North Stradbroke Island || Film photographs and words by Birralee Hassen

Arriving with just minutes to spare before the boat that ferries people across from mainland Australia to North Stradbroke Island was set to leave, we quickly did a reshuffle of people and belongings to fit everything inside Mara’s little car. Before we knew it four bodies, three surfboards, a couple of bags of food and clothes and one mermaid tail were aboard the ferry heading east. We left the car down below and headed up onto the deck. Windblown hair and faces full of excitement, there’s something very special about being surrounded by beautiful nature with friends. 

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A friend of Bec’s had left us with an invitation to use their home as ours whilst we were on the island, and I don’t think we could have found a better option for a basecamp if we tried. A big house held up by thick weathered beams, wooden floorboards, and flowing curtains that separated bedrooms from living rooms, creating an air of elegance and femineity that solid walls do not possess. Crystals on benches, flowers in vases, and incredible art everywhere I looked. I constantly thought I had seen all the paintings in the house and then a new piece would discover itself to me. It was the kind of art that speaks to your insides, soft little whispers in a language that doesn’t use words. These were not small pieces of art either, they were mostly taller than me, and my eyes feasted on finding new details.

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The view from the balcony was of the main beach at Stradbroke Island, and there is truth in the fact that the sight of the ocean brings with it a different mindset. A humbling reminder of the greatness of the planet, the smallness of a single human and the fact that somehow we are of the same.  

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Our afternoon consisted of pretending to be mermaids, assisted by Bec’s fins that joined at the ankles. “You already know how to do it” Bec said as she handed me the orange mermaid tail. “How many times did you use to pretend to be Ariel when you were a little girl”. She was right of course, I slipped my feet into the fins and instantly my body knew the movements to replicate, except this time it was a lot easier and probably more graceful. Seven year old me would have been so proud.

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We surfed, we ate good food; we lay around and read our books. We slowed life right down to that delicious pace where the little things are the most appreciated and worry is just a word. We packed our bags with drawing pages and pencils, yoga mats and mask and fins; we put on our hats and went on adventure after adventure. No rock wall was left unclimbed and no underwater cave was left unexplored.

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An afternoon swim in the tea tree lakes delivered the perfect ending to my trip to Stradbroke Island. The novelty doesn’t get old of diving under the water and looking up at the sun through the tea tree stained water. Blackness surrounds you, until you look up and then you are suddenly floating in an amber liquid that is pierced by beams of orange sunlight. You leave the water with skin feeling cleansed, a welcome change to being so salty you can hardly move without something cracking.

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I couldn’t have asked for a better first time to Stradbroke Island. My only problem with the trip was that it wasn’t for long enough. But a short trip is better than no trip, and I will definitely be back. A wonderful reminder of the beauty that Australia is made of, and a wonderful reminder of how that beauty can double when shared with friends. 

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Birralee Hassen