A definite bucket list item to experience with your Brisbane kids is the unique sea walk to King Island from Wellington Point at low tide. Our family have done this numerous times and every time the kids get just as excited as the last time they did it.
Although also popular for its waterside playground and impressive climbing trees, visitors to Wellington Point will benefit from checking the tidal conditions first, as it’s only as the waters ebb away to their lowest point that the natural sand walkway stretching between the point and King Island, situated about 1km offshore, is revealed.
The History of King Island
The island itself, now a conservation park, combines sandy pathways alongside twisted trees and is surrounded by mangroves.
King Island was named by surveyor Robert Dixon, who also named Wellington Point. In 1887, it was declared a Reserve and in 1992, it became protected under the Nature Conservation Act. Today it is part of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and is managed by a volunteer group and the Redlands City Council.
Although uninhabited now, the island was once the home for a family for medicinal reasons in the early 1900s and plaques set up on the island tell the story of the two years they lived on the island in a temporary dwelling on a sand dune. A letter from Mr Philips to his sister Jo is in possession of the Wynnum Manly historical society, depicting their life during the brief sojourn on the island.
The Walk from Wellington Point to King Island
Although King Island itself is only small, this experience is all about the journey itself. There is something a little magical about retreating tides revealing a ‘hidden’ walkway to a distant island, and the experience of almost walking on water for part of it is thrilling for the kids.
The walk itself is not very long, about 1km each way, but the journey of discovery it becomes means that the walk there and back usually takes our family about an hour or more to complete. This is because as the tide ebbs away it leaves behind a sandy pathway overflowing with a treasure trove of small marine creatures, shells and pools of water. The kids delight in taking their time, as they run from one pool of water to another and from one newly discovered shell or creature to another, exclaiming loudly each time at their latest find.
Curling shells, colourful rocks, small sea creatures and more are all awaiting discovery and as the muddy flats are revealed so too are hundred of tiny soldier crab holes.
The children on the walk tend to sit patiently as the small crabs come out in droves to explore the watery banks on either side of the path, before disappearing just as quickly when someone runs or walks nearby.
King Island and the return walk
When you finally reach the island, bucket of collected finds in one hand and thongs usually in the other, the exploration of the land itself doesn’t usually take too long.
Upon reaching it there are usually two pathways to take and we usually start by heading to our left, following a small sandy pathway around the island, past mangroves and even more small pools of shallow water where the kids will continue to fossick.
This path will eventually lead around and head back via an area thick with trees and branch overhangs. My kids love this area in particular as it feel very primitive as they clamber, climb and weave their way back to the path and the original sandy track back to Wellington point.
You can really spend as little or as long as you like on the island, with some people taking some time to sit on the sand and look out to sea and others doing a quick stroll around before slowly heading back.
It is important to keep an eye on the tide times though to make sure you don’t lose your pathway back, although many people and children who are a little older like to make the trip as the path starts to dwindle – half paddling / half walking the route.
Be sure not to leave it too late or the tide will come in and you will either have to swim back or plan a longer stay on the island!!!
Helpful Tips for the Walk to King Island
Here are all the things we wish we knew before walking to King Island with our kids.
Planning your trip around the tide times
Timing your trip for when the low tide falls close to sunrise promises you a spectacular view and a prime car spot. As Wellington Point is popular for many reasons, the car parking spots during the day can fill up fast, so getting there as the sun comes up means you can pretty much yell dibs to any spot you like. Of course, if you’re not up for such an early start, low tide in the afternoon is also a beautiful experience.
On the Willy Weather site, you can check out high and low tide times for Wellington Point. Also, as mentioned earlier, don’t leave your stay on King Island too long to allow plenty of time to get back before the tide gets too high. You will see lots of other families who will begin to move back as the tide comes in and if you are anxious, then leave as others are leaving.
Wear suitable shoes
Although you can do this walk minus shoes if you want, the small shells and rocks that cover the sandy pathway and island floor can make for some sore feet for little ones. Our family usually just take thongs or slides that are easy to put on and off and light to carry. The kids will find they want them off if they are exploring the shallow waters or pools but then will put them on again as the pathway can get thick with shell grit as you get closer to the island side.
Take an old bag for the walk
We always make sure we take along a small bag for the walk. This is pretty useful as I can guarantee the kids will discover a special rock or shell (or even ten) that they will want to keep. It is also super handy if they want to take their shoes off to head into the shallow waters, as you can then pop them in the bag too.
Make sure you apply that sunscreen!
It’s also a good idea to apply plenty of sunscreen before you head out on your walk. The area is quite exposed to the sun and the pathway can get pretty thick with shell grit as you get closer to the island side. Time can slip away too as you take your time on the walk and exploring the island; you probably won’t want to take too much with you when you go.
Are dogs allowed on King Island?
If you have a canine friend, they may also love to come and explore the area with you. The local council allows dogs at Wellington Point Recreation Reserve from 4 pm onwards on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. All dogs must be effectively controlled and kept on a leash during your visit. Many families and their dogs enjoyed the walk to and from the island – however, please note that dogs are not allowed on King Island.
Other things to do while you are there
Whilst there are a couple of good cafes at the point and nearby, packing a picnic is always a winner. The huge park in the centre of the point makes for the perfect place to laze around under the huge, shady fig trees. Take some buttered bread and sauce and order some chips for a quick chip sandwich with the kids – although watch out for those ibises aka bin chickens!
Wellington Point has a fantastic waterside playground situated to the left of the walkway to King Island. Set beneath a canopy of far-reaching shady figs, the playground is a winner for its imaginative play setup and the amazing climbing tree options surrounding it.
Make sure you pack your swimmers too! The small protected beach that runs alongside the playground is a great spot for the whole family to cool down in the warmer months. The water is calm and shallow enough for the first few metres for small children to enjoy some safe water play.
So what are you waiting for? Check the tides, pack a picnic, grab some swimmers and prepare yourself for a wonderful day out!