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4WD beach-driving and camping adventure on North Stradbroke Island, Qld

  • By Bruce McMahon
  • 3 July 2018
  • 12 min read
  • 2 Two day trip
    It's one of Queensland's least hidden treasures but North Stradbroke Island is still one of the Sunshine State's greatest island getaways.
  • Medium
    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.
  • 2 Two day trip
    It's one of Queensland's least hidden treasures but North Stradbroke Island is still one of the Sunshine State's greatest island getaways.
  • Medium
    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

Just a short ferry ride from outside Brisbane, this is the world's second largest sand island after the famed Fraser Island further north. And while it can be a busy summer holiday spot with tonnes of reasons to visit, this long and skinny North Stradbroke forever retains a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.

It's all about traditional getaways over here on Straddle – a bit old-school, fish-and-chips by the seaside, in many respects.

There's camping, fishing, swimming, surfing and beach driving. There are whales to be watched between May and November. Turtles and dolphins to spot splashing about close by in blue waters while kangaroos and koalas meander through the island's bushlands. Manta Rays and Dugongs hang out here too.

Straddie offers a traditional getaway, with camping, fishing, swimming, surfing and beach driving. Straddie offers a traditional getaway, with camping, fishing, swimming, surfing and beach driving.

Straddie offers a range of accommodation options, from beachside camping out under canvas or caravan roof to upmarket holiday homes. Once traditional territory for the Quandamooka people, today there are three main settlements, more like small villages, including Dunwich, Amity Point and Point Lookout (the most easterly part of Queensland) for food, fuel and supplies. Eating and drinking spots, including the famed Point Lookout pub, are scattered over the top half of the island that's roughly 40 kilometre long and 11 kilometres wide.

So it's off to Adventure Island for a weekend, hanging about in a camp by the beach with a quiet cold drink when not off exploring the sands of Straddie in the four-wheel drive.

Time to tidy up the Triton and head for the ferry.

Brisbane to Cleveland to North Stradbroke Island

Stradbroke Ferries vehicular ferry leaves from Cleveland, about 45-50 minutes east of Brisbane's CBD. Stradbroke Ferries vehicular ferry leaves from Cleveland, about 45-50 minutes east of Brisbane's CBD.

Stradbroke Ferries vehicular ferry leaves from Cleveland, about 45-50 minutes east of Brisbane's CBD, bound for Straddie from 5.30am.

Early morning runs are often busy with tradesfolk heading over for a day's work on the island but ferry staff – from ticket collector to on-board barista and crew are a cheerful lot from sun-up. The Triton is waved aboard, parked and then it's upstairs to a flat white coffee and maybe something light for breakfast.

The trip to Dunwich across a calm and sparkling Moreton Bay takes about 50 minutes. Roll off at Dunwich and it's straight to the Minjerribah Camping office – just to the left as you come off the ferry – for a $45 annual four-wheel drive permit which, even if you're not looking at beach drives, may be needed to access some camping spots.

From Dunwich we head north on bitumen along the East Coast Road. It's 11.5km to the left turn to Amity, then another 5km to the tidy township on the north-east, guarded by ever vigilant pelicans looking west to the Brisbane city skyline.

Double-check your fuel here, double-check the tide times and then it's about 2km, straight on through Amity, for access to Flinders Beach.

Sand-driving along Flinders Beach

The north-facing Flinders Beach rewards the explorer with a dozen primitive camp spots among the shelter of whispering casuarina trees. The north-facing Flinders Beach rewards the explorer with a dozen primitive camp spots among the shelter of whispering casuarina trees.

Today, with a light load on the Triton, we've opted to drop tyre pressures to 20psi (138kPa) and see how we go. This will save mucking around with re-inflation for the few kays of island tar between our sand-drive expeditions.

So it's into 4H (4WD high-range), turn traction control off, and head for the beach, governed here by a 40km/h sign.

It can be a wide tract of beach at this point, plus the sand today's a little looser than it looks, but the Triton plugs on down to the hard-packed run at the water's edge to turn right (turn to the west and you could run into ocean waves pretty soon).

Flinders Beach, even with about three hours to high tide, is an easy run. Remembering that momentum is best in sand – while remembering the 40km/h limit – and sharp and sudden stops, or sharp and sudden turns, are not recommended.

It's about 4km along here, all easy to moderate four-wheel driving in high range but take care of fisherfolk and kids and dogs and a couple of washouts where small creeks head down the beach.

Flinders Beach, even with about three hours to high tide, is an easy run. Flinders Beach, even with about three hours to high tide, is an easy run.

The eastern end of Flinders can throw up some slow-down, whoop-de-dos while a rising tide may stop you from exiting the beach at Adder Rock.

But this north-facing Flinders Beach rewards the explorer with a dozen primitive camp spots among the shelter of whispering casuarina trees. Not much has changed here in four decades, aside from newer ablution blocks, and it's an all-year round haven for campers and vanners alike; a well-kept Straddie secret by Brisbanites for some generations.

So, after a shortish day, it's just as easy to settle down and make camp here for the night. (Maybe wander down to the north-west tip of Straddie and look back to the lights of Brisbane.) There's plenty more to be seen and done tomorrow though remember to check those tide times – to both get off the beach and get back to camp – when planning the day.

Flinders Beach to Main Beach and back to Point Lookout

The road to Point Lookout is an easy to moderate track, although a bit lumpy in parts. The road to Point Lookout is an easy to moderate track, although a bit lumpy in parts.

So it's off Flinders Beach at the western exit at Amity and head back on Beehive Road for about 5km before hitting the East Coast Road and turning left to Point Lookout, 8km further on. That's the place for good coffee and breakfast at eateries such as French Ease – a top spot to be looking out over the Coral Sea and checking for whales in the season.

Or, if all fuelled up and ready for the day out, turn right at 6.5km from that Amity Point turn-off onto George Nothling Drive. About 3km on from the turn, the bitumen's disappeared and it's a turn right onto Main Beach.

This entry/exit point can be busy with traffic, and may be chopped-up and chewy, so take care and perhaps think about low range to push on to the shoreline.

For the most part, with a lowish tide, this is a magic piece of open, oceanside beach which can be handled in high range for 35km, all the way down to the southern tip of Straddie at Jumpinpin, a place much loved by fisherfolk.

At just under 10km south from the Main Beach entry at Point Lookout there's a beach exit to Alfred Martin Way, also signed as Tazi Road. This runs 13km west back to Dunwich and most of this is bitumen – a tad rough – but first there's another often sloppy and chopped-up exit to navigate if leaving the beach at this point.

Make sure to plan your drive ahead of time, and always check the tide times. Make sure to plan your drive ahead of time, and always check the tide times.

Or there's opportunity, with the right tide, to head further south down the beach for 7.5km to 15 foreshore campsites; there are no facilities here aside from hard-to-top ocean views. And maybe fresh fish for the barbecue?

Today, after an extended beach run, we've headed back to that exit at Alfred Martin Way, and clambered back to the harder surface. Then, looking for some more four-wheel driving, it's west for just over 2km before turning right onto the Tripod Track. This is a narrow track of sand and tree roots, part-hidden by Straddie scrub so the entry here can be hard to spot.

From this junction it's 11km north-west through the bush to rejoin the East Coast Road at a point almost opposite the turn-off to Amity Point.  This is an easy to moderate track, a bit lumpy in parts and remember it's a two-way thoroughfare, so take care on blind corners.

(Have a break about 7km along the Tripod Track – there's room to pull over here – and take in the sights across Moreton Bay to Brisbane and Redcliffe.)

From the end of this run, back on the bitumen, there's the chance to head back into Point Lookout for lunch or, depending on tides, head back to the Flinders Beach camp for a Straddie snooze before it's time for another round of sundowners.

North Stradbroke ferries leave from Emmett Drive at Cleveland on Moreton Bay, about 45-50 minutes east of Brisbane City headed for Dunwich on North Stradbroke from 5.30am and then on the hour from 7am through to 8pm; seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Bookings can be made online at www.stradbrokeferries.com.au where there are also timetables and contact details.

Prices can vary a little, expect to pay around $140 return for two adults in a vehicle under 5.4 metres long. You should be ready to roll at least 20 minutes before departure time.

There's coffee on board or at the café on the docks.

For four-wheel drive and camping permits on North Stradbroke, head to www.minjerribahcamping.com.au  for information and bookings. Island maps and other information – including bookings – can also be found at the Minjerribah Camping office, 1 Junner Street, Dunwich or call (07) 3409 9668.

There are offices too at Adder Rock, Amity Point and Cylinder Beach Camping Grounds.

Remember – beach rangers are not permitted to tow bogged vehicles; best to call the RACQ. Or not get bogged.

Even if you're not looking at beach drives, a four-wheel drive permit may be needed to access some camping spots. Even if you're not looking at beach drives, a four-wheel drive permit may be needed to access some camping spots.

Heading off to any beach there are a couple of essentials, after consulting tide times that is:

Don't overload the wagon.

Take a tyre gauge and drop tyre pressures to 18psi, lower if in trouble.

Carry a snatch strap and shovel; traction mats like MaxTrax are also handy.

Drive to conditions and road rules, obeying speed limits and keeping left. 

For more information on North Stradbroke Island 4WD and camping trips:
info@stradbrokeferries.com.au
www.stradbrokeholidays.com.au
www.minjerribahcamping.com.au

What's your favourite island getaway for a 4WD trip? Let us know in the comments below.

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