I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published May 6th 2019
Love Moreton Island
I'm sitting in my sister's beach shack on the East Coast of Tasmania. It's cold and I'm wearing my Ugg boots, thermal underwear and three jumpers. It is hard to believe a couple of weeks ago I was swimming in Blue Lagoon and in the ocean at Easter on Moreton Island.
I came to Tasmania for three weeks to look after my sister's rescue greyhound while she goes overseas with her English husband to visit his family.
It had been two years since I went camping on Moreton Island with my bushwalking club. I wrote about the last trip here
The trip two years ago at Easter was wonderful and so was the one this year. We did some of the same walks and some different ones. There was only one woman who was on the previous camp. This time, she brought her new partner to enjoy the Island.
Eighteen of us caught the 6 am ferry across to the Island on Good Friday. Alan Genninges, from Moreton Experience Camp, our host and bus driver took us to the steep sand dunes at The Desert where we all had a lot of fun sliding down the dunes on waxed boards.
Alan then dropped us off at the start of the 10-kilometre track to the historic Rous Battery. He arranged to pick us up on the beach at the end of the walk. It was a beautiful walk with lots of lovely wild flowers, scribbly gum forest and patches of beautiful green feathery ground plant called foxtails (Caustis blakei). It was interesting exploring the ruins of the World War 11 forts and underground bunkers. We hadn't been able to visit them on the last trip.
The Rous Battery is near the coast on the Eastern side of the Island. The concrete fortifications were built to defend the Brisbane coast during World War 11. Some of the buildings had steps leading underground. Tom, who had been in the army, told us ammunition would have been kept in some these underground bunkers.
After our walk, Alan picked us up on the beach in his bus 'Heidi' and drove us to his well-set up private campsite behind Blue Lagoon. A few people set up their own tents, but most of us slept in the large spacious permanent canvas camp tents. One woman even set up her small tent inside one of the large tents. She had been there last year and had a few ants in her bed. The campsite has fridges, gas stoves, a hot water shower and compost toilets near by. It was very luxurious as we could have fresh food and cold wine.
No one had their packs eaten this time. On my last trip, a couple of people who had left food in their day packs got their packs eaten by hungry native rats. We were all warned not to leave any food in our tents or packs for hungry rats to find.
On Saturday we walked fifteen kilometres along the beach to North Point after walking the Honeyeater circuit around Honeyeater Lake. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we saw lots of beautiful birds and amazing driftwood structures. I saw flocks of pelicans this time, which I hadn't seen on the same walk previously. We walked along the beach, crossing creek outflows, and swam in the Champagne Rocks again, but this time the tide was low and the waves weren't as spectacular as last time. It was still fun though and we saw some lovely striped black and white fish in the pools.
The Easter bunny joined us on Easter Sunday on our climb up 285m Mount Tempest. The road had deteriorated since last time with some eroded parts the bus couldn't navigate, so we had to walk an extra 2.2 kilometres return to the start of the 2.5 kilometre track up the mountain.
A highlight for me was seeing a large spider sleeping on the wooden ledge at the top. I found out from a spider identification site that was a bark huntsman (Pediana regina) of the spider Family Sparassidae. These spiders are usually found on tree trunks or under loose bark in eucalypt forests. They are usually camouflaged for hunting on tree-trunks. They can be elusive because they move very quickly when disturbed. Our huntsman was asleep and wasn't bothered by us. It had its front two pairs of legs close together, which is distinctive from other huntsmen spiders. The Y-shape pattern can be dark brown to medium brown in colour. Ours was dark brown.
We saw lots of processionary caterpillars along the track back to the bus. These caterpillars turn into bag shelter moths. I saw a large Erebus terminitincta moth, which was on the wall of Tom's tent one morning. These moths have two large eyespots on their front wings.
After our mountain climb, Alan took us to the big sandhills. After a bit of scrub bashing we walked to the top of the large sand hills, passing some interesting formations along the way. We even found an old war relic, which we left where we found it. We walked about thirteen kilometres on Sunday.
On Monday we had a more relaxed day. Alan drove us to the Cape Moreton lighthouse. We explored around the museum and lighthouse, then walked down to the Boulders beach where we swam in the ocean. We only walked about eight kilometres that day. Five people had to return on the Monday ferry to work on Tuesday.
On our last day, Tuesday, after another swim in Blue Lagoon and walk along the beach, we went to Tangalooma. Some people in our group went swimming and snorkeling around the wrecks while we waited for the ferry. I didn't go swimming because I didn't have my snorkel and mask with me.
I'm glad I didn't because the people who went had a few dramas. A couple of people almost got run over by the ferry. They were snorkeling and didn't see it coming. One man got picked up by a jet ski to avoid a near collision. One woman got bitten on the finger by a fish, and another one got scraped against one of the rusty wrecks by the strong current. They all enjoyed their swim though, even though one had to go and get a tetanus injection when she got back to Brisbane.
This year, we didn't catch the sunset over the Glass House Mountains from the lighthouse like we did last time. The tides weren't right to do this, but we did see some beautiful moon rises over the ocean.
Captain Cook made the first recorded European sightings of Moreton Island. He named the main headland Cape Moreton in May 1770. The Traditional name for the island is Mulgumpin, land of the Ngugi people. The Ngugi people from Mulgumpin form a part of the traditional estate of the Quandamooka peoples, known as cungen zungun people, or people of the dugong.
This year I set up my wildlife trap camera behind the tents and captured two small creatures. I can't make out what they are, but there were short nosed bandicoots and native rats around the camp. I was hoping to capture a photo of the Pale Field Rat (Rattus tunneyi), which is one of two native rats that live on the island. They shelter by day in shallow burrows in dense grass or sedges and come out at night to feed on grass stems, seeds, roots and sedges, and insects.
Alan told us he wasn't getting as many school groups coming to his camp, and he may have to reconsider what to do about his business. He is a wonderful host and has great facilities for an amazing stay on the Island. He has an intimate knowledge of Moreton Island gained through over thirty years. I asked him if groups could arrange one of his trips and he said they could contact him for a quote. So if you want to go to the Island but you don't have a four-wheel drive, get a bunch of friends together and give Alan a ring on 0428 783 781. You can choose to be very active or just relax and go fishing or do small walks, swim or watch birds.
With Alan's bus support, you can get 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. You will also learn a lot about the history, wildlife and plant life of the island. You only need to take your own food, sleeping bag or blankets, and clothes.