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. aventuIn the foreground the crew prepare the ferry for our departure to North Stradbroke Island, affectionately known by Brisbane-ites as Straddie.
Straddie deserves more than a day exploring. With its close proximity to Brisbane, unlike some of the islands that border Queensland’s coast line, you don’t have to drive a four-wheel drive as tar links all the major localities with the mainland – though a four-wheel drive does add to your exploring options. An added bonus is Straddie is dog friendly.
It’s not long and we are ushered onto the vehicular ferry 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.
A mere 200 metres on our left is Straddie Camping where we receive up to date knowledge on tracks, pick up maps, camping and four-wheel drive permits (see below for more information on permits) for our weekend of fun ahead.
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.
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 – it’s a ‘must-do’ if the tides are right and you have a four-wheel drive.
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 1800’s in Dunwich Cemetery, the second oldest European cemetery in Queensland.
A brochure from Straddie Camping gives an interesting overview of some of those buried here.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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. 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.
Camping on 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.
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…that’s for the next instalment on Stadbroke Island.
For now enjoy the view across the bay and watch this video by my colleague Kara Murphy