This peaceful, picturesque island is the Gold Coast’s best-kept secret. In fact, South Stradbroke Island is one of Queensland’s best secrets despite the fact it’s barely a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Main Beach.
You’ll always have a patch of paradise to yourself on South Straddie, as the locals know it. No cars, no crowds, no traffic… Just a sky full of stars, perhaps a crackling campfire and the soothing rhythm of waves lapping at the shore.
If you’re after some nature based chill time or crave space and solitude, this 1800-hectare conservation park is the spot. Even during busy periods, it’s common to get an entire stretch of beach to yourself. At the last census, there was a permanent population of just 41 people on the island.
On one side, South Stradbroke is fringed by the calm water of the Gold Coast Broadwater, the other is home to some of the region’s best surf spots – it’s also a spectacular location to go beach fishing. Straddie makes for a stunning day trip, but if you prefer to stay for a few days, accommodation options include camping, a resort and privately owned homes.
In the middle of the island you’ll find almost untouched native bushland – a mix of remnant Livistonia rainforest and melaleuca wetlands. The Indigenous Australians who lived here for 20, 000 years called this place Minjerribah, or Island In The Sun. In the wilder, uninhabited areas, the island doesn’t look too different now to how it must have been all those millennia ago.
HOW DO YOU GET THERE?
Travel to the South Stradbroke is exclusively by boat, but if you don’t have your own there are plenty of other options. Book a ferry from Mariner’s Cove at Main Beach or Runaway Bay, hire a boat, take a water taxi (there’s numerous departure points along the Gold Coast Waterway) or you may prefer to get there by jet ski or kayak.
Surfers keen for uncrowded waves often opt for a 300m paddle across the Seaway from The Spit in Main Beach. There’s always a sea plane if you’re feeling a little bit James Bond or the option to charter a private boat for up to eight people with Cruise Me Gold Coast. And Australian Kayaking Adventures offer half day tours, where you’ll paddle over with your guide, enjoying breakfast and a snorkel session with hundreds of sub-tropical fish on the way.
COURAN COVE ISLAND RESORT
If you’re looking for creature comforts, Couran Cove Resort is your best bet. It’s the Gold Coast’s only island resort and you can choose from one-bedroom studios to four-bedroom villas in a beautiful bushland setting, beside a peaceful lagoon.
Enjoy a gourmet meal overlooking the water at The Marlin Restaurant & Bar (the fish is as fresh as it gets), or visit the Sunset Beach Club for a cocktail or chilled glass of vino at the end of the day.
There are plenty of activities on offer at the resort from speed boat rides and jet ski excursions to learn-to-surf classes, fishing and 4WD tours. You might like to spend a few lazy hours floating in the man-made lagoon, or join the kids for some fun on SUP boards and kayaks. Or perhaps a few hours poolside is just what the doctor ordered?
CAMPING ON SOUTH STRADBROKE ISLAND
If camping’s more your style of sleep-over, there are three campgrounds to choose from – South Currigee, North Currigee and Tipplers. Take the tent because you can’t bring your caravan to Straddie. You can, however, sleep in self-contained cabins at two of the campgrounds (South Currigee and Tipplers), which makes things easier in terms of what you’ll need to bring with you.
To the south of the island, North and South Currigee campgrounds offer 80 tent sites, and are built around a protected inlet offering awesome water views from your tent. There are two-bedroom cabins that sleep up to six and huts that sleep four people available as well as amenities, BBQ areas and a playground.
At Tipplers Campground you’ll have a choice of self-contained cabins or waterfront campsites. The licenced café and kiosk provides great coffee, delicious food, live entertainment and perhaps one of the best spots on the Gold Coast for a sundowner.
The island is 21 kilometres long and 2.5 kilometres at its widest point so while Straddie isn’t big, there’s no shortage of things to do here. There are no cars on South Stradbroke – you get around on foot, bike or boat. If you’ve got the pedal power for it, hire a bike and check out as much of it as you can on bike trails that take you through the interior.
Surfers; you’re in for a treat! South Straddie is the best beach break on the whole Gold Coast. Chances are if you’ve seen a surf movie in the last 30 years featuring a secret Queensland surf location, it was here. And with kilometres of empty beach available, getting dropped in on won’t be an issue. Straddie is also a fisherman’s paradise. Fish off the beach, or head over to the calm estuary side and throw a line in from the jetty.
If you have access to your own boat (or someone else’s) then your fun is cut out for you. You can spend delightful hours exploring the surrounding bays and Broadwater. It goes without saying that any kind of floatational device – SUP, kayaks, canoes – will get a lot of use in this aquatic playground.
WILDLIFE, SAND & SUNSETS
South Straddie is one of Austalia’s rare sand islands, made up of active, shifting sand dunes, sculpted by the wind, waves and tides. Kids will have a ball climbing up them, jumping off them, rolling down them – just be sure send them for a swim to rinse off before you let them back inside!
Hikers can explore for days and wildlife enthusiasts will be in heaven. There are over 200 species of bird on the island – from big Brahminy kites and sea eagles roaming the thermals above, to kookaburras and tawny frogmouths in the treetops. You’ll also see dugongs and turtles in the waters around Straddie and humpback whales passing by between June and October. Bandicoots and echidnas and other furry mammals can be spied on land. And the island is also home to its very own wallaby – the Golden Swamp Wallaby. These cute marsupials are very curious and regular visitors to camp sites around the island.
And if all that isn’t enough, then take advantage of the fact that South Stradbroke is one of the few places on Australia’s east coast where you can enjoy both the sunrise and the sunset. Bring a cuppa for the early morning sky show on the east side of the island – it’s worth the early wake up. And have your sundowner ready at dusk as the day fades and the orange orb sinks behind Tamborine Mountain in the west. It’s usually in this moment when those lucky enough to be taking in this view from Straddie start thinking they never want to return to return to the mainland. And we don’t blame them!
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