Flinders Reef and Other Wanderings

There is always a bit of excitement when you sail to a spot you have never been to before, even more so when it happens to involve snorkeling! This week we are taking you for a wander around Flinders Reef, as well as to Yellow Patch and Bulwer.

Now, there are two Flinders Reefs in Queensland, one is a large and remote group of atolls in the Coral Sea, the other, much smaller is just north of Moreton Island. There are also two Yellow Patches! One up the coast near Cape Capricorn, the other at the top end of Moreton Island. You can guess which ones we are visiting this time!

Firstly, we had to get to the top of Moreton Island. From Tangalooma, we headed to Yellow Patch at the Northern end of the island and dropped the pick in front of the group of tall colourful dunes. This is a scenic anchorage normally frequented by fishing boats rather than yachts and cruisers, great for beach walks, sometimes good for surfing on the point, and although the ocean is rarely totally flat up there, we were comfortable enough. We often use this anchorage when sailing north from the Gold Coast on the ocean side rather than the Moreton Bay side. This is what it looks like from the air. There is a kind of shallow lagoon which makes it interesting and attracts many birds.

Yellow Patch and the lagoon at low tide
Looking east towards Cape Moreton
Anui at Yellow Patch
On our lonesome in aqua water

As is often the case there, the sunset was to die for.

Flinders Reef

The anchorage is also an ideal launching point to head out to Flinders Reef, a marine sanctuary just 4nm NE of Cape Moreton. It is quite exposed, so we had been watching the weather forecast for a while and finally the next morning, it was light enough to give it a go.

Flinders Reef is a dive site we had never been to before. It is renowned among dive charters for its coral and marine life. You are not allowed to anchor there, so we were hoping to get one of several public moorings on the eastern and western sides of the reef, but there are only a few for boats of Anui’s size so we wanted to get there early. By 7.30am we were tied up to the least exposed mooring on the lee-side of the reef.

When we first hooked onto the public mooring, it was too early for a snorkel, but good enough for the drone, although there was a fair bit of swell and movement in the water. Flying away was fine, coming back to land was a little more challenging with the boat lurching about. Chris decided to switch off the obstacle avoidance system and Wade caught the beast. Phew! Since then, especially when flying from the boat, the sensors are turned off which makes life a lot easier.

You can see the small isolated reef, Anui, and Cape Moreton in the distance. We are really close to Moreton Island.

By the time the light was good enough for a snorkel, we had run the water maker and topped up our freshwater tanks. The tide was a bit high, but two other boats had arrived. We were ready to go, feeling quite excited about our new discovery; with just our snorkeling gear and quite some swell we were not sure what we would find. Our best hope was close to the reef edge. Strap yourselves in, it’s a bumpy ride!

Our first impression as we jumped in was WOW: clear blue water and we were surrounded by turtles… big ones, and lots of fish. The coral was reminiscent of that at Barren Island in the Keppels, in tones of russet, burgundy and green. The site sits at the meeting point of the tropical north and temperate south and this is reflected in the type of corals and algae you see.

The marine life was excellent. The turtles were the highlights, not in the least bothered by us, and not minding the wave action throwing them off track and bumping them against the rock walls. They were intent on crunching on algae in the tightest of crevices in the rocks, going head down, bottom up, flipped upside down at times, but still focused on their bits of delicacies, while us snorkelers were able to get awfully close! Also spectacular were the schools of Moon Wrasses and Blue Tangs with their vibrant colours, in greater numbers than we had ever seen. We were hoping for grey nurse sharks which breed here, but did not see any, probably not deep enough where we were.

  • Green Turtle
  • Green Turtle
  • Rainbow of Moon Wrasses at Flinders Reef
  • Blue Tangs
  • Green Sea Turtle at Flinders Reef
  • Moorish Idols
  • Coral Cover at Flinders Reef
  • Green Turtle wedged in the rocks
  • Green Moon Wrasses
  • Wedgetail Triggerfish
  • Cowrie shell in Sarcophyton
  • Turtle wedged in the rocks
  • Green Sea Turtle surfacing
  • Moon Wrasse
  • Blue Tangs at Flinders Reef

We really liked Flinders Reef. It just goes to show that you don’t have to go very far to have novel experiences.

Back to Yellow Patch

With the SE picking up again, we returned to the relative shelter of Yellow Patch, enjoying a few days of beach walks, swimming, surfing at Cape Moreton, and just lazing around. We are still killing time! Although the waves were not very good for surfing, Wade had some fun. Meanwhile Chris played with the drone.

Sub standard surf but nice view!

And as usual, the unsettled weather delivered spectacular sunsets!

Sundown at Yellow Patch

Bulwer

After several days at Yellow Patch floating in amplifying swell, it was time to up anchor. We did not go very far, just around the corner to Bulwer on the NW side of Moreton Island. Bulwer is a tiny village with an official population of 49! We were lured ashore to check out the local Castaway Cafe and convenience store for “al fresco” dining as Wade calls it – slightly better than the sausage sizzle as Bunnings!

And we had a look at the wrecks on the beach there too. In the 1930s, three ships were scuttled in the area to form a harbour for small boats, a bit like at Tangalooma, but on a much smaller scale. Sand has now built up around the wrecks which just about dry out at low tide.

The Bulwer Wrecks
Sunset at Bulwer

As we post this we are back at Flinders Reef. It means pleasant little sails, a couple of snorkels and a play with the turtles while the breeze has eased for just two days… something fun to do! We are making the most of a tedious time, as we count the days to our haul out.

19 thoughts on “Flinders Reef and Other Wanderings

  1. I love those turtles and fish down there! And the beautiful sunsets. You two are very blessed! 👍🏻❤️🇦🇺

  2. Glad you were able to visit some new and interesting spots which delighted and how lovely to see so many turtles. There are still good, healthy spots out there.

  3. Fabulous photos again, Chris. Thank you! A visit to Morton Is is definitely on my to do list!

  4. Great way to “kill time”! I have anchored off yellow patch a few times, but its always been a bit swelly to take a mooring at Flinder for a snorkel. What swell height did you have for your visit?

    • Hi Graham, 1/2 meter the first time and this time NE swell at 1m at least… on both occasions we left because of the amount of movement which is unusual for us. It is quite exposed!

  5. Lovely pictures! Especially the sunsets! They are fabulous, to be framed! Thank you, Chris. 🙂

  6. You are having fun and you are filling your time very nicely. Not so long to go now. Winter is in Sydney again. I should not complain we have had about 4 days already. Enjoy

    • You would love this place, Sue… so many turtles and colourful wrasses! We are back to Moreton Island hiding from 35 knot winds, chop and rain! Crazy extremes!

  7. Amazing what you discover when you have time to wait for the right conditions! Flinders Reef has always been a hazard to steer well clear of when passaging, but I’ll look at it with different eyes now.

  8. Gotta love those turtles! Fish colours were amazing too! Enjoy your lazy meanderings!

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