Straddie ... where nature rewards the slow

THE kangaroo is more interested in eating lunch than posing for pictures. As it grazes on North Stradbroke Island's Point Lookout, Queensland's most easterly point, it ignores orders from an Asian tourist. "Stand up!" the man tells the eastern grey as he squats with a camera, waiting for the roo to strike a perfect pose.

He never gets his picture; the roo simply finishes its snack and hops away into the scrub. It's a delightful - if somewhat surreal - introduction to North Stradbroke Island, a 45-minute ferry ride from Brisbane but a world away from big-city bustle.

People think I must know Straddie because I spent my childhood on Brisbane's north side. But my family holidayed either on Moreton Island, where we had a time-share unit at Tangalooma, or on Bribie Island (which, as far as islands go, is anticlimactic when you drive over a bridge to get there).

Straddie always seemed too far away. Even today, the trawl through Brisbane's southern suburbs to the ferry terminal at Cleveland, past strip malls that each look the same as the last, isn't inspiring. But as we pile out of the car to grab a coffee before the ferry goes, an omen lands in the bushes nearby: a pretty little blue-faced honeyeater has come to say hello.

I'm fresh from Lord Howe Island, where I cycled everywhere, and my travel companion - who knows Straddie well - has dissuaded me from bringing a bicycle. It's 20 kilometres from where we land at Dunwich to Point Lookout, where we've rented a cosy shack for the weekend. There's a bus but it's easier just to drive.

Having the car, I think I'm going to explore everything there is, including Brown Lake near Dunwich. My friend just laughs. She's said the same thing for 30 years but still has never seen the lake.

Her mission is to buy fresh fish for our fish-stew dinner. Her favourite seafood shack is closed but the man at the fast-food shop, which doesn't usually sell raw fish, happily parts with a slab of mackerel. That's dinner sorted.

With as-far-as-the-eye-can-see views of the Pacific Ocean, Point Lookout is prime whale-watching territory. During the season visitors climb an elevated platform along the coastal walk to catch sight of them - a couple of holiday rentals even boast towering whale-watching eyries. Yet this coastline is also built for slow exploration, with intriguing gorges, shaggy she-oaks and deep rock pools. Early in the morning, your footprints can be the first in the sand. Clouds blow in, sometimes heavy with rain, and blow back out to sea. Nature thrusts itself in your face at every turn.

Even in winter the waters are balmy to a southerner. We venture around to Cylinder beach, an extraordinary north-facing beach where the sun warms you all day. Moreton Island is within view. Surfers and bodyboarders are working the famed point break so I splash in to join them. Straddie, I don't know what took me so long. But I'm glad I'm finally here.

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