Review: Spend a day in paradise on a North Stradbroke Island tour from Brisbane
Unspoilt sandy beaches, warm clear water, lazy lunches and a relaxed vibe are all part of the quintessential island getaway, but sometimes you don’t have to travel too far to find yourself in paradise — especially if you happen to be in Brisbane. Simply join this day tour to North Stradbroke Island in beautiful Moreton Bay.
North Stradbroke Island Tour from Brisbane with Queensland Day Tours
This full-day tour from Brisbane offers the chance to experience the pristine natural beauty of Moreton Bay’s largest island. Cruise to North Stradbroke Island by ferry, take a number of guided walks, and enjoy a relaxed lunch at the iconic Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel. Duration: 9 hours (approx.)
Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.
One of the great things about travelling to Brisbane is the array of day tour destinations on offer when you‘ve had enough of city life and want to get away from it all.
All fours points of the compass are covered. To the south of Brisbane lies the Gold Coast with its glitz, glamour and family-friendly theme parks. To the north you have the understated chic of the Sunshine Coast and tourist mecca Noosa. To the west is the picturesque Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley, which is dotted with charming and character-filled country pubs. And finally, to the east sits possibly the most unsung of all Southeast Queensland’s charms — the tranquil, glistening waters of Moreton Bay.
Stretching from Caloundra at the southern end of the Sunshine Coast, all the way down to the Gold Coast (a total distance of just under 130 kilometres), the bay is largely protected from the open ocean by Bribie Island, Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island. That’s where I’m headed today with Queensland Day Tours on their signature ‘Day in Paradise’ tour. Guests have the chance to immerse themselves in island life, with a full day of sightseeing and plenty of opportunities to wiggle their toes in the sand. Bliss!
The day begins with city pick-ups by our guide Harrison — who we are cheerfully told answers to the name of Harrison, Harry or even Ned (due to a more than passing resemblance to red-bearded bushranger Ned Kelly). It’s a 40-minute run out to the pretty bayside suburb of Cleveland to join Stradbroke Ferries for the 50-minute crossing to ‘Straddie’, as the island is affectionately known to locals.
Said locals number about 2,500. The Quandamooka people are the traditional owners of most of the island and surrounding waters, and interestingly the recognition of native title here was the first in Southeast Queensland. North Stradbroke Island is the second largest sand island in the world, and sand mining only ended in 2020 after a seventy-year history.
The ferry crossing is smooth and comfortable and the on-board café offers what I have to say is a pretty fair latte (so don’t panic like I did if you haven’t managed to find a morning coffee prior to pick-up). We’re encouraged to look out for the resident bottlenose dolphins and dugongs that call the bay home. Sadly there are no sightings, but we get lucky later in the day.
We land at the unassuming township of Dunwich and head off to explore the island’s array of natural habitats, all of which offer something completely different, along with access to a wide variety of native wildlife. This tour is really all about the landscapes visited and they’re pretty spectacular.
Highlights on this Stradbroke Island tour from Brisbane include a visit to Brown Lake and a stroll on the pristine sandy beach at Amity Point. Here we have a chance encounter with two juvenile dolphins, which have literally made their way right in to the shoreline. There are actually signs on the beach discouraging visitors from hand feeding the dolphins, which is extraordinary when you think about it.
The 30-minute stroll along the North Gorge boardwalk with sweeping views out across the Pacific Ocean from Point Lookout is also pretty special. We spot a large pod of dolphins and plumes of sea spay from several passing humpback whales. The migration is in full swing between April and December. The latter half of the period is when mothers and calves returning from the Coral Sea will often seek shelter in bays and coves along the way to rest and feed.
However, it’s not all about the marine life on this tour — as spectacular as it is. Landlubbers we encounter include koalas, agile wallabies and a number of grey kangaroos. You may be lucky enough to spot an echidna. The prolific birdlife on the island will also delight dedicated and would-be twitchers.
It’s all accompanied with commentary from Harrison, although there is plenty of opportunity to wander at your own pace independently of the group. There’s even the opportunity for a dip, weather permitting.
The venue for our included lunch is the Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel, and there’s a variety of traditional pub-grub options to choose from. The hotel replaced the original ‘Straddie Pub’ on this site and offers a laid-back sophistication, perfectly integrated into the coastal surroundings. Drinks can be purchased at the bar.
All too soon the day ebbs away with the island tide and we head back to the ferry for the trip home. For a fabulous escape to paradise, this North Stradbroke Island tour from Brisbane is a must-do.
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Australia, Europe, Asia, North America, parts of South America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the Tour the World travel TV series on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.