It had been too long between visits. Four years too long to be precise.
North Stradbroke Island, just a 40-minute barge ride across Moreton Bay from Brisbane, is one of those places the effect of even a single visit can stake a claim on your heart forever.
It’s also one of those places that I liken to an old friend. You know the friends I’m talking about don’t you? The ones who you may not actually get to talk to in person for months or years but when you do catch up, it’s like that gap in time never happened.
So, when the invitation came through from Tourism Queensland* to head over to our beloved “Straddie” for a quick pre-Christmas mini break, it took about 30 seconds in a family round-table meeting to all agree we needed to go. To check on our old friend and see how she was weathering.
Many people are fond of a spot of camping on Straddie. Each to their own. You won’t be surprised to know I do not share that fondness.
I have a fondness for lovely beds and white sheets; fridges filled with bubbly bottles; big bathtubs and balconies with views … some of the things I have at home … and many of the things I WISH I did have at home.
Which is why we’ve always holidayed in beach houses on Straddie.
The beach houses for rent on Straddie range from original 1950s shacks through to homes so worthy of a Belle magazine cover, they probably have been featured on one.
Property prices on Straddie are in the Lotto-winning stratosphere – even those original beach shacks – because available residential land is land-locked by national parks and most are within a stones’ throw of the water.
This combination has helped the island retain its charm, so much so that even in peak season (and we were there the first weekend of the Queensland school holidays), it’s still low key in comparison with other beach spots.
On previous visits, we’ve always managed to stay somewhere that exudes Straddie charm but … I have to say … we’ve never holidayed in a house like THIS ONE.
Aquila is three levels of architect-designed modern beach house goodness, perched high on the hill above Point Lookout’s surf club.
With wide polished floorboards, fibro and timber construction, views at every turn (even from the shower), it is a showcase of how it’s possible to build a modern “shack” that is designed to capture and flow even the slightest of summer breezes into a very liveable space. Yet, in winter, it’s possible to seal off the main living area and still take in those views, while hanging out around fireplace.
A house like Aquila is the perfect conduit for slipping into the ease that is a typical day on Straddie.
A routine that goes a little something like this … early morning surf check by Mr SY, slow breakfast, a couple of hours at the beach, back home for lunch and siesta, out for a walk and icecream and back home for sunset drinks and dinner.
It’s a rhythm that comes naturally, whether you’ve got two days – or 20 – on the island. Trust me, if you fall into tune with this rhythm, you’ll find the secret to hitting that elusive recharge button.
1. Hit the beach. This may seem like an obvious thing but the beaches of Straddie have to be seen to be believed. The water really is THAT clear. Swimming pool clear. Cylinder Beach is our fave, mainly because it offers a protected swimming spot, a bit like Mooloolaba or Noosa in a prevailing south-easterly wind. And due to the headland formation, there’s usually a naturally formed tidal lagoon to swim in as well. And you have to love a beachside coffee bar like the one pictured below. Oh, and if the northerly’s blowing? No problem … head two minutes up the road to Main Beach.
2. Eat with a view. Without a doubt, lunch at the Straddie Hotel comes served with the best view on the island as a free side dish. I’m sure it makes the food taste even better. Expect to pay an average of $20 a head for lunch. The Look is also worth a visit for breakfast, lunch, cocktails or dinner. No complaints from any of our five about brekky. Particularly big thumbs up from Miss SY with her banana bread, served with caramelised banana.
3. Indulge in a daily gelato. Thank goodness this little scoop of heaven is still thriving on the island. Hello lychee-flavoured gelato … oh and the pineapple, mango coconut was pretty spesh too. Anytime’s a good time for ice cream, right?
4. Walk the Gorge. This track follows around the rocky gorges of Point Lookout, offering some pretty spectacular views and nature spotting. On our stroll, we managed to spot a pod of dolphins surfing a break, a turtle and a shark. Many of the walkways have been upgraded but there are lots of stairs so it’s not suitable for a stroller or wheelchair.
5. Fossick in shops. You won’t find any shopping malls or fast-food chains here. The emphasis is on small independents … think beachy with a hipster vibe. There’s a little supermarket for supplies but I was also stoked to find The Green Room, a natural deli-style food store. Next door is Drift, offering all things handmade. We also like to buy fresh local seafood from the bottom level of a home in Tramican Street. Mr SY tried to make a sneaky surfboard purchase from Bob Mintee’s Surf Shop. Reminded him of quid pro quo status of such a purchase and he quickly moved on.
This was to be a quick escape. A no-fuss escape. A “we’ll mainly be in our togs all weekend” escape.
But … you know … I do like any opportunity to dress the part. Equal parts comfort and fun were called upon for a couple of island mini-break outfits.
My day beach “uniform” consists of the cover-up dress. Something that works over a swimsuit and allows as much cross-ventilation as the house in which we were staying.
This eb&ive teal cotton frock from Sequins and Sand, proved a worthy addition to my beach cover-up wardrobe.
But what about when you come off the beach and shower off the encrusted layer of salt and sand in readiness for that first glass of icy goodness?
And as I was packing her into my weekender bag, I caught a glimpse of my Red Phoenix Emporium mint necklace. Perfect. It’s ok to be a little bit fancy on an island mini-break, I thought to myself.
Heading to a beach these summer holidays? Packing cover-ups and kaftans? What about Straddie? Have you been?
For more information about about where to stay and what to do on North Stradbroke Island, visit Discover Stradbroke.
*The Styling You Five were guests of Tourism Queensland and Discover Stradbroke for this mini-break. This is not a sponsored post … we jumped at the chance to share our love of Straddie with you. **The dress and kaftan were sent to me for editorial consideration in accordance with my disclosure policy.