Lapped by the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean, pure white-sand beaches stretch for miles along the eastern side of Australia’s North Stradbroke Island, creating a magnet for surfers, campers and nature lovers. Around 50 percent of the island — the second largest sand island in the world — will be national park at year’s end. It is also home to an amazing collection of rare and endangered land (wallabies, bandicoots) and sea creatures (tortoises). Yet thanks to its location about 19 miles southeast of Brisbane, the island isn’t difficult to get to; the trip from the mainland takes around 50 minutes by barge, which also carries your car, or 25 minutes by water taxi.
Before you go, know that there are three main townships: Dunwich, where the barge disembarks; Amity, which is a base for local fishermen; and Point Lookout, where the choices for travelers range from surfing and scenic walks to whale spotting. Holiday accommodation options are scattered around the island and are mainly small scale as the island is high-rise free.
Apart from swimming, surfing or fishing at any of the beaches, here are 10 top things to do during a weekend on Straddie, as the locals call it.
- Start your Straddie sojourn at the Island Fruit Barn on the main drag in Dunwich to pick up all your holiday supplies. There’s a surprisingly good range of deli items, from the essential to the unusual; high-quality fruit; good cake; and coffee. Combine a thick slice of apple cake with a fruit frappe and enjoy.
- While you’re in Dunwich, check out the Aboriginal art from talented locals at Salt Water Murris’ Quandamooka Indigenous Art Gallery.
- North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum, also in Dunwich, is a wonderful browse and a chance to learn something of the island’s history as a medical asylum.
- Stop for lunch at Seashells Café and Bar on Ballow Road in Amity Point and sample the locally caught fish and oysters. Mooch around Amity and find more local seafood to enjoy later, after you’ve enjoyed a sunset drink on the deck of the Surf Club Bar at Point Lookout Surf Lifesaving Club on Kennedy Drive, overlooking Main Beach at Point Lookout.
- Dine at The Whales Way tapas bar and restaurant at Pandanus Palms Resort, Point Lookout. The sweeping views of the coastline are outstanding but there’s plenty of cocktail action to enjoy as well. Try the bacon-wrapped scallops on the mixed tapas platter but don’t forget to leave room for their desserts. It’s simple food done well, perfect for a relaxed holiday location.
- Stay at Whale Watch Ocean Beach Resort on Samarinda Drive in Point Lookout and walk down to the beach for a swim or up to the Point for fish and chips and a drink at the Surf Club any time.
- Browse the Sunday morning Point Lookout markets beside the Bowls Club on Dickson Way in Point Lookout or the shops on Mintee Street. Point Lookout Souvenirs and Resortwear has a huge range of swimwear and knowledgeable and helpful owners to help with fitting and advice.
- Make sure you do the Point Lookout Gorge Walk, which leaves from just opposite the shops. The scenery here is spectacular and it’s also a chance to spot migrating whales, foraging turtles and resident stingrays.
- Col Battersby’s Fishes Café at Point Lookout is the place to find fish and chips for lunch. Eat in or takeaway for a picnic under the she-oaks on the headland overlooking Frenchman’s Beach and enjoy the views.
- Before you jump back on the barge, check out The Most Amazing Shop at Dunwich, where the selection of goods for sale, all displayed with more than a dash of humor, can only be described as eclectic.