Tangalooma Island Resort, Queensland: Weekend Away

Our rating

3 out of 5


Tangalooma Island Resort, Queensland


Situated on the sunset side of Moreton Island, Tangalooma is 75 minutes by high-speed catamaran from Brisbane's Holt Street Wharf, which is 15 minutes from the CBD or 10 minutes from the airport. Natural beauty is its main drawcard. The 317-room resort, which has been owned and run by the Osborne family since 1980, occupies just two per cent of this 38-kilometre-long sand island, the third largest in the world (after Fraser and North Stradbroke islands); the rest is Moreton Island National Park, surrounded by Moreton Bay Marine Park, home to an abundance of dolphins, dugongs, turtles, whales, tropical fish and seabirds. 


What started as a few bungalows when the resort opened in 1963 after the island's whaling station closed (the concrete-roofed flensing deck is still in the resort grounds) has become a sprawling beachside complex of low-rise apartment blocks, holiday villas, the Deep Blue luxury apartments overlooking the dolphin-feeding area, and architect-designed houses a short walk from the resort centre. There's also a spa, two swimming pools and free Wi-Fi in the communal areas (with plans to expand Wi-Fi coverage to the rooms).


My Hotel Deluxe room on the top floor of the four-storey Kookaburra block has a modest, motel-room decor that almost makes me forget I'm on an island, but what it lacks in style it makes up for with panoramic views from the balcony – of the beach, Moreton Bay and, on a clear day, the Glasshouse Mountains on the mainland. In keeping with the resort's eco-consciousness, the bathroom has refillable shampoo, conditioner and soap dispensers instead of those tiny bottles. There are also bathrobes, cable TV channels, a hair dryer and room service.


There are five restaurants, all with friendly service and outdoor terraces facing a wide boardwalk that runs the length of the beach. The two newest, which opened last year, are the Sichuan-style Fire and the adjacent Stone, where meals are cooked at your table on sizzling hot rocks. The breakfast buffet at Tursiops​ (named after the genus of bottlenose dolphins) is impressive; it even has a pancake maker and Asian breakfast options. Then there's the bistro-style Beach Cafe, the Coffee Shop (with good espresso coffee) and Whaler's Bar. 


Tangalooma's must-do experience (it's included in most accommodation packages) is hand-feeding the wild bottlenose dolphins that swim right up the beach every evening. It's also worth taking an island tour in one of the resort's purpose-built 4WD buses or a "desert safari" that includes sand-tobogganing down the 285-metre Mount Tempest, the highest coastal sand dune in the world. The Marine Education & Conservation Centre runs historic whaling station tours, whale-watching cruises to Cape Morton (July to October), dolphin information talks, free guided walks and other nature-based activities. Or just snorkel the "wrecks", 15 ships scuttled in the 1960s to form a now coral-encrusted breakwall off the beach.


Tangalooma is a comfortable, family-friendly crowd-pleaser with accommodation options for all budgets and an ideal base from which to explore this incredible island. 


Transfers to Moreton Island cost $80 return ($45 for children). Rooms from $165 a night for up to four people. Phone 1300 652 250 (reservations staff can prevent date clashes with cruise ships). See tangalooma.com

HIGHLIGHT: Hand-feeding wild dolphins from the beach beside the jetty


LOWLIGHT: Sharing the resort with 2000 cruise ship passengers one day

The writer was a guest of Tangalooma Island Resort.