A Place Like This
A snorkelling day trip to Tangalooma resort on Moreton Island is (in my opinion) hands down the best one-off adventure from Brisbane. The day trip runs on a tight schedule, the feeling is total escape and the snorkelling is next level.
Seventy years ago, Tangalooma was a whaling station. It’s now a small, adventure-focussed resort that faces Moreton Bay. Along with the resort, there are three small townships on the sand island accessible by four-wheel drive while 98% of the island is a national park.
Lock It In
So where to begin? We booked a Snorkel The Wrecks day trip to Tangalooma via their website. There are lots of other activities on offer but we chose snorkelling – $149 for adults and $119 per child. The fee covered our ferry to and from the island, wetsuits, snorkel gear, guide and there were some extra food vouchers thrown in.
How To Get There
The ferry to Tangalooma departs from Holt Street, Pinkenba – an industrial, riverside Brisbane suburb. Passengers must arrive at the ferry terminal an hour before departure and parking is $20.
The ferry is a two-storey vessel with rows of blue velvet seats downstairs, a snack bar and a saloon-like setting upstairs. There’s also a roof deck with seating but it was extremely windy on our trip. The ferry begins slowly along the Brisbane River and then picks up pace out on the bay.
Pro-tip: Bring a pack of cards to keep younger passengers amused on the 40-minute jaunt across Moreton Bay.
Don’t Come For The Food
Upon arrival we checked in at the Tanga Tours hut to confirm our snorkelling trip and then made our way to the fast-food outlet on the island. As part of our snorkelling package, we had $20 adult food vouchers, and $15 vouchers for the younger members of our group. The food is terrible. It’s such a lost opportunity. The resort could have taco trucks, fresh prawn sandwiches or a cute gelato stand. Instead, it resembles a school tuckshop. Bring your own snacks and if possible, bring your own lunch.
Let The Snorkel Begin
The day trip schedule is pretty tight in a good way. After lunch we made our way down the beach. The kids in our group had a quick dip in the clear, warm December water. Then we walked across to the dive office.
Under a tent awning, we filled out more safety and insurance forms. Then our group was kitted in wetsuits and given flippers, goggles and snorkels. With our tour guide, we walked across the strand to an open tinny with rows of metal seats. We boarded and in just a few minutes we were sitting on an aluminium ledge lowered into the water, ready to snorkel.
The Tangalooma resort team must have designed the Wrecks tour to flow with currents as you really don’t have to do anything. You just float with the group through stunning snorkelling vistas (this is only 40 minutes from Brisbane!). The less confident snorkelers in our group held onto the tour guide’s red lifesaving ring and were pulled around the reef by the guide. There are also pool noodles available for those not comfortable paddling. Overall, it felt very safe: the tour groups are small, and the guides are attentive.
The Tangalooma reef is man-made with 17 sunk railway carriages, rusted boats and old mining equipment. The coral, attached to the wrecks, is alive with so many shapes and layers. In our group, a Coral Sea turtle, a stonefish and a stingray were spotted among all the electric-coloured marine life.
To float through the reef took approximately 30-minutes and my fingertips were wrinkled by the end. We then boarded the open tinny and made our way back to shore. Back at the diving hut, we peeled off our wetsuits and rinsed our fins, snorkels and goggles.
Home Again, Home Again
We changed out of our wet swim gear, stopped by the tuck shop for a fizzy drink to restore our energy and then walked to the island’s wharf to board the 4pm ferry back to Brisbane. The trip home lacked the energy of the trip across Moreton Bay. Everyone in our group was zonked and sat in sun-and-salty silence.
But Wait, There’s More
It is possible to stay overnight at the Tangalooma resort. The natural beauty of Moreton Island is breathtaking but sadly the resort is not the chicest destination for a Holiday Goddess. The resort offers other activities such as ATV tours, sand dune surfing, helicopter flights and feeding dolphins, pelicans and kookaburras. But really a stand-alone snorkel trip to Tangalooma is a very special day out.
Moreton Island has appeared on screen in Scooby Doo (called Spooky Island in the film). More recently, George Clooney and Julia Roberts filmed Ticket to Paradise on the island.