[ What follows are the impressions of the writer who has been visiting Bribie Island for a number of years. No one was interviewed, all opinions and impressions are mine, except for the flaming sunsets…they belong to God. ]
It is about half way between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast and it is attached to Australia by thin wooden bridge, that’s all.
It is a sand island like many of the islands of the South East Queensland Coast ; the Southern half is covered by housing and urban development whilst the Northern half is a protected park sprinkled with paper bark swamps, small billabongs, old World War II cement bunkers, long, hard, curving beaches of golden sand and a vulnerable neck at the Northern most point where the Pacific Ocean maintains its timeless assault on the sand dunes as it continues its quest to join with Pumicestone Passage. Pumicestone Passage is a beautiful tidal passage between Bribie and Australia ; it is home to thousands of sea-birds, pelagic fish, mangrove swamps, mud flats, mosquitoes, tidal estuaries, old house boats and, at times, a certain natural stillness with echoes of songs and the silent shuffling of the thousands of feet that have passed that way.
The Western side of the Island is characterised by lovely, calm beaches kissed by the waters of Pumicestone Passage on any normal day, but, when the ocean becomes ugly, the rips and tides of the Passage are not friendly ; the combination of an outgoing tide and a strong South Easterly provides a challenge for any sea going mortal in any kind of vessel.
And vessels there are ! The region is an amateur and professional boating ‘ mecca ‘ – on any given day there will be kayaks, tinnies, yachts big and small, bustling, prickly trawlers hurrying seaward so that they may satisfy their destiny with prawns and larger ocean fish and sleek, luxurious vessels humming through the waters crewed by people who are simply enjoying the pleasure of the sea, the sun and the wind – their relaxed, open faces indicate that they have not recently listened to any television news or read any national print media.
Along the Western shore, from White Patch to Bongaree, sprinkled among the gums trees, paper barks and casuarinas, are clean, busy sea-food places where delicious ‘ fish and chips ‘, that wonderful legacy of English food , is readily and cheaply available. Motels, caravan parks, hotels and time share apartments spread generously along the waterfront ; these are ready destinations for travellers and tourists seeking peace and respite from mainland madness.
Life has an orderly pace on the Western side of Bribie – not hurried, but purposeful although relaxed and one feels this as you cross the bridge and become a small part of the island’s story.
Urban development in the centre and South of the Island has a similar look to urban development anywhere along the Australian mainland coastal fringe, but there are trees and travellers palms which make the difference along with an underlying sense of community not generally experienced in mainland urban areas.
The Island has an abundance of community assets – the 3A University is a remarkable place, offering a wide range of courses, a bewildering array of options including tactile and mental challenges for all ages, all preferences and all genders. This place is truly a wonderful community asset – its administrators, managers and instructors are impressive and deserve much credit – they make a serious contribution to the quality of Island life.
Art Centres, Libraries and Parks contribute to the ‘cocktail of interesting pastimes’, [ sounds like an interesting drink !! ], on Bribie, as do the canal estates towards the centre of the Island. Standing quietly on the edge of one of these canals, one can see curious maritime visitors, a dolphin or two, nosing about, lost looking turtles, not many but some and mysterious splashes and swirls in the canals hint at life not visible to mere humans but present nevertheless !!
The canal estates are busy, barbecue smoke floats about the place from sloping lawns and verandas, life unfolds at a leisurely pace and friendly waves to passing vessels are more likely than rigid fingers.
The East Coast is a different place. It is washed by the Pacific Ocean, although much of it lies in the lee of the sand islands further West. Woorim has a splendid Surf Lifesaving Club with very competitive clubbies keeping a watch over the swimmers and bathers in the relatively calm waters of the Southern end.
Beaches of soft golden sand are easily reached along paths through the small sand hills of the Western side. This is an ocean beach and the swimming experience is quite different from Pumicestone Passage on the Eastern side. There is no huge surf, but there are rips and currents and every now and then a small swell arrives with just enough punch in it to remind you that you are swimming in the Pacific Ocean.
These ocean beaches run all the way North to Caloundra, pretty much !! They are hard sand and four wheel drive vehicles can move along safely, enjoying the apparent freedom of movement on a hard sand ocean beach, and, as usual, the normal human examples of stupidity and ‘ hooning ‘ occur, with vehicle roll-overs and casualties the result. There is not much of this because the areas are well controlled – but, it happens !!
Around Woorim is a bustling hub of apartments, service providers, food outlets and leisure stores along with the ubiquitous, delicious ‘ fish and chip ‘ places, which are an excellent feature of life on Bribie.
Four wheel drive tours of the central National Park, with its billabongs, sand dunes, mangrove patches and secret fishing spots allow access for many to these places in a controlled and sensitive manner, which is essential to the long term survival of this rather wonderful National Park.
The Park has its mysteries – stories of hermits living in bark huts, strange markings in the tidal sands, long forgotten middens and birds which come from Asia, just to check on how we are going !!
This island is a splendid place to grow up children. It is a splendid place to spend one’s later years and it is a splendid place to be an energetic, vibrant 30-40 year old, making a life from fishing, swimming and all the other water sports available.
For the most part, there is no need to travel to the mainland – life is and can be, insular on Bribie and that may sound redundant, but Hey ?? What is a little redundancy from time to time ??
Also, from time to time, sunsets occur on the Western side which defy sensible description. Flaming skies, silhouetted birds, smoke from Turner’s Camp and lines of pelicans, the galleons of the skies, capture your mind and the images remain, forever.
Bribie Island really is a bloody good place to live.
[ So far the writer has not talked to the local bunyip mob…they are there, they are just not ready to talk…yet !! ]