Stradbroke Island is a natural wonderland just off the coast from Brisbane, Australia. It’s simple to get to from Singapore, with loads of things to do for families. I first visited the island many moons ago, but it was for my brother’s “buck’s night” (bachelor party). Let’s just say my memory of the place is … hazy. Now that I’ve returned for a weekend with my wife and two daughters in tow, I doubt I’ll ever forget it. “Straddie”, as it’s known by locals, impressed us at every turn. Here are some highlights!
#1 Gorge on the views
Get your bearings while taking in a stretch of Greek Island-worthy coastline by doing the 1.5km North Gorge Walk. It conveniently starts across the road from some of Straddie’s best cafés, so you can fuel up on flat whites and milkshakes before setting off. The rock formations and water colour along the kid-friendly boardwalk are so pretty, you’ll be ripping out the “gorge”/”gorgeous” puns in no time. Kangaroos lining the path are an added bonus.
#2 Watch for whales
While you’re on the walk, keep a close eye on the ocean; these waters teem with marine life, including – during the June-to-October migration season – thousands of humpback whales. Stradbroke Island is renowned as one of Australia’s great whale-watching spots. If you miss those months, never fear: you’re still likely to see dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays, dugongs and seals. (And, to employ some Aussie slang, the occasional “Noah”…)
#3 Hit the beach
You’ll pretty much live in the ocean on any Stradbroke holiday. We were there in winter (June) and you couldn’t drag us from the water. Highlights include the picturesque cove of Cylinder Beach, more remote Frenchmans Beach (great for a long walk), and Main Beach, with its renowned left-hand point break for surfers. Our favourite, though, was South Gorge Beach, a narrow, protected sliver of sand with perfect turquoise water. We also loved Home Beach, where a dolphin came right up and started fishing in the shallows just a few metres away from us.
#4 Enjoy some sustenance
We all eat three times a day, so we may as well do it well; that’s my philosophy – especially when I’m holidaying by the beach. In fact, sometimes I’ll bump it up to four or five for good measure. Our dining highlights included: freshly-caught prawns from Rufus King at Amity Point; wood-fired pizzas from the Friday night food trucks at Cylinder Beach; boulangeriestyle croissants from Chillers; pub grub at the recently upgraded Straddie Pub; Oceanic Gelato for the obvious (also good coffee); and Blue Room for breakfast.
Pro tip: Point Lookout Surf Lifesaving Surf Club has a small bar that opens from 2pm on weekends. It allows BYO food and has an incredible balcony above the sea. Get here for opening, bring a few tasty platters, and relax with a couple of cold wines.
#5 Go adventuring
We didn’t even scratch the surface of Stradbroke. Ours was a beach weekend, but the scuba diving, surfing, sand-surfing, fishing and 4WD-driving are all world-class too. You can also camp in various spots, explore the inland waterholes (try Brown Lake for a swim and a picnic), or join a historical walking tour with a local Aboriginal guide to discover the culture of the indigenous Quandamooka people.
Brisbane is seven hours from Singapore. There are options for getting to Stradbroke without wheels, but it’s easier to hire a car at Brisbane Airport and drive the 30 minutes to the ferry terminal. The vehicular ferry takes 45 minutes (there’s a viewing deck, bar and toilets), after which it’s a short drive on sealed roads to Point Lookout, the main centre for beaches, accommodation and services.
Where to stay
Stradbroke isn’t a hotel kind of place – nearly all accommodation is in rental houses. We stayed in Paperbarks, a new architecturally designed house right on Home Beach – we knew of it because it was built by an Australian family who were expats in Singapore for many years. It has a brilliant modular design that sleeps up to 14 guests across four bedrooms, each with an attached ensuite. The open-plan kitchen and living areas are perfect for a lazy beach holiday, and for entertaining family and friends. There’s also free Wi-Fi, smart TV, hammocks for stringing up in the trees, games for kids and more.
The property’s name comes from the pretty grove of paperbark trees beyond the back garden. A semi-private trail leads 50 metres through these trees to the beach. At the beginning and end of each day, we would stroll along the trail to what felt like our own massive expanse of ocean, and marvel at the sublime sunrises and sunsets (see below – no filter on that photo!). Throughout the day, our two girls would come and go from the beach as they pleased, in a state of utter contentment. It doesn’t get much better.
Visit paperbarksatstraddie.com for more details, and email firstname.lastname@example.org for bookings.
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