Instead of kangaroos, Uluru or the Opera House, the first image of Australia I remember is of Tangalooma. It was a photo my Dad had taken when visiting Brisbane for work nearly 2 decades ago. He had taken the catamaran over to the resort and had taken a picture of an ice cold beer resting on a deckchair with blinding white sand and azure seas stretched out in front of him. It looked like heaven.
Because of this photo, a visit to Tangalooma had been at the top of our Brisbane bucket-list. With only a couple of weekends left in Brisbane, we decided that it was going to be now or never.
Having visited Stradbroke Island (a nearby cousin of Moreton Island where Tangalooma Resort lives), we thought that a trip across Moreton Bay would be as simple as turning up and hopping on a passenger ferry. Not so. As Tangalooma is a resort, you have to choose one of their many packages rather than going solo. You can plump for whale watching tours, dolphin tours, overnight stays or the simple day cruise which was all our meagre budget would allow.
The Day Cruise cost a very reasonable $65 and included access to the resort facilities, the return 90 minute catamaran journey and a $20 meal voucher.
Our original plan had been to spend our anniversary relaxing at Tangalooma but the weekend and proceeding week was completely sold out. Luckily we managed to nab some of the few remaining day cruise tickets for the following Sunday. If you are hoping to go to Tangalooma then make sure you book in advance, especially if your dates coincide with the high season.
With the promise of experiencing ‘a holiday in a day’ we made the commute to Holt Street Wharf (which is somewhat of a challenge without your own car) and joined the throngs of Japanese tourists as we crammed onto the catamaran in an excited gaggle.
As the catamaran began slicing its way towards the mouth of the Brisbane River the Captain entertained us over the tanoy, informing us of the various sewage and industrial plants that lined the riverbank. You learn something new everyday…
We spent the 90 minutes cheek-to-cheek with our Japanese counterparts, stealing fresh air on the outdoor decks and peering overboard at the clouds of jellyfish which bobbed ominously below.
The voyage was smooth but became blustery as we headed into the eye of an incoming storm which had chosen to whirl directly above Moreton Island, our destination. As the third largest sand island in the world (after Fraser Island and Stradbroke Island) we wondered if it would all be washed away after this mighty storm had passed through.
Miraculously, the storm sensed our arrival and backed off as soon as we docked leaving the sandy shores unscathed. Tangalooma waited for us, sparkling in the relieved sun.
We left the boat and wandered through the tropical grounds of the resort. The setting was stunning, framed by Moreton’s rolling hillside and covered in swaying palms. The resort itself looked in need of a lick of paint but the holiday vibe it emitted more than made up for it.
We headed straight to the far end of Tangalooma’s sprawling beach front in search of the Tangalooma ship wrecks. The ships were submerged as a fun waterbreak and have spawned a life of their own, now playing host to a plethora of fish and coral life.
At low tide the wrecks are about 100m off shore in what appears to be calm, shallow water. We waded out and began snorkelling. At one point I tried to pick up my pace to catch up with Ryan. After getting nowhere I popped my head above the water and was greeted by a guffawing man on a boat who gleefully informed me that I hadn’t moved an inch. I had been fighting a rip which was intent on dragging me back to shore.
Eventually I managed to escape the humiliation and found Ryan sitting on the wreck inspecting an angry jellyfish sting on his side. We had thought that this still patch of ocean would have been free from the crowds of Blue Blubber jellyfish we had seen on the catamaran ride but we were wrong. As if to remind us, a friendly jellyfish bobbed out of the water and bumped into Ryan’s leg sending him wailing back to shore.
I quickly followed and we decided to cut our losses and head back to the resort for lunch.
Lunch at Tangalooma was Ryan’s idea of hell. All of the eateries (excluding the eye-wateringly expensive Fire & Stone restaurant) are centred around a large seating area. During our visit the area was packed with beach-goers and blaring top-40 tunes at an insane volume.
We took to the front deck where Ryan tried in vain to cover his ears and block the onslaught of pop songs. Using our $20 voucher we both went for different lunch options. Ryan went for a pizza at the reasonably priced Beach Cafe whilst I went for a grilled chicken breast from the Copper Grill which is the best value for money as it comes with an unlimited salad bar.
The $20 could easily cover your lunch but we went for the slightly pricier option and both paid an extra $3 each. With hindsight it might have been preferable to bring over a picnic lunch and use the voucher for coffees or small snacks as the majority of affordable food will leave you feeling bloated.
Ryan couldn’t leave the eating area quick enough and after our sea scare earlier in the day we decided to check out the resort pools. The pools are obviously popular with families but with the final ferry departure looming a lot of parents were dragging their kids out of the water to get ready, leaving them free for us adults to relax in.
We had cut our day too short by being lazy and opting for the 10am departure time in the morning. Instead, we could have chosen the 7am departure and had the whole day until the final ferry leaves for the city at 4pm. With the 90 minutes it takes to get to the resort you have to make the most of your time, especially if you want to visit the wrecks which are a 20 minute walk away from the resort.
Nevertheless, the Day Cruise turned out to be everything we needed and would be a great taster if you were thinking about booking a longer stay on the island. It’s commercial, yes, but if you need an escape from the city or want to experience the relaxed life Australia is famous for then you can’t beat it.
Even 20 years after my Dad visited Tangalooma, the resort is still picture perfect.