WANT a 4x4 getaway as close as possible to Brissy? Well, at 40km from the centre of Brisbane, Moreton Island fits that bill.
The location isn’t its only appeal, as Moreton Island’s 18,000 hectares contain plenty for a weekend escape, whether you’re a swimmer (the island’s lakes make great swimming spots; confine your surf/beach swimming to the area at Main Beach that has surf lifesaving patrols), diver, angler, camper, bushwalker or a combo of all of these (plus, there’s activities such as sand tobogganing on the huge dunes).
Add in the fact that all the ‘roads’ on the island are sand (there are no sealed-surface routes here; the sand here is often very soft) and you’ve got a brilliant overnight or weekend off-road touring destination that is, quite literally, right on the city’s doorstep.
The island is reached via the Micat (Moreton Island Adventures) ferry that runs daily from Brisbane (the Port of Brisbane, to be exact) to the island’s central western coastline (The Wrecks). From here it’s onto the beach.
As expected, the island’s beach-driving conditions are governed heavily by both the tides and the weather in general; big storms can wash away large sections of beach, so it pays to check online at the Queensland Department of National Parks for the latest track/beach conditions, and also to book your vehicle access and camping permits.
Our tip for a worry-free beach-driving experience is to make sure your planned beach driving happens around two hours either side of low tide only – there’d be nothing worse than joining the reasonably long list of vehicles Moreton’s beaches have claimed.
The island has five campgrounds, all of which have toilets, showers and bore water (make sure you treat or boil this water before consumption or use with cooking). There are a further five camping ‘zones’ (beach-based, mainly). Campfires are not permitted on the beaches here (you can have fires in designated fire pits at campgrounds, but you will need to bring your own wood in).
For anglers, you need to be aware that parts of Moreton Island’s coastline are encompassed inside the Moreton Bay Marine National Park, so fishing is not allowed in those areas.
Explore: Moreton Island Fishing Classic
In terms of an overnight or weekend drive/camping adventure, we’d head north once the ferry has deposited you and your rig at The Wrecks. You have the option here (if the tide dictates) to take the high tide tracks at Cowan Cowan and Cravens Creek and then return to the beach for the rest of the trip north to Bulwer and the pretty Comboyuro Point campground.
The Bulwer North Point Road (sand) takes you across the island’s northern section, passing some beach access tracks along the way (as well as the must-visit Five Hills Lookout, a viewpoint atop a huge sand dune that provides a vista that takes in Heath Island) before you reach two potential overnight stays: Yellow Patch and, just a bit farther along, North Point campgrounds and the island’s famous historic Cape Moreton Lighthouse.
For those towing camper trailers, the best option is to take the Bulwer Blue Lagoon Road to the Blue Lagoon campground and to access the east coast. Time your visit for whale-watching season (June to late October) and you’ll easily spot those big boppers from here.
The next day’s drive down the eastern coastline of Moreton is awesome; there are more camping opportunities once you’re south of Spitfire Creek, but we’d continue on to beautiful Blue Lagoon, with its nice campground and fantastic swimming. This lake is the island’s biggest (and often most popular), but it’s well worth a stopover.
Also worth a pause as you continue south along this eastern coastline is the Rous Battery site. This World War II defence site is now in ruins, but it offers a great chance to get the young’uns out of the vehicle for a bit of exploration as they search for the remnants of the structure.
More Brisbane Escapes weekend suggestions
For even more family entertainment – whether young or old – the Little Sandhills and, a couple of kays south of these, the Big Sandhills offer both great views from their lofty heights (80m-plus) and the chance to try an activity synonymous with Moreton: sand tobogganing.
The island’s southernmost point includes Mirapool Lagoon (a top spot for birdwatchers) and then, on the southwestern side, Kooringal, which is the landing point for the ferry to North Stradbroke Island. It is here you need to make a decision: the beach north of Kooringal is far more challenging (and often impassable) so you can opt to backtrack and take the eastern beach-side drive again up to the Middle Track turn-off, which takes you back overland to The Wrecks and the ferry back to Brissy. Or, you can jump on the ferry back at Kooringal to our next Brisbane escape…