The historical towns of 1770 and Agnes Water are discreetly nestled along the Discovery Coast, just north of Fraser Island and south of The Whitsundays. The neighbouring sister-towns boast Queensland’s northern-most surf beach, rugged National Parks alongside an unspoilt shoreline, and an unusual East Coast feature – a sunset over the ocean.
Famous for being the only town in the world with a number as its name, the town of 1770 was named after the landing of Lieutenant James Cook and his crew from the Endeavour (24 May, 1770). The town hosts the Captain Cook 1770 Festival every year in May to commemorate this visit. In spite of the drawcard of its amazing location, 1770 has largely resisted the ‘tourist trap’ feel you get elsewhere, maintaining that small coastal town appeal.
Agnes Water is the larger of the two towns and provides most of the services and main infrastructure. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its own charms though, with beautiful walks, quaint cafes and 6km of pristine, untouched, natural coastline.
Well known to backpackers and grey nomads, these towns provide so much more to a wide range of travellers. There are surprisingly so many things to do: 4WDing across national parks, relaxing at the beach, cruising in the bay, visiting local landmarks, and numerous local attractions to cater for any member of the family. This pristine piece of country really does have it all.
And, of course, there’s the magnificent fishing on offer. There aren’t many places along the Queensland Coast that can provide such diversity; from land-based gamefishing to offshore pelagics, to big estuary reds. Jump on board a half or full day fishing charter, fish the deep water and offshore reefs, and come home with a prized coral trout or red emperor. Whether you want to wet a line between family outings, or are in town for a serious fishing holiday, the region is a goldmine for anglers.
If it’s been a while since you visited, then you’ll be happy to hear they’ve now sealed the roads to provide easy access to travellers, especially for caravan and trailerboat owners.
The town of 1770 is approximately five and a half hours drive from Brisbane, with an easy drive up the M1 and a turn onto the Isis Hwy/State Route 3, and then eventually Route 16 will take you straight to town. For shorter distances, it’s about an hour and half from Gladstone heading south along the A1 to Miriam Vale, then follow Route 16. In the opposite direction, it’s roughly the same distance from Bundaberg straight up Route 16.
If you don’t have your own transport, you can also catch a train to Gladstone, Miriamvale or Bundaberg, or fly to Gladstone, Bundaberg or Hervey Bay airports, where you can hire a car, charter a flight or catch a bus into town.
The most noticeable attraction in 1770 would have to be the LARC. The amphibious vehicle is a familiar sight on the beach landscape and offers full day tours to the historical Lighthouse at Bustard Head, as well as smaller trips throughout the day.
Likewise, Lady Musgrave Cruises also do full day tours on board the Spirit of 1770, a 22m high-speed catamaran, to Lady Musgrave Island. Passengers get the chance to visit some of the most pristine parts of the southern Great Barrier Reef – a tropical paradise of 3000 acres of living reef including a deep water coral lagoon. Here you will come face-to-face with a variety of reef fish, along with manta rays and turtles.
For a cost-free afternoon, visit the Captain Cook Monument. Located on Captain Cook Drive on the way to Round Hill Headland, it commemorates the first landing of the Endeavour in Queensland at Bustard Bay. The rock monument was built on the site where one of Cook’s crew carved the date on a nearby tree where they came ashore. From here, there is an easy walking trail that is known as the Butterfly Walk; it is overwhelmed with thousands of beautiful butterflies. For budding lepidopterologists, the best time to view the blue tiger butterfly is between March and June.
There are several other inspiring walks in and around 1770.
The Round Hill Headland at the end of the peninsula is where you can see the anchor from the MV Countess Russell, which was wrecked to the south in 1873. The headland provides spectacular views and is one of the few places in Queensland where the sun sets over the water.
There is also the Discovery Trail that starts at the museum along Springs Road. It works its way along the front of Agnes Water Beach and Workmans Beach and passes underneath the lookout. A longer version would be to start further up the Agnes Water Beach and walk over the headland.
Agnes Water Beach is 6km of soft sand. It’s the most northern surf beach that is safe from stingers and crocodiles and, when conditions are right, the point break produces excellent surf. Even at peak holiday periods, with surfers, walkers and bathers sharing the beach, it rarely feels crowded. It is patrolled by lifeguards during weekends, holidays and peak times.
However, 1770/Agnes Water is not just about the beaches. The National Parks have their own charms.
The Paperbark Forest Walk at the Reedy Creek Reserve is a haven of beauty. The unique bollards provide artificial stepping stones at the start of the trail. Nestled among the ragged paperbark trees, the walk takes approximately 45 minutes.
For the more advanced hiker, there are more challenging walks, such as Red Rock and Mt Larcom. These offer superb views, which are well worth the extra effort.
If you’re keen to view the natural environment but don’t want the blisters from trekking half the day, there are some fantastic 4WD tracks. The pristine National Parks of Deepwater and Eurimbula are teeming with a diverse range of flora and fauna, with camping and basic facilities available.
Voted one of the top five things to do on the East Coast, Scooteroo is another way of seeing the local sights without having to haul on your hiking boots. You can ride a mini Harley-style chopper on a three-hour guided tour around Agnes Water/1770. You don’t need a bike licence, just a Learners/Provisional Car licence, and a great sense of adventure. Training and safety equipment are provided.
To learn more about the history of the area, there is a local museum where you can learn about European settlement, marine history and read the extracts from Lieutenant Cook’s diary. There are also numerous tours about local indigenous culture and Captain Cook’s first landing in Queensland. There is a kangaroo feeding tour, mad nursery and even a micro-distillery making home-made liqueurs to while away an afternoon.
The little marina of 1770 is a hub of activity. It has a multi-lane boat ramp with lighting, toilets, water and picnic area, and reasonable parking. It’s accessible in all tides, and has a small bait and tackle shop with local personality Poppy Bob always eager with helpful advice. Unfortunately, the town does not have a fish cleaning area/bin and not all campsites provide this facility. Bear this in mind when booking accommodation, and check if they have amenities for anglers.
The LARC and Lady Musgrave Cruises both leave from the marina and there is a local gem of a café that serves hot and cold food for waiting seafarers. Just further up the road is a watersports hire facility directly on the beach. Most afternoons, and mornings, there are guided groups paddling up and down the coastline. Alternatively, you can also hire a stand up paddle board and see if you can spot dolphins, turtles and the abundant birdlife while exploring.
Agnes Water is more built up than the town of 1770. Here, you can find supermarkets, variety shops, police, petrol station, pharmacy, takeaway, real estate, butcher, bakery, tourist information, liquor shop, pub, and more.
Both towns have a plethora of eateries to cater to everyone’s budget. From coffee shops, cafes to award-winning restaurants, the towns can boast an impressive selection of Australian cuisine.
The iconic pub at 1770 that overlooks the bay is a popular hangout for backpackers and tourists. The view is beautiful but the pub gets crowded quickly at sunset. The Sea Grapes Wine Bar and Bistro got a huge rap from locals and was constantly referred to as the ‘best’ in town. However, I suggest booking early as, despite our efforts, we couldn’t get a table as it is fully booked weeks ahead.
The Agnes Water Tavern was quite a surprise. What it lacks in bay views it certainly makes up for in superb food. Much larger than the 1770 pub, it offers all the normal services: bottle shop, bar, pool tables, bistro and even a courtesy bus. It has a very friendly atmosphere and its décor is modern and clean (it’s obviously quite a new building). It offers all the usual ‘pub grub’, from BLTs to chicken parmigana, and steaks as big as your head, all of which were reasonably priced. We ate there several times and it was superb.
For a quick bite during the day, the 1770 Marina Café was great – quality cheap food. It’s only open for breakfast and lunch and is in the perfect spot to tempt early morning boaters heading out onto the water.
For the visiting angler/boater, the two main services are in Agnes Water: a petrol station and tackle store. There is only one petrol station in the town, so you’ll have to fill up before heading to 1770. It’s located along Captain Cook Drive on the main drag heading into town.
Agnes Water/1770 Bait & Tackle is located at the main shopping centre on Round Hill Road. Tony and Sandi are a fountain of local knowledge and have a ‘brag’ album on the front desk to show the versatility of the local catches. They carry a huge range of gear as they have to accommodate a diverse range of species, such as mackerel, tuna, GT, jacks, queenies, barra, coral trout, red emperor, snapper, sweetlip and everything in between. It’s definitely worth a visit to find out what’s been biting.
Despite its varied fishing opportunities, 1770/Agnes Water is famous for its ‘reds on the reef’ – coral trout and red emperor are the prized mainstays. If you don’t have the boat with you but still want to experience fishing on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, you can book a spot on a charter boat. They provide everything you need, from tackle, gear, food and water – just bring sunscreen, a hat and a camera. Charters can cost as little as $170 per person for half a day, and will happily cater to whatever fishing/species you want.
If you ever find yourself in need of further inspiration of what to do in the area, there is a very helpful Visitor Information Centre located along Springs Road in Agnes Water. It has a wide range of maps, brochures and itineraries to help you decide. The staff are friendly and very knowledgeable and will point you in the right direction.
The Captain Cook 1770 Festival commemorates the landing of Lt James Cook and his crew on board the Endeavour on 24 May 1770 in Bustard Bay at the Town of 1770. This landing was their second during the historic voyage, after Botany Bay, and the Town of 1770 is therefore labelled ‘the Birthplace of Queensland.’
The Captain Cook 1770 Festival combines the fun aspect of a five-day local festival of entertainment and activities, whilst commemorating and celebrating the historical significance of Cook’s landing in 1770. The traditional owners the Gooreng Gooreng people explain the dreamtime stories of the area and perform traditional dances to the sound of didgeridoos, in addition to the re-enactment of Cook’s landing at the Town of 1770 foreshore with actors in period costumes.
The 2016 Captain Cook 1770 Festival is gearing up to be a visual sensation with the theme of circus! The 1770 Art Show opens on Wednesday 18 May 2016 and continues through until Sunday 22 May at the Agnes Water Community Centre and for the fourth year running the guest judge is a representative from GOMA. This year Kyla McFarlane, Acting Curatorial Manager, Australian Art at Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) will be present to do the honours.
On Friday 20 May, the focus is on the beautiful 1770 Foreshore late in the afternoon with a live re-enactment by the Discovery Coast Theatre Group and local entertainment. This is a free event with some food and beverages available for purchase.
Saturday 21 May begins with the colourful and well-loved Street Parade from 1770 Marina to the SES Grounds. All local community groups and businesses are invited to join in the parade with a circus-themed float, costumes and actions, so it is sure to be a visual sensation. Following the parade, the fun continues and the main festival gates open at 10am. Entry for adults is $11, kids $5.50 and under 12yo are free.
Entertainment includes the popular Asa Broomhall Band with their powerful guitar driven songs, Sun Salute who hale from the Whitsundays, Agnes Blue, a brother and sister band with homegrown roots in the 1770 area and local acts like the AWSUM ukulele Club (Agnes Water & surrounds ukulele musicians) on stage day and night.
The huge array of kids amusement rides and activities, artistic market stalls of treasures, food vendors and bar means each and every taste is catered for. The spectacular fireworks display overhead and live entertainment make for a fun and fantastic Festival, with the ease of buses available for transport.
On Sunday 22 May all the Captain Cook 1770 Festival entertainment and markets continue at the SES Grounds from 9am-4pm, with entry by gold coin donation on this day.
For further info on all things Festival email --e-mail address hidden-- or phone 07 4974 7570 or check out www.1770festival.com.au. – Discovery Coast Tourism and Commerce
No matter who we spoke to in 1770, the question was the same, “Have you been on the LARC yet?” It seems these iconic vessels are attracting as much attention as the fishing in the area. It’s hard to miss the bright pink vessels traversing the sand and sea, and its popularity with tourists (and locals) had us eager to give it a try.
It wasn’t hard to convince the crew we needed a trip out on the LARC. A quick visit to the office had us booked on to the Afternoon Cruise departing at 4pm.
The LARC stands for Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo. Being ex-military, its versatility and reliability are ideal for transporting passengers up and down the Bustard Bay coastline. The premium excursion, Paradise Tour, consists of a full day’s adventure to the historical lighthouse at Bustard Head. Along the way, there are various stops for morning tea, wildlife spotting, picnic lunches, fishing and, for the adventurous, sand-boarding down a towering 35m sand dune. This all culminates in a visit inside the historical Bustard Head Lightstation, Queensland’s only open operating lighthouse. Other options include a shorter ‘LARC and Lunch’ tour; a ‘Walkabout Tour’ (learning about local indigenous culture of hunting, gathering and a guided bushwalk), and the Afternoon Cruise.
Boarding the LARC, we were greeted by Blake, our skipper/tour guide for the trip. His warm and friendly demeanour was welcoming, and his ‘Aussie’ appearance of khaki clothing and akubra hat were lapped up by the foreign tourists (and, let’s be honest, domestic tourists as well).
The tour began with a safety spiel and introductions. Sitting in rows of four, the plastic chairs were modest but comfortable and, more importantly, everyone was afforded a view. We were warned that ‘some’ of us may get a spray of sea water, which instigated squeals of anticipation from the kids on board.
Bumping along the soft sand, Blake entertained us with stories from the past and recent local happenings. There was plenty to see with beautiful scenery set behind a stunning sunset backdrop. Along the way, Blake pointed out the wildlife and provided knowledgeable information including some interesting historical facts of 1770 and Bustard Head Lightstation. I recommend you pay attention as it’ll come in handy later…
The LARC’s first dip in the water was surprisingly smooth, and it transformed a sand buggy ride into a boat cruise in the bay. Despite its cumbersome appearance, Blake had full control and manoeuvrability over the vehicle, which is reassuring for the elderly and parents with young children. We had plenty of opportunities to stop, take photos and get our feet wet on the sand.
Heading home was what the littlies were really waiting for – the chance of getting sprayed! Spirits were high as we sped up and launched into the sea. It was a lot of fun, and not just for the kids – everyone on board had a fit of the giggles. A few deft sharp turns from Blake, and encouraging cheers from the passengers, and we were back on land for another go. A few more dips and sprays into the ocean and then we finally headed home. On the way back, Blake decided to hold a pop quiz on what we’d learnt on the tour – I told you to pay attention! Naturally, the kids out-smarted the adults, but I was pleased that I got a few right.
Overall the experience was light-hearted and fun; a perfect end to a busy day. The Afternoon Cruise was just a ‘taster’ of the tours on offer, but it certainly whet my appetite to try the full day Paradise Tour next time I visit 1770.
Tour prices start from $38 for an adult, and children under 4 go for free. For more information you can visit www.1770larctours.com.au and book online, or take your chances of availability and book at the office located at the marina.Reads: 401