desktop view

 

| Travel Diary | Countries |
| Blogs | Superblogs | Treks |

 

Home > Blogs > Australia > 242

previousNext
 
 
 
 

Hiking around Moreton Island

Hiking around Moreton Island
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Date:
Location:
Country:
Latitude:
Longitude:
Altitude:
December 2017
Brisbane
Australia
27°S
153°E
0 - 285m ASL
Google Maps Link
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Day 1

The boat pulled out of the mouth of the Brisbane River, passing large container ships getting loaded at the port. Heading across Moreton Bay, the city all but disappeared, with only the tallest high rises of the inner city poking above the horizon.

Port of Brisbane

Port of Brisbane

The translucent brown waters surrounding the city gradually cleared into a pristine blue colour as the ferry approached the island, completely covered in native forest apart from a few sand blows of golden sand giving away that the island is almost entirely made from sand dunes. A solid line of yellow on the horizon marked the ongoing beach endless beach stretching around almost all the way around the island. I will be following this beach clockwise the whole way around.

Approaching Moreton Island

Approaching Moreton Island

The ferry landed on a pristine golden beach under one of the large sand blows. Small wavelets broke from the deliciously crystal-clear turquoise water. To the right were the rusting hulks of several whaling ships that had operated from a little further down the beach at Tangalooma Whaling Station. The whaling station has long gone, now replaced with a large resort with numerous accommodation buildings clearly visible over the beach covered in crowds. At either end of the resort the beach had logs segregating it from the rest of the island, nicely confining the crowds.

The Wrecks

The Wrecks

Upon leaving the ferry, I hiked across the sand to the nearby Wrecks Camp and set up camp. The afternoon was already late, so I came out to the beach to watch the sun set over the rusting wrecks.

Sunset over The Wrecks

Sunset over The Wrecks

 

Day 2

Setting off before sunrise, I headed north along the beach passing the large sand blows away from the resort and wrecks. It was not long before the sand hills ended and I reached a large flat point going around the tiny village of Cowan Cowan hidden in the gum forest.

Looking back at dawn

Looking back at dawn

Upon rounding the point, a long beach of golden sand stretched out about eight kilometres with the Howard Range, the world’s highest sand range, forming a backdrop behind much of the beach. The beach itself ended under a flat swamp forest in the distance.

At Cowan Cowan looking north

At Cowan Cowan looking north

Passing some concrete military structures used to defend the bay during World War II, I continued following the sand, passing several streams draining the large swamp between the beach and the range.

Ruins at Cowan Cowan

Ruins at Cowan Cowan

Most of the way along the beach I reached the wrecks of another three old ships, having been rusting away for nearly ninety years since they were scuttled here. Behind the forest across the beach were a couple of dirt track entrances to the village of Bulwer. The village was mostly holiday houses, a general store and a service station. The roads were all soft sand tracks and all vehicles on the island were four wheel drives. There are no sealed or gravel roads anywhere here (except perhaps back at the resort). The best way to drive here was to follow the hard sand of the beach during low tide.

Wrecks at Bulwer

Wrecks at Bulwer

A little further up the beach approaching Comboyuro Point I reached the camping ground where I set the tent up before returning to Bulwer to explore and relax for the rest of the day.  The shop was the last I would see on the island, so I ensured I had enough food to cover the rest of the trip. Fortunately, all of the camping grounds had a good fresh water supply, as I would need it in the hot summer days that were to follow.

Tent set up at campsite

Tent set up at campsite

 

Day 3

Leaving Bulwer in the early morning, I headed further along the beach towards Comboyuro Point. When I last hiked through here the point was quite short and the forest was being eroded into the sea. Now ten years later the erosion had stopped and a huge area of sand had been deposited adding about an extra kilometre as I headed above the water line.

Last look down the beach

Last look down the beach

After rounding the point, I continued following the beach about the now incoming tide around a small bay ending in a stream draining a large lagoon. This lagoon was fed by Dog Creek, a stream draining most of the forested swampland behind Bulwer.

Lagoon at Dog Creek

Lagoon at Dog Creek

Following the creek, I continued along the beach, along what had once been a large sandy desert, but nearly all of the sand had been moved back to the other side of Dog Creek in the decade since I had last been here. The beach was hardly familiar at all but I continued following it until eventually seeing the large exposed sand blows of Seven Hills. A little further was the lagoon behind Heath Island.

Endless northern beach

Endless northern beach

The lagoon was mostly dry, but water was coming in with the rising tide. The lagoon went right up to the bottom of the Seven Hills, some with larger sand blows than others. The sand was white to pale yellow, some of the purest sand I’ve ever seen blown up the length of the island by the prevailing south easterly trade winds.

Heath Island estuary

Heath Island estuary

The tide was in, but not particularly high. Shallow crystal-clear water covered the pure white sand as I crossed the estuary upstream from the main channel (avoiding the deeper water of the channel) to Heath Island.

Main channel

Main channel

Heath Island isn’t really an island at all. It is just the end of a sand bar separating the estuary from the ocean. The island itself was covered in scruffy scrub under some scraggly silky oaks. The western side of the island was abruptly cut off by the bright blue deep channel feeding the estuary. The other side of the island was cut off by low white sand dunes free of vegetation. Another channel would have once passed through here, but the ever-shifting sands have in recent decades accumulated and blocked the end of the tiny island off. The name has stuck though.

End of estuary at Heath Island

End of estuary at Heath Island

Following the sand under the hot summer sun, the estuary narrowed off into a small lake of deeper water indicating where the channel could have come out. The sand dunes ended as the beach swept in towards the dunes. These were mostly forested except a large dune behind a dark lagoon with a small patch of yellow sand, discoloured from having been in a swamp at one stage in the past. This was Yellow Patch. Scrub had covered most of the patch in the years since I was last here.

Yellow Patch

Yellow Patch

Ahead of me was North Point, the remains of a small volcano providing the only solid rock on the island. Although the volcano was only a couple of square kilometre, the prevailing winds and current had created the triangular island ten kilometres wide here at the top and 35 kilometres long.

North Point

North Point

In front of the rocky headland the beach was very narrow to the scrub. Last time I was here a sandspit had concealed a beautiful lagoon. That had all washed away during a cyclone last year. Just before I reached the start of the erosion, I turned inland to follow a sand road heading behind the volcano towards Cape Moreton. I followed this road a short distance before turning off to the left into the North Point camping ground.

Looking back to Heath Island

Looking back to Heath Island

 

Day 4

The morning dawned overcast. Before setting off, I followed a side track from the camping ground towards North Point. The track headed up the side of the old volcano to a low saddle before descending to Honeymoon Bay, inside what would have been the volcano’s crater.

Dawn at North Point

Dawn at North Point

The beach was surrounded by jagged rock formations. Waves were breaking on the small beach. To the right was the lighthouse, still flashing. I stayed on the beach to watch the sun rise in between the gaps in the clouds before heading back to the camp.

Sunrise over Cape Moreton

Sunrise over Cape Moreton

The clouds thickened as I packed up and left the camping ground following the wide dirt road moderately uphill over a dune beside the volcanic rock. The road was initially long and straight before turning a couple of bends reaching its highest point before starting to descend. A short distance along the descent was a junction where a side road led towards the lighthouse.

Honeymoon Bay

Honeymoon Bay

I followed the road under increasingly cloudy sky to reach a small wooden house that had been converted into a museum – a very remote one at that. I sought shelter in the museum from the strong wind exploring the exhibits of the history of the island. After exploring the museum, I returned outside and followed a track up the hill heading to the nearby lighthouse.

Cape lighthouse and museum

Cape lighthouse and museum

The Cape Moreton lighthouse was built by convicts in 1857 from rock quarried from the volcano. It stood as a very solid construction near the summit of the cape at the edge of the spectacular cliff plunging into the sea below. The rough sea had eroded away half of the volcano, with the only sign of the other side of the crater being a submerged reef a kilometre or two offshore. The lighthouse has guided ships into Moreton Bay for the past 160 years.

View out into the Pacific Ocean

View out into the Pacific Ocean

Underneath the lighthouse is the keeper’s house. Behind the house was a weather station located here in the most windswept and exposed place on the entire South East Queensland coast. I have been here when it does blow very strong, but this morning the air was almost dead calm. I followed the track around the lighthouse buildings. Rain hadn’t started falling yet, but looking along the long sweeping coast rain was falling just a couple of kilometres away, obscuring the highest hills of the island, and hiding its far end some 35 kilometres away.

The lighthouse

The lighthouse

From the lighthouse I returned along the side road back to the main dirt road crossing the side of the extinct volcano, then headed down the road towards the ocean beach. The grade started moderately but soon steepened descending on a rubber grip surface. I quickly followed the steep road down to the beach.

Road down to the beach

Road down to the beach

By now the rain had cleared down the coast allowing me to see further, but the salt haze only provided about ten kilometres of visibility. After resting at the rocky headland, I set off trekking southward along the long beach. The tide was mostly out leaving hard sand to easily walk on.

35 kilometre long beach

35 kilometre long beach

The dunes above the beach seemed to continue endlessly until eventually reaching Spitfire Creek nearly eight kilometres from the headland. The creek drains from an inaccessible inland lake a long way from any of the tracks. It ends in a small lagoon before meandering down the beach sand into the turbulent sea.

Spitfire Creek

Spitfire Creek

From here the headland was already appearing quite small. After resting for lunch, I continued along the beach for a few more kilometres before reaching the main entrance to the Blue Lagoon camping ground.

Cape Moreton

Cape Moreton

Once the tent was set up I followed a track inland for about ten minutes over the scrubby dunes before it suddenly descended into Blue Lagoon, a large lake with its dark tannin stained waters ruffled with the wind. Although no rain had fallen here yet, the weather looked like it will close in before the sun will set.

(Not so) Blue Lagoon

(Not so) Blue Lagoon

I followed a track around the edge of Blue Lagoon before it headed up into the forested dunes to a road track across a large swampy flat to the main dirt road cutting across the hills to Bulwer. The swampy flat had a lot of grass trees growing on it, and hidden in a large depression was Lake Honeyeater.

Heathland between the lakes

Heathland between the lakes

With the clouds thickening overhead and the sun soon to set, I returned to Blue Lagoon and the camping ground just as the rain began falling. The sky quickly darkened and steady rain fell for much of the night.

Blue Lagoon and main beach

Blue Lagoon and main beach

 

Day 5

Clouds still covered much of the sky when I left Blue Lagoon and continued following the beach southwards. The clouds quickly cleared to a mostly sunny morning. After a couple of hours, I reached the entrance to Eager’s Landing camping ground where I set up the tent.

Heading towards Eagers Landing

Heading towards Eagers Landing

Following a good rest, I headed a little further along the beach crossing Eager’s Creek to Middle Road, a dirt road cutting across the island seven kilometres to Ben Ewa, about a kilometre north of the ferry landing point at The Wrecks. There were two separate lanes of this dirt road, of which I followed the right lane up into the forested dunes. By now most of the clouds had completely gone, cleared for a hot day.

Middle Road

Middle Road

About half a kilometre along the road, a narrow side road turned off to the right to follow a deep gully between the high sand ridges ascending the forested gully for a couple of kilometres uphill before reaching a small car park. From there a walking track continued at the end of the road, quickly reaching a junction. The main track started steeply heading downhill, this was the telegraph track eventually reaching a saddle at the highest point of the Blue Lagoon to Bulwer Road. The track to the left headed uphill along some stairs.

Track up Mount Tempest

Track up Mount Tempest

At the top of the stairs the track continued moderately climbing along the side of the hill. The tall trees quickly ended to be replaced with smaller banksias and grass trees. The hike up the rest of the hill was long under the hot sun. Eventually though, I reached the 285 metre summit of Mount Tempest, the world’s highest coastal sand hill.

Summit of Mount Tempest

Summit of Mount Tempest

After resting at the lookout, I headed back downhill along the track, eventually returned to my campsite at Eager’s Landing.

Dusk back on the main beach

Dusk back on the main beach

 

Day 6

Having hiked solidly for five days making it half way around the island, today was a day of rest, relaxing on the beach near the camping ground under the shade of some trees away from the hot sun.

Peaceful remote beach

Peaceful remote beach

In the late afternoon a group of five hikers passed, having crossed Middle Road and starting to head around the top of the island, stopping at Blue Lagoon tonight. I packed up and continued hiking southward along the beach. The volcanic headland at the cape now looked quite small, but the far end of the beach still wasn’t visible. The hills of North Stradbroke Island beyond the end of this beach were clearly visible above the horizon.

Five hikers

Five hikers

The sun set and the sky darkened, providing relatively cool conditions to continue hiking. Eventually I reached a group of campsites where I settled for the night.

Sunset as I head south

Sunset as I head south

 

Day 7

I set off again a little before sunrise, the building clouds were brilliant in the pre-dawn sunlight. The hills of North Stradbroke Island were obscured in a thick bank of cloud bringing heavy rain. Rain was also falling up near the cape behind me. Although it was clear around this part of the island, I knew it wouldn’t stay clear for long.

Sunrise on a remote stretch

Sunrise on a remote stretch

About half an hour after sunrise, I reached Camel Rock, a small sandstone formation created under the weight of a large sandhill perhaps as tall as Mount Tempest. In the thousands of years since this rock was formed, the coast has moved eastward now exposing the worn remains of this rock. It was quite smooth and didn’t look too much like a camel, probably due to recent erosion in the decades following its discovery.

Camel Rock

Camel Rock

From Camel Rock I continued heading south. The clouds continued to build and a squall of heavy rain fell for about an hour. I continued following the beach southwards, reaching Rous Battery about half an hour after the rain had stopped.

Approaching rain

Approaching rain

Rous Battery was another coastal military fortification established during World War II. A large circular gun foundation was sticking out of the reddish sand hill. It was perched there looking ready to collapse along with the remains of the concrete buildings surrounding it. Signs indicated this was now a dangerous area. I remained at the bottom of the hill photographing it before heading a few hundred metres south to the campsite and another water supply where I filled up the water bladder to keep me going until I get to Kooringal tonight.

Rous Battery

Rous Battery

I didn’t stay long, there was still quite a long way to go to the bottom of the island. The clouds started to clear to brilliant sunshine, but it soon clouded over again as I passed the scrublands behind Little Sandhills. I could now see the far end of the beach where trees were falling into the sea. The long beach was starting to curve towards this point.

View to the bottom of the island

View to the bottom of the island

It took a couple of hours to round the end of the point. The tide had by now come in and the waves were breaking over the fallen trees. Fortunately, there was a track over the narrow sand bar between the beach and the peaceful waters of Mirapool. This was a lake about half of the size of Blue Lagoon. It was fully protected as it had migratory birds, dugongs, and a whole ecosystem of ocean creatures hidden in its deep waters.

Mirapool

Mirapool

I followed the edge of the lagoon towards its outlet. Fortunately, the tide was out enough for it to be clear of the lagoon, with just a small stream flowing out of it. There I stopped and relaxed for the afternoon. High clouds came overhead providing a spectacular sunset over the lagoon before I followed a short road track to the long beach heading towards the village of Kooringal on the island’s southernmost point.

Sunset over Mirapool

Sunset over Mirapool

 

Day 8

A mostly cloudless sunrise near Reeder Point gave me another early start heading to the very bottom of the island where the Amity Trader ferry lands. After a brief break there, I returned along the sand road back to Kooringal. The open beach had now given way to mangroves in between the boat landing points at The Gutter back in Moreton Bay.

Sunrise at Reeder Point

Sunrise at Reeder Point

Heading northward out of Kooringal, I followed the dirt road passing tall gum forest to the right and mangroves to the left. For several kilometres, there were almost no signs of civilisation apart from the occasional shack hidden in the bush, and one large oyster farm. Eventually the mangroves began to clear giving glimpses of vast sand flats.

Main road at Kooringal

Main road at Kooringal

The forested hills gave way to exposed sand dunes, at the start of the Little Sandhills. After another hundred metres the mangroves almost entirely cleared showing the large sand flats extending from the base of the steep sand dunes to a thin blue line of sea in Moreton Bay looking across to the city. I could see the high rises of the city, this being about the closest point of the island to the city centre.

Little Sandhills

Little Sandhills

After resting at Little Sandhills for lunch I continued following the sandy road on top of the white beach as the tide flooded in. The sand dunes ended to larger forested dunes before reaching a huge sand blow of orange sand. This was the Big Sandhills. I continued for a couple of hundred more metres before reaching Big Sandhills camping ground. Here I found a good place to camp. The water supply here was a very old hand pump with the water tasting brackish and rusty. Fortunately, one of the other groups camping here gave me some fresh water to keep me going tomorrow.

Big Sandhills

Big Sandhills

 

Day 9

I left under overcast skies early the next morning, following the beach as the tide quickly came in. The beach became very narrow with the high tide, passing under steep sandhills in what was the loneliest and least visited part of the island. I rounded point after point until reaching the rusting remains of an old passenger ship sticking out of the water. From there it was just a short distance to Shark Point, where I rested to wait for the tide to go out.

Rusting shipwreck

Rusting shipwreck

Leaving Shark Point, the beach rounded into a very pretty and remote bay of high forested sandhills with numerous sand blows. The tide was starting to go out, but several trees had fallen into the water, forcing me to climb over them. These fallen trees made driving these beaches impossible at high tide, making this a very peaceful morning.

Shark Point

Shark Point

As I continued heading around the back of the bay, the tide had gone out enough to allow four wheel drives to come through, breaking the silence. The tide swept out over the long sand bank but remained deep at the far end. Finally, I rounded the point before reaching a larger point – This was Tangalooma Point.

Tangalooma Point

Tangalooma Point

After resting at Tangalooma Point under the hot sun, cloud came in overhead, so I continued rounding the point, now seeing the resort just ahead. A dirt road went around the back of the resort, but seeing it was narrow and quite a bit of traffic coming through I decided to follow the beach through the crowds of holiday makers. After the remoteness of the past eight days, it was a culture shock to be seeing so many people here. Most of these people wouldn’t not know anything about this spectacular island past the tight confines of the resort. With the tide now completely out the beach looked rather drab.

Wharf at Tangalooma Resort

Wharf at Tangalooma Resort

Upon reaching the end of the resort, I walked through a gap in the logs placed down the beach to prevent vehicles getting in. I followed the beach for another kilometre towards The Wrecks back to the camping ground where I had started hiking the circumference of the island eight days and ninety kilometres ago.

Sunset back at The Wrecks

Sunset back at The Wrecks

 

Day 10

My final day on Moreton Island was very relaxing, with almost no hiking needed. A spectacular sunrise behind the high dunes was followed by a mostly overcast sky. I packed up the tent and headed to the ferry landing point, watching it come in. There was a bit of a wait to get on board with quite a few large bins to put on board.

The ferry arrives

The ferry arrives

Once on board I climbed up to the top deck from where I could see across the spectacular wrecks to the resort and onto Tangalooma Point, and looking the other way along the pristine sand hills to the point at Cowan Cowan.

Sandblows north of The Wrecks

Sandblows north of The Wrecks

As the ferry pulled out and headed across the bay back towards the city, more and more of the island was revealed, showing just how enormous it was with its endless sandhills and sand blows heading southward to big and little sandhills, and the mangroves beyond. Looking northward I could see all the way up to Comboyuro Point at Bulwer.

View down to Shark Point

View down to Tangalooma Point

Heading across the bay, the thin yellow line of beach thinned eventually disappearing under the horizon and the hills got lower. The towering triangular peak of Mount Tempest stood dominant over the middle of the island as the ferry headed into the busy entrance of the Brisbane River.

Last view of island

Last view of island

 
 
 

previousNext

 
 
 
 
Home
 
| Travel Diary | Countries |
| Blogs | Superblogs | Treks |
 
Who is Walkabout Jeff?
 
Follow Walkabout Jeff
 

© walkaboutjeff.com

Copyright - Disclaimer