If you have been to the Gold Coast or Brisbane and done all the run of the mill attractions, here is a day trip with a difference: Get Wrecked with tour operator Sunset Safaris.
So long as you don’t mind a full day out - getting off the mainland and onto the world’s third largest sand island - Moreton Island - is a great adventure for the whole family.
With a 5:45am pick up from the Gold Coast we boarded a tour bus via Brisbane to catch a catamaran across to Moreton Island that departed at 8:30am. It is a long morning, but with a bus driver at the wheel we took the opportunity to catch a few more moments of sleep before our big day.
The ride across to the island took about an hour and was fairly smooth sailing. We were fascinated that the catamaran just pulled up onto the beach, put down it’s front and off drove the 4WD vehicles ready to explore this amazing island.
Upon arrival at Moreton Island this tour kicks into action - the group was split into snorkelers and kayakers and we were kitted up with wetsuits and life vests to hit the water and explore the Moreton Island wrecks.
There are 15 ships purposefully wrecked at Moreton Island that are home to a myriad of sea life, including coral. From the top of the water, through the transparent kayaks, we got a glimpse of what lied beneath.
The sea was a bit rough, this activity is not for anyone afraid of being out on the ocean, but the current was strong and you could go with the flow most of the way. We have done a few kayak tours as a family, most recently in the Norwegian Fjords at Olden, so were excited to try out a translucent kayak - it was fascinating!
Once we had kayaked we were kitted up with wetsuits and snorkelling gear and a Jet Ski ferried us out to the wrecks. Again, the sea was quite rough and the current strong which meant we pretty well had to just go with the flow, fighting against the current was fruitless.
Snorkelling the wrecks is an amazing activity. There is an abundant amount of sea life to swim amongst and the coral forming near the wrecks was impressive. This is the southern most part of Australia that you will see Great Barrier Reef coral.
The kids love the experience of snorkelling and although the seas were rough and it was hard work, the tour guides were great in providing a buoyant ring to just grab onto when we needed a break. We all wore life jackets so although we couldn’t dive down into the sea, not having one in slightly rough waters would have been a struggle.
Post water activities we refuelled with the provided lunch of salad rolls, potato chips and oranges before boarding a 4WD tour bus that took us out onto the bumpy roads/ tracks of the Island towards the Desert. A 20 minute ride along a one way 4WD only track brought us to a sandy oasis of dunes just begging to be conquered.
With our primitive bits of plank wood we hiked to the top of the dunes to take on the mounds head first! Again, not for the faint hearted, this is an adrenaline run launching yourself off the side of that dune head first with only a thin plank of wood between you and the sand.
“Arch your back, feet off the ground and elbows up” the tour guide suggested as they pushed us off the edge. The comment “Or not” generally followed as tourist after tourist our elbows hit the ground, followed by our faces, as we rolled or tumbled near the bottom of the dune!
It is amazing how sand can find it’s way into every crevice of your body, every pocket on your clothing, every inch of you - following a face plant and tumble in a sand dune at high speed!
Covered in sand and still shaking it out of our ears, hair and nostrils we head back to the beach to catch a 3:30pm ferry back to Brisbane and a long bus ride via Brisbane CBD to arrive back on the Gold Coast at 7:15pm.
This day tour absolutely exhausted our family of four, Miss 8 slept most of the bus ride back to the Gold Coast and she NEVER sleeps in a car! Master 11 stayed awake but was very hungry and tired by the end of the trip.
The time on the island was absolutely jam packed and we were constantly on the go - but with so many activities to get through it had to be that way. There was very little, if any, time to just chill on the beach and enjoy the surroundings. Leaving from Brisbane would cut out the early start and late finish but would still be a full day.
If you have never had the opportunity to visit Moreton Island this is a great option to squeeze in a visit when next in Queensland.
For more details, visit the Sunset Safaris website and check out their Get Wrecked tour.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
*Itchy Feet Family were guests of Sunset Safaris on this day tour.
A family trip to the Gold Coast is something most Australian families will do at least once. If you have done the mandatory visit to the theme parks and the kids are asking for a repeat, consider a side-trip to Moreton Island to break the holiday up.
Whilst I love a week at the theme parks as much as anyone else, I also need a holiday to recover from it and Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island offered just that.
Unless you have your own boat, access to the island is via a ferry from Brisbane. The trip is just a short 75 minute commute.
Upon arrival there is beautiful sands, wrecks for snorkelling, restaurants, swimming pools and an assortment of activities you would expect from a resort catered for families.
These were our top four things to do at Moreton Island:
If you stay at the resort, included in your stay is an opportunity to feed wild dolphins. Every night a pod of dolphins swim up near the jetty for feeding and guests are invited to enter the shallows of the beach and hand feed them a fish.
Whilst you can not touch the dolphin and the experience is very short and sweet, it is a unique opportunity to get close to wild dolphins.
The dolphins are wild and the experience is not guaranteed, but from what I heard, it is very rare for none of the dolphins to make an appearance. The activity started back in 1992 and the resort follows strict guidelines to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the dolphins.
Snorkelling The Wrecks
Snorkelling amongst 15 ship wrecks was an absolute experience that is unique to Moreton Island. The ships were purposefully wrecked to form a breakwall for small boats. The abundance of sea life that has resulted was something that both surprised and delighted both the kids and adults.
When we instructed the kids to place their heads in the water, the look of surprise when they first realised what lied beneath was priceless.
You can walk along the beach from the resort and swim out to the wrecks, however on our visits to the Island we have done both the escorted tour via boat with a guide and a self-guided tour with kayaks. The currants can get quite strong so having a floatation device whilst snorkelling is recommended.
Going head first on a waxed board down a sand dune in the desert is not something I was expecting to do on an island resort holiday.
The Moreton Island desert is just a short drive from the resort with daily tours to the area.
After donning swimming goggles, yes swimming goggles in the dessert, it is quite a leap of faith to set yourself off from the top of the dune face first with only a thin board between you and the sand.
This activity is not for the faint-hearted, the climb to the top of the dune in itself was a challenge - let alone doing it over and over again!
Miss 5 was given an option to complete a half-dune and despite being tentative on the first launch, she completed it over and over again.
Master 8 head to the top of the dune with the adults and despite having a slight nose dive and roll out of control in the sand - he got back up and did it again.
Sunset Beach Walks
The sunsets on Moreton Island were spectacular. Family walks along the beach at sunset every night were mandatory. The kids cartwheeled and searched for shells as the adults enjoyed the amazing colours as the sun bounces on the ocean creating shadows through the wrecks.
Other activities we completed included quad biking, kayaking, archery, basketball, swimming and much more.
For details about Tangalooma Resort visit their website.
Next time you are planning a Queensland family holiday, consider Moreton Island as a side trip. There may not be any theme parks but the natural beauty and activities of this island will leave you wanting to return.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.