the peak periods in December–January, and the Easter and September school holidays, as this is when the island’s visitor population spikes and you may have trouble finding a camp.
Before you set sail with your camper, you will need to organise a camping and vehicle permit to enter Moreton Island (fees apply).
These are organised through Mulgumpin Camping:
P: 07 3506 2371
If you want to deep dive into the beautiful Moreton Island and the other islands near Brisbane, check out Hema Maps’ new release, the K’gari (Fraser Island) and the Brisbane Islands Atlas & Guide.
Coming up next:
In the next article we’re going to take a look at some of the best places to camp on the island — ranging from family-friendly campgrounds with calm bay waters for swimming to secluded camp sites only reached at low tide.
At Hema Maps, we strive to provide the most comprehensive and accurate maps and guides for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore Australia's natural wonders.
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