Set just north of Brisbane, Queensland is a 78km drive towards the Sunshine Coast called the Northern Moreton Bay Tourist Drive.
With a few hours to spare this was an appealing way for me to spend a Saturday afternoon, take in some fresh sea air and enjoy the Queensland coast. Numerous beaches dotted the way so it was enticing to explore although in mid-July the weather was wet and overcast.
The Northern Moreton Bay Tourist Drive
The drive is easy to follow and begins just north of Brisbane and just south of Shorncliffe. The coastal road takes you all the way to Scarborough, north of Redcliffe where you can catch the ferry across to Moreton Island. I’ve yet to visit the island but hope to do so at some point in the future. I have however been further north to Bribie Island which was a fabulous day out.
Moreton Bay was known as “Moora” (an open sheet of water) by The Aboriginals long before western settlers in the 1800s. Penal settlements began in 1824 at what is now modern day Redcliffe. Soon tension led to violence with the local indigenous people which lasted many years. There is still some Aboriginal presence here so history is not always lost.
The Northern Moreton Bay Tourist Drive is easy to follow as there is a distinct brown road sign all along the route. The sign to the north Brisbane beaches is easy to identify and has a sea life symbol. This is a drawing of what is known as a “dugong” which resides in Moreton Bay.
The dugong is an endangered species yet is able to survive in this area due to the seagrass meadows and the recognised high quality of the water. In fact it is said that no other city in the world is able to say they can see dugong within sight of the city skyline.
Water sports, fishing and yachting abound. Whilst there are opportunities to go whale watching between June and November from Redcliffe. There is also a chance to watch dolphins too.
Taking a few leisurely hours I explored the Northern Moreton Bay Tourist Drive and beaches north of Brisbane and formed some quick conclusions as to which ones are worth a revisit.
I began my journey in the north at Queens Beach, based in Redcliffe.
Queens Beach is in fact classified as three beaches, the main Queens Beach, North Queens Beach and South Queens Beach. The main Queens Beach had most appeal with its golden sand and adequate range.
The other two beaches appeared marshy and contained wet sands. Not very desirable for a stroll on the beach. North Queens beach also had some rocks to contend with. There were a small number of picnic areas at the North Queens beach which were being used.
The South Queens beach also had a fisherman’s gangway to walk along and take in the view.
Whilst very quiet in July a number of people used the pathway accompanying the beach. This was a great place for a stroll. I was also impressed at the diversity and appeal of the beach houses and apartments alongside the Queens Beach.
Whilst clearly pleasant the place was not commercialised. In fact, looking for lunch I had to follow a sign on the South Queens Beach to a café inland.
Continuing the Northern Moreton Bay Tourist Drive a short walk/drive south from Queens Beach lies a more lively Suttons Beach.
With a small number of convenience stores and modern apartment blocks this place seemed to have more appeal than Queens Beach.
The beach was long and golden. It just craved to be walked upon or to sit and make a sand castle.
Alongside the beach was a typical Australian green area with picnic and barbecue huts. Free toilets and free parking with easy access to the beach made this a perfect stopping point.
Beach patrols take place between September to April as the place becomes popular in the sunshine.
There is little doubt that with a warmer day this place could be a delightful place to pitch up for a few hours.
It appeared to me that Suttons Beach ran into Margate Beach.
Margate Beach however was a more popular spot with lots more parking and activity around. There was also a selection of eateries roadside.
Beautiful golden sands lie here along with path side white huts which proved popular for locals to gather and eat out. Even the seagulls figured out what was going on as they waited for any potential scraps of food.
The white huts even had the occasional beach side shower for swimmers and surfers. A clear sign of how popular this place can be in the summer. To round it all off the public toilets were decorated with some funky graffiti.
Woody Point is not really a north Brisbane beach yet is a popular stopping point along the Northern Moreton Bay Tourist Drive.
Jetty Square is a main meeting place with a busy car park. Cafés and the Belvedere Hotel along with tourist shops adorn the road side.
The Woody Point Jetty reaching out to the water is the main appeal waterside as the beach is very marshy. The jetty was built in 1881 then rebuilt in 2009. The main purpose was to handle ferry passengers from Brisbane and Sandgate.
Beside the cliffs of Woody Point also lies the wreck of Gayundah. Woody Point seems popular for water sports with plenty of wind surfers and fishermen present. As opposed to the water way, the Crockatt Park at Woody Point was busy with activity and is a nice green respite from time on the road.
Clontarf Beach is unmarked on many maps and it is clear to see why, there is not much of it. This small gathering of sand and pebble is by the Houghton Highway. However there are some plus points to the place. It is located by the Tourist Information office (where I picked up information about the Moreton Bay Tourist Drive) and Pelican Park. This is another of the many spots along the Northern Moreton Bay Tourist Drive with picnic benches and a relaxing spot to take time out.
It is also a viewing position to see the Ted Smout Memorial Bridge which heads in the direction of Brisbane.
The north Brisbane beach of Brighton is far removed from its UK counterpart in more than just distance. Whereas the UK Brighton is famous as a pebble beach, Brighton in Queensland is a very flat sand beach. In fact it is so flat I dare say a fast incoming tide would risk catching someone who ventured out too far.
The flatness meant that even though the tide was a long way away water was still stood in various parts of the sandy dunes. The wide open beach proved of great appeal to dog walkers, once let off the leash the dogs had lots of room to explore.
Located just off the Ted Smout Memorial Bridge this is also a great spot for getting a good view of this engineering construction.
Looking out onto Bramble Bay, the Brisbane beach of Sandgate appears to be a continuation of Brighton beach as they run into each other.
Sandgate Beach in Queensland is very flat and wide with lots of room to explore. The long promenade walk proved popular with joggers and dog walkers.
There is also a community swimming pool in Sandgate and the Arthur Davis park beside the beach if you want to keep the sand out of your shoes.
With some interesting architecture and a bustling town centre full of shopping options there is much more to Sandgate than just the beach. The Northern Moreton Bay Tourist Drive will take you through the town so you can see for yourself.
Whilst looking for north Brisbane beaches Shorncliffe is one of the first you’ll find heading north of the city. In truth there is little by way of beach yet more a famous Pier.
In times gone by the sandy shores and Pier proved a big hit and were packed out over the holiday periods. However with growing affluence and motor vehicles tourists have headed to other locations for their sand and sea fix.
The Pier which is over a century old was showing signs of age at the time of my visit. It was closed as it was deemed structurally unsafe to walk on. I hope that a restoration project is imminent. It is a striking piece of craft work with white timbers and characteristic colonial street lights. It is still a place of considerable note as it is the starting point for the annual Brisbane to Gladstone boat race.
Almost in touching distance of the Pier is a man made groyne built in the 1930s. This acts as a barrier to prevent erosion by trapping sand which otherwise would shift.
The cliffs in this area are of geological interest and studies continue of the triassic sedimentary rocks. Apparently there is a fault line visible across the cliff at the southern end.
Whilst I reflected here for a while I was very impressed at the quality and styling of a children’s play area. Oh to be a kid again.
The location was also a good spot to observe as aircraft approached their landing at the nearby Brisbane Airport.
What did you think of the Northern Moreton Bay Tourist Drive? Is it worth a visit?
The Northern Moreton Bay Tourist Drive was a pleasant way for me to fill a few hours with a hire car in the Brisbane area. The weather was overcast on the day of my trip, however I still saw a wide variety of beaches in a short space of time. Please leave a comment below and tell me which one was your favourite?