Moreton Island National Park and Recreation Area

Moreton Island National Park, Murray Waite & Assoc
Campfire Diving Drinking water Fishing Shower Swimming Toilets Watersports Wildflowers Aboriginal site Accommodation Camping area Four-wheel drive touring Information Picnic area Ranger Walking

Introduction

Regarded as the jewel of Moreton Bay’s sandy islands, Moreton Island is a haven for 4WD adventurers wanting a wilderness experience that is still within easy reach of Brisbane. Here, only a two-hour barge trip from the mainland, are long sandy beaches, clear freshwater lagoons, wildflower heaths and some of the highest sand dunes in the world.

Fact file

Access

From Brisbane to Scarborough or Whyte Island near Lytton then via barge or ferry; from Pinkenba via launch; bookings essential; 4WD only on the island

Best season

All seasons

Location

40 km north-east of Brisbane

Park information

NPRSR 13 7468

Permits

Camping and 4WD permit required; fees apply; camping bookings essential

Size

18 500 ha

Visitor information

Wynnum Manly (07) 3348 3524

Brisbane (07) 3006 6290

Featured Activities in the National Park

  • Learn about the island’s history at the Cape Moreton Lighthouse complex

    Climb Mount Tempest, the highest sand dune in Australia

    Take a dip in Blue Lagoon

A look at the past

James Cook named ‘Cape Morton’ during his 1770 voyage along the east coast, thinking it was part of the mainland. In 1799, Matthew Flinders discovered that it was in fact an island, and dubbed it Moreton Island – a misspelling of Cook’s original name. In 1823 two escaped convicts from New South Wales, Pamphlet and Finnegan, landed on Moreton when their open boat was wrecked offshore. Adopted by the local Quandamooka people, they were rescued on the mainland by John Oxley later the same year, when he first explored Moreton Bay and the Brisbane River.

A pilot station was set up at Bulwer in 1848, operating until its closure in 1909. Cape Moreton Lighthouse, at the island’s northern tip, was built in 1857, the oldest lighthouse in Queensland and still in use today. During World War II the army established forts at Cowan Cowan and Toompani Beach, but little remains of these apart from some concrete bunkers. In the 1950s a whaling station was established, operating from 1951 to 1962. Tangalooma resort now occupies the site. In 1933, the waters surrounding Moreton and North and South Stradbroke islands were gazetted as Moreton Bay Marine Park. Moreton Island National Park was declared in 1986, taking over the Mount Tempest National Park and expanding it; today it protects some 90 per cent of the island.

Aboriginal culture

The Ngugi people, a clan belonging to the Quandamooka group, were the original inhabitants of Moreton Island, which they called Moorgumpin. Shell middens and other artefacts scattered around Moreton’s coastline are evidence that the Ngugi lived here for at least 2000 years. They depended on the abundant marine life for food, eating fish, shellfish, dugong and turtle. Due to the limited development on the island, the Indigenous heritage has been well preserved and up to 330 cultural sites, including shell middens, bone fragments and stone quarries, have been recorded here.

Natural features

Apart from a few rocky headlands in the Cape Moreton area, Moreton Island is made up almost entirely of sand. Mount Tempest (280 metres) in the centre of the island is the highest sand dune in Australia. On the island’s north-eastern side are several freshwater lakes, including Blue Lagoon – a window lake, formed when the water table lies at ground level. There are also some perched lakes.

Most of the 38-kilometre-long island is national park and has some lovely beaches, heathlands and wildflowers. The waters surrounding the island are protected within Moreton Bay Marine Park, so some restrictions on recreational use apply.

Native plants

The island’s vegetation consists mainly of coastal heath and open forests of scribbly gum and pink bloodwood, with areas of mangrove, sedge and melaleuca swamps. The heathlands are dominated by wallum banksia, and grasstrees are dotted amid the dunes. Wildflowers appear in springtime.

Wildlife

About 190 species of birds have been recorded on Moreton Island; the bird population increases dramatically between September and April when flocks of waders visit the island, congregating in large numbers on the southern beaches, particularly around Mirapool, and on the intertidal seagrass flats offshore. Eastern curlews, little terns and grey-tailed tattlers are some of the less common species. Resident wading birds include the pied oystercatcher and red-capped plover. Lake Jabiru is frequented by black-necked storks, while the heathlands around Blue Lagoon are favoured by honeyeaters.

Nesting loggerhead and green turtles occasionally come ashore in summer. Listen for frogs in the swamplands and look for migrating humpback whales offshore in late winter and spring. A herd of dugong live in Moreton Bay, feeding on the seagrass beds and they are sometimes seen surfacing close to shore.

Introduction

Being a sand island with no sealed roads, getting around is limited to walking and four-wheel driving. Normal traffic rules apply on the beach and designated tracks; vehicles must be registered and have a current Moreton Island Recreation Area Vehicle Access Permit.

Bushwalking

There are many sandy walks around the island including the Mount Tempest track (2.5 km return; 2 hours, difficult), which is a challenging, steep hike involving plenty of steps, but the panoramic views from the summit are worth the effort. Rous Battery track (19.6 km return, 7 hours, medium difficulty), in the south of the island, leads to the ruins of an old World War II fort that once stood amid the dunes. Telegraph Road track (16 km return, 6 hours, difficult) winds through a variety of island environments, including open eucalypt forest and heathland, which offer good birdwatching and great wildflower displays in spring. If you just want to stretch your legs, try the Blue Lagoon track (500 metres return, 20 minutes, easy), which leads to the window lake's pristine waters.

Fishing

The catch off the island’s beaches and headlands includes flathead, dart, bream, sand whiting, trevally and tailor. Crabs are seasonal. Size and bag limits apply; call DAFF 13 7468 or visit their website (www.daff.qld.gov.au) for details.

Watersports

Blue Lagoon is ideal for swimming. North of Tangalooma, some 15 wrecks (purposely scuttled by harbour authorities) provide a good underwater environment for snorkelling and diving. North of Cape Moreton, Flinders Reef and Smith Rock are popular diving spots, with beautiful coral formations and a variety of fish.

Campsites

Ben-Ewa camping area

A favourite with families and school groups, Ben-Ewa’s valley location provides protection from strong winds and offers many a shady tree. The site is on the western side of the island, 1.5 km north of The Wrecks.... Find out more


Blue Lagoon camping area

With beautiful walking trails to the nearby lake and close proximity to the surf beach, this camping area is in a gorgeous spot on the eastern side of the island between Middle Rd and Cape Moreton. Trailers and caravans... Find out more


Comboyuro Point camping area

Within walking distance of the Bulwer township on the island’s west coast, this site has 49 camping sites marked with totem poles and plenty of shade. Water is available, but it must be treated or boiled before... Find out more


North Point camping area

On the northern tip of the island between Yellow Patch and Cape Moreton, this is a large grassy site close to the surf beach and within walking distance of Honeymoon Bay. The area is not accessible with a caravan or... Find out more


North-east camping area (bush camping)

Self-sufficient campers can stay in areas marked with totem poles on this stretch of beach on the east coast of Moreton, spanning between Middle Rd and Spitfire Creek (excluding Blue Lagoon camping area). There are no... Find out more


North-west camping area (bush camping)

Self-sufficient campers can stay in areas marked with totem poles on this stretch of beach on the west coast of Moreton, spanning the area between Ben-Ewa and Comboyuro Point camping areas. There are no facilities, so... Find out more


South-east camping area (bush camping)

Self-sufficient campers can stay in areas marked with totem poles on this stretch of beach on the east coast of Moreton, spanning the area between Middle Rd and Rous Battery. There are no facilities in this camping area,... Find out more


South-west camping area (bush camping)

Self-sufficient campers can stay in areas marked with totem poles on this stretch of beach on the west coast of Moreton, spanning the area between Tangalooma Bypass and Toulkerrie. There are no facilities in this camping... Find out more


The Wrecks camping area (walk-in camping)

The Wrecks is a walk-in camping area just a short stroll from Tangalooma near the main barge landing point. There are 21 sites available; the surface is sand (not grass) and is surrounded by native shrubs and trees.... Find out more


Yellow Patch camping area (bush camping)

Self-sufficient campers can stay in areas marked with totem poles on this stretch of beach at the northern end of Moreton, spanning the area between North Point and Heath Island. There are no facilities in this camping... Find out more


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