ABOUT THE WRITER: Eleanor Margareta is a resident escape artist who doesn’t ask for much, just a life of leisure.
A mere stone’s throw from the heart of Brisbane lies one of Queensland’s most uncut gems; North Stradbroke Island may appear a little dusty on first glance, but open your eyes and see it’s exceptional beauty. The wind tangles the hair and kneads the skin on the ferry to North Stradbroke Island. When the ferry is at capacity on busy days, there is still room enough to find moments of solitude while transported to the weekend escape. Though Straddie is a popular spot for local Queenslanders, it never feels crowded. The roads are winding, but never congested. Holidaymakers gather in the picturesque places, but their friendly faces are a welcome diversion from the otherwise pensive stillness invited by sweeping views and insular beauty of the island’s every nook and cranny.
The sleepy townships of Dunwich and Amity belie their rich history; Point Lookout is a deceptively snug cluster of small shops and eateries hiding expansive scenes of world-class beauty. Though modern luxury and opulence aren’t served on a platter, it is precisely this soporific air that makes North Stradbroke Island so bewitching.
Roomy campsites and holiday accommodation of varying degrees – all with enough space to quiet the busy mind – interconnect the dispersed towns of Dunwich, Amity, and Point Lookout. Discover Stradbroke offers a myriad of premium rentals, most with a view. Though they offer the convenience of hotel accommodation – linen and towels provided, beds made up before arrival, amenities pack – each property is cosy and furnished, just like a natural hotel. Unique touches, from art on the walls to a telescope overseeing the deck, or a model ship presiding over the living area add to the character and easy comfort of a weekend escape. It makes curling up and recharging feel authentic and unpretentious. Generally, Discover Stradbroke’s properties offer breathtaking seascapes, complete with balmy breeze and the smell of salty air.
Once the ferry arrives at Dunwich, make a little time to explore the island’s largest township. Queensland’s second oldest cemetery resides in Dunwich, and the pretty graves are at peace in their seaside setting. Established in 1847, the earliest graves are unmarked, presiding over those who perished in the shipwreck of the HMS Sovereign in Moreton Bay. Nearby, the quaint Historical Museum showcases a number of permanent displays about the island’s indigenous population from the Quandamooka people to the convict history, shipwrecks and maritime history, and the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum. A relatively recent addition to the collection is a massive skull fragment of a sperm whale, somewhat miraculously washed up on the shores of Stradbroke Island.
An easy walk around Point Lookout’s North Gorge headland offers dramatic views from every vantage point with a distinct Australian stamp. Pandanus palms and grassy knolls populate the burnt cliffs of the headland with a sweeping backdrop of clear aquamarine water and endless horizon. In the foreground, the waves crash into the rocky fissures, while abundant marine life languishes offshore. With a little more time, expect manta rays, turtles, and dolphins. In the right season, Point Lookout is Queensland’s best spot for whale watching as 97% of the migrating population passes by. Drive along one of the island’s many 4WD beaches and find a pocket of coast to call your own for a day. Look closely and find a koala in the trees or a kangaroo in the scrub; both are common sightings.
The eating places dotted around the island offer few frills, doling out fantastic fresh local seafood with island hospitality to match. Don’t bother to force fine dining in this old school oasis. Buy a Fisherman’s Basket from Fishes at the Point and find the ideal spot to unwind and enjoy the flavours of real good food. A patch of sand or a picnic blanket on a high perch means appreciating the small pleasures, and perhaps even reminiscing on the quiet beach holidays of old. This is relaxation itself. A cup of Oceanic Gelati‘s homemade creations and a stroll under the stars, tempered by the lighthouse’s flashing gaze will transport to the true escapist serenity. When dozing off, overcome by the fatigue of spending an entire day in the glorious outdoors, the sound of the waves washes over slumbering forms. It is easy to forget that this world of simple pleasures is only an hour or so from the busy city life.