Featured writer: Liz Swinton
If you are cyclist or a runner there are some seriously ‘sick’ hills on North Stradbroke Island. The effort required to climb them can be a gut wrenching, vomit inducing experience. Some ascents are near vertical! Which is why, after three days of consistent run training over said hills, today was the day we chose a leisurely bike ride to explore the relatively flat scrubland and beaches of this glorious holiday destination.
North Stradbroke Island is the world’s second largest sand island and is located just under an hours ferry ride from the Australian mainland near Brisbane, Queensland. The island is 38km long and 12 km across, at its widest point, and has an enticing blend of rugged coastal landscape, pristine beaches, tranquil inland lakes and an abundance of native flora and fauna.
We have been staying at holiday accommodation in Tramican Street, Point Lookout at the northern end of the island. The house site, which we share with a multitude of native birds and geckos, overlooks the top of the gumtrees, affords us splendid views of the aquamarine sea, scant glimpses of near deserted beach havens and very little of our neighbours. This is perfect.
Mid-morning we set off on our mountain bikes. Although it is May and our home base in Toowoomba is experiencing overnight temperatures of two degrees, we are bathed in sunshine and the perfect biking condition of 20 degrees, clear skies and only a slight breeze. We ride down Tramican Street towards the East Coast Road (Dickson Way) and make a left hand turn at the bottom of the very steep hill, towards Dunwich.
Just past the 100km speed sign we make a right hand turn down a short asphalt section, then left onto a wide track that has been restricted to bush walkers, cyclists and horse riders. No vehicle traffic is allowed. Bonus! This track is approximately 6km long and has a riding surface suited to the beginner mountain biker; that’s me. Some slightly challenging sand sections require a change of gear and faster pedalling technique, and a large puddle which was the remnants of a creek from the wet season ensures I get at least one foot damp. But it’s a bit of a giggle to cross over. The majority of track surface is sandstone interspersed with native vegetation, dead branches and small rock outcrops on a slight incline. The biking is easy.
The scenery is coastal bushland and some paperbark swamp. The bird life is prolific and noisy. But you can still hear the surf from the beach a few kilometres away. The track emerges at the corner of Beehive Road and Flinders Beach Road. You can turn right here and continue onto the beach. We choose to continue straight on the asphalt road and rode into Amity, three kilometres away.
Amity is as you would imagine a small, relaxed fishing village should be. Nothing pretentious about the bungalows and holiday accommodation – people are here to fish or relax. There’s a well-stocked general store, a historical shipwreck, small public parks and clean public amenities. The Seashells Café, which has an alfresco dining area, was unfortunately closed today (Tuesday) but is open other days of the week. It has a reputation for honest, unfussed food.
Travelling along Sovereign Road we made our way to the 4WD access track to the beach. There is a stunning paperbark swamp area on the left hand side of this road. The trees are sentinel straight and tall, swathed in ragged, torn bark their roots are hidden by the swamp waters while their branches reach for the bluest of skies.
Accessing the 4WD track from the road is seamless. We have a gentle climb before we hit the first of the deep, tyre grabbing sand, which is beyond my biking experience, so I walk my bike to the beach front, only 50 metres away. Then we turn right back towards Point Lookout. The beach scenery is dazzlingly beautiful, rugged and wild. It is stunning and we have it nearly all to ourselves! Driving the beaches on North Stradbroke Island is permissible and the beach is actually gazetted as a road. At this time of the day and the year traffic is minimal. In the 9kms we ride along Flinders Beach only have three vehicles pass, and they all give us a wide berth.
Riding on the firm sand near the water’s edge is physically quite easy. There is a slight feel of drag on your bike tyres, but you can comfortably turn your legs over and enjoy the sea and shore scenery at a leisurely pace. Even crossing the shallow sections of running water is a bit of an adventure, but nothing that’s out of the scope of the beginner rider. We continue along, chatting away and admiring our beautiful surrounds. Driftwood decorates the shoreline; the casuarina trees are fighting a losing battle against the rising tide line, which sees many of them now felled onto the sand. Wild orchids try to valiantly to dig their roots into what remains of the topsoil. Our bike tracks behind us are erased as the tide licks at the sand. Nature wins.
Our beach ride ends at Adder Rock. We turn right and onto the asphalt access road that takes us back to the East Coast Road, where we cross back into Tramican Street and begin the four step hill climb back up to our accommodation. My heart rate immediately soars as I struggle to drop my gears down and get my legs pumping to attack the ascent. It’s nasty!
If North Stradbroke Island is on your holiday destination agenda, bring your bike. This one and a half hour ride is just over 20km long. We rode it at an average of 13kph. It is an extremely doable ride for a beginner but a mountain bike is necessary. For the more experienced rider it would be a chance to relax, ride and enjoy the stunning scenery.
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I find it difficult biking on the pavement. It must take endurance to go on the sand.
there is only a slight drag on your wheels riding on sand, as long as you stay on the firm surface just out of reach of the waves. As the beach makes its way further inland the sand is very difficult to negotiate and would take considerable effort to ride through. Have a go at sand riding, I think you would really enjoy it.
You bring back so many memories. One thing I never had a chance to do was ride my Mt. bike on a beach. Thanks for sharing your experience with the world. For the few moments while I read your story, I was right there alongside you. Thanks for that. Cheers!