Thinking of making a day trip to North Stradbroke Island, or ‘Straddie’ as it is affectionately known by the locals? With it’s crystal clear waters, abundance of wildlife and one of the best mainland spots in the world to see the humpback whales migrating, this is a little slice of paradise just 30 kilometres south-east of Brisbane. Getting here needn’t be difficult or expensive, infact it is easy to enjoy North Stradbroke Island on a budget! Read on to find out all you need to know about how to have a great day trip at North Stradbroke Island!
North Stradbroke Island – one of the hidden gems in Australia has so far managed to hide itself from the tourist radar. And the locals liked it this way. But that’s all about to change. Places like this never stay a secret forever and Straddie has now made the decision to shift to relying completely on tourism after sand mining stopped at the end of 2019. And with good reason – this place is stunning!
About North Stradbroke Island
North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) is the world’s second largest sand island, after Fraser Island further north in Queensland.
It is home to a substantial amount of Aboriginal people known as the Quandamooka people, as well as many retired folk from the mainland. The locals are very friendly here and there is a nice laid-back atmosphere on the island.
Straddie is covered in beautiful white sand beaches and there are lots of coastal walks you can do, all of which offer fantastic views out to the ocean. You can also see lots of kangaroos just chilling on the grass! And don’t forget to look up – there’s lots of koalas in the trees too!
North Stradbroke Island is perfect for couple, families, groups of friends or solo travellers.
A trip to North Stradbroke Island is a very easy and affordable day trip to make from Brisbane. But many are under the illusion that this will be an expensive day out. I had previously thought so too, until I did some research and found out that the whole trip, transport included, can cost less than $40 if coming from Brisbane!
I did find it a little tricky to plan my day trip though as there wasn’t much information online, so I have put all the information you need to know here so you can plan your trip to Straddie stress-free!
How to get to North Stradbroke Island from Brisbane:
1. Public transport
Take the train from Brisbane (Central Station/Roma Street/South Bank) to Cleveland. It is a slow train that takes almost 1 hour from the centre of Brisbane and stops at all stations between Brisbane and Cleveland, where the train terminates. Click here to see the train timetable and all the stations the train stops at.
Check out the Google maps below, where I have marked the train route as it goes east of Brisbane, and you can check the nearest train station to where you will be staying. For example, if you are staying in East Brisbane, there is no need to go into the centre of Brisbane to take the train. Often you can get to one of the stations east of Brisbane, so you won’t be wasting time on unnecessary travel back and forth from the centre.
You can use a go-card/Translink on the train, just remember to tap in and tap out. Some zones in the train (usually the quiet carriages) have complimentary wifi to use (and it was really fast when I used it).
When you get to Cleveland station, as you exit you just need to turn right onto the main road, then walk to your right along Shore Street West (parallel to the train tracks). You’ll see a bus stop – wait here for the 258 bus, it should arrive in about 10 minutes as the buses always match up with the train times and depart fairly regularly. Tap in on the bus (but it is free), it takes you to the ferry point at Toondah Harbour in about 5 minutes. If you want to walk, it is about 25 minutes walk, but I would just advise you to take the bus so you don’t miss the ferry (as the ferry comes once an hour), plus you’ll be walking a lot on the island anyway!
The bus drops you off right at the passenger ferry terminal (click here for location on Google maps)..
2. If driving yourself
The ferry terminus in Cleveland is about a 30 minute drive from Brisbane along the Old Cleveland Road. There is plenty parking at the ferry terminus to park your car ($15 a day to park) or park for free on one of the nearby streets.
Or you can even bring your vehicle across with you on the vehicle ferry if you wish. Note there are two different types of ferry: a passenger ferry and a vehicle ferry. Taking a vehicle across does cost quite a lot though ($80 average one way, click here to see specific prices), so usually only camper vans do this. Even people who live on North Stradbroke Island tend to just leave a car on the mainland and one on Straddie so they don’t have to pay to take their vehicle across! If you are hiring a vehicle and plan to take it across on the ferry, check your insurance covers you to take it off the mainland.
If coming from the Gold Coast, drive north on Pacific Highway and take Cleveland Exit no. 30. It takes about 90 minutes to drive to Cleveland from The Gold Coast.
If using public transport, take the train from Surfers Paradise to Brisbane then follow the steps above. You can change at the Brisbane Transit Centre or at South Bank.
If coming from the Sunshine Coast, head south on Gateway Motorway. You’ll go across the Gateway Toll Bridge (fares apply – you have 3 days to pay). Get off at exit 97 and turn left onto Old Cleveland Road.
Ferry to North Stradbroke Island
There are also two different passenger ferry companies but it doesn’t matter which ferry you get on. There is no need to buy a ticket beforehand, just board the ferry and the ticket person will come around once the ferry starts moving so you can purchase your ticket.
You can buy a single or return ticket. A return ticket costs $16 for adults, $14 for students, $10 for children and $8 for seniors. If you buy a return ticket you must make sure to take the same ferry back again so take a note of the company and ask the ticket person which is the pier you will get off at on North Stradbroke Island. If this will be too complicated, just buy a single then it doesn’t matter which jetty you get to on the way back as you’ll just buy a new ticket!
Dogs are permitted on the ferry so long as they have a muzzle and lead. Bicycles are also permitted.
The ferry is enclosed but it is a pleasant ride with nice views. There is a little kiosk onboard and a toilet too. The passenger ferry timetable is below, or you can also click here to view the ferry timetables online.
Flights to North Stradbroke Island
Note you cannot fly to North Stradbroke Island on a domestic flight. The nearest airport is Brisbane International, located 30km away on the mainland.
A couple of days after I visited Straddie I took a flight from Brisbane to New Zealand, in which we flew over North Stradbroke Island and the surrounding islands in Moreton Bay! And let me say wow, flying over here was incredible – look at these shots I took from the plane!
There are some experiences where you can go in a fighter plane and fly to Straddie this way, however it is very expensive ($500) so is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Definitely not your average way to reach North Stradbroke Island!
Here is a simplified map of North Stradbroke Island (I took this photo on the ferry timetable sign) and the ferry ride from Cleveland so you can plan your day trip. As you can see, the ferry arrives into Dunwich. Point Lookout is the most popular (and most beautiful) area to explore if you just have one day on North Stradbroke Island. If you have more time you can also visit Amity Point – a laid-back fishing town that is perfect for snorkelling and fishing.
Bus on North Stradbroke Island
Take the bus from the ferry terminal at Dunwich up to Point Lookout. The bus is $5 single, or $10 return (must return back on the same day) and it accepts cash ONLY! The bus times coincide with the ferry times so you’ll never have to be waiting long. As I mentioned before, there are two different passenger ferries and they arrive at different jettys on North Stradbroke Island. So pay attention to which jetty you are on: Junner Street (the first stop) or One Mile Jetty (second stop).
Be sure to know the time of the last bus (6.20pm!) and don’t miss it if you’re not staying overnight! Click here to view the North Stradbroke Island bus timetable.
The bus takes about half an hour (18km distance from Dunwich to Point Lookout) – get off at the last stop (Point Lookout). This is the most popular place on the island, although it won’t feel busy! There are 8 stops in total and the driver will call out each one.
If you want to visit Amity Point you can get off at the Interchange stop (driver will call it out) and change bus. See the map and below timetable for details.
When you arrive to Point Lookout (Mooloomba) you can do the North Gorge Walk – an easy walk less than 2km long that provides incredible views out to the Pacific Ocean. However before you do the North Gorge Walk there are 2 places very close by that are definitely worth a stop off: one to see kangaroos (hopefully!) and one to see a gorgeous secluded beach!
Just as you get off the bus at Point Lookout though (the final stop – click here to see it’s location on Google maps), you’ll see a park infront of you called Headland Park before you start the North Gorge Walk.
Quite often there are kangaroos here so keep an eye out for them! The kangaroos seem pretty tame here, but don’t approach one if they have a baby joey in their pouch! I didn’t see people feeding any, but you can get a few metres away from them to get a picture and they won’t get scared.
South Gorge Beach
If you go across the park, you’ll see some stairs you can go down. Follow the path and you’ll end up at South Gorge Beach (click here to see the location on Google maps). – a gorgeous secluded beach.
However please note this beach is NOT patrolled and the currents and rips here can get pretty strong! Swimming is not advised as you can get pulled out to sea very easily and the waves crash against the rocks very hard. As this beach is very secluded, if you come into trouble there might not be anyone to save you. Instead, just enjoy the view from the headland and then head back on the path you came. There will be more beaches to swim at later on during the day!
North Gorge Walk
The North Gorge Walk is a popular walk with not only tourists but with locals too. You’ll see several people on this walk but it will never feel busy or crowded and there are plenty places to stop off.
The migration path of the humpback whales goes very close to Point Lookout. Infact here on the Gorge Walk is the closest point on Australian land that you will get to these humpback whales. Not only that but here is actually one of the best places for land-based whale watching on the planet! From June to November is when the humpback whales make their annual migration, so make sure to stop and watch them if you’re here during this time! Look out for the silver sign that shows you the best place to spot them. Often you can also see turtles, manta rays and dolphins too!
If you do want to get even closer to the whales you can do a boat trip (not from here though). Popular places in Queensland are from Mooloolaba and Hervey Bay – 3 hours drive north. Click here to read about my incredible up-close experience with the humpback whales in Hervey Bay!
At the end of the North Gorge Walk you may bump into some more kangaroos again like I did! That takes you to the end of the walk – it is an easy walk and can be completed in as little as half an hour if you don’t stop off at all!
As you can see in the picture below, the path is well marked out and suitable for people with reduced mobility.
Even though the North Gorge Walk is finished, carry along on the road to your right and enjoy the views down to Frenchman’s Bay (see below left). You’ll then see a little walkway (with a blue sign saying ‘walkway to beach’) that will bring you to Frenchman’s Beach.
Frenchman’s Bay is a beautiful beach but do NOT swim here. Like South Gorge Beach it is not supervised and it is hard for emergency services to access in case of an emergency. There are powerful dumping waves, under tow currents and strong rips pulling you out to sea which have previously resulted in serious injury and death.
It is really important when in Australia to always obey the signs displaying the beach report and swimming conditions (see below left). Only swim at patrolled beaches where the red and yellow flags are displayed. And always swim between the flags. Also keep an eye out for jellyfish as there were several washed on the beach when I visited!
Walk along Frenchman’s Beach and it will bring you to Deadman’s Bay and the rock pools here. Continue for another couple of minutes and it will bring you to Cylinder Beach.
Finally – somewhere you can swim! Enjoy time on Cylinder beach and Home Beach – the next beach along. The beach is large enough that it is very easy to get parts to yourself. Note you can bring dogs on the beach here off leash.
There are several cafes and restaurants to stop and have some food in along the way, as well as weekend markets. Just behind Cylinder Beach is a restaurant Manta Ray that has a chilled atmosphere.
If you have longer than one day on North Stradbroke Island check out these options:
You can visit the North Stradbroke Island Heritage Museum at Dunwich to learn all about the history of the island. Open 10-2 Tuesday – Saturday, and 11-3 on Sundays (closed Mondays).
Visit Amity Point to go snorkelling.
Driving on North Stradbroke Island
If you have your own transport (or want a taxi) you can explore more of the island: there are some incredible lakes on the island such as the Brown Lake (Bummel). The roads are good on the island so a 4WD is not necessary, unlike on Fraser Island and Moreton Island where you must have a 4WD. This therefore makes Straddie the easiest and cheapest of the 3 sand islands to explore alone. Be careful when driving, especially at sunset/sunrise as there are many native animals here.
Accommodation on North Stradbroke Island
Accommodation here on Straddie is quite pricey. There are several holiday units and rental homes you can rent: click here to see the Minjerribah camping options on the website.
If you want to camp it will certainly make things cheaper! There is the Home Beach Camping Ground just off Cylinder Beach where you can camp. It is right next to the beach and there is also the bus stop right opposite.
For the official website of Stradbroke Island click here.
To take the bus back:
Instead of walking all the way back to the bus stop you got off at, you can get on the bus here at Home Beach. The bus stop is by the turning in for ‘Cellarbrations’ bottle shop – see picture below to see how it looks. I have marked the bus stop on Google maps here.
Please make sure you know the time of the last bus! Also make sure you know which stop to get off at to get your ferry: Junner Street or One Mile Jetty (explained more below).
Taking the ferry back to the mainland
As mentioned earlier there are two different passenger ferries and two different piers so make sure you get on the right one if you have bought a return ticket. Harold Walker Jetty at Junner Street is the furthest one (for Sealink and Stradbroke Ferries companies) and One Mile Jetty is the closest one. The jettys are one mile apart and if you miss your stop the bus will not take you back! See the map below (taken from maps.me) to see the distance between the two jettys.
Also make sure you know the time of the last ferry! Although luckily both companies leave at the same time.
When you get back to the mainland wait at the same bus stop and the bus to take you back to Cleveland Train Station should arrive within 10 minutes. The train back to Brisbane will be in the direction of Shorncliffe.
Straddie makes a perfect day trip from Brisbane, and seeing as you’ll probably be spending time in Brisbane too, be sure to check out my Brisbane itinerary!
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