Our expedition to Stradbroke Island started with a walk to South Bank railway station, where we took the train to Cleveland. It was a meandering route and we stopped at every station, so the journey took almost an hour, and it made me realise just how big Brisbane is – only just before Cleveland was there any hint of countryside.
From just outside Cleveland station a free shuttle bus took us to the ferry, which proved to be just a small boat. Even so, it was only half full. The water was calm for the short crossing, but the heavy grey sky didn’t bode well for the day. However as the bus took us from our landing in Dunwich across the heavily forested island to Point Lookout, the clouds miraculously vanished to leave bright sunshine and a clear blue sky.
The path from the bus stop followed the cliff edge. With the improvement in the weather the views were simply gorgeous – blue sky, white sand, blue sea, white surf. Trees leaning out at photogenic angles. And far out to sea, what everyone had come hoping to see – the spouts of whales on their annual migration south. Splashes as they breached, and a glimpse of a tail glinting in the sun. Nearer the shore, just below the cliffs, pods of dolphins played, riding the waves like surfers then leaping back over them when they got too close to shore.
We paused for lunch on a rocky promontory above a narrow gorge, into which the waves crashed and boiled. The path had to detour inland here to a point narrow enough to bridge. Under the trees lounged three grey kangaroos in assorted sizes. Around the headland on the far side of the gorge was a view of 18 Mile Beach, where half a dozen surfers struggled with the messy waves. Below the cliff, a pair of loggerhead turtles came up for air.
And then we were back at the road. As the bus wasn’t due for a while we walked back along the road to see if we could access Frenchman’s Beach, but didn’t relish the steep climb back up and returned instead to where we had seen the dolphins. The whales were still passing, and it was sometimes possible to see that a large and small spout occurred simultaneously, close together – a mother and calf.
The boat for the return to Cleveland was much larger. As at Magnetic Island, many of the alighting passengers were schoolchildren, while the boarding passengers included a large contingent of council workers who immediately settled down to play cards. It appeared to be a very familiar routine, and the free shuttle bus back to the station made extra stops to drop them off at more convenient points.
Instead of alighting at South Bank we stayed on the train until the next stop. It was getting dark as we cut through the streets to Coles, to pick up some bread – there were plenty of leftovers from the cheese and dips etc that we bought the previous day, so dinner was a given. Not that I minded – time was running out for having this kind of food. We’d be back in the cheese desert of SE Asia soon enough.