What to do on North Stradbroke Island

simmsquinn Travel Diary

North Stradbroke Island is a nature lover’s wonderland, with pristine beaches, rugged landscapes and picture-postcard views – an untouched wilderness overflowing with wildlife and marine creatures right on Brisbane city’s doorstep.

As a local (and a huge Straddie fan) let me tell you how to make the most of this island paradise, whether it’s just for a weekend or a longer escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life …

Stradbroke Island Main Beach view

Scuba/Snorkelling

Straddie is teeming with marine life – from huge schools of eagle rays and batfish to the tiniest nudibranch – and there’s no better way to experience these incredible creatures than up close in their own environment.Whether you go snorkelling along the Amity rock wall, off one of the rocky headlands at Point Lookout or opt for a short but exhilarating beach-launched boat trip off Point Lookout to one of the nearby reefs, rocks or bommies to scuba dive, you’ll experience some of the best dive sites in south-east Queensland. It’s not unusual to have 20m of clear visibility and get right up close to wobbygongs, turtles, shovel-nose rays, bull rays, leopard sharks and, depending on the season, the majestic manta rays or grey nurse sharks. If you’re lucky enough, a whale shark might even cruise on by.
I learned to dive on the island and have now been on more than 50 dives. Every time is different, and everyone should dive with a manta ray at least once in their life.
Bring your fins and mask, head to one of the many rocky headlands or contact Manta Lodge and Scuba Centre on 3409 8888. A double dive starts from $140.

Stradbroke Island scuba diving

Kayak/Sup

Another great way to experience the island’s marine life is on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. It really is incredible how much you see when gliding over the water without a motor. If you are lucky you might bump into dugongs, dolphins, rays and turtles, along with plenty of fish and birdlife.
A favourite spot is up Wallum Creek at high tide. The mouth can be found if you look closely when heading across the bay to the south of the Amity jetty. When the ocean is calm, the more experienced can head out to Shag Rock, or take a relaxing cruise through the reeds on Brown Lake and revel in the tranquility of the area.
If you don’t have your own kayak or SUP, do a SUP lesson with Straddie Stand Up Paddle, starting from $50, or go on a kayak adventure and authentic Aboriginal culture experience with Straddie Adventures on 0433 171 477. Prices start from $50 for a child and $135 for an adult.

Stradbroke Island sup

Surf

Surfing is a huge part of the island’s culture and when the surf is good, the vibe is amazing. At such times it’s not unusual to find many of North Stradbroke Island’s residents sitting on the headland watching the action. It’s better than anything you’ll see on TV.
With crystal-clear water, clean waves and acres of white sand, it’s a surfer’s playground, and as an added bonus they’ll often see whales breaching on the horizon, eagles hunting above or dolphins sharing their waves.
As an island with north and east-facing beaches, no matter the weather conditions there’s usually a wave to ride. And forget about getting cold – the water temperature doesn’t drop below 19C in winter and rises to a tropical 27C in summer.
When you do get out there, be sure to take a good look around – you could be rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s best surfers, with big names such as Bede Durbidge and Ethan Ewing calling North Stradbroke Island home.
Bring your board and paddle out to one of the many breaks, or tick off one of your bucket list items and learn to surf with North Stradbroke Surf School on 3409 8342. Lessons start from $50.

Stradbroke Island surfing at Cylinder Beach

Fishing

Make sure to pack a fishing rod when heading to the island. Mangrove-fringed waters on the western side, spectacular stretches of beaches to the east, rocky headlands at Point Lookout and a deep channel within casting distance of the Amity jetty offer keen beach anglers plenty of choice year-round. Tailor, whiting, bream and flathead just some of the species you could find at the end of your line.
There are two public boat ramps on the island which provide access to amazing reefs, sand banks, holes and secret spots. Some of the best offshore fishing in south-east Queensland can be found on Straddie and angler can also catch snapper, jewfish, parrotfish, tuna, sweetlip and mackerel, among plenty of others.
We owe countless dinners to our neighbor who shares the spoils of a day’s fishing with us – prawns, snapper and plenty of other ocean goodies passed over the back fence. The taste can’t be described.
Experienced fishermen should have no trouble bringing home a fresh-caught dinner, or you can head out with professionals Mal Starkey’s Fishing Tours on 3409 8353 or 0407 376 091. A day’s fishing starts from $250 (a minimum of six people is required).

Stradbroke Island fishing off Adder Rock

Walking

To fully immerse yourself in North Stradbroke Island’s spectacular natural environment, head off on one of the many walking tracks that crisscross the island. There is a walk for every fitness level – from short, easy boardwalk strolls and relaxing beach ambles to longer moderate hikes, as well as the chance to scramble up rocky outcrops for stunning views.
I love hiking and there’s always a new walk to discover. There is nothing better and more peaceful than getting back to nature and being among the trees.
A must-do is the renowned 1.5km gentle Gorge Walk, which winds along the Point Lookout headland and showcases the rugged, untouched island landscape. You’ll see kangaroos eating dinner perched on the clifftops, koalas sleeping in gums and turtles coming up for air.
Half of the island is gazetted as national park and offers treks through lush rainforest, native bushland or past stunning ocean views and world-class scenery. There’s an easy 5.2km return walk to Blue Lake (Karboora in the local language) and a 6km return moderate lookout track offering views over the southern part of the island and Pacific Ocean through to the Gold Coast. You may be lucky enough to hear the call of the threatened Cooloola tree frog or spot a golden wallaby, which is only found on three of the bay islands.

Stradbroke Island family beach hiking

Camping

Imagine stringing up a hammock right beside your tent and overlooking the ocean, sipping a beer or glass of wine with your special someone and looking up every now and then to admire the spectacular view – all without another person in sight. It can be more than just a dream at one of the many bush camping spots along the extended stretches of island beaches. Pack up your car and unwind with the sights and sound of nature, the stress-free joy of simple living and sand between your toes.
There are plenty of camping options – from family-friendly camp grounds with all the mod-cons in one of the townships to a more adventurous escape with a 4WD beach drive along either Main or Flinders beach. Here, you can bring your dog with you and also have a fire (depending on restrictions)
Nothing beats sitting around a fire with your mates – and your dog – watching the sun go down and waiting for your freshly caught fish to cook on the coals.
Even though we live just 10 minutes down the road, my husband and I, along with our dog, can often be found at our favourite camping spot, watching the waves roll in and feeling like we’re the last two people on Earth.
To book your campsite or a 4WD beach-driving permit contact Straddie Camping on 3409 9668. Campsite prices start from $18.85 per night.

Beach camping with dog

Whale Watching

Have you ever seen a 16m, 3.5 tonne humpback whale launch itself out of the water? It’s a sight to see and something you’ll never forget. If that wasn’t enough, you may also spot a calf following its mother’s effort with a little breach of its own. It is truly is one of life’s ‘wow’ moments.
Straddie is well-known as one of the best land-based whale-watching sites in the world. It is the ideal spot to see these majestic creatures on their annual migration between Antarctica to their calving grounds in the southern Great Barrier Reef and back down the coast again, with their calf in tow, right past the eastern-most tip of Australia.
From May to November, find yourself a perch at one of the many vantage points along the headland at Point Lookout (bring some binoculars if you want to get an even closer look) and settle in for an extraordinary show.
See them in all of their glory yourself or contact marine biologist Dr Olaf Meynecke, who runs guided walking tours.

Sunsetting

Ask anyone on North Stradbroke Island about their favourite place to watch the sunset and you’re unlikely to be given the same spot twice. There’s so many places to watch that magical moment of the day that you may have to extend your stay to try a few different ones.
Amity Point offers a perfect vantage point, with fishermen casting off the rocks, pelicans perched on pylons and dolphins cruising the waters as the sun sets over the ocean. The Flinders Beach side of Adder Rock is also a favourite, with surfers catching their final waves as the last of the day’s rays stream up the long stretch of beach. Or you may prefer One Mile Beach, where anchored boats are silhouetted by the setting sun.
There’s never a bad sunset on a paradise island. It is one of the things I love best about life on Straddie.
‘Sunsetting’ has become an art form practised by the island’s residents. It can be as simple as relaxing quietly by yourself to enjoy nature’s show or catching up with a group of mates and making the most of the moment. Essentials for such events include a basket stocked with a blanket to sit on, a bucket of fresh local prawns and glasses for the mandatory bottle of champagne to share with your fellow sun worshippers.

Fire, wine and nibblies on Adder Headland

stradbroke island caravan renovations

Backyard Caravan | Amity Point Renovation

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At sometime during the 40 plus box trailer loads of plant matter that we pulled out of this incredibly over grown property we discovered a caravan hidden in the backyard.

Yeah, ok, this is not totally true, of course we knew there was a caravan in the backyard when we bought the house, we just couldn’t get to it. It was hidden behind years and years of overgrown plants.

stradbroke island caravan renovations

Pretty much as soon as we moved in, our new next door neighbour said to us that if we wanted to removed it, we needed to do it asap as they were building a deck and we wouldn’t be able to get it out, through their property after then, we were too busy to even think about it, the window passed and we just left it there.

So it wasn’t until months after moving in that we managed to clear a way to the front door and take our first steps in there – I do have Before photos somewhere in the archives, I just can’t find them, I will add when I do.

Oh man, what a mess.

Such a mess, it was full of junk and stuff and with evidence of animal habitation. It also had not a great vibe, stuff had happened in there. But it was dry and through the grime and dust I could see the potential (when no-one else could) Stu was all “We should have gotten rid of it when we had the chance” And I was all like “Don’t listen to him Caravan”

We were no where near being in a position to look at it so we filled it full of deep storage and sealed it up.

Fast forward a year (or so) and the time was right, we had almost finished the house and little bits were getting done to the backyard, so we pulled on our demolition shoes, and face masks, cranked up the podcast (S-Town got us through this) and started to tackle it. Before too long there was rubbish all over the backyard, and what rubbish, personal papers that we had no business being in possession of, some crazy medication that they don’t even make anymore, years of junk including smelly mattresses and three old school TV’s (what, why?) Everything went to the tip.

We then pulled out the old kitchen and blocked off the electrics, gas and whatever else we needed to, fixed up what we could, and then cleaned til we could clean no more, then we cleaned a little bit more. Bought a new mattress (special size… of course) put in some shelving, laid flooring, made and hung curtains and painted, inside and out.

Several podcasts, beers, weeks and swear words later we had a beaut little caravan sitting in our backyard.

It isn’t perfect, but we love it.

And so, it seems does our AirBnB guests.

We put that baby straight onto AirBnB and before too long it was filled with all sorts of interesting people from all over the world wanting somewhere a little different to stay, I’d say that is one freakin’ success story.

After shot Claytons Rd beach house renovations

Our Kitchen | Amity Point shack renovation

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People always comment on our kitchen renovation, good comments, comments that make me feel all warm inside, and I accept that praise because I really love our kitchen as well.

It represents months (more like years) of planning, imagination and really freakin’ hard work.

As we were going through the process I would look at the space where I know the kitchen would be  and think that we were never, ever going to get there, or as we sat on the deck cooking our dinner with an electric fry pan (while camping on the front lawn, yes we did) and feel as though we were were the biggest losers alive. But eventually it actually happened

This is a Before and After photo of the space

We had decided pretty early on that the location of the kitchen, as it was when we moved into the house, wasn’t suitable and we were more then a little weirded out that you walked through the front door and straight into the kitchen, so we relocated it and built in a totally new (well new for us) kitchen.

We pretty much did all of the work ourselves, except we did need to get professionals in so, as a typical self renovator, we were looking at whatever ways we could to save on money. And we got pretty good at recycling things. So much of the house is something that started life as something else.

Anyway, we ended up doing this kitchen build for less then $4500 (yes, you read that right)

After shot Claytons Rd beach house renovations

I know, we did pretty well with it hey.

Here is a bit of a breakdown, so you can see where we spent the money.

After shot Claytons Rd beach house renovations

1.Kitchen bought through Gumtree from a house in Rosalie, Brisbane, where the guy was selling it because he was getting a new one installed. It came with the Ilve oven for $1000, we sanded back the cupboards, painted them and then reconfigured the kitchen to suit the space (there were cupboards left over so we used them for the outside laundry) the cool blue patterned ceramic handles came with the kitchen. including the ferry trip, paint, sandpaper etc. total $1,300.

2. Backboards these are which what was the bench tops of the Gumtree kitchen and just sanded back and painted. $0

3. Benchtop just an ordinary timber slab from Bunnings. including varnish. $265

4. Shelving shiplap taken off the wall we removed from the now kitchen, brackets from Bunnings. $4 each. total $16

5. Butler’s Sink from Ikea and hardware came with the Gumtree kitchen. $249

6. Dishwasher bought from Harvey Norman. About $800.

7. Art

  1. Heather Brown print bought from Hawaii on 20?? visit. $20
  2. Jenny Truman art bought for Stu as a wedding anniversary present. hmmm about $130
  3. Our Photo image of storm on Toompany beach. You can buy your own piece of Straddie and have it delivered right to your front door here.

8. Curtain from Ikea $40 and rod and rail $18. Lace curtain from garage sale around the corner. $2. total $60

9. Veggie Rack Old homemade drying rack salvaged from out in one of the back sheds, can only image it was used for drying fish on and made from house cut offs.

10. Crockery found in many an op shop around the place, except for the strainer – which came with the house. between 50c and $2. total $15

11. Light fitting fish catcher from Vietnam. $3

12. Our book Eat, Drink and Be Straddie. available in some awesome local shops as well as online here $50

13. Floor local island timber boards lovingly restored by Stu

14. Window replaced a lower sitting (ugly) aluminium window with this beautiful reclaimed timber window. $300

15. Electricity/Plumbing one of the jobs we did not do ourselves, instead we have had a couple of different qualified local electricians come in and do the job I guess for the kitchen stuff it would have come to about – electrician $400, plumber $600. We also had an engineer and a builder come in to help us with the building of a steel beam to hold up the roof after we knocked down a wall – I haven’t included this in the price of the kitchen.

Also, not seen in this photo (but you can see in the top image) is the fridge that I covered our old fridge with adhesive tiling. $60.

Plus, I would add on a bit for misc. nails, screws, etc. $150

So I think that comes to a grand total of $4418.

I will pat us both on the back for that effort.

 

 

After photo of our little renovated beach shack in Amity

Our home’s history | Amity Point beach shack renovations

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Let me tell you a little bit about the history of this house.

Situated on Claytons Road, in Amity, on about 600sqm

It was built in 1959 by the owner – Col Bennet and his builder mate, it is made from the materials of their first house which was located on Kindara Street, right on the water, and when erosion threatened eventually succumbing – with Amity loosing three streets and a racetrack – whaaat, I know right!

There is now a long rock wall as a deterrent for the erosion, however it is slowly but surely creeping – Somewhere out there is is a forgotten racetrack.

Amity Point boat ramp foreshore

It is based on the design of Col’s builder mate’s house, so our house has a cousin house in Amity somewhere which is pretty cool, (I have walked the streets looking for it but so far no luck, so if anyone know’s of the house which was called ‘Dun Workin’ then let me know)

The timber inside has been milled from island timber, just around the corner at the local Amity timber mill, is that not just the coolest thing, some of the timber in the house is so old and hard, it’s better then the steel post they put in to hold up the roof)

This is the dining room and looking back into the living area. We kept the natural look for some of the local timber walls, I love it. You can see in the After shot where we removed a wall to put in the new kitchen. We kept the timber shiplap (actually we kept most things to reuse later) and it has popped up all over the house – mainly lots of shelving)

As time went on and Col and his wife Dot’s family grew they expanded and changed things, putting a caravan in the backyard for Dot’s mum (that we now have restored to use as an AirBnB) upgrading from the cold, backyard shower out of a drum run by a 100 stroke power as well as the outside ‘dunny’, and the little tin smokehouse where Col would smoke his mullet is still there… not sure what I am going to do with that yet.

By the time we moved in, it hadn’t really been lived in for the previous two years and it was full of their furniture and stuff, the gardens were twenty years of overgrown greenery – they look really good in the photos but don’t be fooled, those are bromiliads and they are a personal spa bath for a mosquito. And it all had to go, so after a couple of garage sales, many trips to the op. shop, Straddie Buy and Sell, And 40plus box trailer loads to the dump here on the island and a few times over town, many, many hours (and no doubt, some tears) we cleared the lot.

Stu taking up some carpet… and vinyl… and timber chipboard

We’ve pulled up the carpets and vinyl, replaced broken boards, sanded, varnished the floorboards (and uncovered some pretty incredible timber floors) knocked down walls (and found a cement shower in the cupboard, whaat!) moved and built-in a new kitchen, re-stumped the side of the house, built a fence, painted everything, paved the backyard, built a laundry, put in a sub floor and floorboards and built in the mudroom restored louvres, replaced the kitchen window, patched the roof, chopped down a tree that was growing out of an old watertank, redecorated bathroom, restored furniture, built storage… pfew

The bedroom that we use as our main room.

This is the spare guest room

So it is safe to say that for those couple of years, restoring this house was a full time job, whenever we weren’t working on our business or writing our book, we were renovating (a couple of times we were forced to move out into our camper trailer on the front lawn, so yep, that was us making our dinner on the front deck)

At times we thought we were never going to finish – and in all honesty, we aren’t finished (I know you hear this all the time from people who are doing the same) but it is true, you are never really finished when you renovate an old house, but for now it is finished enough.

So lets do some other shit now.

After shot od Amity point beach shack renovations

Finding the one | Amity Point beach shack renovations

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Everyone loves a Before and After shoot.

After so many months of looking for a house to buy, we were on our way to photograph another house and spontaneously stopped off at little, beach shack in Amity, that had been on the market for a while.

As soon as I walked through the front door (after fighting my way through the junglesque garden) I knew that we had found it, this was the one.

And thank Christ as well, it certainly wasn’t before time, the whole process had become very frustrating, all those offers, rejections, bank visits, the usual headaches of househunting.

Plus we hadn’t done the ‘in between’ houses very well (or maybe we did it perfectly – it depends how you look at it) but we had finished the lease on another house at Point Lookout and decided not to sign another one, we would just wing while looking to buy.

So this found us living a bit of a nomadic life, staying at the backpackers, one of the local resorts, a month here and there campervanning and snowboarding around New Zealand (now that part of the plan was pretty good) and ending up camping on Flinders Beach while we waited it out, which, luckily for us we all (Chester included) love camping, but we were still busy working as well, and it was coming into winter and it rained a lot that year, so I was pretty excited to have an end date to the rough living.

After so long searching for ‘the one’ you begin to think that it is never going to happen, but then suddenly there it was, the place we were going to call home, it was standing in front of us and crazily it ticked every box; Timber floorboards (under all that vinyl and carpet), on a main road, close to the beach (we have beach glimpses from the deck), character (oh it has that in droves) a real fixer-upper and it was in our price range – on the market for $380,000

These are some photos that I took on that first day

 

We were out front of the property chatting to the real estate agent Chris Ransley when we heard that another house we had put an offer on, had fallen through. So I think in our heads, we practically backed up the Navara and moved in right there, so we placed an offer – $340,000.

The next day we received the signed counter-offer of $350,000.

Yep, ok, we’ll take it.

So that is how we found ourselves standing out the front of our rundown, overgrown, slightly wonky, little bit leaky new abode, swiping away the massive, hungry mosquitoes, contemplating the massive undertaking of renovating it.

“Hold my beer – we will have this done within the year”

hahahahahahahaha – oh how today we laugh.

Over two years later, finally we have broken it’s back and I can see the end, this little deserted, rundown house has once again been filled with love (and white paint!) I know you love a good Before and After (who doesn’t)

So here is the uh… landing/entrance hall. Just as you walk in and just where I was standing when I knew that this is where I was going to live.

The first photo was taken on the day that we moved in, they left it full of furniture and also all of our ‘moving in’ stuff is there.

The second one is our place now.

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Brooke and Steve | first look | Stradbroke Island wedding

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We really do love a first look meet up before the ceremony.

The makeup and hair is still perfect, dresses fresh, and it really is such an intimate and lovely moment between soon to be husband and soon to be wife, plus it allows you much more time at the paaaarty reception.

Brooke and Steve did so many things right for their wedding, the first look, Australian native bouquets (I love them), mismatched white bridesmaids dresses, ceremony in amazing South Gorge, which seems to funnel that beautiful afternoon right into it and also just a short walk from the amazing tipi Reception on the headland… I know whaaaat.

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