MY BLUE HEAVEN

More­ton Is­land’s fam­ily re­sort Tan­ga­looma of­fers a trea­sure trove of ac­tiv­i­ties in a pris­tine aquatic won­der­land

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - ESCAPE - DANIEL JOHN­SON

A funny thing hap­pened on the way to Tan­ga­looma … as a mat­ter of fact, sev­eral funny things hap­pened, which was to be ex­pected con­sid­er­ing we were shar­ing a small ves­sel with stand-up comics who were due to per­form at the in­au­gu­ral Tan­ga­looma Laughs com­edy event that night.

Co­me­di­ans Greg Fleet, Chris Wain­house, Mike Goldstein, Mike Gold­man and Rob Brown de­liver a run­ning com­men­tary on the fic­ti­tious his­tory of every fac­tory, ce­ment plant, ship­ping yard and in­dus­trial area as we make our way from Pinkenba to­ward the mouth of the Bris­bane River and into the azure wa­ters of More­ton Bay, which makes the 75-minute jour­ney to our des­ti­na­tion breeze by.

As we dis­em­bark at Tan­ga­looma just af­ter sun­set, we catch a quick glimpse of the wild dol­phins be­ing fed just off the jetty and as tempt­ing as it is to stick around and watch, we have to get to our rooms.

More­ton is the world’s third-largest sand is­land and is about 44km long and 13km wide, with Tan­ga­looma Is­land Re­sort and premises stretch­ing about 2km in length. The re­sort opened in 1963 and in 1980 was pur­chased by Brian and Betty Os­borne, who along with sons Jeff and Glenn still op­er­ate it to­day. In stark con­trast to its in­aus­pi­cious be­gin­nings as a whal­ing sta­tion in the 1950s, More­ton Is­land is now a pop­u­lar whale-watch­ing des­ti­na­tion.

The 302-room Tan­ga­looma Is­land Re­sort has a range of ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions, from ho­tel rooms and re­sort units to fam­ily suites, beach­front vil­las, hol­i­day houses and lux­ury apart­ments. Our ac­com­mo­da­tion is a lux­ury ho­tel room on the fourth floor at Kook­aburra Lodge, 50m from the beach and a short stroll from the main re­sort. Al­though we’re as­sured the view is spec­tac­u­lar, we can’t see much from the bal­cony ex­cept the faint glow of Bris­bane in the dis­tance. Our room is fairly spa­cious and well-equipped, with a com­fort­able king-size bed ensem­ble, tele­vi­sion and DVD player, bar fridge, air­con­di­tion­ing, ket­tle and tea and cof­fee ameni­ties, and a small deck with ta­ble and chairs.

We have a quick shower be­fore head­ing out to din­ner and the night’s com­edy, and it’s clear from the mo­ment the tap is turned on that the words “wa­ter re­stric­tions” have never meant much on More­ton Is­land. The re­sort’s sup­ply comes from an arte­sian bore and as such I hadn’t ex­pe­ri­enced wa­ter pres­sure this strong since the early 1990s.

My fi­ancee Rochelle and I de­cide on a gar­lic prawn pizza ($25) from the bistro for din­ner. It has a gen­er­ous serv­ing of fresh, lo­cal More­ton Bay prawns and is served promptly. We fit in a More­ton Is­land Iced Tea ($16) at the bar be­fore Tan­ga­looma Laughs kicks off in the gi­ant mar­quee on the beach. The lineup is ex­cep­tional, with Fleet and Wain­house in par­tic­u­lar at the top of their game. Af­ter a few night­caps we call it a day and re­treat to our room.

When we wake the next morn­ing we step on to the bal­cony to re­assess the scenery and the view is as stun­ning as we were told it would be. In the few short min­utes it takes to knock back a cof­fee, we no­tice a he­li­copter, a con­voy of Seg­ways rolling down the beach and a cou­ple of all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles, as well as sea kayak­ers and para­sailors. We head down to the beach for a closer look. Af­ter a walk/jog (a walk for me, a jog for my fi­ancee) to the wrecks – about 1.5km from our room – and a quick dip, we head back for a buf­fet break­fast, which has every­thing from ce­real, toast and fruit to ba­con, eggs, mush­rooms, sausages and hot cakes, and at $30 for adults and $20 for chil­dren it’s de­cent value.

There are plenty of free ac­tiv­i­ties at Tan­ga­looma, in­clud­ing mini golf, cro­quet and beach vol­ley­ball, but we head to the pool for a quick dip and then laze about in deckchairs read­ing books. With the P&O Pa­cific Jewel dock­ing off the is­land to­day, there is a huge in­flux of day vis­i­tors, so rather than at­tempt­ing to book any ac­tiv­i­ties we spend most of the day re­lax­ing and man­age to fit in an af­ter­noon nap.

Be­cause the re­sort is on the western side of More­ton Is­land, Tan­ga­looma is renowned for its spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets and with the Pa­cific Jewel still vis­i­ble in the dis­tance as the sun de­scends over the hori­zon, to­day’s looks par­tic­u­larly pic­turesque as we make our way to the nearby jetty to par­tic­i­pate in tonight’s dol­phin feed­ing. We take our place in the line and are in­formed we’ll be feed­ing Echo, a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to Tan­ga­looma since 1993. When our turn comes we take our two fish and wade knee-deep into the wa­ter, and I ap­proach Echo with equal parts trep­i­da­tion and ex­cite­ment. It’s not un­til I hand over his fish that I ap­pre­ci­ate how re­mark­able it is to be hand­feed­ing such a ma­jes­tic wild an­i­mal.

Af­ter wash­ing the lin­ger­ing smell of fish off our hands, we check out the Fire and Stone restau­rant, which serves a mix of spicy, Sichuanese cui­sine – with a fo­cus on fresh, lo­cal seafood at mar­ket prices – and Western dishes. I opt for the beef slid­ers spe­cial (three for $20) and they’re de­lec­ta­ble, with ten­der slices of steak, tomato, cos let­tuce and a home­made tomato sauce. Rochelle de­cides on the prawn Cae­sar salad ($23.50), which is sat­is­fac­tory but could have ben­e­fited from a cou­ple of ex­tra prawns. There’s more com­edy on tonight, and we pop by to catch Lind­say Webb and Rob Brown, nei­ther of whom dis­ap­points, but forego the night­caps and head to bed soon af­ter as we have a full itin­er­ary the fol­low­ing day.

As soon as we wake and have break­fast, we head to the beach for our Segway tour. The self-bal­anc­ing two-wheeled ve­hi­cles are equipped with chunky tyres to nav­i­gate the sand and the tilt sen­sors al­low the rider to main­tain bal­ance while mov­ing for­wards, back­wards and left and right. Within a few min­utes, we’re do­ing fish­tails, donuts and fig­ureeights as we ride to­wards the wrecks and back again.

Af­ter our Segway tour, we get changed for our snorkelling trip at the wrecks. Our in­struc­tor Kayla gives us a quick safety demon­stra­tion and then we head to the beach, board the dive boat and make our way to the nearby wrecks, which stretch about 400m. Kayla tells us the vis­i­bil­ity is as good as she’s ever seen, and we’re lucky enough to see a wobbe­gong, a shovel-nosed ray, par­rot fish, a mo­ray eel, tai­lor, bream, and an ar­ray of other trop­i­cal fish.

Af­ter a quick bite, we’re off on our fi­nal ac­tiv­ity, the Desert Sa­fari Tour. In less than 15 min­utes, we’re at the sand dunes and wax­ing up our boards. It’s a gru­elling walk up the dune and the ef­fort-to-fun ra­tio will de­pend on your fit­ness lev­els and how much en­joy­ment you de­rive from get­ting a face full of sand while hurtling down a steep de­cline. Word of warn­ing: if you have what could best be de­scribed as a Robin Wil­liams level of arm hair, at­tempt­ing to wipe sand from your face with your fore­arms is not a good idea.

When we get back to the re­sort, there’s just enough time for an ice cream while we wait for our ferry. As we head back to Bris­bane, ex­hausted but re­laxed, we marvel at how much we’ve fit into a week­end and vow to re­turn soon.

The writer was a guest of Tan­ga­looma Is­land Re­sort and Tan­ga­looma Laughs com­edy fes­ti­val

( Clock­wise from op­po­site page) Tan­ga­looma Is­land Re­sort; div­ing at the wrecks, 1.5km from the re­sort; the au­thor demon­strates the per­ilous art of sand surf­ing; and feed­ing the wild dol­phins at sun­set.

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