Summer Storms, Legless Lizards & Sudden Sinkholes

Possibly the most geologically unstable destination in the country, disguised as Paradise, Straddie sure knows how to keep you on your toes!

Our trip began when we boarded the ferry from Cleveland for the 45min trip across to North Stradbroke Island where we were greeted by a huge summer storm… great, nothing like a mini-monsoon to kick off a camping trip.

Not to be deterred, we made our way approximately 7km down Main Beach to the campground. Campsite bookings are required to control numbers, but with 15km of camping to choose from we were confident of finding our own little slice of Paradise.

 

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The beauty of Queensland summer storms is they often disappear just as quickly as they came – and that was certainly the case for us. Before we knew it the rain had stopped and we were able to set up camp in the dry. Beers all round as we settled in for the night and officially welcomed ourselves to our very own Straddie adventure.

You may not know this, but North and South Stradbroke Islands were once the same island – not the two separate ones we all know and love. A ship was wrecked at the sand spit joining the islands in 1894 and it’s believed that the retrieval attempt, combined with a southerly gale that swept through in 1896, caused the ocean to break through the spit – splitting the land mass into two separate islands. The channel between the two islands is now known as Jumpinpin and is a favourite with local fisherman.

You may have seen in the news that a sinkhole opened up in late 2015. It was located at Jumpinpin and proves that, even now, the formation of the island is far from complete – but nothing adds to a beach adventure like a little geological instability, eh? For our first full day on the island we decided the logical choice was to have a look around and the best way to do that was to jump in the 4X4s. Checking the tides, we made a run all the way up Main Beach to George Northling Drive which provides access to Point Lookout.

East Coast Road leads west from the town (funnily enough) to Flinders Beach. There are campgrounds at the Adder Rock (east) and Flinders (west) ends of the beach and vehicle access is permitted. Flinders Beach is the alternate ‘bush camping’ option to Main Beach. When we entered from the eastern end there was a small and shallow water crossing that had to be navigated. A nice slow approach saw everyone in our group ease through without a problem. There were a few 4WDs with bonnets up immediately after the crossing, which served as a reminder that even a shallow crossing can cause issues if you attempt it with too much speed.

Popping out onto Flinders Beach, the reason for the immense popularity of this spot becomes apparent. Gorgeous turquoise waters surround this well protected part of the coast. The waves are small and the water seems to be begging you to jump in for a swim. You could easily park up, as many people had done, and just relax the day away fishing or swimming. We couldn’t help ourselves and had to stop – at least for a while – in amongst our exploration day.

From Flinders Beach we enjoyed a brief stop at Myora Springs. This is a beaut little spring-fed creek that cascades over rocks before expanding into a wider creek and flowing into Moreton Bay. Leaving the springs and heading for camp, we had another stop-off at Brown Lake. It’s one of several perched lakes on Straddie that are formed when leaves and other organic material settle to the base of the lake and create an impermeable barrier. Don’t let the brown colour of the water put you off (it’s just tannins) as this is some of the purest fresh water you could ever hope to find, and a swim here on a warm day is a must.

An early morning visit to North Gorge Walk should be on your to-do list. The stunning scenery and Whale Rock blowhole were flat-out amazing. There’s so much to see and do on Straddie that doesn’t involve a vehicle.

If you’re still thirsting for a four-wheel drive adventure, check out Tripod Track. This internal sand track provides stunning views west over the sky-blue waters of Moreton Bay. Part-way down you will find a survey point called Tripod Lookout, which (at over 150m above sea level) is one of the highest points on the entire island and provides spectacular views in all directions.

During this short walk, we were extremely lucky to stumble across a Burton’s Legless Lizard sunning itself on the walking track. These creatures are notoriously shy and seeing one up close in the wild was a real treat.

Near the south end of Tripod Track, you will find the walking track to Blue Lake. Just wow! This is a seriously stunning blue (as the name suggests) lake. Do this walk. You will not regret it.

The most imposing 4X4 challenge on our list was saved for last – Fishermans Road. We had heard stories about this track swallowing vehicles and to say we were slightly apprehensive would be an understatement. It extends north from Tazi Road behind a massive area of wetlands and swamps. As a result the track is almost always wet; in fact no more than 50m in you will have to navigate your first muddy waterhole. Once through that one, you could be forgiven for wondering if you are driving a track or a river – because there are dozens more water crossings to go and they only get longer and deeper as the track progresses. Some are door-handle deep and almost 50m long. This is definitely snorkel territory and not a place for inexperienced drivers to go alone. If you are well equipped and are comfortable in low-range then this track is a really fun drive and should not present too many problems owing to the fact that the bottoms of most of the waterholes are firm… so steady momentum will generally get most vehicles through without issue.

The reward for completing Fishermans Road? A vast group of lakes known as The Keyholes. These lakes are perched lakes similar to Brown Lake; however, the difficulty in accessing them means you are almost guaranteed your own small piece of heaven all to yourself. We were there for hours and never heard or saw another person or vehicle.

Straddie offers numerous fishing opportunities for keen anglers – from the gutters of Main Beach to the rocky headlands around Point Lookout. On top of that there are organised activities available for the more adventurous including sea kayaking and sand boarding. There really is something for everyone at this place. And best of all, some of the real jewels in the Straddie crown are only accessible to four-wheel drivers. For a weekend getaway out of Brisbane, it’s hard to beat.

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