Nesting plover, expertly camouflaged amongst the leaf litter, gives me a sharp alarmed shrill, warning me I’ve over-stepped her invisible boundary as her mate flexes his wings in protest. I side-step automatically, apologising profusely to the annoyed looking little birds, as a group of statuesque storm birds watch on regally and the kookaburras stifle a laugh.
Around me sun-kissed barefooted campers are waking up to the calls of the wattle birds, emerging from tents and camper vans and plunging into the crystal clear and cool ocean waters metres from their beds.
The scene recalls fond memories of camping with my family in simpler times, whiling away the hot summer holidays, drinking cordial, eating Samboy chips and spotlighting at night before falling asleep exhausted, salty and with slight sun-stroke, in a sleeping bag full of sand, not a care in the world.
A beachside camping adventure is a rite of passage for Aussie kids and it is my obligation, indeed my duty, to make sure my children experience this memory-making magic.
However, my problem is that I’m no longer the 10-year-old whose only responsibility is packing a pair of swimmers and my thongs for the holidays. I’m now the adult in charge of the camping logistics with tonnes of equipment, bedding, food, seating, lighting and the right amount of tent poles, making a ‘quick’ weekend getaway an exercise in strategic planning, endurance and patience.
Yet here I stand on an island paradise with breathtaking views, triumphant in my ‘adult-ing’ ability to organise my family of four on an authentic two-night beachside getaway without needing to mobilise an army.
I’ve found the answer to my dreams in Brisbane’s backyard of Moreton Bay, at Adder Rock Camping Ground on the lands of the Quandamooka People on North Stradbroke Island – known as Minjerribah to the Traditional Owners.
A little less than an hour's ferry ride from Brisbane’s bayside suburb of Cleveland, Minjerribah is a place international visitors travel halfway around the world to experience. For lucky locals the trip across the bay feels a world away from home, yet it is close enough for a weekend break without missing a minute of school or work.
The landscape of Adder Rock Camping Ground is unpretentious, natural and unspoilt by mass tourism, artificial embellishments and high-rise accommodation or souvenir stores. The vibe is relaxed, safe, friendly and simplistic, with stunning bushland brimming with wildlife bordering white sandy stretches of pristine and uncrowded beach frontage.
Unlike the backpackers and surfers camped nearby, I’ve not pitched a tent, nor blown up a single airbed; I’ve woken relaxed and refreshed in a brand new ‘Island Eco Tent’. Don’t be fooled by the name, while the walls of my abode are indeed canvas, this isn’t any ordinary ‘tent’. Nestled beneath a shady canopy of towering bloodwood trees, it is one of 12 Island Eco Tents blending harmoniously into the bushland and offering a touch of luxury in the traditional campground setting.
Inside our family tent there’s a tastefully decorated, light and airy room containing a hand-woven floor rug, a queen bed laid with crisp white sheets and a separate annex with a bunk bed for the kids.
Linen scatter cushions featuring artwork by Delvene Cockatoo-Collins, a local Nunukul, Ngugi and Goenpul woman of Quandamooka Country who lives and works on Minjerribah, beautifully illustrate the rich Indigenous history of the island.
Ceiling fans, mood lighting, power points, bar fridge and kettle, crockery and cutlery, armchairs, white-washed timber cupboards, fluffy white bath towels and a large private deck add the luxury elements you won’t find, nor could fit, in a self-pitched tent.
The bathroom facilities, while basic, communal and would have been state-of-the-art in 1977, are kept clean and are more than adequate to wash off the day’s salt and sand. It is one of the simple elements that keeps the ambience of the camp authentic and down-to-earth, taking me back to my own childhood holidays.
While there are myriad cafés, restaurants, take-away joints and even fine dining options a short walk or drive away, Adder Rock Camping Ground’s central outdoor covered barbecue facilities with free electric hot plates are great for cooking up pancakes with the kids while mingling with travellers from around the world and soaking up a unique camping community vibe you’ll find nowhere else.
In fact, there is nowhere like this in the world and, regardless of the amount of sand in your luxury bed or swag, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with this magical slice of paradise in Brisbane’s own backyard.
TOP THINGS TO DO
- Walk North Gorge to see whales (June to October) from the best vantage point on the island.
- Flick a lure off Amity Point jetty for bream and pike, where you can also spot dolphins and turtles.
- Swim at Bummiera (Brown Lake), coloured by therapeutic tannins from native ti-trees framing the lake. Bummiera is significant to the Quandamooka people and said to be home to the mythical Bunyip.
- Take a Kayak Kulcha Experience with Quandamooka Traditional Owners. On the four-hour adventure tour learn to hand spear and taste local bush tucker.
- Enjoy the weekend markets with local arts, crafts, produce, home-made jams and island honey.
- Order snapper, calamari and chips from Fins ‘N Fries and picnic on the beach - Point Lookout.
- Enjoy American style ribs and wings at Sisco’s Philly Cheese - Point Lookout.
- Pick up some fresh local oysters or prawns to eat alfresco.
- Treat yourself with coffee and cake at Seashells Café - Amity Point. Bare feet welcome!