Brisbane's Islands

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If someone tells you they’ve booked a holiday on a Queensland island, you could be forgiven for assuming they’re heading for somewhere on the Great Barrier Reef. From the glamour of Hayman, to the rugged seclusion of Lizard, it’s home to a diverse collection of island paradises which are famous the world over - and for good reason. But the Sunshine State has a number of other islands, including two tucked away in its southeastern corner, and if you mention them in conversation to anyone but a local, you’re likely to receive a quizzical look along a response of “where’s that?”. North Stradbroke and Moreton Islands sit just off the coast east of Brisbane, and are small island paradises rich in natural beauty, while also boasting pristine beaches, balmy waters, and a lineup of interesting things to see and do. Both are suitable for adventurous day trips, or longer stays, possessing many of necessities many of us have come to demand on holidays, including romantic getaways, including accommodation options and places to eat.

Moreton Island

If you’re seeking a destination where you can go from beach bumming in the morning, to adrenaline charged action in the afternoon, and everything in between, it’s hard to beat Moreton Island. This is also one of the world’s largest sand islands, comprised almost entirely of National Park, and only an hour-and-a-half by boat from the mainland. At night, you can sit on the beach at Tangalooma with a cocktail or a cold beer, and watch Brisbane’s city lights twinkling in the distance. Nature lovers of land and water, and those in know, come here for many reasons. One is excellent fishing in the shallow waters off Moreton Island, and with mysterious wrecks and colourful coral reefs dotting the area, scuba diving and snorkelling are also on the agenda along with swimming and surfing. Moreton Island is a haven for marine life including bottle nose dolphins, green turtles, and the endangered and engaging dugong, which makes an afternoon eco-cruise of its sheltered bays both a popular as well as educational tour option. And if you want to get really up close and personal with wild dolphins, you can get into the water and feed them at sunset every night at Tangalooma Island Resort. If you prefer adventure on dry land, there are established tracks for bushwalking, and unsealed roads for exploring the island by 4WD. And towards the northern end of the island, the freshwater lake called Blue Lagoon is home to abundant bird life and wildflowers, especially during the spring months. For a unique experience, thrill seekers should put sand-tobogganing down Mt Tempest, the world’s tallest stabilised sand dune, on their list, while hour-long quad biking tours along the beach’s less hair-raising dunes are another option.

North Stradbroke Island

It’s a place with a reputation for having one of the most stunning landscapes in Queensland, and when it’s seen from the air North Stradbroke Island is pure sensory overload. Below you, white sand beaches are framed by rugged surf stretching to the horizon, while inland freshwater lakes reflect the sunlight. And from 350 metres in a helicopter, picnickers and swimmers can be seen at the water’s edge. Further inland and a puff of dust gives away the presence of a 4WD bumping along a bush track as it heads further and further away from civilisation. It’s a perfect introduction to “Straddie”, as the locals call it, giving a sense of scale to the world’s second largest sand island which sprawls 37 kilometres by 11 kilometres. At ground level Straddie is a somewhat laid-back place with genuinely friendly locals, and landing at Dunwich Airport by helicopter, the equally friendly local dogs turn out to greet you. Straddie itself is the ultimate outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise ticking all the right boxes; world class surfing, fishing, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, kite boarding, 4WD adventures, camping and wildlife spotting are all on offer. Some of the roads on the northern end of the island are sealed and link the three main townships, and accommodation ranges from camping to the luxury of the Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel, aka the old “Straddie Pub”. Now a newly refurbished and modernised establishment, the locals still turn out at night for its fabulous sunsets overlooking the ocean, and the welcoming cold beer. 

Joanna Hall