Travel

Wild Dolphins and Shipwrecks Await on This Island Near Brisbane

You will also find Queensland's oldest lighthouse.

things to do tangalooma island resort
Photo: @tangaloomaislandresort

Tangalooma Island Resort is Brisbane’s best-kept secret, and we’re spilling all its treasures. Often dubbed the jewel of Moreton Island, Tangalooma Island Resort is only a 75-minute catamaran cruise from Brisbane. From the moment you step on the dock, you’re transported to a nature’s theme park. There are gigantic dunes, pristine beaches, clear blue waters, and that’s just what you can see from afar. Once you get up close, you’ll find sunken shipwrecks, friendly local wild dolphins who visit every afternoon, and plenty of activities on offer, including quad biking.

It’s popular with family travel but caters to couples and large groups. There are varying accommodation styles, from hotel rooms to houses and villas. You can stay for a few days or take a day cruise to the island, which is popular with Brisbane locals.

From exploring natural national and marine parks to feeding wild dolphins, here are all the best things to do on Tangalooma Island Resort.

things to do tangalooma island resort
Photo: @picturesbymlz

Feed a wild dolphin

Sure, you could go to Sea World and pat a dolphin, but Tangalooma Island Resort offers a unique experience to feed wild dolphins. It’s a highlight of any visit to the resort, and a must-do, especially with kids. Every afternoon, as the sun goes down, a large family of dolphins visit the island, ready to gobble fish handed to them by visitors. The dolphins have been coming to the island since the 1990s, bringing their calves to meet the locals. A professional handler will guide you into the water, where you hand-feed a wild dolphin when ready. They’re gentle and take the fish right out of your hand. It’s a surreal experience, one you’re most likely never to forget. 

The Wild Dolphin experience is included in selected accommodation and day cruise packages. Book here.

things to do tangalooma island resort
Photo: @rosslong_

Explore sunken shipwrecks

Another highlight of Tangalooma Island Resort is the Tangalooma wrecks, a cluster of ships scuttled by the Queensland Government between 1963 and 1984. Here, you will find a large variety of different species of reef fish (including Nemo) and plenty of coral formations. You can hire snorkel gear and swim the wrecks, or the guided tours are much safer options, as the current between the shipwrecks is surprisingly strong and can be dangerous. On a guided snorkel tour, swimmers will be transported by boat to the wrecks and shown around the wrecks by a professional. During the tour, a guide can tell you all about the wrecks and often find marine life to point at, such as wobbegong sharks, sea cucumbers, and anemone fish. They also know the best spots for unique fish species and coral formations. Book here.

You can also rent a kayak to explore the wrecks and join an illuminated wrecks tour at night with a glass-bottom boat. This is a great way to explore the nocturnal underwater creatures. Book here.

things to do tangalooma island resort
Photo: @fazerasmalas

Carve up sand dunes on a quad bike

The ATV quad bike tour at Tangalooma Island Resort is an epic experience and a great way to explore the island. There’s nothing more thrilling than kicking up sand on a quad bike and zooming around an island. After a quick safety briefing, you can jump on a quad bike and be led through the island’s desert-like landscape, made up of dunes, where you zip around bends and venture down to the beach to cruise along the water. Along the way, you will find great lookouts to see the island from different angles. It truly is a great island, and if you want to see more of it, the quad bike tour is the way to go. Book here

things to do tangalooma island resort
Photo: @andrew_andrew_13

Go sand tobogganing

If you’re not familiar with sand tobogganing, here’s your chance to experience this thrilling ride, which can reach speeds of up to 40km per hour. The Desert Safari Tour includes a bumpy 4WD bus tour, where getting to the dunes is half the fun. Once you get to the towering dunes, a guide will set you up to participate in the exhilarating sport of sand tobogganing. This experience will have you flying down dunes, and exploring the wild side of the island. Book here

Photo: @tangaloomaislandresort

Zoom across the sand on a Segway

Segways are popping up everywhere, especially at popular tourist destinations, so why not take one of the unique self-balancing transporters for a spin on the white sandy beaches of Tangalooma Island Resort. If you’re a learner or an expert, you can join a lesson or scenic tour to explore the coast. The intro lesson will teach you how to operate the segway, which is surprisingly easy—it’s all about balance. Once you’re comfortable enough, a guide will take you on a cruise along the beach. To join the scenic tour, you will need to have Segway experience and the ability to move forward, backwards, left and right. Book here

things to do tangalooma island resort
Photo: @uppa_livin

Visit Queensland’s Oldest Lighthouse

The iconic red and white banded Cape Moreton Lighthouse is located on the island’s Northern point and was the first lighthouse to be built in Queensland, making it well over 150 years old. Now a popular tourist spot, you can walk around the structure, use the lookouts to spot migrating whales, and have a picnic if you want. To get here, you need to book a spot on the Northern Safari Tour, which also takes you along the island’s western beaches. Book here.

things to do tangalooma island resort
Photo: @mjvideographer

Watch the sunset from a boat

Watch the sunset over the water, and soak up the views across the bay. There are only a few locations on the east coast of Australia where you can watch the sunset over the water, and this island is one of them. Join a sunset cruise for champagne, music and views. Sometimes, the dolphins appear on their way to the beach, ready for feeding. Book here

things to do tangalooma island resort
Photo: @nikblahova

Explore a natural ocean pool

When you think you’ve scoured every section of the island, take a trip to Champagne Pools, a natural ocean pool on the North-Eastern tip of the island. The sparkling ‘champagne’ effect is created as the ocean waves crash over the volcanic rock and sandstone break wall. Although it’s not patrolled, this is a great place to swim, so take care when swimming. To get to the pools, you can hire a 4 Wheel drive to take yourself on a self-guided journey around the island hotspots. Other hotspots worth a visit include Big and Little Sandhills—wind-shaped dunes free from vegetation, rising to 60 metres above their base. Dolphin Lake is a lake shaped like a dolphin, and if you’re looking for a picturesque, quote spot, Honeymoon Bay is the best place to be.

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Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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