Straddie Island

Category: Ships Log

December 26th – January 1st

Getting away for a holiday camping trip at Straddie island and celebrating New Years with our dock.

This last week we got away from Brisbane and spent a few days camping on North Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay (the bay into which the Brisbane River empties). Chris’s work is closed between Christmas and New Year’s so it was a great chance for us to do some exploring outside the city. However we don’t have a car so we were limited to places we could reach by public transport. Stradbroke Island or “Straddie” as the locals call it fit the bill. Besides having camping, hiking and swimming available, there are also small populations of grey kangaroos, wallabies, and koala bears on the island (which we have yet to see).


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On the train to the coast with our huge backpack.


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Signs to watch out for koalas and kangaroos are all over the island; we are hopeful to see some!


Straddie is a popular holiday destination for Aussies and the campgrounds were packed. Camping in Australia is a bit different than in the U.S. At the campgrounds in Straddie, there are big open plots of land where they pack in about thirty tents per plot. Theoretically each tent should get a 6m x 6m area, but as there are no markings on the ground to designate the boundaries, people use as much space as they can. Aussies are really into camping and set up enormous tent cities. Most groups have a couple multi-bedroom tents, and then a large canopy in front of the tents for the kitchen. The kitchens are impressive, they often have a couple two burner stoves with 5 gallon propane bottles, multiple large ice chests (or actual fridges and freezers in powered sites), storage cabinets for food, large tables, chairs, etc. And this is not just a couple people; this is the majority of the campers! Our little 3 person tent soon got lost amidst the tent city as people set up their tents right up to our tent walls. We kind of missed the privacy and space you have in most campgrounds in the U.S. Although a nice thing was that each large camping area housed a picnic shelter with tables, electric bbqs, and running water. Since most people had their own kitchen setup, we had the shelter to ourselves much of the time.


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An example of one of the smaller camp setups. We forgot to get a pic of our own tent though!


There is a lot to do on Straddie – there are some small national parks you can hike in, beautiful long beaches, great surf, and safe swimming. And of course, lots of places to indulge in the Australian national pastime of 4WD-ing. Our first two days it rained most of the time, so we just explored the beaches and headlands near our campground.


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Between rainshowers we walked to the North Gorge, which has some beautiful views such as this.


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Some pretty lilies alongside the trail. They remind me of the tiger lilies in Oregon (without the spots), except the the stamens are spread out more.


By the third day, the rain had mostly let up and the sun was starting to peek in through the clouds again. This was absolutely perfect weather because it didn’t get too hot and stayed in the 80s. We rented a car for the day and did some serious island exploration. We woke at 6am and drove to Blue Lake National Park for a morning hike and hopefully some wildlife encounters. It was a very humid morning from all the rain earlier and hiking through the forest, you could almost see the steam rising in front of you. The trees were abuzz with insects and as we neared a swamp area, a deep throated monotone chorus of frogs joined in with the insects. We could also hear kookaburras calling like monkeys in the treetops to each other, along with other more musical birds. It felt like we were explorers in a primordial forest. After a couple miles we reached Blue Lake, which was a perfect mirror reflecting the surrounding land. It was a beautiful morning hike with lots of wildlife, although the marsupials did not make an appearance.


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Grass trees were interspersed throughout the eucalyptus forest. These are very slow-growing trees (average a couple inches of growth per year) and can live up to 600 years.


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A large hairy insect. Not sure if this is one of the bugs making all the noise.


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We finally saw (instead of only hearing) a kookaburra. These guys are huge! The bird we saw in Bundaburg was not a kookaburra, but likely a butcher bird.


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Blue lake was perfectly calm this morning.


After our hike, it was time to head to Amity beach for lunch and a swim. We enjoyed a pleasant afternoon swimming and snorkeling in 74F (23.5C) water. It is really nice that this far south you can safely swim in the water without having to worry about killer jellyfish or saltwater crocodiles! We returned to our campground at Adder Rock in the early evening and enjoyed another nice walk on the beach.


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One of the swimming beaches at Amity.


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One of the beaches next to our campground at Adder Rock.


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Chris walking down to the beach.


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The early evening sun made for some beautiful colors.


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Tiny blue jellyfish were all over the beach. Not sure if these are juveniles or if this is just their normal size.


The next day (the 30th) we packed up our camping gear and started our journey back to the city. It was in the 90s (30s) when we returned and our boat was 98F (37C) inside. The heat immediately sapped our energy and it was all we could do to unpack our gear while sweating profusely. Luckily our friends Nancy (co-worker of Chris’s) and Jacob happened to be cat-sitting for one of our dock neighbors on his powerboat, and they welcomed us back (after we had showered) with drinks and cake inside the AC-cooled powerboat. It was wonderful, and made us realize that we need a better way to keep cool on our boat, especially as this is only the start of the summer. We always thought AC in boats was a bit over the top, but when the temperatures are regularly above 90F (32C), it starts to sound less extravagant and more necessary. By the end of the day, Chris had ordered us a stand-up AC unit that also can heat (it does get cool here in the winter), however delivery was a still a week out. Amazingly, another dock neighbor happened to have an old AC unit sitting on his boat that he wasn’t using (he had upgraded to a better one a while back). He told us we were more than welcome to use it until ours showed up. So New Year’s Eve morning, which was already 92F (33C) at 8:30am, Chris and I cleaned all the dust and grime from the old unit and set it up in our v-berth hatch. By noon, it was humming away. We took off to see a movie in an AC-cooled theater and by 4:00pm when we returned, our boat was at a comfortable 85F. It felt so wonderful!


Later that evening, we got together with the rest of our dock neighbors for a small New Year’s Eve Party on the upper deck of one of the powerboats. Belinda brought glow sticks to adorn ourselves with, and her husband Martin brought a squirt gun which he took great pleasure in using on everyone when least expected. Until it was stolen and used against him. :) Chris soon retrieved our watergun, and a squirt gun war ensued for the rest of the night. As it was still in the mid 80s (28-30C), it felt really nice. A bit before midnight, we all wandered over to the top of some nearby cliffs that overlook the river to watch the city firework show. It was one of the most impressive firework shows we’ve ever seen. They had three barges in the river, as well as a couple spots on top of skyscrapers letting off fireworks so the fireworks went off from multiple levels. And it was great we could walk back to our boats after it was over instead of dealing with traffic. A nice perk of living in the city!


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New Years Eve dock party. Dave even brought out his guitar. Note Sam on the right with the squirt gun threatening Brian.


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Group photo.


Camping and hanging out with new friends from our dock was a great way to bring one of the most exciting years of our lives to a close. We miss our family and friends from back home, but we also feel lucky to have made so many new friends from all over the world this year. We hope everyone has a wonderful New Year full of whatever adventures you desire!


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