Bribie Walkabout by Zena Turner (1963)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Zena Turner (b. 1911) lived on Bribie Island with her husband Ernest Turner (handicraft worker) from 1949. Zena continued to reside on Bribie after her husband passed away in 1958. Zena lived at Ocean Beach and contributed many articles to The Bribie Star in the 1960s.
Zena’s love of nature can be seen clearly in the following article, published in the Bribie Star v.2(9) 19th October 1963 (Bridge special edition) page 17.
Although Bribie is the Mecca of many thousands of near-by city dwellers, there are surprisingly few who turn away from the water-lapped fringes of the Island and go into the bush which, at no place on the Southern end of the Island, is more than one and half miles from the water. Anyone wanting to evade civilisation for a day can find no better place to go than into the Bribie bush where the atmosphere is as remote as the never never, and the chance of meeting another human being is as equally remote. The southern end of the Island is laced with tracks suitable for a day’s tramping in the bush, and the best ones are within easy access from either Bongaree or Woorim. Some of them are suitable also for vehicular traffic but many of the good tracks, made when the army was on the Island during war time, have become overgrown for want of use.
Trackless walking on the Island is for those with a sense of direction and experienced in bushcraft. A few yards off a track in the Bribie bush and every tree and every shrub looks alike, so anyone who goes bushwalking on Bribie should follow a track unless familiar with the bush and swamps which will be encountered.
The track best known and most used by bushwalkers is that from Cotteril Avenue, Bongaree, to the centre road which runs north and south through the entire length of the Island. From this road a number of tracks branch out to different places of interest, the two main ones leading to Woorim and Dingo Creek.
Along the track from the centre road to North Street, Woorim, is the springtime beauty spot of the Island. Here is a vast garden of wild flowers, predominantly Boronia, fringed with Tea-Trees and Banksias, with a clump of tall, slim Tea-Trees standing sentinel-like in its midst. Here, too, grows the beautiful wild blue Iris, the dainty Sun-Orchid and many little ground-hugging plants, colourful little things upon which one is reluctant to walk.
To add to this panorama of colour are the Rainbow Lorikeets which make a brilliant flash as they sweep screeching overhead. In contrast to their screeching is the beautiful Throated Warbler. As the delicate, falling cadence comes drifting across the distance it is difficult to believe that such a melody, considered to be one of the sweetest of all Australian bird songs, can be produced by such a tiny bird. After passing through the Boronia plain the track winds on to Freshwater Creek where the Dusky Coral pea runs riot over shrub and tree, and the wild Lasiandra vies with tall, green bracken for a place in the sun. Here, too, are colourful little Wrens – the Blue and the Redbacked – flitting about in the reeds of the creek. A true family man, the Wren, for he is never alone. Always Jenny and the family are there with their happy, high-pitched twittering. A short distance past Freshwater Creek the track joins North Street and Fifth Avenue Woorim, and here, at the meeting of the roads, is another sand track leading north to the First lagoon.
Grove of Pines – The Cathedral
Some distance along the track is a grove of pines standing on the edge of the sea –beautiful, gnarled old trees that have withstood countless years of seasonal salt-sea winds and cyclones. It is to the credit of the many who picnic here that these beautiful old Pines are as yet untouched by man. This cannot be said of the grove that stands parallel with it across the water of the lagoon and which is reached by passing the sand-locked entrance to the lagoon and traversing trackless Pine Ridge on its western bank. Surely it was here in this Pine grove, known for many years as The Cathedral that a small part of Nature died. It was a place of beauty – tall Pines etched the sky, sun-dappled pine-needle carpet underfoot, Orchids, Staghorns and Ferns grew green and beautiful, and over all the still quiet of the bush broken only by the low murmur of the sea and the singing of birds. But, unlike the windswept old pines on the edge of the sea, most of the trees grew straight and tall – so straight and tall that their beautiful sky-reaching greenness marked their doom. No Pine trees could grow so high and so green unless they were millable. And so they died.
Today  The Cathedral has no semblance of its former beauty and few go there. Those who do venture along Pine Ridge do so because of a remembered beauty, and with the hope that Nature may perform one of her rare miracles and restore what man destroyed.
Another one and a half miles north from the First Lagoon by beach or by trackless bush walking is the Second Lagoon which may be reached also by following the centre road north to the signpost giving directions to Dingo Creek and Second Lagoon. It is necessary if going by this road to go to Dingo Creek and then walk back a half-mile by beach to the lagoon.
This is a lovely spot lying undisturbed and looking much as it must have looked centuries ago when the black man roamed here. The harsh browns and olive greens of the bush and the lagoon lie hard against the silver and blue of the sea with Moreton Island hanging like a purple backdrop in the distance. Misty grey-green Casuarinas lining the seashore and the entrance to the lagoon lend a redeeming softness to this almost too brilliant picture, and a civilisation-left-behind atmosphere pervades the whole area – an atmosphere that belies a city of some 600,000 population lying just fifty miles to the south, and a progressive Sunshine Coast to the north.
Here in the environs of the Second Lagoon the Palm Lily grows. It is an oddity of nature that this plant with its spike of delicate, orchid-like pink blooms should curve swan-like and graceful to open its beauty to the ground and not to the sun. Behind the Second Lagoon the bush is trackless and wild with tangled bracken and undergrowth, but there are surprises here for the intrepid bushwalker. A picturesque little fern-tipped swamp nestles at the foot of a pine-clad ridge, and a Pandanus Palm, too far from its natural place by the sea, grows disproportionately high seeking the sunlight through the foliage of its towering bushland companions, while a King Orchid, oddly out of place in this Bribie wilderness, struggles for existence in the hot sand. No doubt it grew at one time in a shady Pine until ravaged by bushfire.
Further north and over the terrace from Dingo Creek is the Oak Walk which, as the name implies, is a track winding its way through a thick belt of she-oaks. The track was made when the army was in occupation of the Island and it is still there, but only those who know of it can find it now for it has become overgrown at both ends and there is nothing to show that it is there.
Some three miles north of Dingo Creek is Mermaid Lagoon, and a few miles north again is Welsby Lagoon, or, as it is sometimes called, the Bird Lagoon. Here many aquatic birds, black Swan and wild Duck predominating, swim serenely through reeds and water lilies sheltered from the sea by high sand dunes, and from the west by high Tea-Trees so regular in growth that they lie against the sky like a straight, dark wall. On rare occasions a Jabiru may be seen stalking quietly about Welsby Lagoon in search of prey. If frightened it will take off into seemingly effortless flight and alight on the other side of the lagoon where it will stand motionless for so long that it seems to merge with its surroundings.
Welsby Lagoon is the ultimate of remoteness on Bribie, for it lies halfway between the northern tip of the Island near Caloundra and the southern tip in Moreton Bay. It is some 10 miles from Woorim by beach, but if alternating the walk by bush and beach it is some 13 or 14 miles.
The track from Dingo Creek back to Campbell Road, Bongaree, and Woorim is usually in good condition for vehicular traffic as well as for walking. It passes through large areas of Boronia, and in a reasonably clear section between Dingo Creek and the sign post are hundreds of grass trees growing luxuriantly in an area which had previously been swept by bushfire. Here, when the grass trees bloom, the parrots come to feed. It is a magnificent sight to see hundreds of Lorikeets feeding on the tall, cylindrical spikes of bloom, as many as six at each spike. They keep up an incessant chatter as they feed, fluttering their rainbow wings in an endeavour to gain a precarious foothold among the thousand minute blooms.
Emus, Kangaroos and Wallabies are a common sight along this track, and on rare occasions a flock of Brolgas may be seen. These beautiful birds take off into flight at the first sign of intrusion, and always their flight is northward to the far end of the Island, where, in a clearing in the vicinity of the lighthouse, they have been seen performing their graceful, long-legged dance.
The only track branching off to the sea once the Dingo Creek track joins the centre road is the one leading to Woorim. There are, however, several leading off to the Passage side of the Island. These have become rather overgrown and unless they are used by experienced bush-walkers it is well to bypass them and continue on to the track leading into Cotteril Avenue.
Some half-mile before reaching Cotteril Avenue along this track the whole bush is redolent of a delightful perfume identical with that of the wild Cherry Blossom. Nothing has been found to account for this perfume, so it is referred to simply as “a delightful bush fragrance”.
South of Campbell Road there are more good walking tracks, a number of which were made when the army was on the Island. Most of them had become overgrown, but last year some of them were cleared and it is now possible to leave Campbell Road at Boyd Street, Woorim, and re-join it at Bongaree, via Skirmish Point, Woody Bay, Bald Point and Red Beach.
These are interesting tracks for walking as they give access at intervals to the Bay beaches, and one branches off to what is considered to be the best Pine grove now standing on the Island. This is at Bald Point tucked well back from the south-east winds behind a protective line of Casuarinas and Banksias which stand well back from the waters of Moreton Bay.
It is from the Red Beach section of this track that an entrance to Skirmish Swamp is found. Tree-ferns grow luxuriantly here, but it is seldom possible to penetrate far into the swamp. During the 1946 drought it dried out completely and then it was possible to walk anywhere in the area.
Although there are many miles of bush tracks for walking there are also many miles of beautiful beach for walking – clear, unbroken beach right to the northern tip of the Island, and picturesque Bay beaches from Skirmish Point to Pumicestone Passage.
Looking from Skirmish Point across Woody Bay is like viewing a vast, remote painting tinged with sadness, for Woody Bay is a graveyard of trees. Each year the encroaching sea, pushed on by the south-east winds that run rampant across Moreton Bay, cut further into the low, unresisting terrace and one after another the rangy old Tea-Trees and Pines topple to the beach where they eventually become sea-washed ghosts of their former beauty.
Nature is both bountiful and cruel here, for while Woody Bay is being cut away by the sea,
Bald Point which lies a few hundred feet away is building up. This build-up has been taking place over the years since the 1952 cyclone sliced through Bald Point so that it was possible to see, from the one vantage point on the beach, both Skirmish Point and the beacon at the entrance to Pumicestone Passage.
Marram grass and Beach Spinifex took control of this section of the beach, held the drifting sand, and now hundreds of young Casuarina trees have grown until Bald Point is better able to withstand a cyclonic gale than it was before the last cyclone ravaged it.
Sunset is the time for walking on Ocean Beach, for it is here that it is possible to walk on a rainbow. As the waves recede the reflections of the sunset light up the wet sand into a rainbow ribbon that stretches mile after mile into the distance until it loses itself in the sky. As the sun sinks the colours on the sand are ever-changing until the darkness blots out the sunset splendour which is equalled on Bribie only by the magnificent sunsets that encompass Pumicestone Passage and the Glasshouse Mountains.