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Affordable activities for the whole family

Christine Retschlag

American singer Paul Simon is crooning his Mother and Child Reunion from the front speakers and it's a fitting tune for this new South Stradbroke Island business where family is everything. Gold Coast marketing man Tony Ward launched Stradbroke Island Adventures a year ago, and on this sunny Straddie day it's Tony and his son Liam behind the wheel of the 4WD. You're likely to meet mum Lizzie, daughter Ellie, big brother Connor and even family friend Kenny along the way on this tour which is designed to showcase why the Wards have called South Stradbroke home for the past decade.

This is a journey of pie-eyed oyster catchers, curlews and mud crabs which starts at the Runaway Bay Marina in a small boat and ends 15 minutes later on the white sands of Straddie. You'll pull up at the home of a family friend, jump into a sandy 4WD and explore this island which is so close to the northern Gold Coast…yet worlds away.

There's 22km of beach to explore here – travel north to Jumpinpin or south to the Gold Coast Seaway - home to pods of dolphins, nesting turtles, soaring eagles and an Aboriginal midden dating back 10,000 years. On this tour, it's like catching up with old friends and in essence, you choose your own adventure whether it's swimming along the unpopulated shores, catching a wave, riding a beach bike with chunky tyres, tobogganing down the sandy slopes or having a picnic in the shade. There's also Stand-Up Paddle Boards, kayaking and fishing on offer here. Tony will even share his secrets on where he catches mud crabs and by appointment, you can order a muddie or two in advance for lunch. And if you love Straddie as much as the Wards, you can even arrange to have accommodation thrown into your tour package and live like a local for a night or two. Best of all, the Wards not only deliver an affordable product, but an ethical one with the pristine environment in which they live their primary concern.

Affordable and ethical is a mantra being repeated right along the Gold Coast whether it's hiring Stand-Up Paddle Boards and kayaks and plying the cool, calm waters of Currumbin and Tallebudgera Creeks, or paddling among the rock pools in the Currumbin Valley or at Snapper Rocks where the foam bursts over the sea wall with a ferocious roar.

For absolute waterfront accommodation without the expensive price tag, head to Tallebudgera Creek Tourist Park which is perched on this popular watering hole. Here, you can choose from anything from a one-man tent site to a luxury waterfront villa from more than 380 various sites on offer. This is not so much a tourist park but a small village with roads boasting names such as Beach Parade and Creek Avenue. Warratah, Wattle, Bluegum, Boronia and Banskia Avenues all pay homage to this all Australian family holiday scenario replete with three pools, Stand-Up Paddle Board and kayak hire, a games room, laundry, BBQ and tennis court. Join the seagulls on the sandy beach of Tallebudgera Creek and watch the low tide as it reveals the oysters on the rocks. Watch the parades of local school kids explore her shores and toss in a line and discover for yourself while Tallebudgera means “good fish”.

Burleigh National Park is within spitting distance of this park and its two walks – 1.2km one way or 2.3km return - are family friendly and fun as you hug the coastline around Burleigh Heads. There's also numerous markets for the family to explore whether it's the bustling Gold Coast Farmers Markets at Burleigh Heads on a Saturday morning, or the Sanctuary Markets outside the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on a Friday night which showcase all the international flavours and flair for which the Gold Coast is renowned.

Sometimes the trademarks of a fun family holiday are the simple things in life. If good old-fashioned fish and chips are more your thing, head to Point Danger where Café D'Bar boasts pole position over the Pacific Ocean below. For less than $20 you can feast on a fresh snapper burger and home-made juice with million-dollar views and for even less, you can have fish and chips for takeaway on the hill. Stand on the Captain Cook Memorial Light House where the Queensland and New South Wales borders meet, and plant one foot in each state. From here you can also experience the best free theatre of all - the surfers off of Duranbah on any day the swell is pounding.

During whale season, Point Danger is one of the best vantage points on the coast from which to watch the humpbacks make their languid journey north to have their calves before heading south again. That's a Mother and Child reunion that Paul Simon would most certainly like to sing about.

Christine Retschlag


Christine Retschlag is an award-winning Australian journalist who has worked in newspapers, magazines and online for the past 25 years in Australia, Hong Kong, London and Singapore. In 2006, she won the Australian Travel Writer of the Year award for Best Trade Story as well as the Jack Butters Memorial Award for Travel Writing Excellence. In 2007 she won Best Australian Story over 1000 words and in 2014 won Best Food Travel Story. She is also the author and architect of the successful travel blog: The Global Goddess.

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