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Shipwrecks, sand dunes, and dolphins: Tangalooma day trip from Brisbane

Shipwrecks, dunes, and dolphins: Tangalooma day trip from Brisbane

When I saw a photo of the Tangalooma Wrecks on social media, I just knew that I had to go.

It’s not often that I pick beach vacay destinations, but I do love the idea of unique experiences. This special place on Moreton Island, located just off the coast of Brisbane, tantalised me with promises of snorkelling around shipwrecks, sand boarding down desert dunes, and feeding wild dolphins.

As Rob and I arrived in Brisbane and excitedly told a few locals about our upcoming day trip to Tangalooma, we discovered that most had never been to Moreton Island. I was definitely surprised, as this adventure destination is so close to the city.

There were a handful tour companies offering day trips to Moreton Island from Brisbane. After some research, I ended up going with the Dolphin Feeding Day Cruise offered by Tangalooma Island Resort as this was the only one where I could snorkel the wrecks, sand board the dunes, and feed the wild dolphins all in the same tour.

Here are all the deets on a Tangalooma day trip from Brisbane!

Tangalooma Island Resort

About Moreton Island + Tangalooma:

Moreton Island is the third largest sand island in the world (the first two are Fraser and North Stradbroke, which are also in southeast Queensland). 95% of the island is a national park of sandy desert and dense forest, and there are no kangaroos or koalas there.

Tangalooma Island Resort is a small resort town on the west coast of Moreton Island. Tangalooma is the most popular destination on the island as it’s easily accessible by passenger ferry from Brisbane.

Tangalooma was once a whaling station back in the 1950s, but in the decade of this whaling operation, the population of whales dwindled to a dangerously low level. Whaling is now illegal in Australian waters, and the whale population has slowly recovered over time. Tourists can now go whale watching during the migration seasons, or visit the ‘flensing deck’ at Tangalooma which is a remnant from this whaling era.

Getting to Tangalooma

Getting to Tangalooma from Brisbane:

Getting to Tangalooma from Brisbane is surprisingly easy. Our day started bright and early with an Uber to Holt Street Wharf, which is the departure point for the Tangalooma Island Resort ferry service.

We grabbed our tickets from the office, then boarded the boat for the 7:00AM transfer (there are also transfers at 10:00AM, 12:00PM, and 5:00PM). The ferry takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get to Tangalooma. Once you arrive, it’s an easy walk along the waterfront path to get to the tour meeting points.

Tangalooma Wrecks
Snorkelling the Tangalooma Wrecks

The wrecks:

The wrecks are the main attraction of Tangalooma. Snorkelling this spot was a magical experience – it’s rare to have a place where you can freely swim around shipwrecks with loads of colourful fish so close to a major city!

The Tangalooma Wrecks are accessible from the resort by either walking along the beach (about a 20 minute walk) then swimming out to the wrecks, or via a guided tour.

If you decide to walk there and swim out, you can rent snorkelling gear and life jackets from the resort to take with you. Just be aware that the wrecks are not particularly close to the beach and there can be strong water currents, so you should consider yourself a fairly strong swimmer who can stay afloat and paddle for more than an hour if you go with this option.

The option that Rob and I chose was the guided tour option, which costs $55 AUD per person. We were provided with snorkelling gear, then taken out to the wrecks on a boat where we jumped into the water. Our tour group snorkelled our way to the other end of the wrecks, where our boat was waiting to collect us. If you’re not a strong swimmer, this is definitely the way to go.

Moreton Island sand boarding
Moreton Island Sand Dunes

The desert:

Before this trip, I had never attempted sand boarding. The desert dunes on Moreton Island were the perfect place to try it! These dunes are part of the national park and are only accessible by 4WD vehicles or by the desert safari tour offered by the resort (which was included in our day tour).

The bus took us out on a bumpy sand road to the desert, which is about a 15 minute drive from the resort. We were then handed our wooden boards and told to walk up to the top of the nearest sand dune, then line up to slide back down.

When my turn came around, I’ll admit I was very nervous about laying on that thin board and zooming down the steep mountain of sand, but I gathered the courage and somehow managed to avoid stacking it. Rob even said that I got the most speed of everyone in our tour group. Apparently my technique was near perfect!

We were able to take as many turns as we liked, though each time it required walking back up the dune in the intense sun. I took 2 turns, and Rob took 3 before we got back on the bus to return to the resort.

Tangalooma wild dolphin feeding
Tangalooma wild dolphin feeding

The dolphins:

The story of the wild dolphins at Tangalooma is fascinating. We were told that the name Tangalooma was used by the Aboriginals and meant ‘place where the fish meet’. Being that dolphins are incredibly smart, the Aboriginal people would work together with the local dolphins to catch fish, and then they would share some of their catch with the dolphins as a reward for helping them.

The dolphins still come up to the resort every evening for a feed. I was a little skeptical of this activity as I don’t generally approve of animals being used for tourism, but my concerns were lifted after discovering the dolphins are only fed only 10-15% of daily food intake so that they don’t become reliant on humans.

The dolphins that come to the resort are a family of 11, and not all of them will appear every night. 7 of them arrived for the feeding when we were there, and then one I fed was named Echo. As a vegetarian, it felt totally gross be holding a dead fish, but I have to admit it was pretty awesome to have a wild dolphin swim up and collect it from my hands.

After the dolphin feeding we jumped on the ferry for the 8:15PM departure back to Brisbane. It had been a long day, but we’d managed to fit in so many great activities. I’d definitely recommend a day trip to Tangalooma if you ever find yourself in Brisbane!

*I was a guest of Tangalooma Island Resort for the Moreton Island day trip from Brisbane. I’m proud to be an honest and transparent blogger, so every opinion expressed on AGWT is a true review of my experience.

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