Moreton Bay, the ultimate chill out island holiday

A short drive from central Brisbane, hit the coast and jump on a ferry to the unspoilt islands of Moreton Bay.

Young happy woman cooking barbeque on the beach in Australia
  • Shonagh Walker
  • June 2018

Queensland’s Moreton Bay stretches 125km from Caloundra in the north to Surfers Paradise in the south, and is home to more than 360 islands, a wealth of wildlife, birds, coral and seagrass beds, and visiting whales. The sand islands of Moreton Bay – Moreton Island, North Stradbroke Island and Bribie Island – offer activities from four-wheel drive tours to sand boarding, fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving. But they’re also the perfect easy weekend getaway with sunshine, pristine surf beaches, wetlands and national parks.

Aerial view of the Tangalooms wrecks by Moreton island in Queensland, Australia.
Tangalooma Wrecks near Moreton Island

Moreton Island

Moreton Island is a 170 sq km protected sand island (95 per cent is national park) best known for its beaches and steep dunes, dive sites around coral reefs, a group of sunken boats called the Tangalooma Wrecks, and dolphin and humpback viewing from Cape Moreton – the site of a 19th-century lighthouse.

Between 1952 and 1962, Tangalooma, on the western side, was the site of Queensland’s only whaling station. Today it’s home to the island’s only resort – Tangalooma Island Resort – where you can take a free tour to see how the island has been transformed into an eco-friendly destination with sustainable whale-watching.

Stay

Tangalooma Island Resort offers everything from hotel rooms to small villas, apartments and luxury homes, all a short stroll to the beach.

Eat

Guests or Resort Day Pass visitors (bookings essential) can access the resort’s dining options. Fire and Stone offer two dining styles. Fire has a Szechuan-inspired menu that offers all manner of pepper-infused dishes (don’t miss that famous local crustacean, the Moreton Bay bug), while Stone serves up local grilled seafood and steaks. The Beach Café has great casual lunch options too.

Other great things to do

Go sand tobogganing, feed wild dolphins at sunset, visit Cape Moreton Lighthouse, swim in the Blue Lagoon, explore the war bunkers, kayak the wrecks by night, scuba dive at Flinders Reef or even try a spot of bird-watching – more than 180 species of birds have been recorded on the island.

Blue Lake on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, Australia is the perfect fresh water swimming hole
Blue Lake, a freshwater lake on North Stradbroke Island

North Stradbroke Island

North Stradbroke Island, also known as Straddie, is the jewel of Moreton Bay. Think Byron Bay 25 years ago, with a chilled-out vibe and plenty of yoga, meditation and massage therapists. The island is big – 275.2 sq km – and home to just over 2000 residents, many of whom appear to own a dog (the island is very pet friendly, but there are strict on-leash regulations to protect the friendly and curious fauna).

Stay

Accommodation is easy to book, with plenty of holiday rentals available through Discover Stradbroke. Put the Whale Watch Ocean Beach Resort on the top of your list – the spacious and comfortable three-bedroom apartments have breathtaking views.

Eat

Fishes at the Point is an old-school Aussie diner that serves up seafood and classic favourites. Right next door, you’ll find bakery Loaves at the Point, which makes a killer sourdough loaf and even better salad sandwich with the classic Australian cheese and beetroot combination.

Other dining options include the Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel, and the more upmarket Whales Way in the Pandanas Palms Resort.

Do

A ridiculous number of dolphins and humpback whales frolic in the water off the coast here. Get a great view while trekking the gently challenging North Gorge Walk at Point Lookout, which curves around the cliffs and truly shows the rugged splendour of the coastline.

Every trip to Straddie should include exploring its Indigenous culture. View work from Indigenous artists at the Salt Water Murris Quandamooka Aboriginal Art Gallery, where renowned artist Craig Tapp (Tappy), is often on hand.

A sand boarding or four-wheel driving adventure with Mark Jones of Quandamooka Straddie Adventures comes with an in-depth telling of the island’s Indigenous history as you visit sacred sites and gorgeous inlets.

Other great things to do

Join an historical walk along the Goompi trail with a local Aboriginal guide, a kayak tour to Peel Island to see the shipwreck of the Platypus, which sank in 1930, or even visit Goompi Cemetery, the second-oldest in Queensland.

Three kangaroos in queensland bribie island
Kangaroos on the beach, Bribie Island

Bribie Island

This sleepy little island is untouched by progress and very unspoilt – it’s the sweetest spot for a day trip from Brisbane or a long weekend. You’ll find a snapshot of its history at the Bribie Island Seaside Museum, where locals will talk you through the island’s stories. Bribie Island is just 148 sq km but a little more than 20,000 people live there. Around 80 per cent of the island is protected from development – with most of the land uninhabited national park and forestry plantation.

Stay

If you’re staying longer than a day, book a one- or two-bedroom apartment or a luxury two- or three-bedroom beachfront villa at On the Beach resort, next to Bribie’s main swim spot, Woorim Ocean Beach.

Eat

Iconic bayside outlet Saviges Seafood is a little hole-in-the-wall set-up, but serves the freshest, most mouth-watering grilled fish platters or fried fish and chips. Or for the ultimate view of the island, head back across the bridge (or take a boat or kayak) to the mainland to the Sandstone Point Hotel and feast on seafood.

Do

Be sure to stroll the gorgeous, untouched Woorim Beach. Watching the sun rise over the crashing waves will set your mind in a state of calm and balance for the day ahead. Or book a stand-up paddleboard session, rent a kayak or take an electric bike ride along the foreshore of the Pumicestone Passage, courtesy of Bribie Island Hire Hut and tours.