Hard to believe I’ve lived in Brisbane most of my life yet never ventured over to North Stradbroke Island. It takes about the same time to get to the Island as it would to drive to the Tweed Heads / New South Wales Border. A trip I’ve done many times.
The truth is, living in Brisbane we’re spoilt with so many choices of incredible places to visit in South East Queensland. I have no decent excuse, apart from just not getting round to making the short journey over to the Island affectionately called “Straddie.” A few months ago I decided to rectify that. For a week in September school holidays, the boys and I were to have our first Straddie experience.
Armed with inside information from the Lifeguards and Lifesavers I work with – who all have a genuine love for Straddie – plus intel from a friend who’s been holidaying on the island for as long he can remember – I narrowed down the best place for us to stay. I thought finding a house to rent near Cylinder Beach at Point Lookout would be easy. I was wrong!
A reliable source told me the first week of September school holidays is notorious for an invasion of pre-schoolies to North Stradbroke Island. “What the heck is pre-schoolies?” I asked. I’d never heard of it before – obviously living in a bubble. Even my Mum had heard of pres-schoolies at Straddie!
For the last few years North Stradbroke Island has been inundated with High School’s 16 – 17yo’s ready to blow off a little steam after the last of their major exams. Although it’s not the same level of partying the Gold Coast experiences at Schoolies week in late November / early December, apparently Straddie has experienced some “trouble” with large numbers of pre-schoolies taking over the Island.
The second last day before the start of September school holidays, I received an email sent to all the parents at my son’s high school. It made me realise pre-schoolies is a real issue and one taken seriously. “Officers are preparing for the influx of senior high school students to North Stradbroke Island and are committed to maintaining the island’s reputation as a safe holiday destination for all. Additional police will be sent to the island to bolster the number of officers already posted at Dunwich Station and Point Lookout Police Beat. Inspector William Knowles Bayside Patrol Group is encouraging young people to act responsibly and enjoy North Stradbroke Island and the many great beaches and other attractions it has to offer.”
Whether it was the increased Police presence or better behaviour from the pre-schoolies, although we saw plenty of them, thankfully we never had any concerns. The only complaint I have about pre-schoolies was way before the actual holidays. Most landlords are reluctant to lease their houses in that first week of school holiday which made it very challenging to locate a suitable beach house. However, through perseverance I managed to book a house fairly close to Cylinder Beach.
Disembarking from the car ferry at Dunwich, we make our way around the Island to Point Lookout. Immediately I sense the slower pace. Must be slipping into Straddie time.
Signs warn drivers to watch out for wildlife. I got the impression this is a wilderness friendly island. This was confirmed during the week as we kept spotting a couple of rogue kangaroos, roaming freely on the footpaths. It made me think of one of the frequently asked questions Americans ask me about Australia. “Do kangaroos hop down the streets where you live?” Well they do on Straddie!
Numerous birds make a constant commotion throughout the day. Walking to the beach past a couple of plover birds protecting their young chicks with their high pitched shrieks made for an interesting daily experience. But its not just inland providing the wildlife experiences. We spotted humpback whales out from Deadman’s beach frolicking on their journey home to cooler oceans. Wonder if the locals get as excited as the first time visitors seeing these majestic creatures at play?
Straddie offers many places to explore if you choose. Some near and some further away. If you own a 4WD numerous beach access points allow for a spot of beach bashing.
But without a 4WD I had to be content with walking the north gorge each morning before my kids made it out of bed. What a way to start the day! I miss the sound of the whale rock blow hole. I’d hear it coming up East Coast Road, some days it whooshed louder than others depending on the ocean swell.
Old style beach holiday
Straddie reminds me of the family beach holidays I enjoyed as a child at Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast. Where the corner store, the fish and chip shop, a couple of real estate agents and a hand full of houses were the only occupants. A small beachside community – perfect for exploring and creating childhood holiday memories.
The only difference at Straddie is a walk to the corner store to grab your ice-cream treat has been replaced with delicious home-made gelato from the Oceanic Gelati and Coffee Bar at Point Lookout.
With an abundance of natural habitats, wide open beaches to explore and enjoy, Straddie is an unspoilt beautiful island. The lack of commercialism appeals. It never felt crowded or overly busy, but Christmas holidays may be a different story. I reckon we’ll have to book another week’s holiday to find out.
It may have taken me 30 years to discover Straddie – but I’m hooked.