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Adventure | 4th December 2019

Slowing Down on North Stradbroke Island

Travel journalist and photographer, Nina Karnikowski has been investigating how to travel more sustainably, and staying closer to home is the one calling her the loudest. Hear all about her local adventure to the white sands and turquoise waters of North Stradbroke Island.

North Stradbroke Island with Nina Karnikowski

We've all been feeling it lately. The desire to do better for our planet, to help repair our one wild and precious home. As a travel journalist, it is my job to cross the globe multiple times a year gathering stories that will (hopefully) expand the minds and hearts of readers. Lately, though, I’ve started to feel very, very guilty about that. Knowing that air travel comes with a huge carbon footprint, I’ve been investigating how I can travel more sustainably, and how I can encourage others to do the same.

Among the many varied solutions I have unearthed so far – from packing lighter and going plastic-free, to choosing local guides and prioritising animal welfare - staying closer to home is the one calling me the loudest. And so, in late spring when my husband and I were craving a break, we decided to skip the exotic island escape in favour of North Stradbroke Island, just a 90-minute drive and a short ferry ride away from our home in Byron Bay. To make sure I got the distance I needed from my hectic, tech-filled life, I also decided to switch my phone off and leave it at home for the four days we were there.

The moment we drove our car off the ferry and onto Minjerribah (the island’s Aboriginal name, meaning ‘island in the sun’) I knew we’d made the right decision. Driving 20 minutes across the island to our campsite, weaving along roads lined with pandanus palms and native Balga grass plants, I felt my pulse start to drop. By the time we arrived at our bell tent at Adder Rock’s Minjerribah Campground, set beneath eucalypts and paperbark trees, we felt clear and calm, ready to drop out and tune in.

North Stradbroke Island with Nina Karnikowski

Within minutes of arriving we had pulled on our swimmers, strapped on our Teva’s, and walked two minutes through the bush and onto the beach. We emerged on an empty white arc of sand, fringed by the lucid turquoise ocean and bookmarked, on one side, by the yellow-orange slice of Adder Rock. Topped with pandanus palms, it provided the perfect windbreak. We lay our towels out beneath it, slathered on the sunscreen, opened our books and whiled the entire afternoon away there. Dipping in and out of the warm water, and laying in the sunshine as the salt crystalized on our skin and our lives went into slow motion.

When the sun began to sink low in the sky, we drove five minutes down the road to the local organic grocer, The Green Room. We filled our basket with supplies – local cheeses and crackers, radishes and olive tapenade, fresh mangoes and peaches – then headed back to Adder Rock for a sunset picnic. We sat on the headland for hours, eating and talking and watching a surfer dance over the last waves of the day as the sun dipped below the horizon, and the sky turned apricot, then purple, then star-smattered black. The Quandamooka Aboriginal people have an ongoing connection to Stradbroke Island going back at least 20,000 years. A large Quandamooka population continue to live on the island, but that evening, we both swore we could feel the spirit of their ancestors, welcoming us to the island.

North Stradbroke Island with Nina Karnikowski

Next day we woke at sunrise, the eerie shrieks of the bush stone-curlew birds that populate the campground acting as a natural alarm. After a dip in the ocean and a breakfast of fresh fruit, muesli and coffee beneath the paperbarks, we were ready to explore. We spent the morning hiking along the coastline, weaving along the sandstone cliffs lining the North Gorge Walk, spotting dolphins and turtles. When we reached Main Beach we jumped in the sea, then sat on the wall of the local Surf Lifesaving Club, drying off in the sunshine.

North Stradbroke Island with Nina Karnikowski

North Stradbroke Island with Nina Karnikowski
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The rest of our time on Straddie, as the locals call it, was a bit of a blur. There was more swimming, sunning and reading. There was snacking, talking and napping. There was, at the risk of sounding cheesy, an abundance of love, connection and laughter. All the best, most essential things. And quite the opposite of all the things we tell ourselves are essential – the emails and meetings and phone calls and updates - as we rush through our warp-speed lives.

The best part of it all, though, is that whenever I need a reminder of what really matters, I now know that North Stradbroke awaits, just a few short hours away.

North Stradbroke Island with Nina Karnikowski

FOUR MUST-DOS ON STRADBROKE ISLAND

  • THE BLUE ROOM Set on the corner at Point Lookout, this stylish little seaside eatery has the island’s best coffee, fresh juices, fish tacos and ocean views.
  • AMITY POINT Straddie is famous for its old fibro fisherman shacks, and Amity Point is the best place to admire them.
  • OCEANIC GELATO BAR The gelato at Oceanic, set opposite Frenchmans Beach, is truly world class. Take your cone across the road, sit on the grass and watch the sea for passing whales, dugongs and manta rays.
  • STRADDIE WOODFIRED PIZZA On Cylinder Beach each weekend evening you’ll find this woodfired pizza van, dishing up the best handmade pizzas this side of Naples. Order early, and eat your slices on the beach at sunset.

Written by Nina Karnikowski. Photography by Peter Windrim
Blog – Travels with Nina
Instagram – @travelswithnina

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