Over the past 2 years, North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) has become a weekend escape, something I absolutely crave and look forward to – I think we all have those places which remind us of simpler times, and Straddie is this for me.
I try to head over to the island each weekend to slow down and experience what the untouched paradise has to offer.
I thought I would put together a ‘Personal Guide to North Stradbroke Island’ in case you were thinking of visiting too – sharing my ‘secret tips’ on what I love to see and do on the weekends – so you don’t miss a thing for the ultimate weekend slow down.
My 3 secret tips – to do before you leave home
Secret tip #1 – Sunrise on the water
You will need to bring your car to explore properly, so book your vehicle in on the barge a week or so out from your trip. The barge leaves from Cleveland, 40km just south of Brisbane.
My secret tip is to experience the sunrise on the water! Book your vehicle on an early barge – and I mean early!
Coming over the water on sunrise feels like you are on a seafaring adventure and the excitement levels will be high!
Make your way to the top deck of the barge and take in the glowing morning light washing all over the islands of Moreton Bay.
Secret tip #2 – Know the wind & tides
It’s always good to know what the wind and tide are doing – so look them up the night before.
That’s the beauty of the island – if one beach is blown out by the wind, there is always another beach protected from the elements on a different side of the island.
Secret Tip #3 – Island Style
Pack only what you need. I wear my swimmers under lightweight cottons and linens, usually my long white skirt. You can swim all year round on the island.
Sandals or thongs are the only acceptable footwear, otherwise you should go barefoot – Straddie is very casual.
You will want to bring a big beach basket, it’s an essential to throw everything in.
Sounds quirky, though I always bring a large flat linen sheet, rather than a picnic blanket – they are much lighter to carry around and far more generous to throw out on the sand and grass. Plus you can tie it to a tree and make a beach canopy! Very Robinson Crusoe.
Pack sunscreen to lather onto your skin, beach towels, a beach hat, a refillable water bottle and a cable knit jumper to throw over your shoulders for when the balmy heat drops in the evenings. Fisherman style!
Ok, ok – so now you are all set and have arrived on the island.
It’s time to take your watch off and get into island time.
As you drive off the barge wind the car windows down and let the fresh air in.
Look up and you will see and hear the rainbow lorikeets screeching at Dunwich as you drive through the first township.
What’s good to know is that North Stradbroke Island is also known as ‘Minjerribah’ and is the ancestral home of the Quandamooka People. You will see lots of indigenous signs around the island.
I always stop to read the signs and take in the local names for places and nature.
There is one main road on the island, East Coast Road, which connects all three of Stradbroke Islands’ townships. The end of the road is Point Lookout – ‘The Point’ as it is known by locals. This is where I head to.
All three townships are bordered by bushland and beach and feel secluded.
There is Dunwich, where the barge and ferries pull in, Amity Point which has the best community of old fibro fisherman shacks with calm waters and Point Lookout, where you will find all the surf beaches and the action.
Each town has it’s own character and unique drawcard.
While on the road heading to Point Lookout I like to pull into Amity Point and admire the old fisherman shacks.
These fibro shacks are dotted all over the island, though Amity Point has so many of them.
Go for a drive by through the streets if you aren’t staying in the township.
Take in the way the landscape changes while driving along East Coast Road. On your journey to Point Lookout you will drive through bush, rain forest, gum trees and wallum.
Wallum is an indigenous word for the island banksia plants which flourish in the deep sands of the island.
Plus, remember to always look out for wildlife while driving, especially at dawn and dusk. Koalas, kangaroos and wallabies are very lively and love to come out at these times to say hi, so be aware.
Live like a local and make sure you rent an old shack if you plan to stay overnight or for a few days.
This is one I have rented a few times at Deadman’s Beach at Point Lookout. It’s not overly flash or fancy, but that’s the winning charm of it – like travelling back to a simpler time, plus the location can’t be beaten.
Check out Dolphin Rentals for holiday lets.
Head up to Main Beach at Point Lookout. As the name suggests, it is the ‘main beach’. You will pass cliffs and outcrops, hugging the island’s edge along the way.
You will see Shag Rock, Flat Rock and Boat Rock in the distance, bobbing out of the brilliant blue Coral Sea. These are all exposed rocky reefs which are fully protected marine parks and great dive sites.
It is here where bird colonies live and flourish. Albatross, petrels and shearwaters come each year to escape the Antarctic winter.
Below the water the reef acts as a nursery for sealife, including sharks (yes, lots), fish, turtles and manta rays.
Such an abundant underwater world.
Decide how you would like to spend your day.
If you want to get under the water head to The Gorge to snorkel, if you are looking for a surf break check out Main Beach or Adder Rock, if you would like to swim head to one of the many protected beaches.
Signs will point you to the beaches at Point Lookout – Adder Rock, Home Beach, Cylinder Beach, Deadman’s Beach, Frenchman’s Beach and Main Beach are all easy to find (beware of the steep stairs at Frenchmans! A workout! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
Shallow aqua tidal lagoons at Home Beach and Cylinder are also great for kids to play and splash in.
Not all of these beaches are patrolled by the Surf Lifesavers, so please be careful. Look out for the red and yellow flags!
My favourites places to swim are Adder Rock, The Gorge – when the wind is blowing a northerly and Cylinder, all sheltered by a headland.
Just remember if the wind is up in one place, it will be good in another spot.
Unlike other coastal places on the mainland, the coastline is fringed with natural vegetation.
There are no skyscrapers or towering apartment blocks here.
Instead a protective bush canopy of brush boxes, paperbarks and sheoaks line the beaches within the sand dunes.
The beauty of this place is in its raw natural state.
Time to eat! If you are feeling hungry head to ‘The Blue Room’ for a breakfast or lunch.
It’s hard to miss on the corner block at Point Lookout in amongst a sweet group of shops. This place has the best coffee, fresh juices and food offerings on the entire island.
It’s the closest to a ‘cafe scene’ you will find on the island. Grab a table outside and keep an eye on the water out the front for dolphins and whales.
I love to order the Dutch Pancake for breakfast or the Fish Tacos for lunch.
Next door to ‘The Blue Room’ is ‘The Green Room’, which is a fantastic greengrocer.
Pick up all your fresh food supplies in your market basket – no plastic bags here!
I adore this shop and look forward to doing my groceries here each week. I love to support the local shopkeepers and purposely don’t bring groceries or snacks from home with me when I visit.
Then duck into ‘The Prawn Shack’ – again next door, for all your seafood needs from the island – prawns, fish, oysters – if it’s local and fresh they will have it!
Walk off lunch by crossing the road and doing The North Gorge Walk.
It’s a walking track which follows the coastline and is an absolute must.
You will spot turtles, dolphins, manta rays, dugongs and even migrating whales if the season is right.
It takes about an hour depending if you are a fast walker or dawdler.
Seeing all the aqua water at each bend is mesmerising.
This is about the spot when I think to myself how incredible the island really is and what an absolute privilege it is to visit often.
Ahh – then the reward! What I love about doing The Gorge walk is if you time it right you will end up right at the Point Lookout Surf Life Saving Club – just in time for the bar to open 2pm on weekends. Happy Hour!
I always donate my coins to them. They work so hard volunteering and protecting us at the beach.
The Surf Club sits on the edge of a rocky cliff and has the best views in town.
Looking straight into South Gorge, down to Main Beach and out to the Coral Sea.
You can sit on the back deck and watch the whales on the horizon or look up and see wedge-tail eagles, brahminy kites and eastern ospreys circling in the sky or glance down and watch the surfers.
The beer is always cold and service laid-back and friendly.
I love to end the day on the beach, going for a long walk along one of the empty beaches.
Feeling all the elements on my skin is rejuvenating, while appreciating the small things along the walk.
Like the water twinkling in the afternoon light and the hard work by the ‘sand bubbler’ crabs making balls of sand into beautiful patterns on the beach.
One of favourite things to do is to beach comb, looking at shells which have washed ashore to admire.
I love to look at their colour combinations and textures and then place them back onto the beach.
Though lately I get more of a kick out of collecting plastic which has found its way onto the beach, and this definitely comes home with me!
Every single time I’m at the beach I do ‘Take 3 For the Sea’ – where you collect 3 pieces of plastic off the beach.
Sadly I’m always finding a few more than 3. But that’s a good thing, less in the tummies of the innocent sea animals.
From Thursday to Sundays there is a wood fired pizza set up at Cylinder Beach in amongst the paperbarks. A food cart of sorts.
They open from 4.30pm til 8pm and the pizza is incredible. Just like in Italy!
I would strongly recommend putting in a phone order early and then taking the pizza down to the beach for sunset.
I love taking a Polaroid camera with me these days. I love the nostalgia of the polaroids and the memories created are more permanent and tangible than on your phone.
You can create your own souvenirs.
And then it’s all done for the day, as the sun dips down below the scrub and disappears for the day.
You can either jump on one of the last barges back to the mainland or stay over and repeat this all again the next day!
The simple things are always the best, and for me this island is the best place on earth.
Hope you enjoyed my travel guide and come to visit one day!