Island Hop

Island treasure

As a paradox to some of the utterly insane laws and attitudes to cycling in Australia, we have an almost dizzying array of choices when it comes to places you can see and things you can do on a bicycle. Take the greater Brisbane area for example. Just in this small pocket of the country, you can explore mountain ranges, lakes, beaches and islands with almost no requirement for a car. And if you combine your rides with the available trains and ferries, the world really is your oyster.

With that, today I’m going to show you how you can go from city to island paradise using only a bicycle and a GoCard (and a bit of food, drink and sunscreen…and pants – definitely wear pants at all times) because I’m going to be traveling to Russell Island in Brisbane’s southern bayside region. It’s been a while since my last ferry crossing with a bike and this seemed like a great excuse to do it again.

I deliberated a bit about which bike to take on this little jaunt. I was almost going to gear up the Crossrip which would probably have been better in one sense because there are quite a lot of road sections to cover but then I decided that because the ultimate aim of the trip was to ride on the interior trails of Russell Island, I would be better served by taking a mountain bike and so I decided to take the Scott Scale. In retrospect, I think either of these machines would have done the job nicely.

I decided to continue the theme of minimising the use of cycle specific clothing while riding by wearing an “adventure” shirt instead of a jersey and a pair of plain quick drying shorts with pockets over my knicks which proved to be an excellent combination. The shirt had penty of pockets for small bits and pieces and was able to be unbuttoned a bit for extra air flow. The shorts provided more pockets and the knicks served as both arse padding and a swimming garment that dried quickly and didn’t require me to wet my shorts.

Despite never really being too far from civilisation, this would be an all day trip so it would require carrying a bit more stuff that usual (a small towel, an extra tube, some sunscreen) so I kitted out the Scott Scale with my Topeak Mondopack Hydro. Together with my trusty bum bag, I was able to comfortably carry all that I needed for the day.

Gateway Bridge bikeway Brisbane
Top of the Gateway Bridge

So with everything prepared the night before, the day started with a roll down the Kedron Brook bikeway and down Nudgee Road before working my way through the largely deserted Eagle Farm industrial area and over the Gateway Bridge bikeway.

Mountain bike on a Queensland Railways train
Yep, another bike on a train photo

Once on the other side, the Murrarie train station was just over the hill off Creek Rd where I boarded to make my way to Cleveland. The half hour or so provided a welcome break from the heat in the air conditioning and I had the carriage pretty well to myself.

Redland Bay ferry terminal
Redland Bay ferry terminal. Access by bike, pay by GoCard.

From Cleveland station, Bloomfield St provided wide shoulders and shaded bikeways on the twelve or kilometres to Redland Bay where the ferry terminal awaited. The ferry from here runs in a loop from Redland Bay to Russell Island then on to Lamb Island, MacLeay Island, Karragarra Island and back to Redland Bay. Be sure to take a GoCard to pay for the ferry and some bungee chords or velcro straps to tie your bike to the hand railing on the bow of the ferry. Some of the ferries have bike racks and some don’t but either way you’ll personally want to secure your bike because it will move around a bit with the ferry and I couldn’t be 100% sure how much responsibility the ferry operators will take (read: probably none) if it falls in the drink. I made the mistake of not bringing any straps so I had to use my helmet straps to secure the Scott and it did sway about somewhat throughout the trip. You aren’t allowed out of the cabin once the boat is under way.

Bicycle on a Russell Island ferry

Russell Island ferry terminal
Russell Island ferry terminal

Once we had landed safely on Russell Island approximately fifteen minutes later, I realised that it was late morning and I had already partially filled my legs with kilometres on the way here so I decided that now was as good a time as any to have lunch before I started exploring the island. Aunty Alice’s looked like a good place to stop in and I was right. The staff were friendly, the service was prompt and the toasted BLT with coffee that I had was first class.

Forest trail

Setting off to explore the island after lunch, the quaint, narrow streets were filled mostly with holiday style cottages with neat gardens, vegetable patches and often some form of water craft on a trailer nearby. Eventually I found my way into the Russell Island Wetlands in the northern centre of the island. I didn’t really have a plan of where I was going at that point so I followed my nose and any trail that looked half interesting along the way. I was rewarded for my nonchalantness.

Russell Island wetlands

Cicada shells
Cicada shells
Squiggly Bark Gum
Squiggly Bark Gum

Russell Island flora

Termite mound
Termite mound

Once I had covered all that needed to be covered in the wetlands I thought I’d better have a look at the water seeing as though I had come all this way onto an island so I made my way over to the eastern side where I got a view of the channel running between South Stradbroke and more laid back seaside cottages.

Russell Island looking toward South Stradbroke Island
Russell Island looking toward South Stradbroke Island

Old hardware store

By this time the day was really starting to get hot so I headed back toward the ferry terminal along High St and ducked into the IGA supermarket where cool bottles of refreshment awaited. It was also getting late by the time I had finished my refreshments and I was most of the way back to the ferry terminal anyway so I decided to see how far away the next ferry was. I was in luck because just as I pulled up to the terminal, one was coming in to dock. After fastening my bike to the bow again, I headed back to the mainland where I would retrace my steps for the journey home.

View from a ferry window
View from a ferry window

Russell Island is a fantastic place for a bike trip not least of all because it’s so close to Brisbane yet, when you’re there, you feel like you’re a million miles away from civilization. On this trip I really only covered part of the island and left the neighbouring islands – Lamb Island, MacLeay Island and Karragarra Island – still to be explored which was mainly due to the fact that I used up my legs quite a bit getting to the Redland Bay ferry (the day ended up totaling around 100km of pedaling). That said, for the next trip to the area I’m going to either take the train all the way to Cleveland or drive to Redland Bay and devote the entire day to island hopping. I think there’s a lot more in the area to be discovered.

That’s it for today. Keep pedaling and see you out there sometime.

6 thoughts on “Island Hop”

    1. I can’t take credit for the idea of this ride per se – there’s been plenty of others before me. But I have tried to add my own spin on it by completely abandoning the use of a car and adding the section traveled by train.

  1. I covered all four of the islands in that little group years ago. Took three or four attempts to get my system right but I found the bike was the best way to explore the islands. You can go from one to the other easily on the passenger ferry without the expense of paying for the car ferry and once on land the rides are easy with a new vista at every turn.

    Camped down at Sandy Beach on Russell Island (toilets and tap there) without any interference and could easily have bivouaked on Lamb.

    Those islands are Brisbane’s best kept secret. A little paradise overlooked.

    1. Yeah, that was one of the things that blew me away – about $3.50 on my GoCard got me a ferry ride to a place that looks a million bucks.

  2. Magnificent ‘how to’ article. We wish more pedal explorers could visit and see other parts of Russell Island. Checkout Google maps before you go to maximise efficiency of your pedal power. It’s a big island. The servo on Russell island has an air pump if you need it. IGA has everything else you need..

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