North Stradbroke Island adventure

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Two million years of ocean currents and waves have shaped a string of islands off southeast Queensland’s coast. Sculpted by the elements, these sand islands are strikingly unique with tall rainforests growing out of sand dunes, endless white sandy beaches and a multitude of freshwater lakes. Close to Brisbane, there’s a multitude of things to do on  Stradbroke Island, which consists of South and North Stradbroke Island. 

Other islands are Fraser Island and Moreton Island. Although each island has a character which sets it apart from the others, the one constant among all three is the presence of sand.

Related posts: Places to visit in Queensland and here’s our Hervey Bay whale watching guide.

North Stradbroke Island

Only a 20-minute high-speed water taxi ride from the suburb of Cleveland, south-east of Brisbane, the world’s second-largest sand island has as much claim to the title of Queensland’s next Noosa (also read things to do in Noosa) as many other beach destinations further north.

Yet, some days, you can drive 40 kilometres along the beach and not see another soul.

North Stradbroke was formed relatively recently when a storm in 1896 divided Stradbroke Island in half.

Jumpinpin Channel now separates the north and south islands.

Why go to North Stradbroke Island?

  • North Stradbroke Island is in close proximity to Brisbane, unlike some of the islands that border Queensland’s coastline.
  • You don’t need a four-wheel drive as roads link all the major localities with the mainland, however, a four-wheel drive does add to your exploring options.
  • An added bonus is Straddie is dog friendly.

Stradbroke Island ferry

stradbroke island ferry
The Stradbroke Island ferry

We are first in line – it’s good to be early.

To the east are the calm, shimmering waters of Moreton Bay that border Brisbane’s eastern fringe.

The crew prepares the ferry for our departure to North Stradbroke Island, affectionately known by Brisbane-ites as Straddie.

It’s not long and we are ushered onto the vehicular ferry to Stradbroke Island and on our way for the 45-minute Morton Bay crossing.

We are in safe hands with Bob Francis at the helm.

For 26 years Bob has been making the crossing with Stradbroke Ferries and has captained ships on Moreton Bay for more than 40 years.

The time passes quickly listening to Bob’s tales of the bay and we are turning the key and driving off into the historical township of Dunwich. Check out the Stradbroke Island ferry timetables here

North Stradbroke Island is 30km from Brisbane by water taxi or ferry from Cleveland.

Things to do on Stradbroke Island

1- Go fishing at The Pin

Fishing at The pin - things to do on stradbroke island
One of the cool things to do on Stradbroke Island is fishing at The Pin.

Jumpinpin Channel or “The Pin”, as the locals call it, has a fast flowing current and is a well-known hot fishing spot for whiting, bream and trevally. 

Fishing at The Pin is a classic thing to do on Stradbroke Island if the tides are right and you have a four-wheel drive.

2- Visit Dunwich Cemetery

stradbroke island things to do
Reading the gravestones at Dunwich Cemetery is one of the interesting things to do on Stradbroke Island.

At the first road junction, from the ferry, is East Coast Road also referred to as Dickson Way, which links Dunwich to Point Lookout and Main Beach.

Turn left and in less than a kilometre park under a huge Moreton Bay Fig and wander around graves of shipwreck and typhoid casualties dating back to the early 1800s 

Dunwich Cemetery, the second oldest European cemetery in Queensland.

3- Go for a walk in the bush

camping on stradbroke island
Going for a walk in the bush goes hand-in-hand with a Stradbroke Island camping holiday.

Less than a few kilometres on we pause for a walk through Terra Bulla Leomeah Conservation Area which translates to “a beautiful place, here I rest”.

Within this 1.5-hectare bushland nature reserve, rare and threatened species such as the Wallum Froglet and Swamp Orchids can be observed by the eager eye.

4- Explore Myora Springs

This is Quandamooka Country, ‘people of the bay’ and Indigenous caretakers of the land refer to North Stradbroke Island as Minjerribah.

The island is as rich today in traditional history as before white man stepped foot on this magical isle.

Another sign signals us to an easy off road parking area to the left: Myora Springs.

These springs have been a source of fresh water for thousands of years and support an abundance of wildlife.

5- Go diving at Manta Bommie

If you’re a keen diver, check into Manta Lodge and spend the day diving at Manta Bommie. 

Besides manta rays, Stradbroke Island diving reveals an assortment of marine life such as sharks, wobbegongs, turtles and fish. 

6- Hit the shops at Point Lookout

what to do on Stradbroke Island
Things to do on Stradbroke Island: head to Point Lookout.

In just over six kilometres the road divides with the left exit taking you to Amity Point and the eastern entry of Flinders Beach and the right to Point Lookout.

Home to Flinders Beach, Point Lookout has a lovely view and is a hub of activity, with seafood restaurants, cafes and shops. 

There’s also the Point Lookout RSL, Point Lookout Surf Life Saving Club and bowls club. 

7- Visit Amity Point

Amity Point is a small fishing village and a popular location for anglers.

There’s a great jetty for fishing where each afternoon dolphins come in to play and there’s a shark-proof swimming enclosure, a store with fuel (petrol and diesel), gas bottle refills and caravan park.

You will also find Rufus King Seafood’s, one of our favourites, with fresh seafood straight from the trawlers.

8- Spot marine life at North Gorge

Stradbroke Island things to do
One of the things to do on Stradbroke Island is to look for marine life at North Gorge.

The North Gorge is one of the island’s most stunning features offering breathtaking views of waves crashing upon plunging rocky cliff faces.

Turtles bob around in clear aquamarine waters and green pandanus trees growing lusciously on the slopes.

With the right winds, the gorge is the best place on the island to spot other marine life such as humpback whales during migration season, manta rays and enormous pods of hundreds of dolphins.

9- Go for a swim in Brown Lake

things to do on stradbroke island
Going for a swim in a freshwater lake is another thing to do on Stradbroke Island.

Drive through a forest, stopping to take a look at scribbly gum trees, to Brown Lake.

Brown Lake is one of the island’s freshwater lakes, named for the tea-like colour of its waters, which are stained from the nearby melaleuca and paperbark trees.

Stradbroke Island Camping

Camping on Stradbroke Island is a popular way to holiday in summer.

stradbroke island camping
Camping on Stradbroke Island is the thing to do in summer.

Main Beach

Pelican on Main Beach stradbroke island camping
The best Stradbroke Island camping beach is Main Beach.

It is more than a 100 years ago that the Cambus Wallace ran aground on this beach.

The ship was carrying explosives which had to be detonated at the site and many believe this weakened the narrow neck of the island which was pounded in a cyclonic like storm in 1896 splitting the island in two.

Adjacent to The Pin is Swan Bay Conservation Area.

Camping is permitted in designated areas along Main Beach, south of the causeway and bookings are essential.

stradbroke island camping
Camping on Stradbroke Island – the entry to Main Beach,

As you drive down the beach, take note of the track junction around 9.5 kilometre on your right that leads to Tazi Rd also called Trans-Island Road and links Main Beach to Dunwich.

Taking this track on your return from The Pin offers more exploring options.

There’s the Keyhole and Tripod tracks, Blue and Brown lakes national parks.

Flinders Beach

camping on stradbroke island with car and tent
Stradbroke Island camping on Flinders Beach

At Flinders Beach, if you time your drive to the tide, reduce your tyre pressures and take the 4.6km beach run to Point Lookout.

It was here in 1803 Matthew Flinders came ashore looking for fresh water and was assisted by the friendly Aborigines.

This section offers great foreshore camping (only accessible by four-wheel drive), and fishing with dog-off leash areas.

The beach is patrolled by roving lifesaver rescue boats and mobile four-wheel drive patrols on weekends and public holidays and during Queensland Christmas and Easter school holidays.

Whether you take the bitumen or the sand to Point Lookout, the short walk to North Gorge is a must-do.

The point is considered to be the best land-based whale watching site in Australia and viewing platforms allow sightseeing of the humpbacks from June to November.

Point Lookout has a range of accommodation a range, eateries and services.

Cylinder Beach

The small protected and patrolled Cylinder Beach is popular with families.

For those with a four-wheel drive, George Nothling Drive leads you to Main Beach and 32 kilometres of sand stretching from Point Lookout to Jumpinpin, the southern tip and from where you can view the high rise buildings of the Gold Coast, the peaks of the Border Ranges and South Stradbroke Island.

Ensure your Vehicle Access Permit (VAP) is displayed.

North Stradbroke Island restaurants

By Christina Pfeiffer

Fishes at the Point

plate of prawns on North Stradbroke Island
Eating fresh prawns is a popular thing to do on Stradbroke Island.

On North Stradbroke Island, oysters seem to taste better when they’re eaten while gazing at a sun-soaked ocean view.

Somehow, the act of slurping the oysters from their shells, in turn, seems to make the view look even more magnificent.

I ponder this thought as I swallow a Stradbroke Island oyster, sitting at an outdoor table at Fishes Cafe in Point Lookout.

The eatery is an upmarket fish and chips shop with plenty of seafood, including prawns, sand crabs and Moreton Bay bugs fresh from the trawlers.

Lately, everything in Straddie (as it’s known) seems to be going upmarket.

Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel

stradbroke pub
The Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel has amazing views.

The old 1960’s pub – which was once a hangout for fishermen and campers – was demolished and re-opened as the Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel with three- and four-bedroom apartments, a day spa offering $90-an-hour Li’tya massages and a beer garden with what must surely be one of the best ocean views in the country.

Since sand mining emerged in the 1940s, about 15% of the island has been mined for rutile, zircon and ilmenite which are used for a variety of purposes: titanium for the aerospace industry, white pigment in paints, plastics and cosmetics, furnace linings and sandblasting in the steel-making industry and ceramic glazes.

Straddie is perfect for that quintessential beach holiday but unfortunately for most, it’s way too late to invest in a beach shack. 

How to get to Stradbroke Island

The ferry to Stradbroke Island leaves from Toondah Harbour (3 Emmett Drive) in Cleveland, which is accessed via the Pacific Highway from the Gold Coast and the Gateway Motorway if you’re coming from Brisbane Airport or the Sunshine Coast. 

View the terminal location on Google Maps

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danielle lancaster
I’m an international award-winning photojournalist, author of an award-winning book 4WD Treks Close To Brisbane and former president of the Australian Society of Travel Writers. Based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, my work takes me around the world uncovering new adventures, meeting wonderful people, exploring and then sharing these experiences through my writing and imagery.