A few years has passed since my last trip to Russell Island in Brisbane’s Southern Moreton Bay Region. Last time I went, I explored some of the island’s natural assets located at its interior but one day wasn’t enough so I promised to come back some time and stay a little longer. With winter just around the corner, I thought now would be a good time to pack some camping gear on my beloved Cannondale F4 and hop the ferry over while the nights are still mild enough.
The Lions Boulevard Park at the very southern end of the island is the only available campground offering two unpowered campsites positioned pretty much on the waterfront. Amenities are sparse with a single unisex longdrop toilet, an outdoor shower, sink, tables and an electric barbecue. Actually, now that I’ve listed it all out, it sounds pretty well appointed. And it is but I still wouldn’t say it’s caravan park quality camping which is good news because it keeps the crowds away and if you’re like me that’s a real plus. You’ll also want to bring plenty of insect repellent because the sandflies and mosquitoes are fairly relentless once the sun goes down and there are no fires allowed in the park if you were thinking of that as a way to keep the bities away.
To secure a campsite, you’ll need to check availability here and then phone the Redlands Council on the number on the webpage to make the booking. There’s no charge to camp but I guess they need to just keep track of who’s coming and going which is fair enough.
Once the accommodation was sorted, it was just a matter of loading up my pannier bags and handlebar roll and heading down to Redland Bay Marina. Because time was a little bit limited, a few of us loaded our bikes into the old fossil transporter and left it at the marina while we hopped the passenger ferry with our bikes like I did last time. The marina has three day parking available at the back but spots we’re limited so be prepared for a plan B if there’s no parks there such as parking a few streets away and riding up to the ferry or possibly arriving without a car like I did on my first trip.
The focus of this trip was to investigate the ins and outs of camping on Russell Island so I ran my smooth tyres on the F4 as I would not be venturing off road which was fine because since my last trip here the separated concrete path running down the centre of the island had been extended to cover the full length of the island from north to south which I was really happy about. Not that the traffic on the island is anything too hectic anyway but being able to ride and really immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the place without needing to think about cars makes it very pleasant indeed. The path also makes the island a great option if you’re riding with kids or less experienced riders because, aside from a few really quiet back streets at the southern end, the eight kilometre ride from one end to the other is entirely separated from traffic.
Camping with a bike on Russell Island also has another advantage in that it’s undeveloped enough to make you feel like you’re a long way from mainstream civilization but there are still enough amenities that you don’t need to load your bike with all possible essentials like you would if you were going somewhere more remote. Water, for example, is readily available even at the southern end of the island and the IGA, cafes and other small shops at the northern end means you can buy whatever you think you can carry the eight kilometres to the south as you get off the ferry. Not to mention that you’ll be supporting the local economy while you’re at it. Once you’re at the southern end of the island, though, there’s no more shops and other conveniences.
Having bought a few bits and pieces at the IGA to make the night more pleasant and having eaten a great fish burger for early lunch, we slowly made our way down the middle of the island to the campsite. Dense, pristine looking bushland shouldered the road most of the way broken up by the occasional few dwellings. The ground either side of the pathway varied between red earth and white sand carpeted with ferns in places. Occasionally, a narrow, unsealed track or road disappeared into tall trees and beckoned me to go and explore. This wasn’t going to be the trip for that kind of riding but the atmosphere of it all was enough to make this a very good day.
Eventually we reached the end of the concrete path and ducked along a quiet street climbing a steep-ish hill close to the campground. There were houses at the top with a few gaps of vacant land that provided views of the water that surrounded us and the distant paperbark forests on what must have been Stradbroke Island to the east. The sealed road ended and we rolled into the campground at the water’s edge.
After making short work of setting up our tiny campsite, there was plenty of time to explore the foreshore and look out across the flats left exposed by the fallen tide. As evening fell and we made dinner and settled in for the night, the tide rose and peaked providing a pleasant water lapping sound which seemed much closer to the tents than it actually was.
Campers from the other group that was there that night fished from the foreshore and caught a healthy bag of Bream and Whiting which they cooked and ate straight away. It all looked and sounded delicious and made me decide that I would definitely pack a small collapsible fishing rod or handline and a small box of tackle next time I come over. Room is quite limited on the bike but I really think a bit of fishing gear is something worth making room for to come here.
The following morning, we took it slowly having breakfast, enjoying the park and foreshore before packing up the campsite and heading north again. Lunch was on the cards when we got near the ferry terminal and this time we sampled another of Russell Island’s cafes before boarding the next ferry back to Redland Bay.
Before wrapping up, just a recap of some essentials if you’re going to visit Russell Island by bicycle yourself.
- Grab a GoCard for the ferry. It’s cheaper and quicker than trying to wrangle a ticket when you get there.
- Bring a velcro strap or bungee cord to secure your bike to the handrail of the ferry. Some of the ferries have bike racks and some don’t but it’s a good idea to secure your bike either way.
- Bring plenty of insect repellent because the sandflies and mosquitoes are highly active over there.
- Be sure to book your campsite with the Redlands Council even though there’s cost as at this writing.
- No campfires are allowed at the campsite at Lions Boulevard Park so bring a small gas cooker or be prepared to use the electric barbecues provided.
- If you like to fish, make room for fishing gear. It’ll probably be worth your while.
Ride safe and see you out there sometime.