END­LESS SUM­MER

WHETHER YOU’RE A LIT­TLE KID OR A BIG ONE, THERE ARE COUNT­LESS WAYS TO PLAY IN SOUTH­EAST QUEENS­LAND’S FAVOURITE SANDPIT

Townsville Bulletin - Townsville Eye - - Con­tents - WO R D S : C H A N TAY LO­GAN The writer was a guest of Tan­ga­looma Is­land Re­sort

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 well- priced 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.

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