STRADBROKE ISLAND, QLD
We’ve done both, often, Morton Island is the one that would be most likely described as a ‘Paradise’, but Stradbroke, or Straddie as it’s known, is much more rugged and without doubt, our favourite of the two.
We left straight after work on Friday evening so as to maximize our time on the island. We checked in Whalewatch Ocean Beach Resort, which was a perfect location and views aplenty.
The next day we were up early morning with the birds just before sunrise and headed to Point Lookout Headland Gorge Walk, where we strolled past a family of grazing kangaroos, so tame Kim almost touched them. We saw a family of five small black cormorants watching for fish from the tree they have claimed at the bottom of the cliff. There were sea eagles, manta rays, turtles and dolphins, even an echidna.
Early morning is always best for an early walk before it starts getting crowded. We preferred something light for breakfast, so we headed to Fishes Cafe at the Point on East Coast Road. They had everything from Canadian pancakes to eggs Benedict and a Whale Rock Big Brekky special with bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, hash brown, baked beans and English spinach. After breakfast our first stop was Amity Point, which was a small fishing town on the north east point of the island. We wandered the seafront watching the fisherman cast their lines as pelicans stood in wait for any scraps. We headed to the north of the town and onto the purest sandy beach and watched a swarm of crabs trying to escape. We kicked off our shoes to felt the soft sand between our toes (which squeaked as we walked) and had a quick dip in the warm ocean.
The best thing about it all was that the beach was pretty much deserted. We left Amity Point behind and headed into the islands interior. Straddie Island is the world's second biggest sand island (after Fraser Island) and is covered with Eucalypt and Pine Forest and dotted with a few freshwater lakes. We stopped for a walk at Blue Lake, a 3.5 mile return journey through the forests which takes you to a viewpoint overlooking the lake. It was a pretty warm day and all we wanted was to jump in and go for a swim. Luckily that's exactly what you can do at Brown Lake. As the name suggests the water of the lake is brown from all the decomposing material it contains, so not very attractive to look at. But in 30 degree heat it was pretty refreshing to get in.
After a quick dip, like lonely sailors looking for the shore, we’re hungry again. Put it down to the holiday hunger phenomenon. We headed to The Little Ship Club on the water at Yabby Street, Dunwich, which serves a great bistro-style lunch and as the name suggests is, in fact, a sailing club. There’s a lovely lawn, with picnic tables and sun loungers, and a gentle breeze swishing through the palm trees. Island bliss = found. After a big morning walking we headed back for a dip in the pool and a late afternoon barbie for dinner.
The next morning we woke ready for our encounter with Manta Rays. After a quick briefing session we climbed into the zodiacs, still on land. The dive centre is nowhere near a marina or boat ramp so these zodiacs are on a trailer attached to a tractor. And so the tractor drove us down to the beach and deposited the zodiacs in the water. Not quite as easy as that, as the waves threatened to push us back on the beach before we could get in deep enough water to deploy the engines but our captain did really well to get us out pretty quickly. He took us out to 'Manta Bommie', an area just off Straddie Island as soon as we got in the water I could see a ray and a turtle in the distance but they swam off pretty quickly. But undeterred our snorkel guide kept us swimming along and within a couple of minutes we had a Manta Ray directly underneath us. They are so graceful and move through the water with seemingly little effort for something so big (this one must have been 6ft wide).
We swam for a while following this fella before our guide shouted out to follow him to another Manta Ray, and then another, and then another. Soon enough I had 3 rays in direct snorkel view, it was amazing. And then I heard our guide shot 'TURTLE!', and Kim looked around frantically to try and locate it. But she needn't bother as it swam directly beneath me, so close I was tempted to reach out and touch it. We followed a few more Manta Rays before it was time to get back on the boat. Everyone was full of beaming smiles as our guide explained the various behaviors we had been watching, such as the two Mantas following each other where actually performing a mating dance. There was time for another quick snorkel before the boat headed back and was hauled back on land by the tractor. We headed for sunset drinks at The Beach Hotel, which had killer views. I grabbed a frosty and Kim had a cruiser and set up camp on the perfectly positioned deck before grabbing some classic pub grub from the bistro. Fresh seafood abounds so Kim couldn’t pass up a Caesar salad with fresh prawns, and a perfectly cooked rib eye.
Early next morning was time to head home. We decided for and early mark, so the traffic wasn’t backed up heading home. We enjoyed another visit and always head back at least once a year.
Straddie Is a sub-tropical island, is located 30 km southeast of Brisbane, Queensland and it is the world’s second largest sand island, about 38 km long and 11 km wide! From endless summer adventures to awesome “whale-watching “winters, Straddie Is the perfect spot for a holiday, short break or day trip.