It is 7.09pm, and my husband and I are climbing into bed. I am by no means a night owl, yet even for me this is absurdly early. Out here though, on North Stradbroke Island (or Minjerribah, as the island’s sizeable Quandamooka indigenous population knows the place) it feels perfectly natural. The sun has set, the stars have sprayed across the sky, the campground is quiet. There are momentary feelings of guilt – shouldn’t we be star gazing? Drinking wine? Playing cards? – until we remember that this is precisely what we came here for. To reset our natural body clocks. To restore our balance with nature. To try to find some empty space, a rest in the chaotic symphony that is our lives.
To be clear, the tent we’re in here at Adder Rock camping ground on the north of the island is not your regular nylon one. We haven’t had to lug any camping equipment with us and there’s no chance of waking up with a bad back atop a leaking inflatable mattress. We are inside a stylish bell tent, set beneath eucalypts and paperbark trees, on a comfortable queen-size bed set on wooden pallets. There are bamboo deck chairs, chic throw cushions and textiles surrounding us, and a cosy rope lamp to read by. Not that we read for long. Soon the roar of the sea, set behind the native tea tree and pandanus forests that separates us from the beach, lulls us to sleep.
Next morning we awake with the sun, and the eerie shrieks of the bush stone-curlew birds that populate the island. We slurp fresh mangoes and coffee under the paperbarks, then pull on our swimmers and walk barefoot to the beach. An empty white arc of sand awaits, fringed by turquoise ocean and bookmarked by the ochre-coloured slice of Adder Rock. We while away the entire morning there, dipping in and out of the ocean, laying in the sun as the salt crusts our skin and stiffens our hair and letting the rest of the world fall away.
It isn’t until late afternoon that we remember we need food. We shuck our bodies off the beach to drive five minutes down the road to the organic grocer, The Green Room. Minjerribah, or Straddie as many locals call it, feels like a step back in time. It’s populated mainly with fibro fishing shacks, many of which are painted unironic shades of turquoise, and only a handful of places to eat and drink. Which is precisely what makes it so appealing for anyone seeking escape. Nature takes centre stage here, and picnics are usually the best dinner option. On weekends there’s a woodfired pizza van that pulls up on one of the beaches, and there are fishermen’s shacks dotting the island from which to buy fish, prawns and oysters caught that day. We keep things simple and grab local cheeses, dips, crackers and rosé, then hurry back to Adder Rock for a sunset picnic. We sit on the headland for hours, snacking and talking and watching surfers dance over the last waves of the day, as the colour drains from the sky.
It has been said that as citizens of the modern world, we consume as much information each day as Shakespeare did over a lifetime – a terrifying thought. Being somewhere as naturally abundant as Minjerribah, though, the mental whir we experience as a side effect of mental overconsumption quickly fades away. About 50 percent of the island is protected as Naree Budjong Djara national park, and it is surrounded by beautiful hikes. There’s the North Gorge Walk, which weaves along the coastline and sees us passing sandstone cliffs, spotting pods of surfing dolphins and the occasional turtle battling its way through the waves. There are strings of perfect beaches with earthy names like Deadmans, Frenchmans and Cylinder – some of which, with a permit, visitors can explore by four-wheel drive, in search of the perfect spot for a dip or to drop a fishing line.
There isn’t much else, really, which suits us just fine. And it gives us the perfect excuse, every night we’re there, to jump into bed no later than 8pm.
Nina Karnikowski travelled at her own expense.
THIS STORY FIRST APPEARED IN PRINT AND ONLINE HERE
Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia and Qantas flies daily from Auckland to Brisbane. From there it’s a 40-minute drive to Cleveland, where ferries depart 11 times daily to Minjerribah. The 45-minute ferry rides are from about $70, one way and including a vehicle. See stradbrokeferries.com.au
NEED TO KNOW
Minjerribah Camping at Adder Rock offers powered and unpowered tent and van sites, twin and double glamping tents, eco island tents and two bedroom cabins, from about $33 a night. See minjerribahcamping.com.au