It’s dark when I leave Tangalooma. I’m ready (in that happy weary way) for the 75-minute catamaran scoot across Moreton Bay to the Holt Street Dock in Pinkenba, Brisbane. My hair is salty, my feet are sandy and I can still smell fish on my fingers from dolphin feeding.
My ‘view’ is watching lights on Moreton Island fade until they look like a clutch of stars, hovering at the horizon. I wonder how close any of the bay’s resident dolphins, dugongs and sea turtles are as I cross the watery 40 kilometres.
Today Tangalooma is a family-owned 3 to 4.5-star beachfront resort, tucked on the western side of Moreton Island, in the pocket of land not designated national park. In other eras it has been home to the indigenous Ngugi people and the site of a whaling station for just over a decade from 1950. There are remnants of the whaling infrastructure, which look a little incongruous but intriguing, in well-kept resort grounds.
Day trippers and overnight guests are welcome at Tangalooma and both can enjoy a host of free or paid activities…or not. There’s no pressure.
Popular paid tours include: sand tobogganing (keep your mouth shut and elbows up), quad biking, helicopter flights and parasailing. Kayaking, snorkelling and scuba diving around the Tangalooma wrecks also draw regular crowds. The wrecks are a conglomerate of 15 vessels sunk between 1963 and 1984 by the Queensland Government to provide safe anchorage in the bay. Now they’re a fish and coral haven.
When sun and sand spark an appetite, the beachfront bar and eateries provide basic but tasty (if not a little expensive) hot and cold fare. What this communal area lacks in pizzazz, the waterfront location and sunset view replenishes and once the sun’s gone, the dolphins arrive.
The resort’s dolphin care program plays a large role in promoting its conservation work done through the Tangalooma Marine Education and Conservation Centre, onsite. It’s curiously exciting to line up on a beach with scores of others, fish in hand, waiting for a dolphin. Touching the dolphins, who come in to thigh-deep water, is expressly forbidden, but it does require some coordination to immerse a fish at the right angle, avoid their teeth and smile for a camera at the same time…
If you’re staying on the island once the dolphins are sated, Tangalooma’s accommodation caters for singles, couples, families and groups. It’s not one-size-fits-all; there are seven styles to suit varied preferences and budgets. Studio hotel rooms with balcony, set back from the beach, sleeping up to four people, are the simplest. Beachfront villas (two-storey townhouses) are popular with families, sporting enticing views but taking advantage of the breezes to cool rather than air-conditioning.
But, if you’re seeking a little more luxury than the previous unfussy options provide, you may fall a little in love with the contemporary two-, three- or four-bedroom waterfront Deep Blue apartments. Or, if you really want to get away from it all with a group, the three- to six-bedroom holiday houses perched atop the island have unrivalled views.
Wherever you stay on Tangalooma, you’ll be coming back to Brisbane sometime and I can recommend the view from the catamaran stern, after dark.