Moreton Island Cruise Port
Port of Moreton Island: An Overview
Although it's been a popular getaway for Brisbanites and southeastern Queenslanders for many years, in 2013 Moreton Island was firmly placed on the cruise map, thanks to a maiden call from P&O Cruise's Pacific Jewel on a sailing from Sydney. The ship visited the island six times in 2013, and since its debut, thanks to positive feedback from passengers, the island has regularly appeared on P&O SeaBreak short cruise itineraries. The cruises offer a full day of fun on the island, arriving early in the morning and leaving around 8 p.m., with a relaxing sea day each side to and from Sydney.
Moreton is the third largest sand island in the world and an ecological jewel, located about 22 miles off the coast of Brisbane on "Nemo's Super Highway," or East Australian Current. The island sits in the picturesque Moreton Bay and its Marine Park and is an ideal place to escape the traffic, crowds and hubbub of city and suburban life.
Moreton Island is also famous for spectacular marine life and impressive sand dunes; its balmy waters teem with dolphins, whales, dugong, manta rays and stingrays. The island is 23-and-a-half miles (38 kilometers) long, and just less than 5 miles (8 kilometers) at its widest point, with 95 percent of the land zoned as a national park to protect its unique natural qualities. There are no sealed roads on Moreton Island, so it tends to attract people with a sense of adventure, as well as a love of the great outdoors.
Bulwer, a small holiday village for local travellers with a handful of basic services and a passenger ferry terminal, is one of three townships on the island, while Cowan Cowan is another, famous for World War II relics and wrecks, as well as the Toulkerrie Oyster Farm and the private beach resort of Tangalooma.
The resort was originally established as a whaling station and is now a marine education and conservation centre; it's also one of the few places in Australia where you can enjoy the unique experience of feeding wild bottlenose dolphins. Tangalooma Island Resort has partnered exclusively with P&O Cruises to offer passengers a wide range of activities when the ship visits. The resort also is home to a beach festival when ships call, with music and food stalls.
Tangalooma Island Resort and its many activities await your full day in port at Moreton Island. If you're not keen on a tour of the island or participating in any activities on offer, you can enjoy the resort facilities, which include a pristine beach, lunch ashore, cold drink at the bar or swimming in one of two pools.
The Wild Dolphin Discovery Tour is extremely popular with first-time visitors to Moreton Island. It's one of the few places in Australia where you can get up close and personal with wild dolphins in the water and hand feed them. The tour includes information about history of the Tangalooma dolphin program, which dates to the 1970s. Then, you wade into the water up to your waist for the feeding (bring a change of clothes and a towel from the ship). You can't use flash photography around the dolphins, and there are other rules for participation, which include not wearing insect repellants, perfumes or sunscreens.
Also on your "don't miss" list should be the beach festival, which P&O Cruises puts on specifically for passengers when the cruise line visits the island. You'll see roving entertainers, live music, food stalls, dance classes and drummers, and it's in operation from morning to afternoon so no one on a tour misses out.
If you've enjoyed the land- and water-based activities before, treat yourself to a heliflight – it's one of the most spectacular ways to enjoy sightseeing on Moreton Island. Although you're airborne for only six minutes, you'll get a bird's-eye view of the key sites, including the island's highest point, Mount Tempest, which is also the world's highest coastal sand dune at 918 feet (280 meters) above sea level, and the wrecks of Moreton Bay. There are also options for longer flights of 12 or 18 minutes.
The only way to get out and see other parts of the island from Tangalooma and your ship is by taking an organised tour. Options include 4WD bus tours, bay cruises and heliflights. You may be able to hire a 4WD taxi at the resort, but on days when a ship is in port, they are usually busy operating tours.
A limited number of 4WD vehicles are also available to rent at Tangalooma Resort, but they are not available when a ship is in port either because they are also used for tours.
Closest to the Ship: Right at your doorstep is Tangalooma Beach, a 5-mile-long (8-kilometer) west-facing pristine beach that gently curves from the southern Tangalooma Point up to Cowan Cowan Point and the airstrip. Much of the beach has the exotic backdrop of vegetated sand dunes reaching up to 110 yards high. Next to the Tangalooma wrecks, you can climb two bare-faced dunes for a great view up and down the length of the beach. You can explore Tangalooma Beach on foot from the resort, but it's narrow and gets even slimmer if the tide is high.
Best for Families: Cowan Beach is closed off to vehicle traffic, making it an ideal for families with small children. The beach also has remains of war relics in the middle of the beach and collapsing from the foredunes.
Best for Swimming and Snorkeling: Bulwer Beach spans 5 miles (8 kilometers) from Comboyuro Point to Cowan Point and has calm, crystal-clear blue waters and a white sandy beach, making it safe for swimming and sunbathing. There is wide span of beach between the wrecks, which offers a safe area for children to play protected from waves. The wrecks themselves are also safe for swimming and snorkelling and are a great spot to watch the sunsets across Moreton Bay.
Best for Exploring: The northern tip of Moreton Island has two small headlands with lighthouses. Between the two is an open, northeast-facing bay with four small beaches. They offer steep access by way of tracks and have hidden caves in the rocks. Honeymoon Bay is the most famous and easy to access, but it's a hazardous spot for a swim because it's dominated by rip tides, hidden rocks and big waves.
Keep in mind no lifeguards patrol any of the beaches on Moreton Island, so caution should be used when swimming. Rip currents are common, particularly on the surf side of the island.
Moreton Island has a limited number of places to eat, with a focus on casual food such as burgers and salads, locally caught fish and chips and seafood -- including the famous Moreton Bay bugs, a species of tiny lobster found in the Pacific.
Closest to your ship are eateries at Tangalooma Island Resort, with options including The Beach Cafe, offering bistro dining with views of Moreton Bay and family meals like made-to-order pizza, burgers and salads.
For a coffee and sweet treat, such as an ice cream or cheesecake, head for The Coffee Shop, while the Wrecks Bar is open daily until late, serving cold beer, wine and cocktails, with entertainment including a pool and music.
If you're able to get beyond Tangalooma Island Resort, there are a few options to consider. Castaways Restaurant (100 Moreton Street) is a casual eatery in Bulwer at the northern end of the island and part of a small resort with a convenience store. It has an island-style thatched roof and is known for lazy lunches with shoes optional. There's also the famous Gutter Bar in Kooringal, on the southern end of the island (21 Kooringal Esplanade), which specializes in seafood, especially fresh oysters, with takeaway available.
Where You're Docked
Ships anchor off Tangalooma Island Resort and use tenders to transport passengers to a pier.
Watch Out For
If you decide to go on a tour involving quad-bikes, wear closed shoes, be careful when driving and pay attention to the safety drill before you start. If you visit Moreton Island in high summer, bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat because temperatures can soar, and it can get very humid.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The local currency is the Australian dollar. There are no banks on Moreton Island. There is an ATM at the Tangalooma Resort, however, and the resort also offers currency exchange. For updated currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
Australians speak English with an Aussie accent, and on Moreton Island, the language is much the same as you'll find in the rest of the country. The majority of local tourists will be from Brissie, otherwise known as Brisbane, and don't forget your cossie, which is Australian for a swimsuit -- you'll definitely need one on a visit to this island with all the beaches and watersports activities.
Moreton Island isn't a place for shopping. Besides buying a trinket or two from Tangalooma's Lucky 7 resort shop, your best souvenir could be a photograph of you feeding the dolphins.
For More Information
On the Web: Moreton Island Visitor Information and Tourism
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Australia and New Zealand
IndependentTraveler.com: Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific Travel Guide
--By Joanna Hall, Cruise Critic contributor
Moreton Island: Pacific JewelNaomiW56Nothing to write home about - fish milled around when being fed, but otherwise non-existent. Not a very good boat design - not much glass in the bottom. ... Read more
Moreton Island: Pacific JewelRosieCanberraThe Tangalooma Resort was great! Lots of activities there, you can hire a kayak for $25 or a stand up paddle board for $35 and lots more. We swam at the beach which was warm and clean. My husband brought his own snorkel gear but you can hire it ... Read more
Moreton Island: Pacific Jewelscarey76We started off fine but then it started raining. We were drenched by the time we got back. Quads are not for me but my hubby loved it and would do it again. Easy to drive though. ... Read more
Moreton Island: Pacific EdenBobbycharlieVery expensive. The amount of time spent on the excursion doesn't justify the cost. ... Read more
Moreton Island: Pacific EdenSanjanjoVery very expensive.. 15% mark up on everything from a soft drink onwards because it was boxing day. ... Read more
Moreton Island: Carnival SpiritOld dearDecided to stay on board as pools were free and slides were working plus we thought weather wasn't the best and found heaps of activities to do that day ... Read more
Moreton Island: Pacific AriaDragonridgeWe walked to the ship wrecks and snorkelled - the walk took us about 25 minutes and the snorkelling was great. ... Read more
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