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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Our Guide to Queensland's North Stradbroke Island

After Christmas, we packed the car to the brim with all our boards and camping supplies and headed up the coast to North Stradbroke Island. North Stradbroke Island is located off the coast of Brisbane in Moreton Bay and was about a 10 hour trip from our home in Port Macquarie. North Stradbroke Island is also known by its Aboriginal name, Minjerribah and as Straddie, by both locals and visitors alike. Coming in at second to Fraser Island, Straddie is the world’s second largest sand island. The island is one of Australian’s natural treasures and we absolutely loved every second of the week we spent on Straddie with its white sandy beaches, magnificent inland lakes, hidden waterways, wildlife, friendly locals, scenic walks and wonderful laid-back way of life.

Our Guide to Queensland's North Stradbroke Island

GETTING TO STRADDIE & AROUND THE ISLAND
Straddie is easily accessible by Stradbroke Island Ferries water taxi or vehicle ferry, with has regular services operating from Cleveland to the south of Brisbane. Make sure you book your ferries in advance (especially vehicle ferries) as Straddie is very popular and you do not want to miss out simply because the ferries are all booked out!

Once you are on the island there are sealed roads linking the three townships on the island so you don’t need a four wheel drive. However, if you are feeling a bit more adventurous and do want to bring a 4WD then the rest of the island will be opened up to you to explore (just make sure you obtain a permit first from Straddie Camping)! One of the most wonderful things about the island is that it is home to an abundance of native animals (which we’ll tell you all about soon) so please drive cautiously on the roads, especially around dawn and dusk when they are most active.

If you are visiting on a day trip or don’t have a car then you can still visit as Straddie has both a taxi service and frequent bus service which operates between Dunwich, Amity Point and Point Lookout. The buses meet each passenger ferry both at Cleveland and on the island.

Book your ferries here: Stradbroke Ferries

Stradbroke Island Ferries
Driving around Stradbroke Island

ACCOMMODATION
Straddie has a wide range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. Ranging from holiday resorts to backpackers, camping grounds and holiday apartments and houses. Whether you want to stay at a beachfront camping ground or relax in your very own luxurious holiday house there is certainly something for everyone.

Our trip to Straddie was a fairly last minute decision and it was over the Christmas/New Year holiday period, which meant the majority of accommodation has been booked out a long time ago. Dan loves camping and I enjoy mixing up the luxury with relaxing camping trips! We were lucky enough to score one of the last campsites on the island. Straddie Camping manage the campsites on the island and offer six beachside camping grounds all of which are surrounded by native bushland. We’ve really splashed out on our camping supplies since we arrived back in Australia because I like to camp in comfort, especially when we are camping for at least a week. We love that because of online shopping we can have access to quality camping and caravan accessories no matter where we are in Australia! Now that we are living back in Australia we plan on travelling our amazing country as in depth as we can and can’t wait to camp all over, especially in beautiful Queensland! I particularly loved relaxing in the campsite in our new, gorgeous hammock which we recently purchased from West Coast Hammocks!

We stayed at Bradburys Beach Camping ground in Dunwich which was on the beach and surrounded by plenty of trees which we appreciated on the hot days! The campsite was well-equipped and included toilets, showers, a laundry and washing up area. In future if we did book in advance I think we would choose one of the campsites closer to Point Lookout as we spent most of our time at the beaches there. If you have children then we’d recommend staying near Amity Point as it has the safest swimming areas and is the smallest of the three townships.

Camping on North Stradbroke Island
Cooking whilst Camping on North Stradbroke Island
Relaxing in West Coast Hammock

DUNWICH
The town of Dunwich will be the first look most visitors to the island have when they arrive. Dunwich is a picturesque harbour town located on the western side of the island that is rich with both Aboriginal and European culture and history, as well as natural beauty!

Dunwich is the best place on the island to pick up all your holiday essentials as it has a general store, bakery, fruit shop, bottle shop and butcher. Dunwich also has a local sports store, which may come in handy if you have left anything behind, or if like us, you find a hole in your air mattress and need to buy a new one! There is also a number of restaurants and cafes including CJ’s Island Pizza where we got a delicious dinner from one night and the bakery, which make a wonderful coffee!

Whilst Dunwich doesn’t have the best beaches on the island for swimming it has no shortage of swimming holes and lakes! There is a swimming enclosure near the ferry terminal, it is only a 5km drive to Brown Lake, a little further to Blue Lake and the very refreshing Myora Springs can be found on the drive to Point Lookout.

Hike to Blue Lake Stradbroke Island
Couple at Blue Lake Stradbroke Island

AMITY POINT
Amity Point is the smallest of the three townships and is a laidback, fishing village where you have no choice but to relax on island time. Amity Point is located on the North-Western tip of the island and is only a 15 minute drive from Dunwich. Whether you are a fisherman, seafood lover, wildlife enthusiast or family then you’ll fall in love with Amity’s charm.

Amity has resident pelicans, cute koalas and wild dolphins that visit the local jetty. Amity is the perfect town to relax in and is ideal for families with a relaxing atmosphere, shaded sandy beaches and a large swimming enclosure that provides a safe place to swim. Due to Amity’s location on the island there are no surf beaches which make it ideal for swimming, fishing and snorkelling.

If you’re a seafood lover then you will LOVE Amity. Each day, trawlers tie up at the jetty to unload their catch of fresh prawns, crabs and fish. If you keep an eye out for roadside signs then you’ll know where you can buy some fresh seafood straight off the boat! Amity also has a lovely cafĂ©, Seashells at Amity where we stopped for coffee and cake one morning after a swim and it was lovely! The cake was sweet, the coffee delicious and the ambiance wonderful.

Amity Point Jetty Stradbroke IslandAmity Point Stradbroke IslandSwimming at Amity Point Stradbroke Island

POINT LOOKOUT
The Point Lookout township is situated at the north-eastern tip of the island and was our favourite place on Straddie with scenery that took our breath away. Point Lookout is a series of beaches and headlands that offer visitors crystal clear beaches to swim, snorkel and dive in, unreal waves to surf, stunning headlands to walk and spot marine life from and enough activities to keep even the most adventurous of visitors happy! Cylinder and Main Beaches are patrolled daily by lifeguards and both beaches offer superb swimming and surfing.

Point Lookout has a large range of places to dine including restaurants, cafes, an organic gelato shop (which we highly recommend) and fish’n’chip shops. The Point Lookout Surf Club also open their bar on weekends and every day from 2pm during holidays and we’re convinced it has the best surf club views in the world (oh and the drinks are cheap too)! There is also a range of souvenir shops, a newsagent, fruit shop, bakery, pharmacy and convenience store. In addition, there are plenty of places to hire equipment or book tours of the island!

One of the highlights of our time on Straddie was doing the North Gorge Walk in Point Lookout. The walk offers stunning views over the Pacific Ocean and is a perfect vantage point for spotting marine life and wildlife. We were lucky enough to see pods of dolphins, turtles, manta rays, sharks and even kangaroos one morning! Between June to November, the walk is also one of the best spots on the entire East Coast to watch the annual migration of the humpback whales!

The coastal village of Point Lookout has without doubt some of the most breathtaking ocean views in the world and despite it being the middle of summer holidays it was never too crowded!

Girl at Cylinder Beach Stradbroke Island
Couple hiking North Gorge Walk Stradbroke Island
North Gorge Walk Stradbroke IslandViews from North Gorge Walk Stradbroke IslandViews from North Gorge Walk Stradbroke Island
Main Beach Point Lookout from North Gorge Walk

TOP ISLAND EXPERIENCES
North Stradbroke Island is blessed with white sandy beaches, magnificent inland lakes, hidden waterways and scenic walks. You only need to spend a few hours on Straddie to slip into the relaxed pace of island life. Whatever your holiday desire, Straddie has it all. For the more adventurous, activities include bush walking, 4WDing, sand boarding, kayaking and snorkelling to name a few. The island is also well known for its world class surfing and scuba diving.

Surfing
Straddie is blessed with amazing surfing and the waves that roll onto Straddie’s beaches have created a strong surfing culture on the island. Main Beach and Cylinder Beach offer the best surf conditions.

Surfer and Waves at Main Beach Stradbroke Island

Whale Watching
The North Gorge headland at Point Lookout is considered one of the best land based whale watching sites in the world, not only because it is right next to the "Whale Highway", but also because it is only 35m above sea level, making it a prime viewing platform.

4WDing
Straddie has world class 4WDing but if you don’t have your own car then local tour operators offer fully guided tours which are a fantastic way to explore Straddie off the beaten track!

Walking
Straddie has unlimited walks that offer stunning scenery and views. Whether you want to hike, stroll along the beach or spot wildlife then there is something for you. Our two favourite walks were the breathtaking North Gorge Walk in Point Lookout which offers stunning views and countless opportunities to spot wildlife from the headlands. Another walk that we really enjoyed was the walk to Blue Lake which is only accessible by foot and is a 5km round trip that takes you to the beautiful, quiet haven that is Blue Lake.

Girl walking on Stradbroke Island
Couple at lookout on Stradbroke Island

Beach Yoga
Beach Yoga is run by local teachers in Point Lookout and is generally available most mornings. It is the perfect way to relax, rejuvenate and begin your day in paradise! There are signs at the beaches and on noticeboards in local stores detailing dates and times.

Markets
Each Sunday the popular Point Lookout Markets are held at the community hall and are a great place to browse local arts and crafts pick up some fantastic local products, have a coffee or freshly squeezed juice and purchase homemade jams or organic honey.

Swimming
Straddie's beaches are crystal clear and the island is blessed with wonderful weather all year round meaning no matter when you visit you can still swim! Just make sure you choose patrolled beaches when swimming in the sea.

Girl swimming on Stradbroke Island

Scuba Diving & Snorkelling
The island has a 5 Star PADI dive centre which offers daily scuba dive and snorkel trips, with the most popular dive sites being Flat Rock, Boat Rock, Manta Ray Bommie and Shag Rock. Manta Ray Bommie has been named as one of the best places to dive with Manta Rays in Brisbane and has been mentioned by Queensland Tourism as one of Queensland’s top dive sites!

Catch a Sunrise & a Sunset
Straddie's location means you can catch stunning sunrises and sunsets from most places on the islands. Our favourite place for sunset was by the shipwrecks in Dunwich and our favourite sunrise was from North Gorge Walk in Point Lookout.

Sunrise from North Gorge Walk Stradbroke IslandSunrise from North Gorge Walk Stradbroke IslandSunset from Dunwich Shipwrecks Stradbroke Island

OUR FAVOURITE BEACHES, LAKES AND WATERWAYS
Visitors to Straddie are spoiled with the island's beautiful beaches, lakes and waterways which offer something for everyone. We’ve rounded up our favourite beaches and waterways that are accessible without a 4WD.

Cylinder Beach
Cylinder Beach is a picturesque cove between Cylinder and Home Beach Headlands that is patrolled by lifeguards. The water is crystal clear and the waves are small and calm making it ideal for swimming. When the conditions are right, it is also a favourite with surfers! We frequented Cylinder Beach almost every day and also loved the coffee and juice van that sets up in the car park each morning!

Cylinder Beach Stradbroke Island
Cylinder Beach from lookout Stradbroke Island

Main Beach
Naturally beautiful Main Beach reminded us a lot of our stunning Lighthouse Beach in our hometown of Port Macquarie. The beach is patrolled by lifeguards and stretches for 32km of unspoilt sand, dunes and surf. We loved swimming at Main Beach but it did have a lot bigger and more powerful waves than Cylinder Beach. Main Beach is very popular with surfers and the best spots to watch the action is from the headland or from the Point Lookout Surf Club with a cold beer in hand!

Main Beach Point Lookout
South Gorge Beach Point Lookout

Deadman & Frenchman's Beaches
These beaches are secluded spots, nestled between North Gorge and Cylinder Beach. They are not patrolled so it isn’t recommended to swim there but they are lovely to stroll along and explore the rock pools where you can spot fish, star fish, anemones, shells and crabs!

Male overlooking Deadman's Beach Stradbroke Island

Brown Lake
Brown Lake is located 5km inland from Dunwich and gets its name from the colour of the water which comes from the surrounding tea trees and reeds. Brown Lake is surrounded by natural bushland and offers safe swimming, BBQs and picnic tables. We loved swimming in the lake and exploring on our Stand up Paddleboards! It’s a great place to relax and enjoy with your family.

Brown Lake Stradbroke Island

Blue Lake
Blue Lake is located a few km from Brown Lake and can only be reached on foot. It is a 5km return trip to this freshwater lake that is fed from a vast underground aquifer. The colour and stunning beauty of the lake are well worth the hike through peaceful bushland. Blue Lake is also known by its Aboriginal name, Karboora which means ‘silent pool’.

Blue Lake Stradbroke Island

Myora Springs
Myora Springs are a freshwater spring located on the drive to Point Lookout from Dunwich. The springs have been running for thousands of years and offer a very refreshing place to take a dip! Myora Springs were only a few minutes from our campsite and so we visited quite regularly.

Myora Springs Stradbroke Island

MARINE LIFE
Straddie is an incredible place to spot and watch marine life including dolphins, whales, dugongs, manta rays and turtles! Moreton Bay is a well-known marine park and it is one of the few places in the world where large numbers of dugongs can be found. Point Lookout has a large population of resident bottlenose dolphins which provide you with ample opportunities to see them diving through the waves! Green and loggerhead marine turtles also inhabit the sub-tropical waters surrounding the island and come ashore between December and February to lay their eggs. As we mentioned above, Straddie is also one of the best places in Australia to dive with Manta Rays and one of the best places on the East Coast to whale watch! Oh & in Dunwich one night we saw millions of crabs on low tide!

Crabs on Stradbroke Island

WILDLIFE

The island is an animal lovers haven with more rare and vagrant species found here than any other terrestrial locality in Australia! With birdlife, goannas, koalas, wallabies and kangaroos, you’ll be bound to spot some of these animals during your visit to Straddie. We saw an enormous goanna when we were at Brown Lake, koalas at our campsite in Dunwich and kangaroos along the North Gorge walk early in the morning at sunrise.

Kangaroos on North Gorge Walk Stradbroke IslandKangaroos on North Gorge Walk Stradbroke Island

CULTURE, HERITAGE & HISTORY
Aboriginal culture is said to be one of the oldest living cultures in the world today. North Stradbroke Island is the home of the Quandamooka people, whom archaeologists say have lived on the island for at least 21,000 years. The knowledge of the Quandamooka people has been passed down through many generations, and with such an affinity with the land and sea, they have learned to read the signs in nature that made it possible to live on the land and respect the environment.

Straddie has quite the history both Aboriginal and European. If you are a history buff then don’t miss the North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum or Dunwich Cemetery. The Historical Dunwich Cemetery is also one of the oldest cemeteries in Queensland with the oldest graves dating back to 1850, the first year of the Dunwich Quarantine Station when the ship “Emigrant” arrived with a typhus epidemic on-board.

There are also a number of shipwrecks around the island, particularly around Dunwich, which you can explore on low tide! A lot of people know of the Australian Hospital Ship, Centaur that was torpedoed by a Japanese Submarine in WW2, but most people don’t know that this occurred just off Stradbroke Island! It occurred at 4.10am on the 14th May 1943 and saw 268 people lose their lives. Residents of Point Lookout heard the explosion and saw a bright flash out to sea.

Captain Cook plarke Point Lookout Stradbroke IslandDunwich Shipwrecks Stradbroke Island

TIPS FOR FOODIES
Straddie is a seafood lovers dream with oysters, prawns, crabs and locally caught fish in abundant supply with trawlers delivering their catch daily ensuring you are eating it fresh off the boat! If you’re not keen on seafood then there are plenty more options ranging from casual cafes and clubs, to a la carte restaurants, bakeries, ice cream shops and fish’n’chip shops!

As we were camping we cooked a lot of our own food but we did check out a few places on the island. Our favourites were Seashells at Amity, Fins n Fries at Point Lookout, Oceanic Gelati at Point Lookout, CJ’s Island Pizza in Dunwich and the bakeries in Point Lookout and Dunwich for both baked goods and coffee.

Ice cream from Oceanic Gelati Point LookoutFish and Chips on beach from Fins N Fries Stradbroke Island

FINAL THOUGHTS ON STRADDIE
We loved our week on Straddie. It was our first proper holiday since we arrived back in Australia a few months ago and we could not have picked a better place to explore, enjoy spectacular scenery and relax! Straddie really does have it all and we’ll certainly be back one day! We’d love to come back when we buy a 4WD in the future and explore this beautiful island even further. If you’re looking for an island holiday in Australia then don’t underestimate Straddie – it’s easily accessible, affordable and breathtakingly beautiful.

Couple holidaying on Stradbroke Island Queensland

Have you been to beautiful Straddie, or have we convinced you to visit? Let us know! x

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Our Guide to Queensland's North Stradbroke Island

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