Stradbroke Island is home to unspoilt beaches, dolphins, turtles and manta rays and is less than an hour by boat from Brisbane. It’s always been a favourite holiday spot for Brisbane locals and is ideal for a quick weekend away or a relaxing beach getaway of a couple of weeks or more. Straddie (as it’s affectionately known) is actually made up of two islands – North and South – which were joined until a fierce storm broke up the sandy spit between the two stretches of sand in 1896.
When holiday makers talk about heading to Straddie it’s more than likely they’re referring to the much larger North Stradbroke which has three small towns: Dunwich where the ferries come in, Amity Point and Point Lookout. Stradbroke Island hasn’t changed much since the 70s when I used to stay there with my parents in a fibro holiday shack but that’s part of its charm. Stradbroke Ferries can take you from Cleveland to Dunwich, a relaxing journey which takes less than an hour and offers fantastic views of Moreton Bay. You can catch the ferry as a walk on/walk off passenger or take your car on a vehicle ferry.
Unlike Fraser Island, there’s no need for a 4WD unless you’re planning on travelling along the beach as Straddie has a network of sealed roads. Stradbroke Island is home to around 2,000 permanent residents but the population swells to almost 12,000 during the Christmas period. Visiting out of school holidays is a good idea if you’re not travelling with school age children. Amity has a low-key fishing village ambience with a netted swimming area that’s ideal for littlies but Point Lookout is the most popular spot for holiday makers with Cylinder Beach boasting picture postcard views.
Accommodation ranges from a couple of low-key resorts that are ideal for short stays but if you’re after a quintessential Straddie experience, you really should rent a beach house. Agencies also have accommodation from simple holiday shacks to multi-storey mansions with all the mod-cons. We opted for Claytons 1, a modern two level beach pad located a few steps from Cylinder Beach, and watched the sun set over the ocean. The next morning my ‘alarm’ was provided by the cheering crowd at a local surf carnival (fortunately not too early).
Straddie’s beautiful beaches provide more than enough entertainment but it’s still worth spending at least a day exploring the rugged heart of the island, either using your own 4WD or on a tour with a local operator like laconic Barefoot Dave. Dave runs Straddie Kingfisher Tours (and yes, he does do the entire tour without shoes). It’s a bit like driving around with a favourite uncle who knows the island like the back of his hand and how to tell a good yarn.
We bounced along bush trails lined with scribbly gums, dipped our toes into the tea tree stained waters of Brown Lake and enjoyed a BBQ lunch on the beach. Stradbroke Island isn’t about a ‘bright lights, big city’ holiday experience. Enjoying the silky white silica sand beaches, going bush in a 4WD or having dinner at the Stradbroke Hotel is about as exciting as it gets, but that’s a huge part of Straddie’s charm. Some childhood holiday spots can lose their lustre as you get older but Stradbroke Island definitely isn’t one of them.
Disclosure: The writer was a guest of the operators.