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When Tom and I stopped in Brisbane for a few months we made a list of everything we wanted to do while we were there. Some of them we managed to tick off earlier on such as visiting the weekend markets, going to Eat Street Northshore and exploring nearby Toowoomba in the Darling Downs whilst others have been pushed aside due to, well, pure laziness. But on our penultimate weekend here, we finally took a day trip to Stradbroke Island and it was magical!
It’s known locally as Straddie and has a rich history. Its name is actually Minjerribah and has been occupied by a number of aboriginal tribes for tens of thousands of years. Stradbroke is the kind of place that makes you feel a million miles from the city. The ocean is a picture-perfect blue. the beaches are beautiful and clean and there’s wildlife all around. It’s the perfect destination for everyone; surfers, swimmers, hikers, families, go-getters or sunbathers. Cylinder Beach at Point Lookout was also named Queensland’s best beach in 2017, and it’s easy to see why.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen how Tom and I made a complete mess of getting over to the island. In a nutshell, we missed the ferry, had to move the car or else get a parking ticket and then got on the wrong ferry that didn’t align with the bus timetable and had to wait 40 minutes until the next one. Travelling isn’t always a smooth process and you just have to ride the wave sometimes.
So to help you avoid our mistakes and to plan your Stradbroke Island day trip, I’ve put together a guide on how to visit, what to do on Stradbroke Island and how to get there and get around.
Where is North Stradbroke Island?
Stradbroke is actually 2 islands – the North and the South. When people say they’re going to Straddie they are usually referring to North Stradbroke Island. Both islands are pretty much directly off the coast to the west of Brisbane. The ferry terminal to get over to North Straddie is a short 30km away, making it perfect for a day trip.
How to get to Stradbroke Island from Brisbane
The ferry over to Straddie leaves from Toondah Harbour in Cleveland and is incredibly easy to get there. We decided to drive to the ferry terminal and park there for ease, but if you don’t have access to a car, catch the train to Cleveland and make use of the free shuttle bus to get a lift to the port. Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to Toondah Harbour to make sure you don’t miss the ferries that run hourly.
Catching the ferry to Stradbroke Island
There are 2 ferry companies that operate from here and which one you use will depend on whether you’re taking a car over. The Stradbroke Flyer are passenger-only boats whereas Stradbroke Ferries operates ferries for both passengers and boats. If you’re travelling on foot you don’t need to book a ticket for the ferry, but it is essential to book in advance if you’re taking your car on board. The ferry to Stradbroke Island cost $20 return on the Flyer and $14 return on Stradbroke Ferries. Click here to check the prices and timetables for the Stradbroke Flyer and Stradbroke Ferries.
Tom and I decided to not take our car and to buy a ticket with Stradbroke Ferries which meant we could get on either the passenger-only ferry or the car ferry. If you’re travelling to Straddie without a car, you’re going to want to make use of the bus network over there and in order to meet the bus when you get over to Dunwich in Straddie, you need to get the passenger-only ferry. We made the mistake of catching the car ferry and then missed the connecting bus and had to wait.
Using the bus on Stradbroke Island
There are 3 main areas on North Stradbroke Island – Dunwich, Amity Point and Point Lookout. If you get to Straddie early enough in the day you can use the buses to experience all 3 places but if you arrive a bit later, you won’t be able to. The buses run once an hour between Dunwich (where the ferry arrives) and Point Lookout. You will need cash for the bus and a day pass can be bought for $10 which allows you to hop on and hop off as much as you like. To get to Amity Point, catch the bus to the interchange and then switch to the bus going to Amity.
The bus timetable is quite tricky but just be sure to not miss the last bus back to Dunwich as you won’t want to miss the last ferry back to Toondah. Take a look at the bus timetable here to plan your day on Stradbroke.
What to take with you
Stradbroke is both a beach and walkers dream so you might want to take clothes to cover both of these aspects. Although the walks are easy at Point Lookout, you have the chance to walk across rock and get close to the cliff edges so I would advise taking trainers or walking sandals with you for this part. To make the most of the incredible beaches here, be sure to bring your swimmers, a light towel and a change of clothes as well as your sunglasses and sunscreen.
There are a number of cafes to choose from but it’s great for picnics too. Tom and I bought our own food with us and sat in a beautiful spot to enjoy it. It’s also a great way to keep costs down if you’re travelling on a budget.
Things to do on Stradbroke Island
The main destination on Straddie is Point Lookout to the North of the island. This area is stunning and has plenty of walks, beautiful views, gleaming white beaches and cafes to fuel up on. Point Lookout was the only area I got to explore (due to the massive fluff up with the ferries, *doh*) but there’s definitely more than enough to see and do for your one day on Stradbroke Island.
Stroll the North Gorge Walk
Stay on the bus until the final stop and you’ll find yourself right at the start of the North Gorge Walk. This is a boardwalk about 1.5km long that hugs the coastline leading to some breathtaking views. There are some stairs involved on the walk but it’s super easy and a great way to start your day on Stradbroke Island. The walk will take you to views overlooking North Gorge beach with its craggy rock face and strong currents ripping into the cliffs.
Prepare yourself for stunning views right from the start of the walk. The first thing you’ll see is the incredible view over Main Beach. Not only that but on a clear sunny day you will be able to see the peaks of hills and mountains in the distance too. Carry on walking along and you will pass by beautiful flora and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wallabies and koalas.
Whale spot at the Whale Rock Blowhole
Stradbroke Island is right on the migration path of the humpback whales and this is the perfect spot to try your luck at seeing them. Every year between late May and early November, the whales make their way north to breed and then return in the later months with their calves. I was lucky enough to see 3 pods of whales on my visit and it was simply magical.
Whale Rock Blowhole is along the North Gorge Walk so you won’t miss it. It’s a beautiful cliff edge with a sudden deep drop off that when water is forced into it by the ocean, makes a loud whoosh sound like the blow of a whale. It’s nice a high up and you can see for miles from here. Keep your eyes peeled not only for whales but also dolphins and turtles, too.
Have lunch with a view
When you finish the North Gorge Walk you will find yourself at a great spot for lunch on Headland Park. Take a seat on the grass and admire the views over Frenchmans Beach on a bright sunny day and soak in the view. It’s the perfect place to have a picnic if you’ve packed one or head into one of the cafes around there for some fresh eats and delicious gelato.
Take a walk along Frenchmans Beach
If you’re feeling energetic after your lunch then make your way down the big flight of stairs to Frenchmans Beach. It’s not ideal for swimming due to the strong currents here but it’s great to walk along. At the end of the beach you will be met with a sand dune to clamber over to get around to Deadmans Beach, or at low tide, you can simply carry on walking around.
Alternatively, if you don’t feel like tackling the stairs, simply carry on walking along the roadside where you will still get stunning glimpses of both Frenchmans and Deadmans Beach.
Walk through Point Lookout Conservation Area
From the roadside you will see a sign leading you to the whale watching platforms. Among the beautiful forest, a number of platforms have been built for you to take another chance at spotting these magnificent creatures. Keep walking along this route and you will be taken through the lush greenery in the area and you will duck in and out of sight of the sea. You can either carry on the path and follow it back to the roadside but I think a better way to end the walk is by cutting out onto Cylinder Beach.
Walk along Queensland’s voted best beach
What better way to finish your day trip to Stradbroke Island than by relaxing on one of Queensland’s best beaches? Beautiful Cylinder Beach was awarded this in 2017 and it’s so easy to see why. Cylinder Beach is incredibly calm compared to Main Beach and it’s sheltered location makes it the perfect place to take a swim and go snorkelling. Nothing beats an Australian sunset and watching it over this incredible beach is just perfect.
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