Australia is full of hidden gems but for our money one of the best kept secrets of the lot is just one hour from Brisbane in Queensland. North Stradbroke island – affectionately known as ‘Straddie’ is home to some of the worlds beach beaches and teaming with wildlife. Straddie offers a laid back lifestyle reminiscent of the holidays we had when we were kids. Here how to make the most of your North Stradbroke Island holidays that will have you returning again and again.
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North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) lies within Moreton Bay in the Australian state of Queensland, 30 kilometres (19 mi) southeast of the capital Brisbane.
Before 1896 the island was part of one large island – Stradbroke Island, before a fierce storm separated it forming the Jumpinpin Channel. The Quandamooka people are the traditional owners of North Stradbroke island.
At 275.2 square kilometres (106.3 sq mi), it is the second largest sand island in the world – the first being Fraser Island a few hours north.
There are three small towns, a number of lakes and numerous beaches along most of the seaward coastline with rocky outcrops at Point Lookout.
An Aboriginal presence on the island has been long and ongoing, resulting in a successful native title determination. Tourism is a major and growing industry and the island has been the site for sand mining for more than sixty years, which is its second most important industry but currently at threat.
In Summer visitors from Brisbane and increasingly other locations, flock to Straddie for its idyllic beach life and laid back vibe.
Its a place where magical summer memories are made, romances are forged and futures are determined. Year-round it offers an array of things to see and do and remains one of Australia’s hidden gems.
When to go to Straddie
Straddie is fabulous all year round. Even in winter and on the stormiest days the natural beauty and splendor of the island is a wonder to behold. You can view year round average temperatures HERE.
Winter is whaling season and there are little or few tourists. There are a number of festivals throughout the year and as accommodation is limited it pays to google this and keep on top of when and what is happening. There is usually an Oyster Festival in November and a Reaggae festival in October.
Also BE WARNED – the first week of the September school holidays is what is called ‘pre-schoolies’ when Point Lookout is flooded with teenagers looking for a fun time ahead of their final school semester and exams. They are supposed to be under adult supervision but I have been one of those adults and it can get a bit silly. Also when actual ‘Schoolies’ occurs at the end of the school year again some school leavers will choose to celebrate on Straddie although the majority will head to the Gold Coast,
December – February are the busiest months coinciding with Australian school holidays and summer but even then, with its capped population and strict development laws Straddie is still a laid back and magical escape. Just don’t tell anyone!
How to get to Stradbroke Island
Car ferry’s and Water Taxis leave from the Brisbane suburb of Cleveland regulary. Cleveland is about a 40 minute drive from either Brisbane’s CBD or the airport or you can catch a bus or train. Both car ferry companies have licensed cafes and the journey takes about 50 minutes. Our preference is the Big Red Cat which has the newest fleet but the Blue ferries are fine too. See ferry and bus timetables HERE.
Book your ferry tickets HERE.
You can also do the entire trip easily by public transport. Catch the bus or train to Cleveland from anywhere in Brisbane – this can take up to an hour from Central station for the train but its a pleasant journey.
Once in Cleveland, there is a free bus from the train station to the Ferry terminal and again another bus on the island that can take you over to Amity Point or Point Lookout. You can either be a walk-on passenger on the car ferries or catch the ‘Flyer’ ( water taxi) which only takes about 25-30 minutes to get to the island.
North Stradbroke Island transport
If you have taken your own car on the vehicular Ferry there are sealed, well sign-posted roads linking the townships of Dunwich , Amity Point and Point Lookout.
There are also a number of inland tracks, only accessible by 4WDrive vehicle. It is also possible to drive on the beaches with a 4WDrive vehicle but a Vehicle Access Permit is necessary for beach driving.
All camping grounds with exception of the Beach Camping Areas are accessible by public transport.Local buses (07 3415 2417) meet the water taxis at Harold Walker Jetty and One Mile Jetty in Dunwich and run to Point Lookout. The last bus to Dunwich leaves Point Lookout around 6pm in Summer.
The current timetable can be downloaded here.
Cycling is possible on the sealed roads, but if you want to get off road you will need a mountain bike.
If venturing off sealed roads you can expect a lot of sand and certain unsealed roads are restricted.
East Coast Road is the main road linking Island townships. This road is undulating and has narrow shoulders with a fair bit of traffic including a lot of four-wheel drives (4WD’s). The road offers a challenging ride and is suitable for experienced sport and touring cyclists with an above-average level of fitness.The road to Brown Lake and Blue Lake National Park is undulating with narrow shoulders.
You can access most of the beaches but it is best to do so at low tide. As many of the beaches are used by 4WD’s care should be taken to follow road rules and indicate your intentions.
Stradbroke Cab Service (0408 193 685). There are 2 taxis on the island and 1 Uber.
North Stradbroke Island Tours
Sometimes its just easier to let someone else organise everything. If you would rather visit North Stradbroke Island on a tour these are the ones we recommend.
North Stradbroke Island accommodation
Whilst the ferry’s pull into the town of Dunwich most people head straight to Point Lookout about 20kms on the north east side of the island. Point Lookout has amazing surf beaches that are also suitable for camping and 4WD enthusiasts as well as families.
It is also home to one of Australia’s best pubs and in winter its a popular spot for whale watching.
There is also the quaint township of Amity which is on the calm bay side of the island and popular with fishermen and watersports enthusiasts. Its somewhat cheaper to stay in Amity than Point Lookout but it has few cafes or shops.
Resorts and hotels on Straddie
We’ve also had some great stays at the Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel ( the Pub) which has incredible views, decent meals and a famous outdoor pool table. Keep in mind this is the islands main drinking and wedding venue so if you are after a good nights sleep ask for a room far from the bar area.
Near home beach you find the most recent ‘resort’ built on the island, Allure. They have a range of low-set cabins and beach houses with a good cafe and swimming pool only metres from the beach.
Above Allure, you will find Pandanus Palms who have very comfortable 1 and 2 bedroom Villas with spectacular ocean views.
Across from Headland Park at Main Beach is the excellent Whale Watch Resort which is great for, you guessed it, whale watching.
In Amity, Sea Shanties have cute cottages on the water that are pet-friendly and great for families with calm water right out front and a protected swimming enclosure.
There is a house that we like to rent and it’s especially great for 2 families or a large group. It’s well-appointed, great value for money and an easy walk to everything.
With a kitchen and dining area both upstairs and down it makes entertaining and feeding the troops after a day at the beach, a breeze. Good value for money too given when you get.
Also, pet-friendly although unfenced.
Click here to see more or to book Beach House on Straddie.
For couples there is a great Airbnb apartment called Yarrong Retreat which is located in the treetops on the hill behind the Pub.
It is beautifully appointed and surrounded by wildlife with great views. A short walk to the shops, pub and beach and Pet friendly too!
Other accommodation on Straddie
There are several other resorts and apartments on Straddie as well as other options for self contained and motel style accommodation.
When a lot of families visit North Stradbroke Island they like to rent a privately owned beach house which are especially good for groups. You can find some of them through the local real estate agents and on Airbnb.
There is also a good list HERE.
North Stradbroke Island Camping
Straddie has a number of foreshore camping grounds to choose from. All campsites must be booked and paid prior to arrival. You will especially need to book in advance in peak times such as Christmas, New Year, Easter and school holidays.
To buy a camping permit in advance on line you can do so via THIS LINK . Remember foreshore camping is only accessible with a 4WD so you will need a 4wd permit as well which you can get through the same link.
You can also pick up a permit at the following locations:
For pet friendly beaches see Dog beaches below
To see tide times CLICK HERE.
North Stradbroke Island restaurants, pubs, clubs and coffee
Stradbroke Beach Resort and Hotel
With some of the best views of any pub in the country everyone enjoys a meal or a cold beer at the ‘pub’ when they visit North Stradbroke Island.
Food can be a bit hit and miss but the beers always cold, the views are amazing and there’s a good bottleshop downstairs too.
The Blue Room
Very busy in the mornings and for good reason. These are excellent coffees and breakfasts, especially the dutch pancakes which I break my diet for every visit!
They have a great organic co-op attached as well.
Fishes do decent seafood meals and takeaways with occasional specials like chowder and BBQ seafood.
Chillers is located at the Allure resort on the main road at Home Beach. You will likely drive past it many times during your visit but it is worth a stop.
They do good coffee and casual meals as well as some takeaways including pizzas. They also sell some quality grocery items such as fresh sourdough bread and good wine. It has a strange reggae vibe no doubt very popular when the Reggae festival is held across the road each October
My coffee-addicted and complete Merlo fanboy husband is very happy that there is a Merlo cart on Straddie.
Located at Cylinder Beach most days in summer and most weekends year-round you can (apparently) get the best coffee on the island here.
A funky little shop selling coffee, doughnuts and shaved ice from 6:30 am to noon off-season and longer during school holidays.
Moroccan Magic Food
Located next to Rufus Seafoods in Amity this food van and its hard working owner with Moroccan heritage serves up delish things to take home or eat at the park such as Moroccan doughnuts, Sujak and eggs and Moroccan Meatballs.
Things to do on North Stradbroke Island
There is a lot to do on Straddie especially when the weather is great which is 90% of the year!
It’s an outdoor enthusiasts dream but even if all you want to do is curl up with a good book and enjoy the smell, sounds, and rays of nature I guarantee you will love it!
The North and South Gorge Walks
Start right across from the bakery at Point Lookout ( it’s well signed) and follow the boardwalk right around the Gorge.
Breathtaking views in every direction and it’s likely you will see the resident dolphin pods surfing on the North side and Manta Rays on the south.
There is also a very high probability that you will come across Kangaroos. They are nonaggressive and often happily graze in front of the camera.
North Stradbroke Beaches
The beaches on Straddie are legendery and really are as good as any found anywhere in the world. They are the prime reason the island is so popular and why so many people keept it a closely guarded secret!
There are two beaches patrolled by volunteer surf lifesavers. Cylinder is a great north facing beach that offers calmer conditions for families with children as well as a great surf break. Main Beach is also patrolled but is more exposed.
Other beaches such as Deadmans, Frenchmans and Home Beach are great for beach combing and fossiking but always swim between the flags at patrolled beaches.
Dog Friendly Beaches on Straddie
There are several big stretches of beach where you can take your dog off leash on Straddie.
Dunwich – Skatebowl Park
Barton Street (between the skatebowl and the fenced off area), DunwichUnfenced. Note there is no drinking water, shelter or seating
In front of the Point Lookout Hotel (between Rocky Point and the Rocky Headland), Point Lookout
Unfenced beach access where dogs can go in the water. Again no drinking water, shelter or seating
Important: Flinders Beach and Amity Point foreshore (at Ballow Street) are not dog off-leash areas. Dogs must be on-leash at all times in these locations and are not allowed in the prohibited area between Geera Street and the Amity Point access to Flinders Beach.
If you wish to have your dog with you whilst camping you will need to stay at Flinders or Main Beach where you are allowed 2 dogs per campsite.
Eat Gelato on the lawn
Every visitor to Straddie ends up at the famous Gelato shop at some point and the best spot to enjoy your purchase is across the road on the lawn.
If its winter or spring you will be able to see Whales breaching as they pass by.
Have a game of outdoor pool
For as long as people can remember and well before the Pub was renovated there has been a pool table outside under the trees that has seen many a game on a hot day.
Stay for a meal and a few cold beers and perhaps you’ll meet a few of the local characters as well.
Have a picnic at Brown Lake
Located just 3.5kms inland from Dunwich this peaceful spot with white sandy shores and good facilities is named due to the colour of the water-stained by the Melaleuca trees.
Brown Lake is of significant importance to the 3 aboriginal communities on the island and there is something very spiritual and magical about it.
Surf, snorkel and dive on Straddie
The local reefs are teeming with marine life and the surf breaks are some of the best in the country. And no crowds!
You can simply paddle out to great breaks from the beach or there are organised tours to do day trips out to the reefs.
Dive North Stradbroke Island – locations
Beautiful clear water and drop-offs make up Flat Rock a great dive spot with numerous sites to suit different experiences and weather conditions.
Nursery, Flat Rock
The Nursery is the shallowest of the sites ranging from 10-18 m, perfect for final dive training. You will see turtles, rays and large schools of long-finned Bannerfish and perhaps Wobegon underneath the large boulders.
Shark Alley, Flat Rock (Winter)
Very popular with Grey nurse sharks in winter. Experienced divers can dive alongside the sharks in the alley at 25m but beginners can still view them from the ledges 18m above.
Turtle Caves, Flat Rock
The best diving is around the small caves in 14 – 24m where turtles and large Wobegon swim. This site is deep and requires a reasonable level of experience.
Shag Rock offers a variety of sites to suit all conditions and levels of experience. This is a popular spot for dive training and If you’re into photography then there is plenty of anemones, fish % prawns as well as sharks and turtles year-round.
Manta Bommie ( Summer)
Here you will see leopard and shovelnose sharks, giant Manta Rays, Loggerhead Turtles, Guitar-fish, Eagle and Bull Rays and lots more. One of the best dive spots in the country.
Fishing on North Stradbroke Island
No trip is complete when you visit North Stradbroke Island without a spot of fishing. Every form of fishing is available from open ocean rock fishing and beach fishing to sheltered or open water boat fishing.
On the western side of the island Moreton Bay offers year round smooth water fishing due to its numerous surrounding islands and waterways. The eastern side of the island is a complete contrast with beaches and rocky headlands.
Almost every species of fish that enters into Moreton Bay will pass by the beaches long gutters and holes. The most famous of these larger predators is Mulloway, which can grow to huge proportions in this area.
Fishing the beaches in the summer months, the main target species are whiting, bream, dart, flathead, and the odd shark and pelagic.
Bait can be collected on the island or pipis can be dug up from the beach in the hundreds. The best time to dig for them is on low tide as the vehicles drive up and down the beach. You can also collect beach worms if you find a spot away from the beach traffic.
Observe the amazing Straddie wildlife
It is quite normal to see Kangaroos, Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Sea Eagles and Manta Rays on any given day. Its even quite common to see koalas crossing the road or perching in trees near roads and in people’s yards.
There is an indigenous pod of Dolphins that live off Point Lookout and it is common to see them surfing the waves off the South Gorge walk most days.
If you are lucky you may see Dugong as well especially on your way over on the ferry.
Visit Myora Hot Springs
Located only a few minutes out of Dunwich on the road North you will find Myora Hot Springs also known as Moongalba.
It is easily accessible from the road and is home to a wide range of flora and fauna including a rare nocturnal animal called the false water rat, a nocturnal mammal that was thought to be extinct.
Explore Dunwich Cemetery
This may sound a little morbid but it’s actually a fascinating way to spend an hour of so especially if you are waiting at the Water Taxi across the road.
The Dunwich Cemetery is the second oldest cemetery in Queensland. A walkthrough provides an insight into the different people that have stepped on the shores of North Stradbroke Island. Many people buried here were from a couple of shipwrecks off the coast and the sanitarium and leper colony that was once on the island.
A trail map that visits all the resting spots of some of North Stradbroke Island’s most influential inhabitants is available from the Museum and the Stradbroke Island Holidays office.
The Dunwich Cemetery is located right next to the passenger ferry ( the Flyer) and a 10-minute walk from the vehicular ferry terminal.
We hope this has inspired and informed your break to this amazing Australian gem and ensures that when you visit North Stradbroke Island you enjoy it as much as we do.
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