Explore Peel Island (Teerk Roo Ra National Park) near Brisbane
Peel Island is a small, heritage-listed island and national park located in Moreton Bay, just 4km from the mainland at Cleveland. The remote island paradise is enjoyed by many locals and visitors and can be accessed only by boat or watercraft.
Horseshoe Bay on the southern side is the most popular beach on the island, and the only one with sand. It has some spectacular sandstone outcrops to explore. Platypus Bay is also open to visitors and has a large historic shipwreck, but the rest of the 519 ha island is surrounded by mangroves and closed to the public for the preservation of historic remains.
The only facility located on the island is a composting toilet at Horseshoe Bay, so ensure you bring everything you need (hat, sunscreen, first-aid, drinking water, insect repellent) and take your rubbish with you.
How to get to Peel Island
If you don’t own a private boat, join Aria Cruises on a day trip to Peel Island. Expect to spot dolphins and marine life on the cruise over, and enjoy a lunch with a beverage and morning or afternoon tea on board the vessel. Alternatively, you can hire your own boat to cruise over the island for a day.
Peel Island is also popular with kayakers, who will paddle the 4km across Moreton Bay and even pitch a tent overnight. You can rent a sea kayak (and a guide if needed) from Brizyak Kayak Hire.
Exploring the island
Boating and fishing
Teerk Roo Ra is a popular spot for local boaties, but the island is surrounded by Moreton Bay Marine Park so there are some restrictions on fishing and recreational activities in different zones. Take a look at the Marine Park map here.
Swimming and snorkelling
Horseshoe Bay and Platypus Bay are both pristine, calm spots to go swimming. For keen snorkelers, there is a historic shipwreck in Platypus Bay that attracts fish and other marine life. There is also the Harry Atkinson Artificial Reef, which was constructed to the north of Peel Island.
Wildlife and marine life
Peel Island is known for its natural beauty, with bird and animal life undisturbed from the pollutions of modern times. Dugongs, turtles, and dolphins frequent the waters around the island. Often there are thousands of jellyfish following the currents, and sharks are known to inhabit these waters. Up to 74 bird species have been identified.
Stay overnight on Peel Island
It is possible to pay a small fee and camp overnight on Peel Island. The island is a popular overnight anchorage for sailors and is considered by many to be Moreton Bay's best shelter from northerly winds. Sea kayakers also use the island for overnight stays. If you plan to camp you need to contact and book with the National Parks website.
Before European settlement, Peel Island was known to the local Quandamooka people as Teerk Roo Ra (Place of Many Shells). The island was primarily used by them for ceremonial purposes.
In the mid-19th century, Peel Island was used as a quarantine station for Brisbane. Incoming ships would stop at the island, disembark passengers for a quarantine period and be fumigated and scrubbed down before heading into Brisbane. At the start of the 20th century it was used as an asylum for vagrants, and then a sisal farm. Inmates would harvest the sisal and make rope.
Between 1907 and 1959 the island was a leper colony. Hundreds of people who contracted the disease were sent to the island for what was essentially a life sentence. As the only intact example of a multiracial lazaret in Australia it is now a protected heritage site. An interesting piece of historical trivia is that after the island was decommissioned as a leper colony, it was discovered the strain of leprosy was non-contagious.
BBC has made a YouTube clip covering this part of history.
In 2007, the island was declared as Teerk Roo Ra National Park and Conservation Park.
Local author and historian Peter Ludlow has written a deeper dive into the history of Peel Island on Secret Brisbane.