A Moreton Island camping and 4WD adventure is one of the best weekend getaways when you live in Brisbane. I love it every time. The city feels thousands of miles away. But it’s less than 50 kilometres from the continent. So close that you can sometimes see it on the horizon.
It only takes half an hour from Brisbane CBD to reach the boat at the Port of Brisbane. And 1.5 hours later, you start driving on the beautiful beach next to the famous Tangalooma Wrecks, on one of the best islands near Brisbane.
It sounds and looks ideal. And it is. The only thing is that organising a weekend to Moreton Island – one of the world’s largest sand islands – can be overwhelming the first time. There are many things to do on Moreton Island and driving on the sand can be tricky. You’ll find in this article useful tips and ideas for your itinerary.
There are no bitumen roads on Moreton Island. Hence, only 4WD vehicles can access it. Almost the entire island is a national park. If you don’t like camping, options are limited: you can stay at the Tangalooma Resort* or look for a holiday house on Airbnb*.
Itinerary ideas for a Moreton Island camping and 4WD weekend
Day 1 on Moreton Island: Explore the North
The Five Hills Lookout is worth the effort. The 30-minute steep walk (1 km return) can become hard in the heat, so you’d better plan it early in the day. I believe the views are even better when it’s high tide.
You can then refresh at Champagne Pools. There’s a small lagoon protected by rocks where waves come and splash. It creates bubbles that gave the name to the place. The peaceful Honeymoon Bay is a short walk away, on the other side of North Point. You can climb up to North Point small light.
But Cape Moreton Lighthouse is more impressive. It’s Queensland‘s oldest lighthouse. The walk around it offers perfect views to spot marine animals, including whales during the colder months. It’s only 1.5 km in total and rather flat, except for the start as you have to climb up to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the lighthouse cannot be visited, and the second part of the loop isn’t that interesting. I’d recommend turning around to go back the same way, close to the coast.
Day 2 on Moreton Island: Cross to the Eastern Beach and drive to the South
For the second day, you can cross to the eastern side of Moreton Island via the Bulwer – Blue Lagoon track. Just before you reach the beach, you’ll find the Honeyeater Lake lookout. It’s a very short stop as it only takes a couple of minutes to reach the platform above the lake. If you are short on time, you can directly go to the Blue Lagoon.
It only takes 5-10 minutes to walk to the Blue Lagoon from the carpark. If you’ve been to Fraser Island, you may have images of amazing lakes in mind. Lower your expectations not to be disappointed. Moreton Island’s Blue Lagoon isn’t as impressive. It’s beautiful, but the nearby tea trees give the water a darker colour than what most people expect. However, the warm and shallow freshwater makes it a perfect swimming spot. The purity and untouched surrounding nature still make this 42-hectare lake special.
Back on Eagers Beach, you can drive all the way down to Mirapool Lagoon. It’s another great spot for swimming, and the colour contrasts between the ocean, the lagoons and the sand are beautiful. Bird lovers will love the eastern side of Moreton Island.
You may want to make a detour to see the small township of Kooringal as you’re in the south of Moreton Island. I read on the ferry that an Oyster Farm and a bar that sell fresh seafood in Kooringal. We only had a quick look at the holiday houses, in case we decide one day not to opt for camping on Moreton Island.
Back on the western beach, you should stop at the Big Sandhills. You cannot miss them: the dunes rise 60 metres above sea level. They are the largest on Moreton Island. It’s not easy to walk up the dunes, especially on a hot day. But it’s rewarding. The views of Moreton Bay from up there are fantastic.
If you didn’t have enough sand landscapes for the day with the Big Sandhills, you will find the steps leading to The Desert near Tangalooma Resort. Hiking to the desert may be a good option for those who don’t have a 4WD or don’t want to drive far away. Otherwise, I prefer a lot the Big Sandhills.
Don’t underestimate the time you need to drive back to the Tangalooma Wreck. You have to contour the resort, and the Tangalooma by-pass was very soft and challenging when we took it. You can finish the afternoon snorkelling at Tangalooma Wrecks before catching the ferry back to Brisbane. There is often current at the Wrecks, so make sure you consider that when you swim to reach them. If you are flexible in your itinerary, the current reduces at the peak of high and low tide. If you aren’t a confident snorkeller, you may want to join a tour to get there with a boat for a better experience. A tour is also a good option if you don’t want to bring over all your snorkel gear.
Snorkelling Tangalooma Wrecks is the most popular activity on Moreton Island. A short swim away from the beach, beautiful corals cover the wrecks. Although the visibility isn’t always good, it’s always a fun opportunity to swim among a myriad of fish and other marine creatures like wobbegongs, turtles and even dolphins if you’re very lucky! It’s one of the best snorkelling spots near Brisbane.
If you are travelling on a cool day, you may want to add Mt Tempest to this itinerary and remove the stops at the southern end of the island. It’s a 2.5 km steep return walk to climb Moreton Island’s highest sand dune (280 m high).
The best Moreton Island camping
I wish I had tested all the Moreton Island camping spots to be able to write which one is the best. I only stayed at two different campgrounds and had a sneak peek at a few others. Here are my thoughts about all the sites I’ve seen, so you can decide which one is the best Moreton Island camping according to your needs.
The North West camping zone looked fabulous.
The best spots between Ben-Ewa and Comboyuro Point have ocean views and shade. And it’s a short drive from the Tangalooma Wrecks. But it’s not in a campground so you won’t have toilets and showers nearby.
Our stay at Comboyuro Point campground was fantastic.
Although we could not see the ocean from our camp, we had direct and quick access to the beach. We appreciated the many trees that provided shade so we could sleep a bit longer in the morning. There were also pits for a campfire available. Camping on the west side of Moreton Island is my favourite option as it allows us to watch the beautiful sunset on the water.
North Point campground didn’t appeal to us.
Staying within walking distance from Honeymoon Bay and Champagne Pools is lovely and does have advantages. However, the sites we saw had almost no natural shade, and it wasn’t possible to park the car close to them.
The Wrecks campground is perfect for those who come to Moreton Island island without a 4WD.
It’s close to where the ferry lands and to the Tangalooma Wrecks, the busiest place on Moreton Island. It has no particular charm, and I prefer staying somewhere quieter.
The Blue Lagoon campground is on the other side of Moreton Island.
The inland tracks can be hard to apprehend for those who aren’t experienced driving on sand. There were no views or particular charms at our camping site, but we appreciated the calm and the easy walking access to the freshwater lake.
What budget to plan for a Moreton Island camping weekend?
A trip to Moreton Island is more expensive than a trip to the other sand islands in the region (Stradbroke Island and Fraser Island), mainly because of the ferry costs. Here’s a quick overview of our budget for our weekend on Moreton Island:
- Ferry: $200 (for one vehicle and two passengers – price increases with the number of passengers)
- Camping: $26 ($13 per night per couple)
- Petrol: around $120
- Vehicle Permit (buy it online or from over the counter offices): $51 per vehicle
Things to bring for 4WD and camping on Moreton Island
I’m not going to list all the camping and 4WD road trip equipment you need. But here are a few tips that can make your trip a lot easier.
You should come prepared with all the food, firewood and petrol you need for your stay. If you need to top up, you can find grocery items, ice and fuel in Bulwer and seafood and meat in Kooringal. Only authorised guests can use the Tangalooma Resort facilities. You may apply for a Casual Day Visitor Pass to gain access, but the number is limited (and sometimes unavailable).
I never bring shoes, but often regret it. In summer, the sand can get extremely hot. Thongs are enough for short walks. But if you have to push the car, or if you wish to walk in the dunes for a little while, enclosed shoes are a great idea.
Bring your own snorkelling gear (including fins as there is current at the Wrecks).
You won’t have a nice time on Moreton Island if you forget your hat and sunscreen.
Responsible travel tip: Did you know your sunscreen may harm marine life and the environment? You may prefer to use a brand that does not contain chemicals that have negative impacts on the ocean, lakes and rivers.
When is the best time to go for 4WD and camping on Moreton Island?
A weekend of 4WD and camping on Moreton Island can be organised at any time of the year.
If you have the choice, I recommend avoiding summer as it can get scorching and stormy. It’s too hot to visit all the island attractions comfortably, but the water is lovely. With the right equipment for the wet season and a campground with shade, it’s still a great adventure.
Winter is not my preference because the days are shorter than the rest of the year. Plus, the water gets colder. But the weather is lovely, and you can enjoy the many activities the island offers. Humpback whales migrate along the Australian East Coast during the colder months, and you can get a chance to spot some from Moreton Island.
Late Spring is my favourite season in the region. The temperatures are perfect, outside and in the water. Days aren’t too short yet, so you can plan more things than in winter. Late Autumn is also fantastic.
Don’t drive on the beach less than two hours on either side of high tide.
That’s the general rule when driving on the beach. Some places cannot be passed close to high tide. Plus, it’s faster and more comfortable to drive on hard sand when possible.
Some weekends have better high tide times than others. Take that into account when you plan your itinerary. There is often an inland by-pass to avoid the beach at high tide. However, as the sand is softer inland than on the beach, the drive takes longer.
Moreton Island is busy during the school holidays.
I always prefer to avoid the crowd when I travel to a remote place such as Moreton Island. If you cannot go outside the school holiday period, make sure you book in advance as the ferry and campsites get fully reserved. For example, people start booking their Moreton Island ferry trips more than six months in advance for Easter, a very busy weekend everywhere in Australia.
Map of my Moreton Island camping weekend itinerary
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