Bribie is one of the most affordable and rewarding coastal hotspots in Queensland
WORDS BY JANNE HARDY, PHOTOGRAPHY BY JANNE AND GEOFF HARDY
Bribie is the smallest of the three sand islands that shelter Moreton Bay from the wild sea. It is also the only Moreton Bay Island you can drive to, as it is connected to the mainland by bridge. Not only is this a great place to enjoy the natural beauty of coastal Queensland, but you’ll also find it has anything an RVer could possibly need, including a shopping centre, movie theatre, golf and bowls clubs, markets, restaurants and plenty of accommodation.
We spent four months living in Beachmere Caravan Park, located approximately 50km from Bribie. We first discovered the Island on a short day trip. We stopped at a fruit stall about 10km from the Island and were told it was something we shouldn’t miss. In the time we lived at Beachmere, we visited Bribie countless times to check out the sites, enjoy the beautiful beaches and explore the many attractions.
Only the southern end of Bribie is inhabited and there is lots of RV parking along its wide streets. It really does belong to the natural world because 86% of the island is a National Park. There is 4WD beach access and camping in the park but RV’s are well catered for with five caravan parks, all near the water and with every amenity you could hope for.
Feathered legend Eric the Emu is an Island resident and in fact Bribie hosts what is thought to be the last emus in South East Queensland. We saw an emu on the beach eyeing off a sandwich held by a small boy. They were both up to their knees in water when the wide eyed child dropped the sandwich and high-tailed it back to the beach. The emu delicately removed the sandwich and gulped it down before wandering off. Local authorities ask you to be careful of emu chicks if you drive along the beach.
Bribie was host to a group of convicts in 1823 and it was named after a convict who wove fish baskets for sale in the Brisbane settlement. I thought about this when I watched Geoff fishing; the back drop of the Glass House Mountains loomed across Pumicestone Passage and whilst he caught nothing he didn’t care because the view was so beautiful, but maybe a fishing basket would have made a difference.
The first holiday visitors started arriving here in 1901 by boat from Brisbane and 11 years later what is now a heritage listed jetty was put in at Bongaree to handle crowds of up to 1200 a day. They clearly hadn’t read the words written in 1897 by explorer Archie Meston who said, “Bribie Island is the meanest piece of country in Australia, a howling desert of tea tree swamps, rank vegetation and unimaginable cussedness.” I wish he could see it today with never ending parks, bike paths and sparkling beaches.
Beaches on the Pumicestone Passage, or western side, are quiet and peaceful with the ragged Glass House Mountains floating in the misty distance and there’s safe swimming for all ages. Banksia, Bongaree, Red and Sylvan Beaches are all sheltered with lawns and picnic and toilet facilities fringed by blinding white sand and blue, blue water.
Woorim Beach and Woorim Ocean Beach were particular stand outs, as they both have surf and are patrolled by the surf club. Woorim is great for fishing and also 4WD beach tracks, but make sure you get a permit.
Free camping is prohibited on Bribie Island, so there are a number of rangers who patrol the vast parking area to ward off any rule breakers. We had a lovely chat to one of the female rangers on patrol, who said that she enjoys the company of nomads. She loves their stories and looks forward to joining our ranks in the future and respects them because they generally obey the signs.
In the months we spent visiting the island we always had a weekend market to explore. They’re held in different places every weekend except Harbour View Markets which are on every Saturday.
On one of our weekly sojourns to Bribie, we went bird watching with a guide from the information centre. They have a good program of guided walks, spotlighting walks, slide shows and performance, and Kakadu Beach Bird Roost in Solander Esplanade has a wide range of feathered visitors. Starting at Buckley’s Hole Conservation Park in town, we hiked to the bird hide to see the spoonbills and grey tailed tattlers. This is a beautiful habitat, with 190 species of bird visiting annually. However, make sure you protect yourself from insects, as there are mosquitos as big as bee-eaters.
The Information Centre in town has excellent printed information and maps and helpful volunteers who really made sure we saw the sights. There is a self-drive map, nature walks and history walks and we thoroughly enjoyed Bongaree Walkabout that takes you through the old part of the inhabited area. The walk takes about an hour and visits 16 Indigenous sites along the way, following the interesting interpretative map. And right nearby is the free Seaside Museum with something for all ages. Bongaree Walkabout is named after an aboriginal man from Broken Bay in Sydney, who was taken on as Matthew Flinders interpreter and probably helped quell the misunderstanding about Mr Flinders hat.
The Community Arts Centre is amazing and a must see. It’s in Sunderland Drive and when I visited it was abuzz with classes. I also found two galleries packed with high class paintings and craft at amazingly low prices.
Bribie is also a good base to visit the Sunshine Coast and Australia Zoo, and nearby Donnybrook and Toorbul are quaint places where you might like to stay. They are little hamlets on the mainland side of Pumicestone Passage and both have quiet, natural council caravan parks with reasonable rates and nothing but peace and fishing, walking and touring to fill up the days. Dugongs and dolphins inhabit the passage nearby and happy nomads with RVs inhabit the banks of the passage year round.
10km west of Bribie on the southern side of the road is a fruit and vegetable stall that originally brought us to the Island. You’ll find the cheapest, freshest produce you’ve ever seen anywhere. A box of strawberries three times the regular punnet size only costs $2, a bag of tomatoes were a $1.50 and pineapples 90 cents. We gorged.
You must visit the Bribie area and check out the lifestyle. It’s what you make it. There are long National Park walks or medium town based bushwalks of up to a couple of hours. Coffee shops and caravan parks on the beach front. Nature, peace and views to dream about. I hope to see you there because we’re going back.