Making a real impression
WE felt as though our footprints were the first to leave their mark on the perfect white sand.
No one else was in sight as we splashed about in the shallows at Moreton Island's breathtaking North Point Beach, with the kids' shrieks of sheer delight cutting across the clean waves.
This was just one of the highlights of our three-day trip to Moreton Island and we still can't believe the July weather turned on its charm enough for us to enjoy a swim.
We had woken early to reach the Micat ferry terminal at the Port of Brisbane by 7.30am – quite a feat with our kids, aged 8 and 5, in tow. And we knew it was going to be one of the better days as we looked out across Moreton Bay with the waters as smooth as glass.
As a 4WD-less family, we had never really considered the island as a holiday destination. But Moreton Island Adventures, which has been operating for about nine months, has changed all that for people like us.
Our capable off-road guide, Mac, was keen to share not only her red Jeep Wrangler with us, but also her extensive island knowledge.
The adventure began as we zoomed down the Micat ramp, straight on to the golden sands near The Wrecks on Moreton's western side. Cutting across the island, we headed to the pristine freshwater Blue Lagoon, which was too chilly for a complete dip, but a great place for the kids to explore, ankle-deep.
We headed north to the historic Cape Moreton Lighthouse, where we spotted a few humpback whales cruising by, plus turtles and a couple of small sharks.
Built in 1857, the sandstone lighthouse was Queensland's first and remains its oldest. While the lighthouse keepers are long gone, the lighthouse itself still operates automatically.
The next stop was North Point, where a swim proved impossible to resist.
We then explored the beautiful Honeymoon Bay which tragically bore the brunt of the 2009 oil spill from container ship MV Pacific Adventurer. While the clean-up appears complete, a sign warning of possible dangers remains, as does a just-visible oil line high on the rocks.
We weren't dry for long when the nearby Champagne Rocks became the most amazing playground.
Waves crashed over a natural rock wall, creating huge bubble baths in the rock pools below.
It was a delight to the senses.
On to Five Hills lookout, where a short walk up a sand path was rewarded with a spectacular view.
We headed back to the western side. Our “camp” for the night was the Eco Village at Bulwer, which offers basic unit-style accommodation as an alternative to camping.
The Eco Village doesn't pretend to be fancy. MORE P.26
It's a place where you can cook, shower and sleep before starting the next adventure.
The beach at Bulwer was another great place to explore. The kids had a ball searching for starfish in the shallows around the local wrecks, building sandcastles and looking for shells and other treasure washed up on the tide.
Our second day brought some gusty south-westerlies, so swimming was definitely not an option.
Instead, we explored the old military fortifications left behind from World War II at Cowan
Cowan, just south of Bulwer, and Rous Battery on the island's eastern side.
These anti-aircraft gun and mine control buildings were constructed by the navy and army to protect the Port of Brisbane during the Second World War and stationed up to 900 troops.
With the pesky south-westerlies hanging around, snorkelling at The Wrecks was off the agenda on our last day.
But the alternatives turned out to be just as enjoyable.
A picturesque hike through bush laden with grasstrees and banksias led to Mt Tempest, the world's largest vegetated sand dune. At 285m above sea level, it is the highest point on the island and offers amazing views west across to Brisbane and the Glasshouse Mountains, south to North Stradbroke Island and east to the Pacific Ocean.
Dodging the winds, we settled for a picnic on the eastern beaches, taking a closer look at one of the many Aboriginal middens that dot the dunes in this area.
A passing pod of dolphins, the ever-present circling of white-bellied sea eagles and the antics of the pied oystercatchers digging for pippies made for interesting lunch-time entertainment.
Our final adrenalin rush was sandboarding at The Desert, just south of Tangalooma Resort.
After a calf-burning climb up a massive sandhill, Mac waxed up our boards and gave us some steering tips.
One board at a time, we lay on our stomachs, anticipating the rush, as Mac gave us a shove.
Whistling down the dune at breakneck speed was such unbelievable fun, we hauled ourselves up the steep slope three more times.
The kids would have kept on going, but we had to head back in time to catch Micat home.
By sunset, we were back to the Port of Brisbane where our loyal Corolla was waiting in the carpark.
After likening the Jeep to a cross between a jumping castle, rollercoaster and a bucking bronco, guess what the kids' first words were as we started the drive home? “We miss the Jeep!”
Bouncing from one adventure to another in a red Jeep Wrangler made for an exciting getaway.
The writer was a guest of Moreton Island Adventures
Visiting MORETON ISLAND
THINGS TO DO
Snorkelling, sandboarding, swimming, fishing, four-wheel-driving, hiking.
Micat, which can carry 400 passengers and 52 4WDs, operates daily from the Port of Brisbane.
Travel time to Moreton Island is about 75 minutes.
It's a comfortable trip with a licensed café on board.
Allow 1½ hours' drive time from the Sunshine Coast.
Cross the Gateway Bridge and follow the signs to 14 Howard Smith Dve, Port of Brisbane.
Micat, Moreton Island Adventures and the Bulwer Eco Village are owned by the Hawkins Family Group, which has been operating ferries to Moreton for 40 years.
The Bulwer Eco Village offers basic self-contained, two-bedroom units as well as dormitory-style accommodation with shared facilities.
It also has a store selling fuel, ice, firewood and groceries.
Moreton Island Adventures offers various packages to suit weekenders, families and groups.
For the latest Drive Package specials, including car hire and accommodation, check out www.moretonisland adventures.com.au or phone 39093333.