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South Stradbroke Island, a natural wonderland only a stone's throw from the Gold Coast

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A sunny day on an empty beach at South Stradbroke Island in QLD

Guaranteed to get this to yourself

Over 21,000 years of history

South Stradbroke Island, or 'South Straddie' as it's affectionately known by locals, is a beautiful and natural wonderland located just offshore at the northern tip of the Gold Coast. It's a popular holiday destination for those wanting to escape the crowds of the Gold Coast or Brisbane and offers a range of camping, resort and privately owned accommodation options. The traditional landowners refer to the island as Minjerribah (or 'Island in the Sun'). The Quandamooka people were the first inhabitants of the Moreton Bay area and are comprised of a few main tribes - the Nunukul, the Goenpul and the Ngugi. Archaeologists have found evidence of an indigenous population living on Stradbroke Island for at least 21,000 years prior to white settlement, and when you're on the island you get a sense that the majority of it hasn't changed much over time. Interestingly, the local indigenous people used to make flour out of grinding roasted fern roots, and with the abundance of fruits and berries and everything else on the island it's easy to see why they were self-sufficient for thousands of years.

The Marina at Couran Cove Island Resort on South Stradbroke Island

The marina at Couran Cove Island Resort

How Stradbroke Island became two islands

South Stradbbroke Island today is around 21km long and around 2.5km at its widest point, but this was not always the case. Up until around 1898, South Stradbroke Island was actually part of one larger island and connected to what is today known as North Stradbroke Island. As the story goes, a ship carrying a cargo of rum ran aground during a heavy storm about halfway along Stradbroke Island. Due to its value, locals rushed over to the island to salvage what they could and in the process it was deemed that lowering the height of the sand dunes to near sea level would be the best way to retrieve it.

Empty beaches are common on South Stradbroke Island

Plenty of spots to set up for the day

South Stradbroke Island is born

Around 1894 the Cambus Wallace, a ship carrying a large cargo of dynamite, ran aground and was wrecked near Jumpinpin. The cargo was ignited and the explosion caused a large crater to develop in the sand hills. Over time, a small tidal channel was created and this eventually split the island into two and formed what is now the Jumpinpin Channel. There has been discussion in recent years that the islands may eventually repair themselves and reconnect, which would  cause problems for tidal management in the area.

South Stradbroke Island with the Gold Coast in the distance

Looking south towards the Gold Coast skyline

A place of solitude and solace

South Stradbroke Island is a great place to visit if you want to immerse yourself in nature or like having an entire beach to yourself. Even during busy holiday periods, there's so much room on the island for everyone to space out that you can literally have kilometres of sand all to yourself. No cars are allowed on the island so the only way to get around is either by walking, bike riding, or one of the buggy or 'train' options that the Couran Cove Island Resort operate.

Looking north along the beach at South Stradbroke Island

Looking north along the beach to eternity

Escape the crowds

The island is so quiet that you can literally hear yourself think and there's a constant symphony of birds and other wildlife is sure to make you feel relaxed and at ease. If the hustle and bustle of regular life is getting too much to handle, a couple of days on South Stradbroke Island will surely recharge the batteries and help reset your inner peace. 

Sunny day at the beach on South Stradbroke Island

Empty, windswept beaches all to yourself

Surfing on South Stradbroke Island

Due to the quality of its waves, surfing around the Gold Coast can get extremely busy at times. However with 21km of beach to choose from there's an endless amount of opportunities to surf on South Stradbroke Island. The most popular place to surf is known as TOS ('The Other Side') which is at the southern most tip of the island on the northern side of the Seaway Spit. Waves break alongside a breakwall and produce amazingly hollow and sometimes perfect waves. You can get to the break either by boat or, for the more adventurous who don't mind taking a risk against sharks, you can paddle over from The Spit carpark.

Wallabys are common on South Stradbroke Island

Wallabies are common on South Stradbroke Island

The island is alive

South Straddie is home to an amazing array of flora and fauna and you can get up close and personal to it all. The Golden Swamp Wallaby is common on the island and used to human interaction, while Agile Wallaby's can also be found in the more densely covered and remote parts of the island.

Kangaroo playing soccer goalkeeper on South Stradbroke Island

He didn't let one ball in...

A birdwatcher's paradise

There are over 205 recorded species of birds living on the island, some of which include: Brahimny Kites, Bush Thick Knees, Curlews, Cockatoos, Eastern Yellow Robins, Egrets, Kookaburras, Little Terns, Noisy Pitta, Ospreys, Pelicans, Pied Osyter Catchers, Rainbow Bea-Eaters, Rainbow Lorikeets, Rufous Night Heron, Scarlet Honeyeaters, Sea Eagles, Southern Boobook Owls, Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, Tawny Frogmouth Owls, Whimbrels, White-Bellied Sea Eagles and rare White-Throated Nightjars. As the island is mostly free of human machinery and noise, the chance of seeing these creatures is drastically increased compared to your residential areas.

The walkway to the beach at South Stradbroke Island

Walkway to the beach, all yours...

An amazing array of wildlife

South Stradbroke Island is home to a huge variety of animals and you are almost guaranteed to see a variety of wildlife during your visit or stay. There are 17 known species of lizards, with the largest being the Goanna, 15 species of snakes and at least 6 species of turtles. There's a unique number of mammals including Bandicoots, Echidnas, Fawn-Footed Melomys, Squirrel Gliders, and countless numbers of marine life such as Dugong, shellfish and fish. If you're there between June and October you may be lucky enough to see Humpback and Southern Right Whales during their annual migration north to breed.

Walkway to the beach at South Stradbroke Island

The sand dunes are constantly moving and reclaiming some man made structures 

A sand island in the sun

Being a sand island, South Stradbroke is made up mainly of active sand dunes that shift with the winds and tides. The island is slowly moving north and is predicted to rejoin North Stradbroke Island at some point in the future, however coastal management plans will most likely prevent this from happening as the Jumpinpin Channel is too important for tidal changes in the area. The island also has a remnant Livistona rainforest and Melaleuca wetlands as well as flora and fauna unique to the area. It is one of the few places in Australia where you can watch the sunrise in the morning and literally walk a few hundred metres west and watch the sunset in the afternoon.

Plane flying over South Stradbroke Island

Take a joy flight over the island to get a better view

4wd tracks in the sand on South Stradbroke Island

Take a ride on a buggy around the island

Take a ride

The most popular way to get around South Stradbroke Island is to hire a pushbike from the resort and follow the many tracks to wherever they lead. It's relatively hard to get lost on the island as the tracks are limited, so don't be afraid to go down each and every nook and cranny as you never know what fauna you might encounter. If you want a more motorised experienced, there is a 'train' that is more like a chain of buggies which takes you for a tour of the paved parts of the island.

The marina at Couran Cove on South Stradbroke Island

Where the lucky people come to sit on their boats

Couran Cove Island Resort

If you're looking for something more than a camping holiday that's not going to break the bank, a popular option on South Stradbroke Island is to stay at Couran Cove Island Resort. You can book directly through the resort, or websites such as Airbnb give you access to the privately owned cabins and houses on the island.

Six kangaroos playing soccer on South Stradbroke Island

Even the locals like to have a kick sometimes

Perfect for families with kids

The resort boasts loads of activities for the whole family and the safe man-made lagoon is ideal for young kids. There's a variety of water sports, tennis courts, a pool, mini golf, giant chess, table tennis, kayaking, beach volleyball, standup paddleboards, inflatable waterslides, and much more.

Man made island at Couran Cove Island Resort

The lagoon is a safe place for the kids to swim

There's a restaurant and also another cafe that is open during the holiday periods, but if you want to go for a bit of an adventure and have your own boat there's a place called Tipplers Cafe around a 15min boat ride north from Couran Cove. 'Tipplers', whose name is derived from the waterway that separates South Stradbroke Island from the mainland - Tipplers Passage, is licensed and serves up a decent selection of food and is a good place to watch the sun go down.

Typical accommodation cabins at Couran Cove on South Stradbroke Island

The cabins at Couran Cove resort are well-equipped and affordable

Typical accommodation at Couran Cove Resort on South Stradbroke Island

The lagoon that most of the cabins surround at Couran Cove

Getting to South Stradbroke Island

There are a number of ways you can get to the island, however the majority of these are by boat. If you're lucky enough to have your own boat, it's a leisurely 10min to an hour journey (depending on how big your boats engine is!) from boat ramps on the mainland. You can depart from Paradise Point, Hope Island, or even as far north as Jacobs Well. For the majority of people however there's a ferry service that runs from Hope Island and snakes along the Coomera River that takes around 45mins. Simply park your car at the Hope Harbour Marina ferry terminal and pre-book your ticket the day before (costs around $30 per adult for a return ticket or $15 for kids up to 12 years). For the very lucky ones amongst us, you can take a seaplane to South Stradbroke Island however this usually forms part of a larger journey as you wouldn't just fly here as it's only a hundred or so metres from the mainland.

View from an eco cabin on South Stradbroke Island

Not a bad way to wake up every morning

Map of South Stradbroke Island

 

What is the next island north from South Stradbroke Island?

North Stradbroke Island is the next island north from South Stradbroke Island

What is the next beach south from South Stradbroke Island?

The Spit is the next beach south from South Stradbroke Island

Current weather at South Stradbroke Island

 

Thanks for reading

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. South Stradbroke Island is a beautiful and natural island that hasn't changed much over thousands of years. If you want to immerse yourself in nature and truly relax for a few days it's a great option, and although you're only just off the coast you will feel like you're a million miles away.

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Cheers,

Adam