With more freshly caught fish, award-winning wine, and sail- and snorkel-ready ocean than you can poke a flipper at, the southern end of Brisbane’s Bayside has everything a weary worker or traveller could wish for.
As soon as the whistle blows to signal tools down on Friday, jump in the car and ‘follow the dugong’ (the Southern Moreton Tourist Drive) to the quaint waterfront villages of Wynnum and Manly — just 25 minutes from the CBD — and get a head start on your weekend getaway on the Bay.
6pm: Dine like (Hollywood) royalty
Sampling the local seafood when on the Bay is a must; a tradition followed by Angelina Jolie on her recent visit to the area (while filming scenes from her upcoming film, Unbroken). Take Ange’s lead and chomp down on local Moreton Bay bugs at the gorgeous Manly Marina. If fish and chips on the beach are more your thing, there are options aplenty to be found dotted along the Royal Esplanade that links the coastal villages.
8pm: Drink like a fish
Once you’ve licked your plate (and/or fingers) clean, make your way to Cambridge Parade where the Manly watering holes will be starting to kick it up a notch. Join the locals in the beer garden at The Manly Hotel, or pop over the road to the Celtic Corner Bar & Bistro, where the Guinness flows thick and fast and the live Irish tunes will keep your toes tapping till the wee hours.
6am: To market, to market
Rise early to catch the freshest produce and bargains at Jan Powers Fresh Farmer’s & Fisherman’s Market, held along the waterfront at Manly on the 3rd Saturday of every month. Scrumptious treats ranging from freshly-made smoothies and French pastries, to Sukiyaki sticks and dumplings will keep your taste buds tantalised while you stroll along the foreshore to the historic Wynnum Wading Pool and Waterpark, a free use area adjoining Pandanus Beach and the Wynnum Jetty.
8:30am: Get wrecked on Moreton
Here’s where your weekend takes a turn for the adventurous! Pack your togs (aka swimmers, bathers or cossie) and head over to the Port of Brisbane where the luxurious 60-metre catamaran, MICAT, is waiting to take you to the third largest sand island in the world – Moreton Island.
Enjoy the 75-minute cruise, keeping an eye out for wild dolphins and whales, before arriving in style at the famed Tangalooma Wrecks, where you can snorkel and dive the 15 sunken vessels, all within metres of the palm-fringed shore.
Noon: Froths and a feed on the beach
When the salt water sets your tummy a’rumbling, make your way up the beach to the new Castaways restaurant for a relaxed lunch under a Bali-inspired thatched roof. Soak up the Island lifestyle and relax beachside with a few brews (shoes optional).
2pm: Blue lagoons, lighthouses and champagne pools
After lunch, head over to the Blue Lagoon, a natural fresh water lake boasting bright white sand and water infused with tea tree oils (!). Splash and frolic to your hearts content and then shake yourself dry and set out for the Moreton Island Lighthouse, the first lighthouse built in Queensland. As the day starts to wind down, head to Champagne Pools — a band of volcanic rock and sandstone that forms a break wall from the surf — where you can relax and take in the dramatic sunset views.
Night: Rest your weary head
Overnight accommodation options are many and varied on Moreton; campers are spoilt for choice with all levels of comfort catered for including Glamping at Castaways, and for those after more traditional lodgings, Tangalooma Resort has got you covered.
9am: Get sandy with it
After a well deserved sleep-in, it’s time to tackle the sandy beast that is Mt Tempest for a spot of extreme sandboarding, 4WD quad biking, or hiking to the top for panoramic views of the island and some prime dolphin, whale, dugong, manta ray and turtle spotting.
More sand-based fun can be had further south at the appropriately named Big and Little Sandhills, and while you’re there check out the 40+ free activities on offer from Tanglaooma Resort, as well as the many water and land-based fee-for-hire services available. After lunch at one of the restaurants or cafes in Kooringal, make your final trek up the beach back to the Wrecks and board the MICAT for your return trip to the mainland.
2:30pm: Sign off with Sirromet
What better way to end a whirlwind weekend on the Southern Bayside than to head to Sirromet Winery to watch the resident wallabies hop, skip, and jump to the live music on offer every Saturday and Sunday at the Cellar Door? Relax and unwind with a glass or two of award-winning vino and postpone the return to ‘normal life’ for as long as possible!
Have you been to the bay lately?
*Photography: Felicity McNaught (Castaways); Keiren Lusk (lighthouse)