Dolphins, © copyright Katya Ovsyanikova, UQ PhD student
Dolphins, © copyright Katya Ovsyanikova, UQ PhD student

Moreton Bay and its catchments is one of Australia's most important coastal and cultural resources. The Bay is a popular recreational asset due to its diversity of wildlife, habitats and seascapes. It supports diverse industries including fisheries, aquaculture, port services and tourism. Amazingly, Moreton Bay has more visitors each year than the Great Barrier Reef! Not surprisingly, Moreton Bay has been declared a Q150 Icon of Queensland for its natural beauty and attraction.

Moreton Bay is approximately 115 km (71 miles) long from north to south and 40 km (25 miles) at its widest point.  It comprises sheltered inlets, reefs and clusters of islands that in some places turn the bay into narrow channels and passages.  Covering almost 3,400 km2 (1,312 miles2), the Bay stretches from Queensland’s Caloundra to the Gold Coast.  Within Moreton Bay are the smaller bays of Waterloo, Redland, Raby, Deception and Bramble Bay. The Moreton Bay catchment (the waterways that ultimately flow into the Bay) stretches from the Queensland–New South Wales border, north to Noosa and west to the Great Dividing Range. Covering approximately 22,700 km2 (8,765 miles2), this catchment includes 14 major river catchments, including the Logan-Albert, Brisbane, Pine, Maroochy and Noosa Rivers.

The waters that run to Moreton Bay provide support important wildlife habitat, as well as drinking water for humans and stock, and supplies that support many industries. The Bay itself supports numerous industrial and aquaculture economies. A popular recreational boating destination, it is the starting point for one of Australia’s flagship yacht races, the Brisbane to Gladstone, and home to the southern hemisphere’s largest marina – Manly Marina.

The combination of ocean waterflow and a series of off-shore barrier islands, causes lagoonal effects within the Bay. A tidal range of up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) and at times quite shallow depths, along with the lagoonal effects, allows a diverse range of marine plants to grow within the Bay.  This flora supports a diverse range of fauna. (hyperlink to Flora and Fauna section).

The islands of Moreton, North Stradbroke, and South Stradbroke, and Bribie encompass the Bay, are popular holiday destinations as well as home to many.  The less populated Russell-Macleay cluster of islands in the south of the Bay, Coochiemudlo Island, the uninhabited islands of Green, St Helena and Peel, and Bishop and Fisherman Islands, now part of the Port of Brisbane’s infrastructure, are also part of Moreton Bay. Moreton Bay contains almost 360 islands in total.

All these islands have fascinating histories and are socially and culturally significant.  For example, St Helena, a small island east of the Brisbane river mouth, was originally a prison, then a quarantine station, farming community, and recreational reserve, before becoming the National Park it now is. Moreton Island, the third largest sand island in the world, is home to one of the highest coastal sand dune in the world, Mount Tempest (280 m / 919 feet high).

Moreton Bay has a substantial marine park of diverse and significant ecology. Ranging from shoreline mudflats and mangroves to off-shore sea grass beds and coral reefs, the area protects prawn and fish nurseries, through to migratory birds.

The Bay is also an international shipping channel, coordinated by The Port of Brisbane. A number of barge, ferry and water-taxi services also travel over the bay.

Moreton Bay is the land of several traditional owner nations, including the Quandamooka peoples.

View our photo galleries to see Moreton Bay's natural beauty.