“Meet me where the sky touches the sea” – Jennifer Donnelly
*A TWO-PART EAST COAST ISLAND SPECIAL*
As we travelled Australia’s east coast, it became clear that some of the best days out are a short ferry ride away to nearby islands. Enjoying an island day out doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming option. In this 2-Part Special, read about the wildlife you can experience so close to large cities, a cost-saving itinerary for your day out and our preferred place to stay back on the mainland. This is Part 1:
North Stradbroke Island, Australia
Locally known as ‘North Straddie’, this island is a short ferry ride from Brisbane and is a great place to enjoy some gentle exercise and beach time. If you pick the right season, you may even find yourself whale spotting.
The vehicle ferry is significantly higher in price than the passenger ferry so we decided to leave the wheels on the mainland. Secure parking at Toondah Harbour costs $15 a day per vehicle and the return ferry ticket with buses around the island costs $14 each. Pack a picnic and enjoy a real Aussie day out full of natural beauty and serenity, for under $25pp.
We recommend starting your North Straddie adventure by taking the bus to Point Lookout. We found the island easy to self-navigate and the buses are scheduled well with the arriving and departing ferries. At Point Lookout, you will find a stunning coastal track known as North Gorge Walk. This is a leisurely 1.2km walk suitable for all ages that includes many small lookouts where you can enjoy getting a little closer to the waters edge. Watch surfers tackle the waves on Main beach and enjoy beautiful photo spots all along the coastal cliffs.
Although we weren’t able to see whales during our visit, we were fortunate enough to see giant turtles surfing the waves. They kept reappearing, popping their small heads just above the surf and then swimming back down into the ocean. It was wonderful and because they are so large, you actually get a pretty decent view from the height of the footpath. In whale season, June to November, huge numbers of humpback whales migrate along this route. Even if you are not in North Straddie at the time of year for whales, watching for other impressive marine life and enjoying a splash of sea air along this walk still makes this a great way to start your day on North Straddie.
As cost-savvy backpackers travelling the length of Australia in a camper, we chose to pack a picnic for this day out, which we enjoyed from one of the many benches dotted along North Gorge Walk. A picnic allows you to sit in one spot a little longer and really get acquainted with your surroundings instead of heading inland to eat where you certainly won’t see half as much. Let the sound of the waves crashing along the rocks slow your own rhythm as you relax and unwind on this beautiful Australian island.
Head to Cylinder beach to soak up some vitamin D. Write messages in the sand, take a snooze or play in the water within the designated life guard areas. Warning signs will advise of strong currents or marine stingers so adhere to these to keep yourself safe. Whilst we were enjoying our well-earned afternoon beach time, a huge rain cloud rolled across the water and we were able to get some incredible photos of the quickly changing sky … before needing to leg it to the bus stop! We just about made it under cover before the heavy rain thundered down and everyone else began running up from the beach. We all huddled together waiting for the next bus to come along. Despite not being the desired finish to our island day out, we had great fun running from the storm and taking shelter with other beach goers.
WHERE TO STAY
North Stradbroke Island is an ideal day out from Brisbane. Although it is far cheaper to stay outside of the city, we recommend staying super close the night before your day trip in order to catch an early ferry and make the most of the island. We chose Brisbane Gateway Resort which was a 30 minute drive to the ferry terminal. It was priced fairly for the Brisbane area at 43 AUD for a powered pitch. The facilities were fantastic and included a great pool, tennis courts, clean kitchens, laundry facilities and picnic benches for meals outside. We also enjoyed indoor showers with no insects and excellent lighting for the first time in a little while. If you are looking to treat yourself to a meal out whilst in the area, we enjoyed a delicious and reasonably priced Thai meal at Thai Orchid the night before our trip to North Straddie.
Many people come to this particular area of Australia’s east coast for Brisbane’s many theme parks and zoos, where each day can easily set you back hundreds of dollars. If you are in the Brisbane area looking for a more natural and cost effective day out, grab the ferry to North Stradbroke Island and enjoy the wildlife and scenic surroundings at your own leisure and away from the crowds.
If you enjoyed reading Part 1 of Island Inspiration, please like and share it with others so they can enjoy reading it too.
Part 2 of Island Inspiration is now available to read here.