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Moreton Island Paradise on our Doorstep

By Staff Writer Mozza

Having looked at Moreton Island for years from various locations at Woorim and Ocean Beach on Bribie, I ventured over there in the boat and visited Tangalooma, Cowan Cowan and Bulwer, going ashore for coffee and a sandwich.

After getting a taste of the place, I wanted to explore the island further than could be done on foot and recently booked a trip in the 4WD to check the place out properly.

Even though Moreton is only 45 minutes by boat direct from Bribie, taking the car takes considerably longer. The MICAT vehicle service leaves from the Port of Brisbane at Howard Smith Drive an hour down the Bruce Highway or longer in traffic. You also need to be there 45 minutes before departure and pay the fare of $78.50 each way and purchase a beach permit which is $51.50 for a week or $160.80 for more than a week up to a year.

The trip is comfortable, after loading your vehicle on board you can relax upstairs on the big catamaran and enjoy coffee and meals, sit in comfort and enjoy the views on the one hour twenty minute journey. Arriving at high tide may mean you need to use the Middle Road to cross to the surf side of the island after disembarking from the cat.

These middle roads are one way and in good condition whereas other sections of inland track elsewhere on the island can be two way with pull off areas to let oncoming traffic pass. Once on the eastern ocean beach, head north to Cape Moreton around 20 kms to the lighthouse and information centre for spectacular views of the beach and deep water ocean. On the way, stop at Blue Lagoon to have a refreshing fresh water swim in this enormous untouched lake.

The Cape Moreton Lighthouse complex contains a weather station operated by the Bureau of Meteorology and the lighthouse structure and navigation equipment is managed by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. There were originally five lighthouses built here in 1857 to assist ships navigating the northern passage into Brisbane.

Cape Moreton Lighthouse

The Lighthouse Information Centre will set you up for the remainder of the trip however arranging a camp site or other accommodation is best done before arrival. The MICAT service has a great website and offers accommodation through their affiliates on the island or separate arrangements can be made via accommodation providers or camping through the Department of Environment and Science website.

Once you have made your plan to see the area, continue on to North Point and the Champagne Pools for an ocean swim or surf. Crystal clear waves break past the point and run parallel to the beach for several hundred meters so take your Malibu over if you can and enjoy the ride. The pools are ideal for kids and waves will break over the pool edges to entertain them for hours of splashing in a safe area.

North Point

You are now back on the calm western side of the island as you make your run south to Bulwer Wrecks. There are a number of great fishing gutters along this section of beach and Mackerel can be caught at sunset with pilchards and the right tackle. As the sun sets we made camp at the Castaways Glamping facility, which is reasonably priced and has many facilities such as a shop, fuel, shared kitchen, hot showers, fire pit and easy beach access.

Bulwer has quite a history as in August 1848, the maritime pilot station on Moreton Bay was moved from Amity Point on the northerly tip of North Stradbroke Island to Bulwer. In 1863 land was offered for sale at Bulwer for the first time. In November 1865 a school and teacher's residence were erected for the families of the staff of the pilot station who were the principal residents at that time.

View from Bulwer

The following morning starts early with a low tide run along the western side of the island past the township of Cowan Cowan. In early 1942 the Queensland Main Roads Commission was directed to erect buildings, anti-aircraft gun emplacements, command and battery observation posts, underground plotting room, magazines, accommodation for officers and men, a 20,000 gallon concrete tank, and a 20 bed hospital at Cowan Cowan. They were also instructed to build a controlled mines station with accommodation for officers and men of the Australian Navy. The former Navy Signal Station at 25 Dorothy Newnham Street, Cowan Cowan (Fort Cowan) is listed on the Heritage Register of the Brisbane City Council.

From Cowan Cowan head south, bypassing Tangalooma using an inland track, on to Kooringal and the “World Famous Gutter Bar” for lunch and a drink. Kooringal is well established and was once one of the main points of access to the island by boat before shifting sands made boat access to Day’s Gutter impossible. The original family to live at Kooringal were the Day family with others visiting mainly as part of Brisbane fishing clubs on the weekends and holidays, squatting in shacks. In the 1970s the government auctioned off lots of land and many of the squatters became permanent residents of Kooringal. The Hawkins family operated the store at Kooringal for years and Hawkins Transport became a large business on the island.

Gutter Bar

The Gutter Bar is a great spot to recharge and purchase supplies for the trip offering a range of goods and services. After lunch drive east to the southern tip just behind Kooringal to swim at the spit at Readers Point and look across the bar to Amity and Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island close by. Looking the other way west the city of Brisbane is on display with its high rise buildings, mixing city with wilderness and ocean in one experience. This area is known as the south passage where 44 lives were lost in 1847 on the paddle steamer Sovereign and the use of south passage to enter Moreton Bay was discouraged after that.

Head north from here on the ocean side past Mirapool Lagoon which provides important habitat for shore birds, Little Sand Hills and Rous Battery Bunkers from WW2. During WW2, 900 troops were stationed at Cowan Cowan and Rous Battery. Many roads such as Middle Road were cleared at that time and a naval station and jetty were also built at Tangalooma. Continue past Eagers Creek back to the Lighthouse and you have traversed south to north around 40kms point to point.

Rous Battery

I’d suggest a minimum of three days to allow for arriving and departure to give yourself enough time to see it all. Be warned though one trip will leave you wanting more and a return is often inevitable once you fall in love with our nearest neighbouring island paradise.


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