Explore Peel Island/Teerk Roo Ra near Brisbane

18 JANUARY 2023

Only a short boat ride from Brisbane’s mainland lies a pristine island paradise with natural and historic gems to discover. Peel Island is located in the Moreton Bay Marine Park and its Indigenous name, Teerk Roo Ra, means “the place of many shells”. The small, Heritage-listed island and national park is only 4km off the coast of the bayside suburb of Cleveland.

Horseshoe Bay on the southern side is popular for its sandy beach and spectacular sandstone outcrops to explore. Platypus Bay is also open to visitors and has a large historic shipwreck but the rest of the 519-hectare 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 including a hat, sunscreen, first-aid, drinking water, insect repellent and food and take your rubbish with you.

How to get to Peel Island/Teerk Roo Ra

The remote oasis can only be accessed only by boat or watercraft. Join Aria Cruises or Brisbane Yacht Charters on a day trip and expect to spot dolphins and marine life as you sail across the calm bay. The full-day tour includes a visit to Horseshoe Bay where you can splash around in the clear blue waters, refine your stand-up paddle-boarding skills, indulge in fun beach games and relax on the aqua mat. 

Alternatively, you can hire a powerboat from Boating Planet to get from the mainland to Peel Island/Teerk Roo Ra. The local operator is based at Newport Marina but you can arrange to collect your boat anywhere along the Redcliffe Peninsula.

Boating and fishing 

Peel Island/Teerk Roo Ra is a popular spot for local boaties but the island is located within the Moreton Bay Marine Park precinct so there are some restrictions on fishing and recreational activities. Take a look at the Marine Park map and familiarise yourself with the different zones before you visit.

Swimming and snorkelling 

Horseshoe Bay and Platypus Bay are both pristine, calm spots ideal for swimming. For keen snorkellers, 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/Teerk Roo Ra. 

Wildlife and marine life 

Peel Island/Teerk Roo Ra is known for its natural beauty with an abundance of bird and animal life calling the undisturbed island home – keen birdwatchers have recorded up to 74 unique species. 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.

Stay overnight on Peel Island/Teerk Roo Ra 

It is possible to pay a small fee and camp overnight on Peel Island/Teerk Roo Ra. 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 book with the Queensland National Parks Booking Service

The island’s history and heritage

Before European settlement, Peel Island was known to the local Quandamooka people as Teerk Roo Ra and was primarily used for ceremonial purposes. In the mid-19th century, the island served as Brisbane’s quarantine station. Incoming ships would stop at the island and passengers would disembark for a quarantine period where they were 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, Peel Island/Teerk Roo Ra 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.

In 2007, the island was declared Teerk Roo Ra National Park and Conservation Park.

A distant shot of a couple sitting on a tree trunk on a beach