Straddie ain’t broke
Glamour may be hard to find on North Stradbroke Island but the Queensland sand island has the comfort setting turned right up to ‘ultra’.
North Stradbroke might exist in the shadow of its big sister, Fraser Island, to the north but it punches well above its weight in the wildlife department. And, as you would expect from the second largest sand island in the world (Fraser being the biggest), its beaches are diverse, distinctive and drop-dead gorgeous.
Straddie, as it’s called by the locals, is a 45-minute ferry ride across Moreton Bay from the Brisbane suburb of Cleveland, yet it seems far from the rush of the 21st century. While the majority of tourists go to the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, many love Stradbroke’s low-key style. Once off the ferry, you are on “Straddie time.”
This long, thin 37km sliver of sand appears at once unprepossessing and magnificent.
Originally home to the Noonuccal, Nughie and Goenpul people who lived on the island’s rich seafood, the bay-side town of Dunwich still has a vibrant aboriginal community, many of whom work in the island’s sandmining industry.
Amity Point, on the northern tip of the island, is a small fishing village where you can pick up juicy local trawler prawns from Rufus King Seafoods. Koalas snooze in the manna gums nearby.
The only whiff of glamour is a collection of holiday homes designed by Brisbane architects on a ridge above Point Lookout, the island’s vacation hub.
Locals, such as Jennie Truman, are often fierce protectors of Straddie’s beauty and relaxed lifestyle. An artist and environmentalist, Jennie and her husband John started Oceanic, an Italian-style gelataria on the site of her parent’s cottage overlooking the Pacific.
They converted the family’s general store to The Green Room, a fruit and vegie store and added a giftware and clothing shop called Drift.
Jennie has been monitoring seasonal wildlife – whales in winter, turtles in summer – for 20 years. “Last year, in one day, I counted 120 humpback whales from the North Gorge Headland.”
From June to November, thousands of whales pass the 35m-high headland on their annual migration between Antarctica and the calving grounds near the Great Barrier Reef. Point Lookout is one of the world’s best land-based whale-watching sites.
There is even more to see underwater. Manta Dive took us to Manta Bommie, a 10-minute jetboat ride off Home Beach, where we swam to the ocean floor to see the slow dance of several giant manta rays, while cleaner wrasse eat the parasites from the rays’ white underside. At our feet, was a school of harmless leopard sharks on the sand.
Another diver, a fireman from Brighton, said it was his tenth trip in as many years.
On an overcast morning, when the still waters around Amity Point merged with a silvery sky, we kayaked along the coastline, accompanied by green turtles which whooshed beside us.
A dolphin stole a fish right off a fisherwoman’s line (she wasn’t pleased), pelicans swooped, oyster catchers scattered and a heron stood motionless.
We did early morning yoga classes on Home Beach and body surfing on sundrenched, north-facing Cylinder Beach. At low tide we walked from Deadman’s Beach, past sand dunes and rock pools to wild, windswept Frenchman’s Beach and up the hill to the Gorge Walk, where the aquamarine waters churned and smashed against the cliffs and a family of rock wallabies grazed in the shade.
At dusk on our final evening, as we drove from our ocean-view apartment at the Stradbroke Island Hotel to Look Café for dinner, two large Eastern grey kangaroos hopped down the main road, showing us the way. By then, it felt only natural.
Combine your trip to Stradbroke Island with member discounts on many other southern Queensland attractions, plus discounted car hire, transfers and more. See racv.com.au.travel for details, visit any RACV shop or call 13 13 29.
Why not add a few nights at RACV’s Queensland resorts, at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast and at Noosa? RACV members who book direct get 25% discount on accommodation at RACV resorts. Visit racv.com.au/resorts.
Visit stradbrokeisland.com for all the information you need on planning a trip to North Stradbroke Island.