I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published April 24th 2017
Until this Easter, I hadn't been to Moreton Island since 1982. The main thing I remember about that trip was my border collie bailing out of my tent into my brother and sister in law's tent. They had a softer mattress than mine and Sheppie nosed my sister-in-law off her side of the mattress and stretched out comfortably. I woke to my sister-in-law's protests as she was bumped onto the hard ground.
Most of the Island is now National Park so no dogs are allowed anymore. We did see a couple on the recent trip, but they were on boats moored offshore. Most of Moreton Island's 19,000 ha (excluding townships) is both national park and recreation area.
The recreation area includes the national park and beaches to low water mark. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing (NPSR) manages the recreation area and the national park under the Recreation Areas Management Act 2006 and the Nature Conservation Act 1992. The Moreton Bay Marine Park—declared in 1993 for its important natural, cultural, recreational and economic values to Queensland—surrounds the island.
Moreton Island is a 37 km long, 10 km wide, wedge-shaped, sand island located 40 km from Brisbane. It is an important recreation area for people who live in the Brisbane region, and more than 170,000 people visit it each year.
This Easter, I went with the Brisbane Bushwalking club. Sixteen of us camped at the private Blue Lagoon campsite operated by Alan Genninges, from the Moreton Island Experience.
Six of us traveled over to the Island on Thursday night on the 6pm MICAT ferry, which left from the Port of Brisbane on Howard Smith Drive. The rest of the group arrived on Good Friday. Alan drove us around all over Easter in his four-wheel drive bus Heidi. Access to the island is by vehicular barge or passenger ferry services. The Island is a popular destination for camping and fishing. You need a four-wheel drive vehicle to get around on the island and a camping permit.
Alan's campsite was very comfortable and luxurious for us bushwalkers. We had large tents with stretchers, fridges, lights, tables and chairs, gas cooking facilities, hot showers and compost toilets. Even the wildlife came to us! While we were there, we had visits from bush rats, a blue tongue lizard, a beautiful carpet python and a bush stone curlew Burhinus grallarius. I've seen them before and heard their mournful wailing. They used to hang around the hotel at Arcadia on Magnetic Island, but when I got too close to this one while trying to take a photo, it hissed at me, which I'd never heard before.
While we were out walking, we saw lots of other interesting creatures and birds including colourful hermit crabs, orange beaked oystercatchers, brown headed honeyeaters, herons and whistling kites. I found a dead long necked turtle on the track to Honeyeater Lake. It looked like a piece of rubber in the sand and had obviously been dead for some time, probably run over by a car.
We learnt after the first night not to leave any food in our packs in our tents. The first morning several people found they had holes chewed through the side pockets of their day packs. A rat probably did it, as there are no possums on the island. One lucky rat chewed a large chunk out of a juicy pear.
With Alan's bus support, we got to see a lot of the island and many different habitats including long deserted sandy beaches, mangroves, champagne pools filled with bubbles, Mount Tempest, little and big sand hills, heath lands, freshwater lakes, creeks, salt marshes, tidal flats, perched lakes, melaleuca swamps, sedgelands, heath and eucalypt woodlands. We also learnt a lot about the history of the island. We saw sunsets over the sea all the way to the glass house mountains, moon rises over the sea and beautiful sun rises.
We swam on deserted beaches and frolicked in champagne pools. The pools are surrounded by volcanic rock and sandstone, which forms a break wall for the surf. Unfortunately one bushwalker got scraped all down her back, arm and leg on one side when a large rogue wave washed her onto rocks. The sea can be forceful so swimmers do need to be careful.
On Good Friday, Alan drove us to the Cape Moreton lighthouse. Convicts built Queensland's first lighthouse from local sandstone at Cape Moreton in 1857. These days the light is fully automated. We spent some time looking around the museum and then walked down to the beach where we swam in the sea. There were very interesting rocks on this beach. I learned they are mainly made up of siliceous sandstone, conglomerate, minor siltstone and shale with undifferentiated volcanics (mainly rhyolite).
After our swim, we climbed back up to the sand road where Alan picked us up and drove us to the Champagne Pools. We walked over the headland to Honeymoon Bay and spent time swimming and having lots of fun in the bubbling pools. Then we went back to the lighthouse where we watched the sunset over the Glasshouse Mountains.
Captain Cook made the first recorded European sighting of Moreton Bay and Moreton Island. He named the main headland Cape Morton in May 1770 after the Scottish Earl of Morton, who was President of the Royal Society. In 1793 Morton was misspell in Hawksworth's translations of Cook's journals as Moreton. Matthew Flinders named Moreton Island on 31 July 1799.
European Settlement began in 1848 when the Amity Point pilot's station on North Stradbroke Island was relocated to Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island. Sandmining exploration began on the island in 1947. After successful lobbying the last mining leases were surrendered in 1992 and the lands then added to the national park.
We tackled 285m Mount Tempest on Easter Saturday. This mountain is thought to be the highest stabilised sand dune in the world. We had a fantastic 360-degree view of the island. We then walked along the Telegraph track to Honeyeater Lake and back to camp via walking around Blue Lagoon.
By the time we got back to camp, changed into our swimmers and returned to the lagoon for a swim, all the crowds had gone and we had the lagoon to ourselves. The water was cold but very refreshing. I only learned I had big blisters on my heels when they started stinging after the cold water hit them. I know why I got blisters because the second wool pair of socks I wore both had holes in them, so it's obviously time to buy some more socks.
In the Desert
Nights around the camp were relaxing and fun. I kept trying to get Helen to play her ukulele and Jeannette to sing, but they didn't this trip. Maybe next time. We had an eclectic group from countries around the world. We had people from America, Scotland, France, New Zealand, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, India, England and eight Australians. We also shared the camp with Brian Laver, his wife Judith and daughter and friend. He is Rod Laver's cousin and I discovered after I got home that he was a famous radical at the University of Queensland in the 1970's. He and Jeannette caught lots of fish and shared them with us one night for dinner.
Alan drove us to Bulwer on Easter Sunday. We bought coffees and ice creams at the shops. I was impressed with the colourful toilets, which looked more like beach cabins than toilets. There is Glamping at Castaways at Bulwer if you want real luxury camping. Afterwards Alan dropped us at the beach and we walked along the beach, crossing creek outflows and having swims. That day we visited Comboyuro Point and Taylor Bight and walked to the Northern Beaches. Alan picked us up at Cape Moreton.
On Monday we went tobogganing on the little sandhills on the Western side of the island. We then walked across to the Eastern side and walked up the big sandhills. I felt like I was walking across a desert.
We drove past the Rous Battery on the way back to camp. Alan told us it was built during World War 11. He also told us about how a Japanese submarine sunk the Australian Hospital ship Centaur near the Island on 14 May 1943 during the war.
A few of us left to go home on Monday. The rest of the group stayed until Tuesday.
Alan hosts lots of school groups at his campsite and also hosts volunteers who go over to assist with weed control. He has a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science Zoology from University of Queensland. He has been hosting groups for over thirty years. We really appreciated his intimate knowledge of the island and its plants and animals. He is a member of the Moreton Island Protection Committee (MIPC), which is an incorporated association established in 1978 with the aim of preserving the vegetation, fauna and natural features of Moreton Island.
We didn't go to Tangalooma this trip, which is where Queensland's only whaling station operated from 1952 to 1962. Remains of the whaling station are now part of the Tangalooma Resort facilities. Many people go to Tangalooma to snorkel around the wrecks and feed dolphins at the Resort.
I hope I don't wait another thirty-five years before I get back to the Island again.
Looks and sounds like you had a wonderful Easter, Roz - well done with the Award. I must admit that camping is NOT my favourite pastime, but your trip made me remember our camping trips with some nostalgia. You were blessed with glorious weather too!