North Stradbroke Island
Today North Stradbroke Island is an island paradise only a few hours from central Brisbane. It is one of the great sand islands being formed by the same forces which created South Stradbroke, Moreton, Bribie and Fraser Islands. It is noted for the long, clean white beaches of its eastern coastline, the rich diversity of its flora which includes wild orchids, and its isolation and peacefulness.
The ferries, barges and water taxis from the mainland arrive at Dunwich on the western side of North Stradbroke Island. This old settlement was first established in 1827 as a convict outstation. The shallow waters of Moreton Bay made shipping goods up the Brisbane River difficult and ships arriving (most of them from Sydney) would off-load their supplies at Dunwich. In turn the good would be ferried across to the mainland and up the Brisbane river in vessels with shallow draughts. In these early days the township of Dunwich was no more than a large warehouse and quarters for the convicts employed to load and unload the produce. It is possible to see the old stone wall of the original jetty on the northern side of the modern barge ramp.
One of the most interesting areas of Dunwich is the cemetery (listed by the National Trust) which has graves which date from as early as 1847. It was the burial site for the 42 typhus victims who arrived aboard the Emigrant in 1849 and were quarantined on the island. The graves include both those of Dr George Mitchell and Dr David Bellow, the ship's doctor and the local surgeon. The cemetery is now one of the few reminders of the early settlement which was established at Dunwich.
Dunwich was the site for isolated medical facilities for over a century. At various times it was home to a quarantine station, an infectious diseases hospital and a benevolent asylum. Visitors interested in pursuing this history should visit the island's Historical Museum in Welsby Street where photographs and artefacts recall the island's colourful history. There is also a record of the shipwrecks which have occurred along the island's coast.
Blue Lake National Park
Today the island's greatest attractions are undoubtedly its natural attractions. The beautiful 445 ha Blue Lake National Park, located 10 km east of Dunwich, has an unusual freshwater water table lake set in sand dunes. The lake itself covers 7.3 hectares and is 9.4 metres at its greatest depth and is incredibly blue. The fauna in the park includes swamp wallabies, skinks, ospreys and the mottled tree frog and the flora ranges from dry sclerophyll forest through heath, swamps, marshes, and scrub. It is possible, although rare, to see the golden wallabies in the area.
The Blue Lake (the native name is Lake Kaboora) can be reached by taking a 2.5 kilometre walk from the Trans-Island Road. If this walk is done either in the early morning or the late afternoon visitors are likely to see the fauna of the area. For more information check out: http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/blue-lake/
Brown Lake (the native name is Bumeira) offers freshwater swimming and Eighteen Mile Swamp supports a rich variety of native fauna.
Brown Lake is only five minutes from Dunwich. It can be reached by taking a short gravel road which turns off the main Trans-Island road. There are good picnic and barbeque facilities around the lake's edges and it offers excellent freshwater swimming. There are walking trails around the edge of the lake and it is possible to see a range of orchids growing wild.
The main settlements - Dunwich, Amity Point, and Point Lookout - all on North Stradbroke Island, have become popular holiday resorts with camping and caravan facilities.
Point Lookout is Queensland's most easterly point. Many people tend to think that the coast bends eastward north of Brisbane but in fact North Stradbroke Island is the state's most easterly island. In recent times, with whale watching becoming one of Queensland's major attractions, Point Lookout has become a popular destination. Its steep cliffs afford an excellent vantage point between June and September when the Humpback whales make their way past the island on their way to the breeding grounds further north. There are a number of excellent walking tracks in the area.
Twenty-Two Mile Beach
To the south of Point Lookout is Twenty-Two Mile Beach with its extensive Aboriginal middens of shells where, long before the arrival of Europeans, Aborigines feasted on the molluscs they collected in the area.
The northern island's northern tip is called Amity Point. The first settlement of this important location occurred in 1825 when a pilot station was built to help shipping into Moreton Bay and the Brisbane River. By the 1950s Amity Point was the main access to the island and visitors would arrive and then make their way to Point Lookout, usually on the island's only bus.
Amity Point's critical location means that it is vulnerable to tidal action. This has caused considerable beach erosion in recent times. A number of houses and a kiosk have been victims of beach erosion in recent times. The township has a particularly delightful park which not only is ideal for picnics but also provides excellent views over Moreton Bay.
Now a popular tourist destination (although hardly in the same class as the Gold and Sunshine coasts) the popular activities include swimming and fishing.
South Stradbroke Island
South Stradbroke Island features 22 km of ocean beaches along with remnant livistona rainforest and melaleuca wetlands. It is accessible via a ferry which departs from Runaway Bay marina, about 9 km north of Surfers Paradise. The ferry takes passengers directly to a campsite but there are also several resorts offering facilities such as guided tours and water sports for day-trippers. Those wanting to travel more privately can hire a boat or a water taxi from Mariner's Cove or Couran Cove.