WHETHER YOU’RE A LITTLE KID OR A BIG ONE, THERE ARE COUNTLESS WAYS TO PLAY IN SOUTHEAST QUEENSLAND’S FAVOURITE SANDPIT
The best tip I can give you is to hold it like an ice cream. A scaly, spiky, slimy, fishy ice cream. Then, floodlit waves lapping at your knees, it’s time to serve sashimi. Tinkerbell, one of the matriarchs of the Tangalooma dolphin family, delicately accepts my outstretched offering before brushing against my shins as she slides into the deeper water. The eco ranger supervising our dinner date describes the robust nudge as a “dolphin hug” and I secretly congratulate myself on selecting the most sizeable prize from the bucket placed on the beach. Particularly favoured feeders may even receive a gift — eel, tuna, squid and octopus are among the delicacies that have been bestowed on the resort’s dolphin care team. Feeding the wild dolphins is the highlight of any stay — or even day trip — at Tangalooma Island Resort, but it’s just a taste of the adventure awaiting in our ocean backyard. Moreton Island, the third largest sand island in the world and only 40km north-east of Brisbane, is the ultimate summer playground. While it’s pipped at the sandy square metre post by nearby Fraser and Stradbroke islands, it offers an unbeatable array of ways to appreciate its natural assets. See it from the back of a quad bike as you tear through the trails, careening through ditches and dodging branches. See it from below through a filter of fish as you snorkel Moreton’s eponymous wrecks. Or see it from above with borrowed wings. I’ve been known to cry on theme-park rides, so signed up for parasailing with a touch of trepidation. Any doubts evaporate as my rope tether unfurls and the knee-buckling terror I usually associate with heights is replaced by an unexpected tranquillity. Surveying the sweeping blue vista from my lofty swing is incredibly peaceful, with no sense of speed from the zipping boat below. This is what flying feels like. Coming back down to earth, there’s an almost inexhaustible supply of free or wellpriced activities within the resort’s bounds, but the Southern Safari Tour explores further afield. For me it’s an opportunity to revisit the scene of carefree childhood camping trips. My family would set up a sprawling canvas network on the island’s ocean side where we’d lose track of the days in a lazy haze of sun, sand and surf. Not much has changed in those intervening years. There are no traffic jams on the expansive eastern beach, where we stream down a sand highway with waves whooshing in the left lane and the occasional aerial overtake from a pair of sea eagles. With a seasoned guide at the wheel of the bus, there are no worries about getting bogged. Stopping to refuel with coffee and pastry, we check out the WWII Rous Battery site before soaking sand-seared soles in the blissful sanctuary of Mirapool Lagoon. Cut off from the ocean by a slender
sandbar, the pristine pool is absolutely alive with fish. It’s only the lure of lunch that eventually extracts me from my warm-water wallow. The laidback Gutter Bar in Kooringal doesn’t stand on ceremony — or walls. It is, however, pretty serious about cold beer and good food. Tuck into a bucket of prawns sourced directly from local trawlers, complete with pink cocktail umbrella. Big and Little Sandhills (Moreton Island is also home to the highest coastal sand dune in the world, Mount Tempest) are among the stops on the homeward journey. Do not attempt to scale the big one after leg day at the gym. My thighs are burning by the time I clamber my way to the top of the sand castle, but the reward is an intoxicating panorama, a dynamic tessellation of drifting sand and turquoise water. It’s almost time for an early dinner when we arrive back at the resort and it can be anything from a beach barbecue to an Asian banquet. A handy sushi and bubble-tea bar has popped up since my last visit and fast becomes a favourite pit-stop. But an ice cream on the sunset-angled jetty — for you or a finned friend — is still the best way to bookend long, sun-soaked summer days.