Island Fever


Love Ones,

Writing about Nelson Island forced me to harken back to my childhood; a long, if not very long time ago. I had to confront my Island longings. There are some things that just stay with you, seep into your pores at an early age and soak the soul. My love of Island “roughing it” must be one of them. I grew up in Sydney, but the family heart lay 1000 km north on South Stradbroke Island. This is where my father, who whimsically described himself as a “trainee tycoon”, was going to strike it rich, (he did eventually, I’m glad to say but not perhaps in the way we thought) and where we made an annual pilgrimage for our long school holidays. Ten glorious weeks in a region aptly named The Gold Coast. My father owned all the freehold land on the Island at the time which included a couple of beach shacks (and I do mean shacks) and every water toy known to man. We had a “speed” boat, water skiis, kayaks, a 16′ catamaran, a dune buggy and even a couple of horses that we corralled at the beginning of the holidays and rode into the ground. It may sound glamorous but what we lacked in “purchasing power” we made up with imagination and everything had a decidedly “rustic’ flavor. Regardless, we had SOME fun.  Friends from school would often join us and it became so popular that the 2 beach shacks expanded to include a ”girl’s tent” and a “boys tent” so that it eventually felt like my parents were hosting summer camp. After a while it was just referred to as “the island” as in, “I’m coming to the the island”. No-one waited for an invitation.

00990004-640-x-480.jpgMy parents were the proverbial “odd couple”, my father being sublimely comfortable in gut-smeared fishing shorts, my English-rose mother venturing into the blistering Queensland sun in a broard-brimmed hat, designer clothes and rubber “bathing sandles” to ensure her feet didn’t touch sand or mud. I often feel like the conflicted sum of their parts. It wasn’t exactly Massey esthetics as the outhouse will attest. We collected rain water in a giant tank and there was a makeshift outdoor shower that was pumped by hand. Salt encrusted from the days activities, the girls liked to shower before dinner and we couldn’t figure out why the boys fought for the opportunity to pump water for us. Dusk cast silouettes against the shower enclosure.

00990002-640-x-480.jpgI apologise for the quality of the pics but Hey! it was the 60′s! It is interesting to note that there are several people in this pic (other than family members) who are still part of my life.

south_stradbroke_dunes-640-x-480.jpgThe island was special even back then. It is one of Australia’s rare sand islands,  22 km long but only 2.5 km wide at it’s widest point which meant there were both wild surf beaches on the eastern side and a still bay on the other side separated by rolling dunes of golden white sand. The western beaches are quiet and lagoon like and the eastern beaches are a surfers paradise and they are only a brisk bush walk apart.

There are interesting stories about the Islands origins.  Before 1896 the island was part of North Stradbroke Island. During a storm, a vessel carrying a precious cargo of rum ran aground on the north eastern tip. The locals from the mainland trudged across the sand dunes to collect the rum from the shipwreck using plows to lower the height of the dunes to near sea level so that retrieving the rum was easier. Don’t mess with mother nature. With the protective dunes weakened, a subsequent storm caused the island to split in two and the new tidal channel caused significant changes to the channels and islands within the bay. The tip at the southern end marks the beginning of the Gold Coast Seaway and is only separated by a matter of meters from the mainland. It was possible, at low tide to wade or swim to the other side but it may as well have been 5o miles as it makes the island an island and inaccessible to cars!


69530232_idcfyjmf.jpgMy family feels like we pioneered the island. There were a few “colorful” permanent residents including a reclusive old codger who took a shine to us and invited us over for dinner – we were horrified to discover we were eating bandicoot – a native Australian rodent. Other Island feasts were more palatable. Dad was a keen fisherman, we would often pull up pots laden with crabs and we kept a keen eye out for the prawn trawlers who passed in the bay, paddling out to meet them to buy straight from the boat. We even lived on the Island briefly ourselves when the purchase of a house on the mainland had fallen through and I can remember on the odd occasion traveling to the toney private girl’s school I attended- complete with hat and gloves – via our little “speed” boat, arriving with sand in my shoes. The Stradbroke Hillbillies!

00990005-640-x-480.jpgSometime into the journey Dad purchased and old Volkswagon “beetle” which was cut down and converted, by way of fat tires,  into a “dune buggy”. It was an instant hit. We would careen up and over sand dunes and tear along the beach, seeing how high we could spray water from the last trickle of receding waves. Many a kid learnt to drive on that mighty bug.

701917-the_sunset_looking_out_towards_the_broadwater-south_stradbroke_island.jpgThere was no electricity except for a small generator. The evenings, lit by kerosene lamps were spent singing ribald songs (much to my mothers displeasure) playing cabin games or just sitting on the beach watching the spectacular sunsets over the still western waters. But mostly we amused ourselves playing pranks on the enemy; girls versus boys, we would stop at nothing to get the last laugh.

00990001-640-x-480.jpgThe author, age 15, South Stradbroke Island.  Then, and always will be, an Island girl at heart!

15 Responses

  1. Denys Says:

    Reminded me of growing up in the Caribbean, and going “down the islands” during school holidays. That meant some very small islands between Trinidad and Venezuela, all exc ept one of which belonged to Trinidad. Occasionally, we got to go to a BIG small island – like Grenada. Those were the days.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Sweet memories!

  3. The Skinny Bitch Says:

    Sounds heavenly. Oh so different to my childhood in freezing dreary bloody cold Scotland!! May my ancestors be forever cursed for not having been lowly criminals who were deported to Australia.

  4. juli hodgson Says:

    Wow, you were and are still are one hot babe.

  5. madeleine Says:

    wonderful and beautiful. a great look back in time!

  6. Neily Says:

    I loved it. It was my favourite one yet. Reminded me of my upbringing in Edmonton.

  7. Heather Says:

    love reading all your great epistles. Keep them coming and have a great summer. Love Heather

  8. Madelaine Leone Says:

    Wonderful and a great look back in time.

  9. Jane Frazee Says:

    Nice story.. I didn’t know that about your past… I thought you were just a white gloved debutante who took up boating once here in Vancouver. Nice to hear you’ve had salt in your blood since the beginning.No wonder I like you so much. Next project is to write a screen play about summers on the island..It would make a great movie. like the Summer of 64.. sea, sand and sex scandal …..

  10. Sally Pirani Says:

    Dear Island Girl
    Thanks again! So glad you are back. As usual have been entertained and touched by all of your latest blogs. Thank God, you have the heart and courage to be so candid with us, and with humour too!

  11. Virginia Leeming Says:

    Once again dear Peg you have made my day. I grew up on a sandy beach, digging for clams, finding baby crabs and swimming in a lagoon with warm water baked by the sun that flooded the lagoon when the tide went out. I love your photos. So inspiring.
    Love Virginia

  12. Tyler Massey Says:

    Nice little reminisce into beach life.

    Glad you had a great time up at Nelson with the Folks. Hopefully I will be up there next time you are up to pour us some ‘sea-worthy’ cocktails.

    Say hi to the fam…


  13. Anonymous Says:

    Oh Peg!
    Makes me homesick for my BIG small island home,Jamaica and my dear departed Dad who would shout “who wants to go for a sea-bath?” and as many as would fit would pile into the car–no seat-belts then (or now!) Oh the small of the salt and sand on hot skin and unwashed hair and my mother waiting to reclaim and bathe us.

    Thanks as always for sharing.
    Maks us all tresure youeven more.

  14. Michael Says:

    What an amazing place. I am reminded of childhood vacations spent on Prince Edward Island playing with my siblings in sandy dunes and swimming in the warm waters of the Northumberland Strait. Loved the pics as well.

  15. Robert Quickenden Says:

    Thanks for the memories Peg. Cool times, places and great people. Best wishes. REQ

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