Bribie Island is one of the rare few Australian islands that you don’t need a boat to reach. The Island has retained its small seaside village charm, while offering some of the most stunning scenery on the east coast of Queensland, Australia.
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Towering white sand dunes, miles of unspoilt beach stretching as far as the eye can see, rolling surf, a protected tidal waterway teeming with marine life and views of the majestic Glass House Mountains in the far distance are just some of the attributes that make Bribie Island worth more than just a pit stop at the beach for a quick dip and an icecream.
On Bribie Island, you can just as easily take a long walk along a vast, empty stretch of beach with only the swooping kites, seagulls and lapping tide to keep you company as you can rub shoulders with dozens of beachgoers in the family friendly Woorim Beach surf. Woorim Beach is popular for its milder waves compared to surf beaches on the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.
Thrill seeking adventures are also not far away. Parachute onto the beach or hire a jet ski and check out parts of the Pumicestone Passage. Slightly less adrenalin pumping activities include line fishing or simply kicking back at Brennan Park watching the sun sink beneath the bridge over the gleaming waters of the Pumicestone Passage.
Scattered along the sand dunes facing Moreton Bay are a series of WWII-built forts and gun emplacements. They add an exciting element to the Island for history buffs, or for those wanting a glimpse into life during the war. The forts take us back in time to when Australia was under threat from a foreign enemy and places like Bribie Island were suddenly of key strategic importance to our national security. The first bunker (a Skirmish six-inch battery), found just south of Woorim Beach, can be reached on foot. The remainder of the defence installations can be reached by 4WD.
About the Bribie Island Bridge
Bribie Island’s position midway between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast makes it an easy stop for tourists, who can be sunning on the beach less than an hour-and-a-half after leaving the Brisbane Airport. Bribie Island remains the only Moreton Bay Island to be connected to the mainland by road. The building of the 831m bridge to Bribie Island half a century ago took two years of work and was considered an engineering marvel at the time, being the longest pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete bridge in Australia.
Construction of the Bribie Island bridge was not without controversy. Locals feared outsiders would trample the island’s natural beauty. Today, it is fairly well accepted that Bribie Island’s attractions make it a tourist drawcard. Each New Year’s Eve, tens of thousands arrive to watch the bridge illuminated by fireworks bursting over the Pumicestone Passage. The fireworks display is considered one of the biggest in the state outside of Brisbane.
The bridge has made it possible for everyone from day trippers to international tourists to easily explore the island and take in its still largely underrated beaches. Few would dispute, however, that Bribie Island has managed to retain its small seaside village feel and escape the glitzy, commercialisation of some parts of the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
Change over the decades has occurred, but has been far from radical or swift. A visitor to the island can return to the same icecream store for a double-scoop cone icecream on the beach that they did 30 years ago, eat fish and chips from the same eatery on the beach or catch a movie from the same small tin shed picture theatre. There are also plenty of new cafes and restaurants to choose from, including gourmet pizza and al fresco dining.
The opening of the bridge not only swelled the number of tourists. It also paved the way for a boom in the permanent population. The tiny community of Bribie Island stood at just 600 people before the bridge’s erection. That has swelled to more than 17,000 people today. The Pacific Harbour residential development helped the population boost. But growth on the island is limited by environmental protections, ensuring its natural beauty is preserved for future generations.
About the Bribie Island environment
A series of environmental protections covering both its marine life and vegetation have been put in place to preserve Bribie Island’s internationally significant environmental values.
A huge tract of land at the northern end of the island is protected national parkland. The national park blankets roughly a third of the island, or 55 square kilometres. Bribie Island’s national park is accessible only by 4WD along the beach heading north just a short distance from Woorim surf beach. The national park is a popular spot for four-wheel driving, fishing and camping.
The Pumicestone Passage Marine Park is also protected as an environmentally significant wetland of international standing. It is protected by several international treaties, including the RAMSAR convention. The Passage is a narrow, tidal stretch of water separating the mainland from the Island.
The Passage connects to the sea at each end of the island. It is a haven for endangered migratory birds and marine mammals, including dugongs and dolphins. If you are lucky, dolphins can be spotted from the shore leaping out of the water and frolicking in the sheltered waters of the Pumicestone Passage. Visitors looking to spot wildlife can also hire a jetski or jump aboard a Bribie Island Ferryman cruise. Those on the Passage are expected to take precautions to protect the endangered dugong population, including travelling at slow speed over seagrass beds, observing Go Slow zones at Tripcony Bight, Long Island and Westaways Creek, using bait-disposal bags and safely disposing of plastic and other foreign objects.
Meet the Bribie Island Wildlife
Dugongs around Bribie Island
Sea grass beds make the Moreton Bay Marine Park prime dugong habitat. The dugong, also known as sea cows due to their all-day-long grazing routine, will eat up to 30kg of seagrass a day. Seagrass grows on the shallow banks of the marine park. The shallow waters, along with the need for dugong to come to the surface to breath, mean it is possible to spot the mammals from the surface. It also makes it imperative that boaties take extra caution in dugong feeding areas to avoid injuring any of the animals through boat strike. Dugongs are gentle in nature, have relatively poor eyesight, rely on sensitive bristles to covering their upper lip and snout to find their food, grow to about 3m in length, can weigh as much as 500 kilograms and can live for more than 70 years. The Department of National Parks estimate the Moreton Bay Marine Park is home to 600-800 dugong. They are slow breeders, though, calving once every three to five years. Pollution has become an increasing threat to dugong in the Marine Park, diminishing the once abundant sea grass meadows. Where once dugong was found throughout the national park, they mostly stick to the Moreton and Amity banks of the Bay, though can still be spotted in the Pumicestone Passage on occasion. The Department of National Parks states that unlike other dugong populations, which are usually spotted in singles or pairs, the Moreton Bay dugongs can be found in herds of about 100 dugong. They also do not feed exclusively on sea grass, supplementing their diet with macro-invertebrates (sea squirts).
Dolphins around Bribie Island
Don’t be too alarmed if a dolphin suddenly leaps out of the water beside you if you are swimming in either the Pumicestone Passage or on the surf side of Bribie Island. Sightings of dolphins frolicking in the water and hunting for fish are common on Bribie Island. The Department of Natural Resources lists the bottlenose and the threatened Indo-Pacific hump-back dolphin as being resident species.
Birds on and around Bribie Island
The summer months bring between 10,000-15,000 migratory shorebirds to the Bribie Island area. Just like we take a holiday, these birds use their time off to rest in the wetlands and feed-up on yabbies, worms, pipis and other small animals before heading off around April bound for breeding habitats in Alaska, China and Siberia. With more than tens of thousands of kilometres to cover on the wing, the summer months of rest and relaxation are crucial to their survival. The Caloundra Sandbanks area to the north welcome up to 40,000 terns (seabirds with a penchant for international travel) during their northern migration in autumn. Binoculars are not necessary to spy on some of the impressive birds of prey that call Bribie Island home. They include sea eagles, brahminy kites, whistling kites and osprey.
Buckleys Hole at Bongaree, Bribie Island is a sanctuary for more than 190 different bird species.
Bribie Island’s Emu
Eric the Emu is Bribie Island’s unofficial mascot. He is often seen prancing along the street in Bribie Island’s suburbia or resting on a lawn. It is believed he was originally part of a pair on the island, but sadly, is now thought to be a loner.
Dingoes on Bribie Island
Bribie Island does have dingoes, but sightings are reportedly unusual.
Things to do on Bribie Island
Swim at Woorim Beach
Woorim Beach is a family friendly surf beach. The beach is patrolled year-round by Bribie Island Surf Lifesaving Club volunteers.
Bribie Island Camping
Camping experiences in the Bribie Island Recreational Area range from the remote (accessible by high-clearance 4WD only to the very remote (accessible by boat only). The recreational area incorporates Bribie Island National Park and other crown land, including the beach. Camping permits are required and fees apply. Camping areas accessible by 4WD include Gallagher Point bush camping, Poverty Creek and Ocean Beach (16km north of the beach access point at Woorim). Camp sites at Ocean Beach are tucked away behind the dunes. Camp sites for visitors arriving by boat are available at Mission Point and the Lime Pocket camping area.
Walking on Bribie Island
The Bicentennial Bushwalks are an easy-grade one hour walk beginning near the arts centre on Sunderland. Highlights of the 3.8km return trek are eucalypt forests, wallum heathlands and paperbark wetlands.
For a truly soul cleansing beach walk, park the car at the Southern Beach Access carpark and set off around the southern end of the island. Dazzling white sand dunes spotted with spinifex, kilometres of beach mostly empty of people and the crashing of waves on the sand await. Brahminy kites can be seen swirling in the sky above searching for prey.
For another great beach walk, head north from Woorim Beach. Highlights are World War II military installations on the beach.
Bribie Island bird watching
Grab some binoculars and step into a sanctuary that attracts migratory birds from all over the world. Buckleys Hole Conservation Park is a haven for more than 190 different bird species. The park protects 87.7ha of coastal forest and wetlands. It is of national and international significance for shorebirds, with 23 different migratory bird species sighted in the park. Species include the Mongolian plover, white winged tern, bar-tailed godwit, whimbrel and greenshank. The near-threatened black-necked stork, eastern curlew, grey goshawk and vulnerable beach stone-curlew also live in the park. Access is via the stairs near the western end of The Boulevard, Bongaree.
Bribie Island fishing and boating
Recreational fishing is permitted in the Pumicestone Passage, which forms part of the Moreton Bay Marine Park, with the exception of Tripcony Bight (Long Island and Westaways Creek marine national park zones).
Bribie Island Ferryman
The Bribie Island Ferryman Cruises glides up the Pumicestone Passage towards Caloundra, taking in the views of a shipwreck, the towering forms of the Glass House Mountains and the township of Toorbul before following the small channel sailed by explorer Matthew Flinders on his historic journey up the Pumicestone Passage and into the Caboolture and Glass House Mountains region more than 200 years ago.
Bribie Island four-wheel-driving
The Bribie Island recreational area can be accessed by high clearance four-wheel drive vehicles. Vehicles must be road registered. A vehicle access permit must be bought and displayed on the windscreen before entering the area. Drivers are allowed as far as the WWII northern searchlight emplacement but are not permitted beyond because of the need to protect Bribie Island’s fragile, narrow spit.
Hire a jet ski
Join a guided safari course with Bribie Island Jet Skis – no jet ski licence necessary. The company also offers courses for riders wanting to experience unrestricted jet ski riding. A range of boats and water sport equipment can be hired from Boab Boat Hire.
Skydive on Bribie Island
Tandem skydive experiences over Bribie Island are offered by companies including Skydive Bribie Island, GoDo and Adrenalin Skydivers Bribie Island.
Bribie Twin Theatre
This charming little twin theatre fits in to its seaside surrounds perfectly without its brightly coloured tin walls. But don’t be put off by its rustic exterior. The theatre has the latest 3D cinema technology, a variety of new release films and fully-stocked candy bar.
Bribie Island Seaside Museum
The Bribie Island Seaside Museum was opened in 2010 on the edge of the Pumicestone Passage on Bribie Island. The museum collection tells the history of Bribie Island, from Matthew Flinders’ and his mate Bongaree’s skirmish with the natives at what is now known as Skirmish Point to the life of artist Ian Fairweather. Entry to the museum is free. There is plentiful parking opposite the museum and off street.