Escape to Straddie: A Week on North Stradbroke Island, QLD
The quintessential Australian beach holiday experience:
Sun, sand, sunscreen, sunsets and the smell of seaweed and salt.
Surfboards on the back of each and every truck, fishermen clambering rocks to the perfect spot.
Whales leaping in the distance as pods of dolphins slide through emerald waves.
Paperbacks with sand between the pages and fresh pineapple.
This is the glorious reality of a week on North Stradbroke Island – or ‘Straddie’ to the locals.
A Week on North Stradbroke Island: Arriving at Dunwich
Located just off the east coast of Brisbane, the island is easily reachable by ferry from Cleveland (~25 min drive from Brisbane Airport) – and is home to all the greatness of Noosa or Byron without the pretension.
We arrive at Brisbane Airport and pick up our hire car for the week. We stocked up on some grocery essentials on the mainland – saving us from the island’s slightly exorbitant prices. With a car laden with necessities and the beach calling, we boarded the ferry.
Stradbroke ferries operate a vehicle ferry and water taxis to the island every day, every hour until early evening – so arranging to be on one could not have been easier. We found seats on the sun-soaked top deck, icy-pole in hand – now fully saturated in holiday bliss.
The ferry drops you at Dunwich – the most western of the three settlements that make up Stradbroke. Home to the Minjerribah camp site and literal beach side glamping tents at Adam’s Beach, Dunwich is your first glimpse at the relaxed atmosphere of the island. Lunch at the Island Fruit Barn Café is soul food redefined – with a kaleidoscopic cabinet full of island-famous homemade fare.
We opt for the slow pace in a bungalow at Point Lookout. Our Airbnb hides within the trees behind the main street and becomes a hub for a week of unstructured slowness. We’re a five minute walk from Cylinder Beach – the main swimming break of the Point – and neighbours to the elusive Island ‘Prawn Man’ – Carl, who sells his phenomenal daily catch from his front shed. Straddie is full of these surprises – the charm offensive of the island that famously makes a trip become tradition.
The highlight of Point Lookout is undoubtedly the ‘Gorge Walk’. Winding its way along the top of the North and South Gorges, this track is dotted with lookouts and outcrops – ideal vantage points for spotting the marine life that makes Straddie so special, including turtles, pods of dolphins and the illustrious manta rays. From June to November, whale watching is almost a competitive sport in these parts, with the mighty giants’ migration path passing supremely close to the coastline. We were lucky enough to spot a couple in the distance flipping their fins.
Our tip – don’t be afraid to venture (carefully) down off the boardwalk and onto the rock, towards the edge of the escarpment. Watching the waves crash against the jagged shapes of the gorge and rushing back out into the open water is almost hypnotic. Were it not for our pasty sun-sensitive skin, we could have lounged on the spectacular rock formations all day.
Food & Drink
We spent our mornings at the Blue Room – the youthful, beach-shack-chic café of the island. Complete with a small al fresco terrace, good coffee and handmade delicacies, this cafe is ultimately the only way to slowly wake up on island time.
Indulgence is key to a successful Straddie adventure. No beach day is complete with the ceremony of fish and chips. The pick of the bunch is the aptly named ‘Fins N Fries’, hidden back behind the main road – fulfilling all of your deep fried dreams. We feast on the catch of the day at Deadman’s Beach. In the 1950s, a skeleton and boot were uncovered in the sand here, giving the beach its name.
Frenchman’s Bay is also home to another delight of Point Lookout – Oceanic Gelati. Taking our scoops of delightfully saccharine Iced Vovo and rosewater meringue gelato, we cross the road and join the local mob of kangaroos keeping an eye out for whales.
A Week on North Stradbroke Island: Brown Lake, Main Beach, Flinder’s Beach
Looking further than Point Lookout, the island is also home to some hidden gems. Namely, Brown Lake – a freshwater lake, fringed with powdery white sand, whose deceptive colour emanates from the native tea trees that fringe it. Don’t let the questionable name turn you off – the water is calm, invigorating and beautiful.
Further afield, Main Beach stretches 38km down the east coast of the island – a wild stretch of open ocean perfect for sand boarding, 4WD enthusiasts and those wanting to marvel in the expanse of a seemingly never-ending beach shrouded in sea mist.
Flinder’s Beach at Amity Point is the untouched jewel in Straddie’s crown of northern beaches. Shrouded by a border of dense eucalyptus – this glorious stretch of white sand, strewn with almost ornamental driftwood and fallen trees is brimmed with crystal clear water. We lazed under overhanging branches flipping pages of easy-reads and slosh amongst the incoming tide, curating our perfect shell collection.
In the few days we were there, Straddie enveloped us in its romance and striking humble beauty. For a physical place to so quickly imbue us with its loosen-up and settle-back sensibilities, it has to be pretty special.
The ferry back to Brisbane was a sad affair, knowing that soon we’d be back facing the reality of the city. But for now, there’ll always be Straddie.
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