Moreton island

Shipwrecks, sandy beaches and crab balls.

Moreton island is the quintessential picture-perfect sandy island, located just a short ferry ride away from Brisbane, the sunny capital of Australia. In fact, it’s the third largest sandy island in the world and famous for the Tangalooma wrecks, a cluster of 15 ships that were sunk there by the Queensland government during 1963 and 1984 to provide anchorage points and a break-wall for smaller boats.

I was there in 2017 with a fellow German couchsurfer girl named Katja, and I even ended up staying with the same host as her when I went to Noosa, but that’s a story for another time. We got along pretty well and were both adventurous enough to swim around the wrecks, which is actually not a totally safe activity. The wrecks were sunk at depths between 2-10 m and the visibility is fantastic up to 8 m, so you really don’t need diving equipment to enjoy the view, although there are organised snorkel tours to visit the wrecks. However, there’s a rather strong current passing through the wrecks, which are old, rusty and pretty sharp, so you can get pushed into them while exploring (I remember me and Katja ended up with some minor scrapes).

You also need to battle against the current a bit when swimming across to the wrecks, although they really are quite close to the beach. As if that weren’t enough, there are lots of inexperienced boat and jet ski kamikaze tourists passing between the beach and the wrecks as well, so you need to keep an eye out. If you’re not a strong swimmer, I’d recommend waiting for low tide or joining a tour for sure, because there are no life guards at the beach. Anyhow, we had lots of fun sneaking around the wrecks, although neither of us had an underwater camera, so you can see some better photos of the wrecks here.

Impressions of Moreton island

Not surprisingly, marine life has adapted rather well to the new addition to their island and the wrecks are now home to about 100 fish species and even some corals. If the time is right, you can apparently see some dolphins around and even whales during the season, although the beach was quite popular and I honestly can’t imagine dolphins hanging around during the day with all the small boats and jet skis.

One of the more peculiar things we saw on Moreton island were these little sand ball clusters all over the beach and one of the locals told us that they were made by the sand bubbler crabs. These tiny crabs burrow into the sand during high tide so they don’t get washed away, and come out during low tide to feed. They filter the edible organic material from the sand above their burrows, forming a little sand ball as they go. They need to work pretty fast, because the organic material is quite scarce and they only pick off the layer coating the sand grains, so they need to sift through a lot of sand grains to survive. The little perfectly shaped crab balls were everywhere, so it’s pretty crazy to imagine how many sand bubbler crabs call Moreton island their home and it’s good thing the area is a protected national park.

Sand bubbler crab balls on the beach.

Obviously the wrecks were the most interesting attraction for me and are the most easily accessible, so we spent all our time there, but Moreton island also hides other secrets if you have the time and the money to explore it. Access around the island is limited to 4WD, so you have to either join a rather expensive organised tour or hire a 4WD yourself, which wasn’t exactly in my budget.

However, if you do get the chance, I hear the sparkly Champagne pools and the Blue lagoon freshwater lake are very nice. There’s also the Moreton Cape lighthouse on the northern part of the island, which was the first lighthouse in Queensland, and Mt. Tempest, which is supposedly the highest coastal sand dune in the world at 285 m above sea level. The island is full of beautiful beaches with fancy names, weird rock formations and sandy dunes where you can go sand tobogganing and, if you’re lucky, you can even find some WW2 relics, so it’s definitely a place to spend more than a day if you have the option and I’d love to go camping there one day.

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