IF YOU speak to anyone in the Brisbane region, a lot of them have never heard of Curtis Island. We were curious so started to research the island and found it is home to pristine beach campsites, where most of the time you’ll have the place to yourselves. The island has changed from once being a working cattle farm to the current liquefied natural gas hub. There are plans for a luxury resort to be built on the hill overlooking Turtle Street Beach. This beach is appropriately named due to it being the third-largest turtle rookery in Queensland for the flatback turtle; if you’re visiting between October and March, you might just see some.
Access to the island is by vehicle ferry, which departs from Gladstone and takes almost 90 minutes to reach Curtis Island via Quoin and Facing Islands. Disembarking the ferry you arrive at Southend – the island’s township – which is perfect for day trippers or those who don’t like to camp too much. It’s also the place to air down before hitting the beach. The Capricorn Lodge is the town’s shop and useful for basic supplies, and there’s a variety of accommodation options available in Southend, too, which allow you to take in the wonderful eastern view. The beach entrance is located just below the town and is an easy run. However, take note of all the signs along the beach, as driving above the high-tide mark isn’t allowed due to the turtle nests which are visible by pegs that have been erected.
The drive up the beach is not a problem, but the beach ends abruptly at the rocks and it won’t take long until you start looking for an exit track. To the left and into the dunes are a couple of access tracks that get you off the beach and on your way to the camping areas. However, this beach exit is really soft, so you’ve got to give it the berries or you’ll sink down to your belly. As you progress along this route you’ll notice a steep, rutted track, where you can opt to go left or right. Pick the best line for you and your vehicle, but what goes up must come down. Driving back towards town is an entirely different story; there are ruts to contend with, and it turns into an off-camber downhill slide. Extra care needs to be taken, as it’s easy to roll a vehicle on an obstacle like this.
Curtis Island is a national park, so the access roads are graded. However, some parts aren’t well-cleared and the low-hanging branches will let you know your rooftop tent is still attached – the added bush pinstripes will be free of charge, too. There are signs to the camping areas, so it’s hard to get lost in this place. Whichever site you’ve booked, follow the signs and you’ll get there easily. Traffic on the island is quiet compared to the likes of Fraser or Moreton, so there’s no need to pull over for oncoming traffic; in fact, you’ll be lucky to see another car whilst you’re out exploring. The views along the headland are awe-inspiring and the photo opportunities are endless, but it’s worth it to take the time to soak it all in.
At Turtle Street Beach, not far from the turnoff, you’re greeted with a flat, open stretch of beach and the campsite to your left. Keep the tides in mind here, though, as when they are high, they’re high, and you’ll be lucky to drive anywhere when the tide is up. The upside is that when the tide is low you’ve got a wide beach to play on. Turtle Street Beach campsite is able to fit three or more cars comfortably, but, be warned: the mozzies are insane. Bring extra bug spray before you board the ferry!
If mud crabs are on the menu, drive approximately 1km down the beach and you’ll come to a tidal creek. Put your pots in and be greeted with beautiful sweet crabs for breakfast… it kept our bellies full for two days in a row. Explore further by venturing to a cave located at a campsite called Joey Lees – you can only access the cave at low tide.
Curtis Island has a lot to offer, especially if relaxing and soaking up the scenery are priorities. If you’ve never been before, make sure you lock it in your calendar. This place is unknown to a lot of people south of Bundaberg, but sometimes you need to explore the untold to find paradise.
Curtis Island, located just off the coast of Gladstone.
$6.55 per person per night. There are three campsites on the island, two of which are accessible by 4x4; these are Turtle Street Beach and Joey Lees. Yellow Patch is only accessible by boat.
There are no facilities.
There are patches of soft sand at the beach exit, before a steep, rutted track leads to one of the headlands. This island is not for beginners, with some 4WD experience required.
Curtis Ferry Services: www.curtisferryservices.com.au
Queensland parks and forests: www.nprsr.qld.gov.au
A camping permit is required, which you can access through the national parks booking system. No vehicle permit is needed for beach driving.