A day on the bay

I haven’t conducted an exhaustive survey, but I’m guessing more people in Brisbane have seen the Eiffel Tower than have seen Uluru. Or Tasmania. Or Stradbroke Island.

Australians are keen travellers, that’s for certain, but for some reason our eyes are always on the horizon, rather than looking at the beauty that might be right in front of us. "I can always see Kakadu later on," we think, as we book a trip to Europe, ignoring the fact that Europe, too, will probably always be there later on.

While I have been thrown by the incredible beauty of Uluru and Tasmania, I’'ll raise my hand in guilt to that attitude - of constantly planning my next overseas jaunt but not thinking of what I could do, this weekend, somewhere that’s only a short drive away. And so I'm off to see Moreton Bay and one of it's most famous islands, North Stradbroke.

Most visitors leave from Cleveland - about 40 minutes' drive east of Brisbane's CBD - via the island's ferry service but we've decided to stay overnight in Manly, explore the bayside area and tour the bay on our way to Stradbroke.

We arrive at the Manly Marina Cove Motel shortly before sunset. Sitting on my room's balcony, watching the water with a glass of wine in hand, I have to remind myself I'm so close to the city.

We head to Manly Fish Cafe for dinner, where the food reminds us that some of the best meals are the simplest: good bread with salmon butter, undressed oysters, a bucket of prawns, a bottle of wine.

The next morning, we're up early for breakfast at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, next door to the motel, and from where we've arrange to be picked up by our Moreton Bay tour guide.

Wayne arrives on his gleaming catamaran that, like most boats, looks so much smaller from the outside. There's actually two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen (complete with espresso machine). We settle on the bow of the boat with a glass of sparkling wine in hand and a glassy sea around us. 

Upon arriving at North Stradbroke Island, we’re greeted by the indefatigable Dave, of Straddie Kingfisher Tours, who may just be the island’s best salesman. He’s lived here since the 1960s - he moved here as a child with his family - and never left. Dave is evidently passionate about the island, and finds it hard to believe that we’ve never been to Stradbroke Island before. Or that we’d even want to live anywhere else, like Brisbane. He drops us off for lunch at Seashells Cafe and returns an hour later, fresh from a swim, and is visibly disappointed when we tell him we didn’t bring swimsuits of our own.

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Never mind - he shows us the breathtaking North Gorge, where we see turtles surfing in the white water below, and drops us off to walk along Main Beach - which stretches for 32km along the island's east - while he goes for another swim, tacitly reminding us of our folly of failing to bring our swimsuits.

The final stop on our tour is Brown Lake which, like Norma Jeane Baker, could probably do with a prettier name. It’s brown due to the surrounding tea trees, which, as Dave tells us, is great for the skin. We stand on the bank and watch families swimming, their skin probably aglow with tea-tree goodness already. 

''You should have brought your swimsuits,'' Dave says. 

We know, we know.

Fast facts

The Manly Marina Cove Motel, next to the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, features bright, spacious rooms with balconies and water views. From $145 a night. See www.manlymarinacove.com.

The Manly Fish Cafe is one of the best places to eat in the area - espcially for seafood lovers. See www.fishcafe.com.au.

Experience Moreton Bay in style with Robinson Cruises, from $249 for two. See www.robinsoncruises.com.

Take your car to Stradbroke Island - or just yourself - on the Big Red Cat.From $5.50 per adult each way, $64.50 for a car each way. See www.bigredcat.com.au.

For more information on Moreton Bay and islands see www.moretonbayislands.com.au.

The writer was a guest of Brisbane Marketing.

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