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Guide to Visiting Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island

Guide to Visiting Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

An up-to-date travel guide unveiling how to get to Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island, Australia– and what to expect once you arrive!

The famous Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island (Mulgumpin) is one of the most underrated attractions in South East Queensland. This unique anchorage harbour was created by sinking several ships by the Queensland government between 1963 and 1984.

It has now been turned into an artificial reef that is abundant with sea life. After living in South East Queensland for a year, I’ve visited the large sand island of Moreton several times. And, in this guide, I’ll detail everything you need to know about the shipwrecks at Tangalooma to get you prepared for your visit to Moreton Bay Marine Park!

Tangalooma wrecks from the sky, moreton island queensland

About the Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island

The Tangalooma Wrecks are a collection of fifteen deliberately sunken ships from the 1960s and 1970s on the western side of Moreton Island. This island off the coast of South-East Queensland is the third largest sand island in the world, after North Stradbroke Island.

To form the famous Tangalooma Wreck site, the government began sinking these junk ships on the edge of a sandbank in order to form a huge structure as a break wall for small boats and as a habitat for marine life.

However, the first vessel was sunk in the 1960s by a group of boat owners who saw the potential of creating an artificial reef to attract fish and other marine life to the area. These decommissioned vessels (mostly old barges) were placed close together in the turquoise water and anchored to the sandy sea floor to prevent them from drifting away.

Tangalooma wrecks on moreton island, queensland, australia
Tangalooma wrecks from the sea

How to Get to the Tangalooma Wrecks

The Tangalooma Wrecks snorkel and dive site is located off the west coast of Moreton Island, approximately 75 minutes away via ferry. If you're visiting Brisbane or the Gold Coast, then by far, the easiest way to get to the wrecks is to book a day cruise with See Moreton.

This dedicated snorkelling vessel operates a day trip from both Brisbane and the Gold Coast daily with hotel transfer options included. The trip includes:

  • Full-day Moreton Island cruise
  • Morning tea, coffee, and delicious buffet lunch
  • Wild dolphin, turtles, and possible dugong spotting
  • On-board naturalist guide
  • Snorkelling equipment
  • Kayaking and beach sport equipment

Tip: This is one of the top-rated tours in South East Queensland with hundreds of 5-star reviews. I've been on a few trips to Moreton and this one is a clear standout. However, trips sell out quickly, so make sure to book in advance!

Tangalooma wrecks infographic
Tangalooma wrecks on moreton island, queensland

Staying on Moreton Island at the Tangalooma Resort

Of course, if you'd prefer to spend a night or two on Moreton Island, you can book a room at the famous Tangalooma Island Resort, the only accommodation option on the island. This resort is located right near the wrecks and is famous in Queensland for its amazing service.

This resort offers a range of accommodations, from 5-star luxury to budget villas. This is a great option as the resort can arrange the ferry transfer to and from the resort for you.

Tangalooma island resort on moreton island, australia

Can You Visit Tangalooma Wrecks Independently?

The reason I recommend that most people book a day tour is that it is almost the same price as the regular ferry. While getting to the wrecks is relatively easy by taking the Micat from the Brisbane River, this price only includes transport to the island.

Alternatively, if you have a larger group and a QLD boat license, you could also rent smaller boats from Brisbane or the Gold Coast and reach Moreton Island yourself. That said, whilst Moreton Island is fairly protected and in general offers a safe anchorage spot, the weather can definitely change for the worse quite quickly.

I've visited the Tangalooma shipwrecks several times on my family boat when living in nearby Brisbane. This freedom allowed me to explore more isolated coastal pockets of Moreton Island, as well as lay anchor and stay the night for free. If you have access to a boat, I'd definitely recommend it as the best way to visit Tangalooma!

Shipwreck on moreton island, queensland

Short History of Moreton Island

The township of Tangalooma was once the site for the largest land-based whaling operation in the Southern Hemisphere. This was also one of Australia's most brutal and bloody whaling operations, killing over 6250 humpback whales in the span of only 10 years from Fraser Island to North Stradbroke Island.

Luckily, only 10 years after the construction and commencement of the Tangalooma whaling operations, humpback whales were placed on the protected species list. It is estimated that in 1965, there were only 500 individuals remaining, from the estimated 15,000 in the original population.

Tangalooma whaling station, moreton island, c. 1952 – 1961
Source: queenslandhistory. Org - tangalooma whaling station, moreton island, c. 1952 – 1961

Many of the sunken ships that make up the Tangalooma Wrecks are coincidentally old whaling vessels.

Due to solid government intervention, the Humpback populations have recovered and are thriving. There are estimated to be over 35,000 whales that now make the yearly migration up the East and West coasts of Australia. Interestingly it is estimated that $32 million was earned each year from whaling operations, while whale watching is now a $70 million industry across Australia.

Dji 0334
The famous wrecks and adjacent sand dunes of Tangalooma

Snorkeling at the Tangalooma Wrecks

If you're visiting Tangalooma, snorkeling is a must! I really didn't expect it at first, but for a giant sand island, Tangalooma is a great site to snorkel, thanks to the wrecks forming an artificial reef.

The Tangalooma wrecks are home to a variety of sea creatures, including tropical fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional cruising dugong! The ships themselves have also become encrusted with coral and other marine organisms, creating a unique and beautiful underwater landscape.

The 15 sunken ships are one of my favourite snorkelling sites in Australia. At high tide, the deepest point of the Moreton Island shipwrecks is roughly 10 metres. It is therefore quite easily accessed by freediving alone. If you're experienced, you can swim through the many port holes and explore the large cavities of the sunken ships.

While the wrecks are quite shallow and do offer a safe harbour, it's important to note that you should be a strong swimmer before snorkelling here. While it may look like a short swim to shore, strong currents can occur on both sides of the wrecks. This made it a little bit tricky for us when trying to pass through the swimthroughs on one visit– be careful!

Snorkeling at tangalooma
Snorkelling with a sea turtle at tangalooma wrecks
Snorkelling at tangalooma, moreton island
Tangalooma wrecks drone photo moreton island low light

Scuba Diving at the Tangalooma Wrecks

Although it's not a particularly deep scuba site, the Tangalooma Wrecks are popular with scuba divers thanks to the amazing amount of marine life and abundant coral reefs that the wrecks attract. Since the wrecks are located in relatively shallow water, with most of them sitting at 5-10 meters depth, it is an amazing wreck dive for a beginner and experienced diver alike.

It is possible to book a scuba diving experience at the Tangalooma Wrecks with Adventure Morton Island, with the option to pick an introductory or a certified dive. The Tangalooma Island Resort also operates a dive shop.

Abundant marine life at moreton island wrecks
Expect lots of tropical fish swimming through the wrecks

Marine Life at Moreton Island

Moreton Island is a protected area for dugongs. If you look hard enough, there's a good chance that you'll spot one. We also saw several pods of dolphins, wobbegongs and leopard sharks just by snorkeling around the wrecks.

I was definitely surprised by just how much marine life there was. 

If you stay the night on a boat or camping somewhere on Moreton Island, try to get out on the water early. We kayaked around the bay for sunrise and saw several sharks and dugongs swimming in the crystal-clear water, which was one of the best experiences I've had in Moreton Bay!

School of fish at moreton island, australia
Scuba diving at tangalooma wrecks

Flying a Drone at Tangalooma

Tangalooma Wrecks is a great place to see from the sky. You can capture some pretty incredible shots of the wrecks neatly lined up in the turquoise waters. A little tip is to try to shoot when the sun is bright and high to get the best clarity and light in the water.

However, it is required that a controlled airspace broadcast via radio or phone call to Tangalooma Heli (07 3410 6980) is mandatory prior to flying the drone, since, there are helicopters that frequently do scenic flight fly-bys of the wrecks.

Tangalooma wrecks drone photo moreton island

Where to Camp Near the Moreton Island Wrecks 

It takes quite some time to get to Tangalooma from the mainland. This means that staying at least one night is a must to soak it in. If you're coming by car ferry, I'd definitely recommend finding a campsite at Gheebulum Kunangai National Park (Moreton Island Recreation Area).

Just remember to clean up and take your trash with you.

If you've come without a vehicle, it's also possible to hang a hammock camp under the stars on the beach. Make sure to bring some kind of insect repellent as the sandflies can get pretty brutal in summer.

Another option is to stay at the nearby Tangalooma Island Resort. The resort owns the beach and is a destination popular for many weddings and celebrations.

Tangalooma wrecks drone photo moreton island low light

Best Time to Visit the Tangalooma Wrecks

The best time to visit the Tangalooma Wrecks off Moreton Island is from June to September, which is technically Aussie winter. Here's why:

  • Water Clarity - During these winter months, water visibility is at its best, ranging from 10 to 30 meters at times. This makes it perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving among the 15 sunken vessels that make up the wrecks.
  • Marine Life - This time of year is excellent for spotting a variety of marine species. You'll get to see wobbegongs, schooling trevallies and maybe even a sea turtle or two.
  • Catch the Whale Migration - Between July and September, humpback whales are migrating through the area and often pass by the wrecks. We've seen them as close as 20 meters from the shore!
  • Crowds - While you may think winter would deter visitors, it's actually a popular season for this specific destination. However, weekdays are generally less crowded than weekends since most locals will be working.
  • Weather - Although it's winter, daytime temperatures are relatively mild, ranging from 16°C to 21°C (60°F to 70°F). The water temperature hovers around 18°C (64°F) in winter, so I'd recommend bringing a wetsuit!

However, visiting Tangalooma at other times of the year is great too! For example, Spring (September to November) offers warmer temps for swimming. Just know it can be windier and the water visibility is a bit worse.

During Summer (December to February) it is usually quite hot and humid, which is great if you just want to come to swim. However, this is also quite a crowded time and you'll need to watch out for jellyfish. Autumn (March to May) is also a good time to visit. You'll get less wind than in spring and moderate temperatures, but you may get more rainy days.

Moreton island arial photography

FAQs About Visiting Moreton's Tangalooma Wrecks

Where are the Tangalooma Wrecks located?

The Tangalooma Wrecks are located on the west coast of Moreton Island in Queensland, Australia. The wrecks are about a 75-minute ferry ride from Brisbane.

Are the wrecks safe to explore?

Yes, the wrecks are popular for snorkeling and diving. However, this is Australia and conditions can vary. It's best to go with a guide if you're not an experienced diver. Check for current conditions before you head in or book the tour.

What should I pack for a day trip?

I always back reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, swimwear, and a wetsuit if you're diving or snorkeling in the cooler months, snacks, and plenty of water. If you book the tour above, you'll get snorkeling gear and water included.

How deep are the wrecks?

The Tangalooma Wrecks are relatively shallow, ranging from 2 to 10 meters deep.

Travel tips and packing list for visiting tangalooma wrecks on moreton island

More Photos from the Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island

Need more inspiration? Here are some additional photos from the wrecks that I've captured over my many visits.

Tangalooma beach on moreton island
Tangalooma wrecks, moreton island australia
Tangalooma wrecks drone photo moreton island low light

More Queensland Travel Blogs

I hope you've enjoyed this comprehensive travel guide to visiting the Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island, Queensland. Before you head off on an adventure of a lifetime, make sure to check out some of my other guides for further inspiration!

Tangalooma wrecks - moreton island
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.