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Queensland's Best Island Holidays For Art Lovers

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by Carolyn Hopping (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published May 8th 2014
Discover Your Inner Artist At These Idyllic Tropical Isles
Queensland's Best Island Holidays For Art Lovers
Blessed with some of Australia's most spectacular scenery and breathtaking beaches, Queensland is a mecca for pleasure-seekers from around the world seeking the perfect tropical escape. When we envision the perfect island paradise, it's often images of the beautiful coral cays on the Great Barrier Reef, complete with palm trees, turquoise lagoons and intimate beaches of soft golden sand, that immediately spring to mind. With a mind-boggling 1,955 islands scattered along its 6,973 kilometre coastline, it's certainly not surprising that the state is an island-lover's paradise.

Hamilton Island - This image is by idrewuk, from Wikimedia Commons
Hamilton Island - This image is by idrewuk, from Wikimedia Commons

Since time began, islands have beguiled artists and writers, and many throughout the ages have sought refuge and inspiration amongst the beauty and solitude found on them. These days, not much has changed and many of Queensland's islands are home to numerous creative sorts, many who open their studios to the public and regularly exhibit their works in local galleries.

This image is by Jennifer Rensel, from Wikimedia Commons
This image is by Jennifer Rensel, from Wikimedia Commons

Beginning in the south and gradually heading north, the following pages detail some of Queensland's best island destinations for art-lovers. Whether you're yearning for a beautiful natural paradise where you can pursue your creative passion or are satisfied to simply admire the works of other artisans, these magical places will be sure to enchant and inspire you, leaving an irrevocable impression upon your heart.

North Stradbroke Island
North and South Stradbroke Islands were originally one very large sand island until the late nineteenth century when a ferocious storm created the Jumpinpin Channel, thus separating it into two. While both are breathtakingly beautiful, North Stradbroke Island is especially well-endowed with art galleries. Lovers of Indigenous Australian art will enjoy a visit to the Salt Water Murris Quandamooka, a community-based arts and crafts centre that exhibits traditional and contemporary style works by artists from the Noonuccal, Ngugi and Gorenpul clans. The gallery is located at 3 Ballow Road, Dunwich, and is open from Wednesday until Sunday, 9.30am to 3.30pm. For more information call 07 3415 2373.

This image is by Gondwananet at Wikipedia Commons
This image is by Wikimedia Commons

The Mookin Bibonmari Aboriginal Gallery, just up the road at 7 Ballow Road, is another art space that celebrates the rich Indigenous cultural heritage of Stradbroke Island. This gallery features the work of artist Brendon Coghill, especially focusing on the traditional arts and crafts of the Goenpul people. The gallery can also organise tours of the island, escorted by a knowledgeable Indigenous guide.

Located at the Pandanus Palms Resort Complex at Point Lookout, the Coral Sea Gallery showcases gorgeous artwork from North Stradbroke Island, Redcliff and other areas of south-east Queensland. Featuring paintings, sculpture, photography, jewellery, prints and textile art, this is a top spot to discover some locally-made treasures. The Coral Sea Gallery is situated at 21 Cumming Parade at Point Lookout and is open seven days a week, from 9.30am until 4.30pm.

Every second Sunday, from 8am until around midday, the Straddie Markets (at Point Lookout Community Hall on East Coast Road) sell a variety of wares, including lovely locally-made arts and crafts, while the Lines in the Sand Arts Festival is a fabulous four-day nature-based arts festival, held at the end of June. This is an event that enthusiastic art-lovers definitely won't want to miss: there'll be artists in residence, heaps of exhibitions and great workshops showcasing various creative media. Take a look at the Lines in the Sand website to learn more.

Macleay Island
Nestled between North Stradbroke Island and the mainland, Macleay Island is another great spot to head to if you're hankering to escape the rat-race and get creative. With a resident population including around 250 artists, the island is developing a reputation as a creative hotspot and various groups exist so local artisans can connect socially and share their creative journeys.

This image is from the Macleay Island Art Complex website
This image is from the Macleay Island Art Complex website

The Macleay Island Arts Complex at 95 - 97 Coast Road is the island's main hub for art-lovers, both locals and visitors, and includes a gallery space, studios and workshops where regular classes in pottery, painting and other creative media are held. To find out more, take a look at their website or give them a call on 07 3409 4100.

Meeting monthly in the lounge of Pub Paradise, the Dead Parrot Society is a social group comprising creative folk working in a variety of genres, including but not limited to, poetry, writing, painting, pottery, sculpture, mosaic, calligraphy, music, songwriting and visual arts. To find out more, call Madeline on 07 3409 4545 or email [email protected].

Other creative events include the Macleay Island Craft Group's weekly get-together (every Tuesday morning at the Community Centre on Southsea Terrace) and Macleay Island Woolies (focusing on everything to do with wool such as knitting, crochet, weaving and spinning), which meets at the Emerald Isle Shopping Centre once a fortnight, on Tuesdays from 10am until midday.

Market-loving visitors to Macleay Island will also enjoy browsing through the stalls at the Mini Night Time Markets which are held every second Friday of the month from 5pm until around 8pm near the Blue Parrot Cafe at 36 Southsea Terrace. With all sorts of eclectic goodies such as arts and crafts, knick-knacks and tarot readings on offer, who knows what treasures you'll unearth?

If you're wanting to spend a few days or weeks on Macleay Island there is a good selection of accommodation available, mainly bed-and-breakfasts and holiday cottages. You can access Macleay Island and the other southern Moreton Bay Islands by both ferry and barge from Weinam Street in Redland Bay. For more information about visiting, take a look at the Macleay Island website.

Bribie Island
Just 45 minutes from Brisbane Airport, beautiful Bribie Island is the only Moreton Bay island that visitors can drive to. With the Bribie Island Bridge creating easy and affordable access from the mainland, it's a top spot to spend a day or even a lifetime close to nature, as many artists have discovered. A large percentage of Bribie Island is protected by Environmental, National & Marine Parks, and therefore much wildlife can be found there as well as marine species such as dolphins, dugongs and turtles.

This image is by Kgbo, at Wikimedia Commons
This image is by Kgbo, at Wikimedia Commons

An art-lover's paradise, Bribie Island boasts several galleries and art centres that exhibit and sell the work of local artists and crafters. The Bribie Island Community Arts Centre is well-known as the creative hub of the island and is therefore a good place to begin if you're embarking on an artistic odyssey. As well as housing a large exhibition space, the Matthew Flinders Gallery and a gift-shop well-stocked with beautiful locally-made creations, there are also several workshop areas where various art and craft groups meet, and where workshops are periodically presented by local and visiting artisans.

The Pier View Gallery (Shop 2 / 1 Toorbull Street, Bongaree), opposite the jetty and next to the bakery, is open seven days a week and hosts regularly-changing exhibitions by artists from the local area and further afield. Other galleries on Bribie Island include Elly Dawn Gallery at 8 Jacana Avenue, Woorim and The White Patch Gallery at 164 White Patch Esplanade, White Patch.

If you're a market girl who loves trawling for handmade treasures, Sunday is market day on Bribie. On the last Sunday of each month the Bribie Island Community Arts Centre holds its monthly market at the above-mentioned address. Whether you're looking for a lovely handmade gift for someone special or just want to spoil yourself, this vibrant market purveys locally-made craft-work of every variety and is a terrific place to purchase directly from the artisans themselves. Other markets, including the Bribie Island & District Community Jetty Markets, the Cancer Council Markets and the Rotary Markets, are held at different places in Bongaree on the other Sundays. Local handicrafts can often be found at these as well, so they're always well worth checking out. For more details, take a look at this website.

For more information about Bribie Island, including where to stay and what to do, take a look at the Bribie Island Tourism website.

Hamilton Island
One of the most famous of the Great Barrier Reef islands, Hamilton Island is also the largest island in the Whitsunday Group and a popular tourist destination, with a wide range of accommodation options and loads of cool things to see and do. If you're fortunate enough to pay a visit to this tropical paradise, be sure to visit the Hamilton Island Art Gallery on Front Street, above Hamilton Island Real Estate.

This image is by ThingOnASpring at Wikimedia Commons
This image is by ThingOnASpring at Wikimedia Commons

As well as holding regular exhibitions, the gallery also provides art classes for both adults and children. These are taught by a monthly roster of talented artists-in-residence, and are popular with visitors ranging from talented amateurs to complete novices. As the Hamilton Island website notes, all you need to bring is a smile and enthusiasm: everything else, including paints, brushes and canvas is provided. To find out more, including prices, take a look at the Hamilton Island website.

This image is by ThingOnASpring at Wikimedia Commons
This image is by ThingOnASpring at Wikimedia Commons

Magnetic Island
While many of the Great Barrier Reef islands are pricey tourist traps that are strictly for the well-heeled, Magnetic Island is refreshingly affordable, even for the most budget-conscious traveller. Just a short ferry trip from Townsville, the island boasts a terrific assortment of accommodation, ranging from camping grounds and backpacker hostels to flashy holiday houses and resorts. With its gorgeous tropical climate and the wonders of the reef and rainforest right on its doorstep, it's certainly not surprising that many artisans have set up house here.

This image is by Stevage at Wikimedia Commons
This image is by Stevage at Wikimedia Commons

The artists living on Magnetic Island work in a variety of media, including paint, sculpture, ceramics, jewellery and textiles, and many welcome guests into their studios. Art Safari, which is held each August is the biggest arts event on the island and a top way to check out the local art scene in a systematic way. Three options are available to visitors who'd like to participate. You can join a guided tour, drive yourself in your own car or purchase a daily bus pass and take the island buses. If you can't time a visit for then, maps are available year-round so you can create your own safari whenever you find convenient.

This image is by Reflexio, at Wikimedia Commons
This image is by Reflexio at Wikimedia Commons

There are several destinations that every art-loving visitor needs to head for during a sojourn on Magnetic Island. Located at Picnic Bay, on the mall, the MI Art Space is a good spot to begin as it's open seven days a week, from 10am until 3pm. Also in Picnic Bay (at 58 Barbarra Street), the Kysley Gallery is open by appointment. Call them on 07 4758 1611 to arrange a time. Other popular galleries that are highly recommended are Magnetic Island Photography at Nelly Bay (86 Mandalay Avenue or phone 0417 750 500), Jenny Mulcahy's Gustav Creek Studio (call 0402 860 564 to make an appointment), Peter Lawson's Fine Art Gallery and the Barefoot Gallery at Horseshoe Bay. Local markets are also held regularly at both Horseshoe Bay and Arcadia. Read here to find out more about these.

To learn more about Magnetic Island's vibrant art scene, go to the Magnetic Island Tourism website and read this informative article from the Magnetic Times, the island's local newspaper.

Torres Strait Islands
Directly north of Cape York and south of New Guinea lies the Torres Strait, an expanse of tropical water dotted with over 270 islands where an ancient, culturally-rich Indigenous society has flourished for tens of thousands of years.

The Gab Titui Cultural Centre - this image is by Feral Arts at Wikimedia Commons
The Gab Titui Cultural Centre - this image is by Feral Arts at Wikimedia Commons

An visit to the Torres Strait islands is a 'must-do' for every Australian art-lover. Still relatively unknown, the islands' exotic beauty and fascinating culture have attracted various creative guests over the last century including the British writer Somerset Maugham in the early 1900s, and Australian artist Ray Crooke during the decades following the Second World War.

Thursday Island, with a population of approximately 2 600 people, is the best-known of the Torres Strait Islands and serves as its administrative and commercial centre. It's here that most visitors stay during their sojourn to the Torres Straits and there are several accommodation options available including guesthouses, bed and breakfasts and local pubs. The Gateway Torres Strait Resort on nearby Horn Island (where the airport is located) is another extremely comfortable place to stay while the adjacent, privately-owned Torres Strait Heritage Museum is a great spot to learn about the region's history.

Situated on Thursday Island, somewhere that every art-loving visitor to the Torres Straits absolutely must visit is the outstanding Gab Titui Cultural Centre. Showcasing the unique and vibrant cultures of the Torres Straits, Gab Titui serves as a gallery space and educational venue where visitors can view works produced by local artists, learn about the traditions and way of life that inspire them and experience the performances of traditional music, dance and song that are held on special occasions. Affiliated with the centre, a gallery shop sells high quality works of art by local Indigenous artists, including jewellery and carvings.

'Hunting the Hunted' (2009): linoprint by Solomon Booth, from the Gab Titui Cultural Centre website
'Hunting the Hunted' (2009): linoprint by Solomon Booth, from the Gab Titui Cultural Centre website

Intrepid art-lovers who have the time and money to delve deeper into the fascinating world of Torres Strait Island art may want to explore further afield, as Erub (also known as Darnley Island), Bada and Moa Islands also have their own art centres. One thing to keep in mind, however, if you're considering a visit to these outlying islands is to apply in advance for a permit from the respective island councils. This website provides important information, including contacts, related to this.

Erub Erwer Meta (Darnley Island Art Centre) is a unique creative space that's situated 160 kilometres north-east of Cape York peninsula on a tropical volcanic island at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Specialising in hand-built, wood-fired ceramics, jewellery, textiles, weaving, printmaking, works on paper and exquisite, handcrafted dance ornaments, this awesome art centre may be remote and somewhat hard to get to, but it's certainly worth the effort. Take a look at their website to get some idea of the beautiful work that's produced there.

Also on outlying islands, Badhulgaw Kuthinaw Mudh (Badu Art House) on Badu and Ngalmun Lagau Minaral (Our Island Designs) on Moa are well worth having a look at. To find out more about these remote albeit flourishing art centres, the artists who work there and the creative works they produce, be sure to take a look at their websites.

For more information about the Torres Strait Islands, including transport to and accommodation on them, contact [email protected] or call 07 4069 1336.

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Why? A creative island holiday is the ultimate getaway.
When: Any time of the year
Where: Various locations along the Queensland coast.
Cost: It varies, depending on where you stay and what you do.
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