On our recent trip to Queensland’s Gold Coast we decided to do something different and give the theme parks a miss. We have done them every couple of years and the last time we went was only 2 years ago in 2014. We took the kids snorkelling at Whitehaven Beach this time last year so I thought we would go snorkelling again, this time off Moreton Island at the Tangalooma Wrecks.
I found a day trip that departed from Rivergate Marina in Brisbane. We could have caught the transfer bus from the Gold Coast but as we had hired a car for the week we drove up and it saved us $150 so that was great considering we had already paid for the car. I always get my cars from vroomvroomvroom.com.au and find their prices very competitive, this time we had Mitsubishi ASX for 6 days for $155.
Moreton Island was originally a whaling station between 1952-1962, it was soon after developed for tourism. The Tangalooma wrecks were dumped in 1963 to create a break wall/ safe harbour for smaller crafts visiting the Tangalooma tourist area. The reef consists of 15 vessels which are located on the western side of Moreton Island. The wrecks are now a very popular dive and snorkelling location with visibility up to 8 metres and attracts dugong, wobbegongs (carpet sharks), turtles and various tropical fish. Moreton Island is the 3rd largest sand island in the world and prompted the establishment of the Tangalooma Marine Education and Conservation Centre to preserve the area for future generations.
Once you check in on the pier, you board the boat for refreshments and morning tea, we arrived about 9.15am and the cruise was leaving at 9.30am. Just enough time for a cuppa tea and a lamington! It takes about an hour to get from the Rivergate Marina to Moreton Island and it’s a pretty easy ride.
As we were coming up to Moreton Island the captain stopped the boat to show as a couple of pods of dolphins. Dolphins are inquisitive creatures and came pretty close to have a look at us! I got a couple of decent photos but you have to be quick!
The water is crystal clear and at some points only 1.3 metres deep under the boat. You could see heaps of star fish on the sand, at one point I’m fairly certain I saw a smallish reef shark swim underneath the boat where I was looking, the girl next to me saw it too. It was only a shadow so hard to say what type. I didn’t tell the kids though as I knew they wouldn’t get in the water! In this area there has been regular sightings of a dugong but on this occasion we weren’t lucky enough to see him.
The kids were with one of the crew members, her name was Natalie and she had previously worked at SeaWorld. She had an amazing rapport with the kids and spent a lot of time pointing out dolphins and other sea animals as well and they loved following her around! There was only one other child on the boat and he was much younger than ours and mostly stayed with his parents. All the crew members were great with assisting passengers in viewing the dolphins and Captain Andy was entertaining and had a good sense of humour, not at all difficult to listen to and a wealth of information on the Moreton Island area.
We then headed over to the Tangalooma wrecks, we were given a safety briefing, grabbed our snorkel and flippers and off we went. It took a bit to get the kids organised and then we jumped straight off the back of the boat and swam over to the reef. We were told to take a pair of bright orange gloves and to wear them all the time. The reason being that the coral is very sharp and could easily cut your hands if you got pushed towards it by the current.
Alannah found her stride straight away but both Keira and Caelan couldn’t find their groove this time. Caelan quickly decided that he didn’t want to do it anymore. They all had life jackets on so I wasn’t concerned at all about their safety I knew they were fine. I had been meaning to get the kids to have a practice in the pool before heading up to Queensland but I never actually got around to it, I think this would have made all the difference.
Natalie took Caelan in one of the buoys and took him around a bit so that he could see some fish. Keira then followed suit and headed back to the boat. I was disappointed as I assumed that I would have to return to the boat and look after the kids. Natalie assured me the staff on board would be able to look after the kids until we had finished snorkelling. Winner, winner! I have to admit I was chuffed, Natalie took the little ones back to the boat and Craig, Alannah and myself swam on and had a wonderful time. We spent another 40 mins or so out on the reef, Alannah and I were very keen to see a turtle but unfortunately it alluded us once again!
Alannah and I returned to the boat and Craig stayed out for another 10 mins or so, when I got back to the boat the little ones had been put to work as ‘crew for the day’! They thought that was wonderful! They were helping taking all the snorkelling gear up to the top of the boat for soaking. It also gave me time to get dried off and organised for lunch.
The tour included a buffet lunch of prawns, chicken, salads and bread rolls. The kids ate their body weight in prawns and the chicken was lovely. The buffet was ready for all the guests as we got back on the boat. There was plenty of food and a good variety of salads. We could also purchase drinks including soft drinks and beer from the bar. A couple of cold beers was just what I needed after the snorkel in the salty water. They went down a treat, I don’t think the first one touched the sides and being a special occasion and all, the kids were excited to have soft drink. They bought out watermelon after the meal which of course my kids hoovered, they love fruit!
We then had an hour to go on to Moreton Island and have a swim or sun bake on the beach. The sand dunes on the beach went straight up on a 70% slope and a few of the younger passengers headed straight up to the top, of course the kids followed! The young boys then started to run down the sand dunes. Needless to say, yep the kids followed. Alannah took off first with her legs going a hundred miles an hour. She got to the bottom and face planted into the sand! No tears, this time!
Caelan’s next up, anything those girls can do, he can do better! Off he goes, halfway down the legs are going too fast and he goes into a roll and rolls most of the way down. He hits the bottom pretty hard and has sand in every possible place! He was spitting sand, it was up his nose, down the back of his throat, in his ears and in his eyes! He was in the wars, I have to admit, it was a pretty spectacular stack though! Everyone was impressed and Tony the tour operator was upset he missed it!
After an hour we all swam back to the boat, there was a dingy for those that didn’t want to get wet, we just swam across, the water was only just over my head and about 50m out. We got back on the boat and headed straight to the bar! Nice cold beer, perfect. Beers were a little on the expensive side at $7 each for a Corona but normal bar prices I suppose.
Once everyone was back on the boat, the crew threw some bait overboard and we watched all the fish come and feed on it. There were loads of tropical fish but nothing different to what we had seen when we were snorkelling, the kids were still really excited to look at the fish. After this we headed back to the marina, it took about an hour to get back and there was a change room on the boat and a couple of toilets if you wanted to get out of your wet bathers. The kids sat with Captain Andy for the trip back and had a little drive of the boat, they thought that was brilliant.
The day tour is titled ‘Tangalooma Dolphin Cruise’ the prices listed below are for low season, expect an increase of $20 during high season:
Hotel transfer included
Brilliant, we loved this tour and everything about it. It was just the right amount of time for everything. It was great to do something other than the theme parks and I love that we got the kids out snorkelling again (even if it didn’t all go to plan). My advice if you have little ones is to get them out and practising before you throw them in the ocean. Even though we had done it before, they could have really benefited from a refresher before the overwhelming ocean with 15 massive ship wrecks in it!
The food was great and there was plenty of it, the crew were amazing, a big thank you to Natalie, Tony and Andy, they were great with the kids and made them feel welcome which in turn means Craig and I can relax and also enjoy the tour. I would highly recommend this tour, its well organised and ran on time and the boat was relatively new and very clean and comfortable.
While on The Gold Coast we stayed at the Mantra Sun City Hotel, it was about an hours drive from where we boarded the boat. You can pay for a hotel transfer if you don’t have a car. Another great day trip from the Gold Coast is driving up to the Gold Coast Hinterland. You’ll find plenty of nice rainforest walks and tree top walks suitable for kids up around there.
Sal & Co.