REVIEW: Whale watching with Tangalooma Island Resort

20 June 2019

Living in southeast Queensland we are truly blessed with natural world encounters and family-friendly activities.

But top of the list for any family either visiting the region or being lucky enough to live here, is Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island. The third largest sand island in the world, and located just 40km northeast of Brisbane, Moreton island is one of the least polluted and least disturbed coastal environments along the Queensland/New South Wales coast. And super-easy to get to!

There’s stacks to do on the island at Tangalooma Island Resort: sandboarding, snorkelling the wrecks, water sports and more. But the main attraction in winter has to be their whale watching cruise. We set sail with them recently to check it out… and it was truly a breath-taking once-in-a-lifetime afternoon.

Leaving from the jetty at Tangalooma Island Resort, it’s a short cruise around the island to get to the open ocean and where you’ll usually find the whales. They serve a yummy boxed lunch as you are sailing around the island, with a sandwich, muffin, fruit and cheese and crackers. And before you know it, you are out in the open ocean with whales breaching and pectoral fin slapping alongside the boat. We had an amazing display the day we went out, with 13 different whales, all putting on an amazing show.

tangalooma whale 2

The boat was big and well set out, with plenty of space inside and out for fidgety kids to explore, and lots of different areas to see the whales from. It was also nice and stable – even when facing a bigger swell it wasn’t upsetting (in fact, the kids found it fun!) We did all take a sea sickness tablet before we set off, and that certainly took any worry away of upset tummies.

The crew on board were absolutely fantastic, and really accommodating when cruising with the little ones, giving us tips of the best places on the boat for the kids to see from and other useful information. And the running commentary along the cruise was also incredibly well done – keeping kids engaged and interested, and adults chuckling along the way.

Tangalooma island resort whales

A whale watching cruise such as this is amazing for the kids. For them to see these majestic creatures for themselves, living in their own habitat, is an experience the kids will never forget, and it certainly sparked the inner eco warrior in them both.

The three hours absolutely flew by, and before we knew it, we were heading back to the jetty. But with Tangalooma Island Resort, this was not the end of the marine park experience!

Late afternoon every day there is a kookaburra feed session, where an eco ranger gives a talk about the birds on the island. It was wonderful for the kids to get up-close with these hugely entertaining birds.

tangalooma kookaburra

And at 6pm, it was time for another highlight of Tangalooma Island Resort – the wild dolphin feeding. This was the kids’ favourite activity! There’s not many places where you can stand in the ocean shallows and have a wild dolphin gently take fish from your hand, so it was an incredibly special experience.

The family of dolphins started coming to Tangalooma in the 1980s, when they tentatively began to accept rejected fish from resort guests fishing on the jetty at night. Gradually, the dolphins became more accustomed to people, until eventually they began to hand feed. Now those dolphins’ children come every evening, and with 5 females in that generation, there should be many more arrivals and generations to come.

The program is incredibly well run by the dedicated Marine Biologists on the island, with the protection of the dolphins being top priority.

tangalooma dolphins


Making a weekend of it

It is possible to do all of this in a day trip from Brisbane but there is so much to see and do on Moreton Island, you can also opt to stay on the island.

There’s a range of accommodation – from hotel rooms to self-contained villas. We comfortably fit a family of four into the hotel room.

There’s plenty of dinner options at Tangalooma, with several outlets around the main dining area serving a range of burgers, pizza, kids meals and café bites - which is great for a family with different tastes. There is also a bar (yay!), and an Asian restaurant. And if you need a little recreation, there are a couple of pool tables, two trampolines, beach volleyball, badminton and basketball.

Breakfast is an impressive buffet, which has everything you could need for a whole family, with hot food, pancakes, cereals, pastries and fresh fruit.

If you still haven’t had your fill of marine experiences, there’s a fabulous daily pelican feeding display mid-morning, where these huge birds come along for fish and an eco ranger gives a fun talk about the birds that migrate via Moreton Island.

The verdict?

Tangalooma Island Resort was the perfect blend of family-friendly and eco-focused experiences. Because the activities were all centred around the marine park, the kids came away with something from the trip, both determined to reduce plastic usage and help clean up the ocean. And for the adults, it was a truly beautiful place to switch off and unwind.

We’ll certainly be back!

Written by

Angela Sutherland

After spending over 20 years on the editorial desks of some the leading magazine publishing houses of London and Sydney, Angela swapped the city frenzy for a Queensland sea change. Now owner and editor of Kids on the Coast and Kids in the City, she loves spending her days documenting and travelling the crazy road of family life alongside every mum and dad. 

When she’s not at her desk buried in magazine stories, you’ll often find her entrenched in a heated game of beach cricket, or being utterly outrun by her inventive seven-year-old and rambunctious threenager.

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