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REVIEW: River to Bay – Family Friendly Day Trip to Snorkel Tangalooma Wrecks

Recently we took the kids out to snorkel on the Tangalooma shipwrecks on a family friendly day trip with a company called River to Bay. Right up front I need to let you know that our trip was hosted by the company, but as always, this review is an honest account of our experience of the day and the company/staff.

If snorkeling the Tangalooma wrecks has been on your bucket list for ever, and you have never got around to making it happen, then read on my friend, because I was that person too… and this article is going to show you just how easy it is and how much fun you will have with your family on this exciting day trip from the Brisbane River.

What is River to Bay?

River to Bay is the result of a long-held dream to connect the people of Brisbane and the city’s visitors to the river and the attractions of Moreton Bay and its islands. River to Bay entered a partnership with the Queensland Government to build a fleet of fast tour boats. Their boats are large enough to provide safety and comfort but small enough to travel the river at high speed with minimal impact to the environment and other river users. River to Bay is locally owned and operated.

What do River to Bay offer?

If you jump on the River to Bay website, you will see that they offer a number of tours both on the Brisbane River and into the Bay… (clue is in the name, right?!) 😉

They offer river cruises:

  • Classic pub tours
  • Cocktail cruises
  • Day brewery tours
  • Twilight brewery tours
  • Friday legends lunch
  • City sight cruise

They also offer bay tours:

  • Best of Moreton Bay cruise
  • Tangalooma day cruise

We did the Best of Moreton Bay cruise and snorkeled on the Tangalooma wrecks.

Best of Moreton Bay cruise

Here’s how they describe it on their website:

Set sail on your very own island adventure and cruise out to Moreton Bay from Brisbane in under an hour with River to Bay’s Best of Moreton Bay Tour! Jam packed with fun, adventure and excitement, this tour will have you

  • discovering the hidden underwater paradise and snorkelling the Tangalooma Wrecks
  • taking a scenic tour of the beautiful Dunwich beaches on Stradbroke Island and
  • exploring the rich history and culture of St Helena Island

Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to swim alongside local marine life, walk with wallabies and spot koalas.

Here’s how it went:

8:00am – arrive Northshore Harbour Cafe

We arrived on time at the Northshore Harbour Cafe (just past Eat Street Markets) and grabbed a cup of coffee. If you don’t know about this lovely family friendly cafe, you can read our review here. It has a playground next door and great food and a lovely atmosphere. It’s a great place for parents to catch up on weekdays too!

I digress…

We scanned the Queensland QR code for the trip and also the company’s QR code that takes you to the online forms to complete for the trip. It took around 3 minutes to complete, so it isn’t onerous!

8:30am – Depart Northshore Harbour

We boarded the boat with around 20 other people and listened to the safety briefing (life jackets are here, listen to the crew in an emergency) before we set off. We also were introduced to our crew – Zac, Ed and Thommo.

During the trip over to the shipwrecks, Ed spoke to every person to ask a few questions about our swimming ability, any medical conditions they needed to know about and whether or not we had anything we wanted to let them know about. I told them I was a bit nervous about the snorkeling as I am pretty unfit and I worried about my ability to swim the length of the shipwreck. (I had a fright on the Great Barrier Reef last year where I drifted out further than I expected and had to swim back to the boat…) Ed said that he would look after me so I felt reassured.

During the trip out we also were given our wet-suits, fins, masks and, if we wanted them, a pool noodle (I took one!). The trip over was smooth in terms of the *motion on the ocean*… indeed much smoother than I thought it would be! However, you still still need to maintain 3 points of contact when moving about the boat!

Families tip: It is a good idea to arrive in your swim suit and put your wet-suit on during the boat trip over so that you maximise your time in the water.

Once we arrived, we picked up Andrew, another River to Bay staff member who had come over on the boat that leaves from Bribie Island (Sandstone Point) to do the Tangalooma Day Cruise, to help us navigate the snorkeling on the wrecks. He gave us the lowdown on what the wrecks are and what we will see, as well as how to navigate them.

10:00am – 11:00am Snorkel Tangalooma Wrecks

Once we had listened to the talk and got all our kit on (wet-suits, fins and masks) we jumped off the back of the boat into the water. We were there in October, the day temperature was 28 degrees.The water temperature was 22 degrees. The wet-suits meant that we didn’t feel the cool of the water at all!

At this point I have to give a huge shout out to Andrew, who clearly had been told by Ed that I was nervous about being swept away by the current. Andrew offered to stay with me and took a life-ring with him, that I could hold on to, as HE navigated the wrecks with the group. He is an ABSOLUTE LEGEND for doing that. He did make it perfectly clear that he didn’t usually personally escort (read: tow unfit) people around the wrecks, but he could see I was nervous. Bless him for his kindness!!

The shipwreck is amazing! I have seen it many times from afar and from the top of the water. Earlier in the year we did a glass bottom boat trip from Tangalooma to see it and feed the fish (you can read about that trip here), but I had always wanted to actually snorkel on the wreck – and today I did… (with the aforementioned help!)

I wont go into detail about the wrecks, suffice to say you will see many, many, many fish and coral living in and on the wrecks. You start the snorkel at one end of the wreck (depending on the tide and current) and you snorkel  your way with the group to the other end.The boat meets you are the other end, so you don’t have to swim all the way back again!

What will you see during your snorkel?

There is a section called the *Fish Tank* and another section called *The Oasis* that house so many fish that as you snorkel through you almost definitely will come into contact with a few. You don’t need to try to touch them, they just are so chill about you being there that they swim near you and you may contact them as you swim.

As well as fish and coral, you could see turtles, wobbygone sharks and dugongs! Andrew told us he saw a whale and her calf on their way across the bay from Bribie on the other boat!!

As I was in the water with my family, I didn’t get any photos of us all snorkeling… just this one of two of us about to get out!

12:15pm – 1:45pm Stradbroke Island

After you have seen all the wreck and the group has gathered again, you will get back into the boat and get out of your wet-suits, fins and masks and return them to the crew. You will then jet off to Little Ship Club for lunch on Stradbroke Island.

Lunch is included in the price of your trip (see details below) and was delicious. We chose the hamburgers, barramundi, fish and chips and chicken parmigiana – which was as big as my head!

After lunch we went for a walk through the islands cemetery and tried to spot a koala, to no avail. 🙁

2:15pm – 3:15pm St Helena Island

After our stop at Straddie we got back on our boat and went over to St Helena. We were running a little behind time by this point, so it was a quick stop on the island. The crew gave us a talk with a little bit of the islands history and we got to take a look at some of the ruins. We didn’t get to see the actual main ruins/prison area as that was a bit too far away for us to get to on this trip.

4:00pm Return to Northshore Harbour

After leaving St Helena, the weather, whilst still sunny with few clouds, had got REALLY windy. I am not going to lie, while the trip out was super smooth, I have to admit to it being super bumpy on the way back. I was a bit scared of the bumping of the boat on the way back to the river. We hit a freak large wave and we were sprayed with water and saturated. Well, I was, as I was on that side of the boat.

The journey back to enter the mouth of the river took around 45 minutes and was really very bumpy and there were lots of waves that made me nervous. Meanwhile the kids…..

We arrived back at Northshore Harbour at 5pm.

The nitty gritty

So here are the details:


  • Adults – $149
  • Kids 3 to 13 – $119
  • 2 adults + 2 kids – $419


Boat trip, wet-suits, masks, fins, pool noodles, lunch. They also had rain jackets they offered to us as the waves made some of us on the boat wet on the way home.


There is a small marine toilet on the boat. There are also toilets at the Stradbroke Island stop.

Would I recommend this trip to families?

Hand on heart I would recommend this trip as suitable for families with kids aged 3+ and best suited for those over 8 and/or confident swimmers. It is well organised, safe, fun and will create great memories for years to come. 5 stars! Highly recommend.

RELATED: REVIEW: Tangalooma Island Resort

This article was featured in Issue 49 of our printed magazine, published December 2021.

Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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