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Brown Lake: Stradbroke Island’s Picnic Spot

I’ve written briefly before about how North Stradbroke Island is one of my favourite places near Brisbane — and it’s one that many tourists never make it to, despite everything it has to offer. While not as popular as Fraser Island to the north, it’s a great island getaway with many of the same opportunities that Fraser has to offer.

Afternoon Picnic at Brown Lake

The interesting colours of Brown Lake on North Stradbroke Island.

On Fraser, your only swimming options are in the lakes and other fresh bodies of water due to the large tiger sharks that roam the waters along 75 Mile Beach. While Straddie has a number of patrolled beaches where you can surf alongside dolphins, sometimes there are days where fresh water seems more appealing — such as the first day of a long weekend we spent there when there were massive pods of bluebottle jellyfish coming to shore and the occasional 2m shark being chased away from the beach. I still went for a swim in the ocean — without getting stung or eaten — but I was also happy to make the trip inland to Brown Lake.

This lake, located about 3.5km inland from Dunwich, the Stradbroke Island terminus of the ferry from the mainland,  is the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic and swim…as long as you have a car. Unfortunately, the walk there and back would probably take up most of a day trip, and there aren’t any buses that service the inner corridor between Dunwich and the beach on the east coast (via Brown Lake and Blue Lake). Luckily, cars are quite easy to bring across from the mainland (provided you’re happy to pay the $149 fee for the ferry) and the road is only unsealed for a short period of time after you turn off Trans-Island Rd.

The Quandamooka people of Stradbroke Island call this lake Bumeira and used to consider this lake to be women-only. Unfortunately I can’t find more of the story behind this, so if anyone knows more I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

What makes it so perfect for a lunch picnic or an afternoon swim?

The Shores of Brown Lake

This tree just can’t get enough of the tannin-dyed water.

Well, like most Australian recreation areas, it has a barbeque and a number of picnic tables — hidden underneath the trees for plenty of shade — right next to the lake so you can cook your snags or skewers with a great view. Plus, if you’re on the island for more than just a day trip, you’ll probably have to drive from Point Lookout (about 20 mins away) to get here…which gives you a perfect excuse to stop in at Rufus King Seafoods at Amity Point and add some fresh seafood to your lunch feast. It doesn’t get much better than spending a summer day at the lake with friends and a giant bag of prawns.

There are a few hikes that lead around the lakeshore as well if you’d like to find a slightly quieter cove to relax in. Look out for native wildlife and plants such as orchids as you’re walking (although it’s good to be aware of the fact that much of the wildlife in this part of Straddie was decimated by the bushfires at the beginning of 2014).

You may have guessed from the photos that Brown Lake is now very creatively named, as it is in fact a dark brown colour. However, before you let this scare you away, it’s not dark brown in the way that say, the Gulf of Mexico is in Texas (aka full of mud and other fun pollutants). It’s actually almost crystal clear, just with such a deep colour that it’s hard to see your limbs after you wade too far in.

What makes the lake so brown?

Brown Water, White Sand

The orange to brown gradient as the water gradually gets deeper.

Like the lakes on Fraser Island, Brown Lake is what is considered a ‘perched lake,’ meaning that it is held up above the sand the island is made of by a thick layer of leaves mainly from the Melaleuca (paperbark) trees that line the lakeshore. The tannin from these leaves is leached into the lake itself, which turns it into an inky, coffee brown in the centre and a lighter tea colour towards the shore. The gradient as the lake gets shallower and shallower, eventually giving way to the thick, soft sand on the shore, is a sight to behold. The colours are so rich and uncommon that it’s hard to take your eyes off them!

What’s it like swimming here?

In the Trees

Looking along the lakeshore from near the picnic area.

The water is definitely quite cool but very refreshing, especially in summer. On all of my visits, kids have been happily splashing around in the water and dogs willingly sprint into it and swim to fetch their tennis balls.

There’s enough of a shallow area for children to be able to safely paddle, but it does get very deep further out — and with that inky brown colour it’s impossible to see underwater at those depths.

While I’ve never heard of the lake having rejuvenating properties for your skin like is rumoured on Fraser Island, it sure felt nice on my skin after being in the salt water at the beach!

So what are you waiting for? Next time you’re in the South East Queensland area, I highly recommend heading over to Stradbroke Island in general and to Brown Lake for a lunchtime picnic getaway.

Have you ever been to North Stradbroke Island (or any of the sand islands in South East Queensland)? What did you think?


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