The Islands of OZ - raw, moody, beautiful, dramatic and totally unique to Australia. Summersite is embarking on a lifestyle film and photo odyssey exploring our rare and magnificent Islands of OZ. This is Matt Wilkinson, Anna Jordan, Izi Simunidic and friends getting up to some Moreton Mischief.
The trip was all Matt’s idea. He’d tried for a while to sell me on the idea of camping on a rugged and remote island with no roads, no facilities, massive surf swells and a reputation for rather large Great Whites – but for some reason I didn’t take the bait. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon some Insta snaps of this picture perfect tropical paradise that I started to soften, and before I knew it I was packing 3 massive 4WDs with camping gear, food and beers for a 4 day trip with 9 other people..
We make the ferry by about 30 seconds. For those of us city folk who are fairly used to missing buses, trains and ferries on the reg this little rush of adrenaline probably doesn’t sound too bad. For those island hoppers who happen to know that the MICAT ferry from the Port of Brisbane to Moreton Island only runs once every few days – you can probably appreciate my state of panic. Nevertheless, we make it, and as my heartbeat slows down to a more medically safe rate we power forth towards the majestic silhouette that is Moreton Island.
The ferry pulls in right next to the The Wrecks – a stunning marine feature consisting of 15 ships that were deliberately sunk in 1963 to form a break wall for small boats. It has since become a world-famous snorkel and dive site, and when you see the clarity and brilliance of the waters that encase this artful masterpiece it’s not hard to see why. A few moments later and we’re snapped out of our underwater daydreams, realising that it’s time to let down the tires of our Colorados and actually do this. Somebody knows how to drive these things along soft sand, right?
When you finally make it off the ferry – you’re kind of on your own. Yes, there are some friendly rangers roaming about and yes, there is a tiny bit of phone reception around Tangalooma Resort – but mostly, you’d better bloody hope that somebody brought a good map and knows how to calculate the ocean tides.
We drive north along the beach towards our camping zone at Yellow Patch, with our land and drone filmer Sebby Hartog absolutely nailing it on the navigation front after my Google Maps screenshot was deemed “completely useless”. Although it’s only 20kms away, the sand and the tides mean that we don’t arrive for an hour and a half and by the end of it I’m not the only one feeling mildly queasy and sore from gripping the seat so hard. It’s all worthwhile when we see the sign for Yellow Patch and cut through the shrubbery towards the beach, pulling up at some of the clearest turquoise water I’ve ever seen.
Hot from the long drive, we strip off and jump in for a quick swim before lunch, and within minutes we’re spotted by a curious pair of wild dolphins who swim right up to us to have a look. I’m pretty sure Izi might have broken the sound barrier sprinting out of the water when they first popped up, but once the dark grey fins are properly identified we spend a blissful half hour just watching our playful new friends chasing fish and splashing in the shallows.
NOTE: The dolphins on Moreton Island are very friendly, but they’re wild animals and you’re not allowed to touch them. If you’re a guest at the Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort you can participate in dolphin feeding every evening (as well as enjoying some pretty epic cocktails on the beach by the sounds of it..)
We set up camp right near the beach at Yellow Patch and then head north to check out our surroundings and seek some sweet relief from the blistering summer heat. North Point is everything an Aussie beach should be. More than just a smooth stretch of white sand fading into a tranquil warm ocean, this beach has some jagged edges to it that make it ever more endearing. We spend a cruisey afternoon here, diving beneath almost-gentle waves and watching on as some of their larger counterparts crash into the ocean cliffs off the Northern tip, creating fireworks that trickle down into the aptly named ‘Champagne Pools’.
For a professional surfer, Matt has an unusually passionate hatred of swimming, so surfs around us as he always does. The swell direction isn’t quite right for the dreamy waves that we are hoping for, but our surf photographer John Respondek (aka Spon) and filmer Nick Pollet are both buzzing with excitement over the forecast for the next 2 days, which by all predictions could be pretty amazing.
One flat tire and a barbeque under the stars later (both courtesy of our producer Jon Laurenson who might just be the love child of Crocodile Dundee and Jamie Oliver), we decide to call it a night and prepare ourselves for the next two days of island life..
Us New South Welshman are pretty horrified to learn that the sun rises at 4.40am in Queensland. Not even a bacon and egg breakfast with a side of hash browns and the world’s finest cup of single origin coffee could lure me out of bed before about 6, so if you’re going to try it with cornflakes and instant coffee then you’re bloody dreaming.
Unfortunately for me, the surf-enthusiasts hold a strong majority rule within the group and I’m forced to leave my cosy tent and feign excitement about barrels and sunrises and Baby Wipe showers.
It does become that little bit harder to complain when I learn that our first destination for the day is the postcard perfect Honeymoon Bay. Just over the hill from North Point, this secluded gem of a beach is enfolded by pristine National Park and overseen by the stunning monument of Moreton Bay Lighthouse. A few hours of gentle, cruisey waves in this utopia are enough to get the blood circulating, so we pack the cars and head off for destination Nowhere in Particular.
I’ve never quite known whether surfers are just the fussiest people in the world, or whether a miniscule change in the wind direction or the swell size really can make a visibly perfect wave completely unsurfable. Either way, the wind is apparently a little off for barrels today so Matt and our leading surfer lady Jess Lawson have a day of punts, hacks and long luxurious waves that are perfect for Jess’ longboard and for Matt to try out some slightly, ahem.. unconventional surfcraft..
As the daylight starts to fade, we head south towards the Big Sand Hills that promise uninterrupted views of Brisbane City and a magnificent platform to watch the sun go down after a perfect day of island living. It’s bloody lucky that we’re all such athletic human specimens or we might just have spent the evening in the dark beneath the shadow of these vast natural wonders. The sand is unbelievably soft as we start our long trek, but it’s all worthwhile when we stop to catch our breaths, looking back over the endless expanse of rippled golden sand with nothing but our footprints to distract the eye from the majestic beauty of this place.
Not one to be overcome with emotion at such things, Matt whips out a boogie board from thin air and tries his hand at sand-boarding while Spon, Nick and Sebby continue to lug their heavy camera gear further skyward. Baffling though it might seem, you do actually need a sand board to go sand-boarding and Matt’s feeble attempts at shredding the dunes are an embarrassing failure. If you’re visiting the dunes and you don’t have one on hand then it’s best to leave it to the professionals to kit you up.
A little further up the hill and we finally find the spot, setting down the esky at what is possibly the most amazing place I’ve ever been. We enjoy some (very) well-deserved sun-downers as Shana and Izi head off to explore just how big these ‘Big Sand Hills’ really are. They return half an hour later completely exhausted, but with no answers. They walked as far as they possibly could and didn’t even scratch the surface of this incredible natural expanse.
NOTE: Somebody told me that even on the hottest day imaginable, the sand on these dunes will remain cool because of the enormous aquifers that lie beneath it. A quick Google search tells me that this person was bang on, and should therefore be commended on their knowledge bank of fun and relatable facts.
After a quick dip in the ocean, we drive the 2 hours back to camp with our heads still in the clouds, ready to do it all again tomorrow..
Surfing // Matt Wilkinson @mattwilko8
Surfing // Jess Lawson @jessielawson00
Talent // Izi Simundic @izisimundic
Aerial photography and filming // Sebby Hartog @sebbyhartog
Photography // John Respondek @johnrespondek
Photography // Ming Nomchong @ming_nomchong_photo
Filming // Nick Pollet @nickpollet
Music // "Holy Gun" by Morning Harvey @morningharvey