Queensland’s Hidden Treasure – Nth Stradbroke Island June 2011

Saturday, Oct 08, 2011 at 11:04

Navigator 1 (NSW)

Our long winded trip to the Exploroz Natiional Gathering in Silverton began on the 27th April. Our first leg took us to Caloundra where we house sat for friends for 6 weeks. From there our adventure began with four days on North Stradbroke Island

Monday 20th June to Thursday 23rd June
Just a short 45minute trip on Stradbroke Ferries from Cleveland and we were on North Stradbroke Island at Dunwich. This is a regular service operating every two hours and we were lucky to get a Monday to Thursday return motorhome special for $135. The trip was smooth and the ferry offered hot/cold drinks and light snacks to help pass the time.

All of the roads on the island are bitumen and it is only if you want to access the beaches that a four wheel drive vehicle is needed. This access requires a 4WD permit which is easily obtainable from the ticket office at Cleveland. The island has a large expanse of beauty featuring sandy white beaches, magnificent inland lakes, waterways, bush, headland walks, heritage and history.
During Moreton Bay’s convict period, 1824-1842, the islands first non-indigenous settlements were established. As the main route for ships between Sydney and Moreton Bay was via the dangerous South Passage between Moreton and Stradbroke islands, a pilot station was set up at Amity Point in 1825. It continued operating until the wreck of the Sovereign in 1847 led to its relocation to Moreton Island. A Military/stores depot was set up at Dunwich. Both places at Amity and Dunwich were staffed by convicts.
When the Moreton Bay convict settlement was disbanded, free settlers, especially farmers, began to move to the Morton Bay district. Stradbroke also became an institutional base for Brisbane and surrounds. Dunwich became the site of a government run quarantine station and later, a benevolent asylum for Queensland’s old and infirmed. When both of these closed tourism and sandmining became the main industries.
There is still quite a bit of history to be seen in Dunwich but we will do this justice another time.
North Stradbroke Island boasts a subtropical climate with moderate temperatures and sunshine almost all year round. Temperatures range from an average of 20 degrees Celsius in July to an average of 28 degrees in February.
Our first stop was Brown Lake, one of islands outstanding freshwater lakes. The island’s lake system has been listed as one of the world’s most ecologically important wetlands areas and includes Blue Lake, Brown Lake, The Keyholes, Eighteen Mile Swamp, Myora Springs and a series of small lagoons.
Brown Lake is fully accessible by vehicle and provides picnic tables, BBQ, toilets and a children’s playground. Swimming, canoeing and row boats are permitted but no camping. We stopped there for lunch and then proceeded across the island on Tazi Road to ‘The Causeway’, the 4WD access to Main Beach. The beach stretched the entire length of the island.

This was the first good beach run we had done in the new truck. I was apprehensive but, the Super Single tyres that bag out well on the sand did their job and we hooted south for 10 km where the camping areas started. We checked out 11 sites, which were spaced out along the beach run, then returned to No 4 for our first night.
Beach driving is forbidden one hour before to one hour after high tide but outside these times it is open for those with a permit which costs $35. The permit has a 12 month lifespan.
We settled in where we had a good view of the beach and ocean. Another first for us was to use our OZPIG.Check out the picture. A lot of National Parks will allow these fires when ground fires are banned as they do not drop ash or cinders. The chimney and the top opening also have diffusers which act as spark arresters. One nights use and we wondered why we had waited so long to try it out.
In the morning we drove south along the beach again – it was such fun! After playing we went into camping ground No 4. This time we had to drive over the dune on a very soft sand track to a sheltered campground. Being mid week and school holidays not starting till Friday, we had both campgrounds to ourselves. With our seats positioned on top on the dune and a glass in hand, we watched the migration of the whales to their northern breeding grounds. The numbers are certainly increasing!

On Wednesday morning we travelled north along the beach, past the Keyhole Waterholes, to the northern exit. Once back on the sealed road we made our way to Point Lookout and the impressive North Gorge walk.Point Lookout was named by James Cook in 1770 when he sailed past Stradbroke Island. Point Lookout is the best vantage point on the island to watch the whales and other marine life pass right before your eyes. The walk leads up to a unique rock formation known as the Blowhole which provides a fantastic viewing platform from which visitors can watch the migrating humpback whales.The gorge walk is the North Stradbroke Island icon and reveals just how pristine and unspoiled the island truly is.

Point Lookout has a large population of resident bottlenose dolphins which varies seasonally between 700-1000. We saw them feeding and riding the waves.
From the lookout we visited Cylinder Beach, which boasts a caravan park right on the water’s edge, then on to Rocky Point where we were just in time for Flinders Beach to be reopened to 4WD. The sand was hard and we made our way along Flinders Beach to camp site no 1. Unlike Main Beach, sand dunes did not have to be crossed to reach the camp ground. There were several other campers along the beach but they each selected a camp ground to themselves. We walked along the beach for ages before returning for an afternoon drink and settling in for the evening. At Flinders Beach the ranger pops in to collect the $7.50 pp camping fees and to have a chat.

On Thursday morning we visited Amity Bay which is now a quite fishing village. After lunch, overlooking the water, our brief but very enjoyable stay on the island was over and it was time to make our way back to Dunwich to catch the 1.00pm ferry.
Next visit we will take more time to look at the island’s history – the convict causeway, the privy pit in the park, Dunwich public hall, the dormitory building, St Mark’s Church, North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum, the Benevolent Asylum cottages, the Polka Point draughts board and quite a few other points of interest.

Recommended reading:
‘ North Stradbroke Island Heritage Trail’ a brochure put out by Redland City Council.
The outback calls
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