With the winter chill whistling its way through Brisbane (yes, 20 degrees calls for a duffle coat in Queensland), we bid the city farewell in search of a tropical paradise where we could defrost. We only had a day to spare before heading back to the 9-5 so had to choose wisely. Luckily Brisbane’s coastline is dotted with palm-fringed jewels, one of the most popular being North Stradbroke Island.
With no plans or expectations, we embarked on the 40-minute journey to the ferry port at Cleveland. In a bid to save the pennies we decided to leave the car on the mainland and take the ferry as foot passengers.
After a brisk 40-minute ferry ride out into Moreton Bay we arrived at the quaint port town of Dunwich on the island’s western shore. The town itself was fairly sleepy and houses a few convenience stores, a chippy, an art gallery and a bric-a-brac shop. We had a few minutes to spare whilst we waited on the island bus and decided to peruse the local art gallery.
Despite being staffed by a man with an unmistakable cockney accent, the gallery highlighted the works of the local indigenous peoples of the island. The Quandamooka people are a collection of smaller tribes who inhabited the islands of Moreton Bay. They fought a 16 year long legal battle with the Federal Government to have their Native Title claim recognised in 2011.
North Stradbroke island has recently introduced a new festival on the island which runs from July to September and is a celebration of the diversity and enduring strength of their culture and people. You can check out the website for a full list of events here.
We hopped on the bus and took the scenic 30-minute bus ride up to Point Lookout on the island’s north-eastern tip. We passed swathes of forests punctuated by open plains and caught fleeting glimpses of bright blue sea and flashes of white sand.
Point Lookout is the main tourist hub on Straddie and the excited throngs of holidaying families confirmed as much. We joined the crowds and headed straight for the popular North Gorge walk.
The walk begins a short stroll from the bus stop and is an easy, well maintained track which runs along the jutting cliff-face.
After just a couple of paces, we were transfixed, Stradbroke Island is stunning.
The pounding waves churned the sea into a spectrum of deep blues and emerald greens making it seem enticing despite the frothing surf.
It wasn’t long before the inhabitants of the choppy waters made an appearance.
Five minutes into the North Gorge walk we spotted sea turtles, pods of dolphins and the spray of migrating whales from the shore!
After scooping our jaws up off the ground and hundreds of fruitless attempts at photographing the elusive ocean dwellers we carried on to find the perfect picnic spot.
We stopped on the edge of the precipice, basked in the warmth of the winter sunshine and watched the huge swell rise and crash on the opposing cliff face. As we sat and ate we spotted a huge family of Southern Right Whales make their way playfully to the warmer climes of the north.
After a prolonged picnic stop we rejoined the North Gorge trail and continued along the boardwalk back towards Point Lookout.
The trail itself is only a 20 minute walk but offers a lot for very little effort. As well as the giants of the ocean we saw a few kangaroos (Joey’s in close tow) dotting the cliff edge and sea eagles perched menacingly in the trees above.
In the quaint town itself we stopped to grab a coffee and sat on the grassy cliff edge to watch the few brave surfers bobbing up and down on the huge swell.
With a few hours left until we had to grab the bus back to the ferry, we decided to make our way south and follow the incomprehensibly white sand as far as we could.
Taking the stairs down to Frenchmans Bay we dipped our toes in the icy ocean (its not as warm as it looks!) and clambered over dunes in search of our own private stretch of sand.
We followed palm fringed tracks which led to beaches each more beautiful than the last. We eventually decided to set up camp at Cylinder Beach and spent the rest of the day turning crispy in the sun.
As the sun began to sink we headed back towards to port town of Dunwich. Catching glimpses of the spectacular sun set we raced off the bus and headed to the closest beach we could find.
With the beach all ours, we made ourselves comfy to watch the show. With the sun sinking low, a pod of dolphins bobbed a few metres off shore and cemented the fact that Stradbroke Island is a true tropical paradise.
With the sun finally setting behind the mainland we decided to call an end to our day on North Stradbroke Island. We caught the final ferry back to Cleveland and even made it home in time for tea. A paradise island in less than a day and barely out of pocket, can’t really complain eh?
A short breakdown of our day trip costs per person:
Foot Passenger on the vehicle ferry – $10
Stradbroke Island day bus pass – $10
Coffee – $3.50
And that’s literally it! Pack a picnic and get over to Straddie now, there’s no excuse!