Agnes Water and 1770 are two coastal towns in central Queensland. This is a perfect destination for a quintessential Queensland beach holiday in natural surroundings. Things to do in Agnes Waters and 1770 include watersports, beach time, exploring national parks and day trips to the Great Barrier Reef.
The two National Parks in the region, Deepwater National Park and Eurimbula National Park can only be accessed by 4WD.
Exploring 1770 and Agnes Waters may be one of the lesser-known things to do in Queensland but if you’re keen to see the coast is it has been for centuries, this is the place to go.[toc)
10 Things to do in Agnes Water and 1770
1- 4WD in Eurimbula National Park
In the year 1770, James Cook chose Eurimbula National Park in central Queensland as one of his first landings spots in the state.
Eurimbula National Park is only accessible by 4WD and is still as pristine as it was when Cook first stepped ashore.
The national park is a landscape of paperbark and coastal mangrove swamps and eucalyptus forest.
It is a paradise for bushwalkers, boaties and anglers.
2- Go on a LARC tour
To explore the park, you need to hire a four-wheel drive or join a wilderness day tour on the Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo or LARC.
The LARC is a 1960’s US Army vehicle capable of operating on both land and water.
It resembles a giant pink bath toy, though what it lacks in good looks it makes up for in ruggedness.
The LARC or Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo vessel was originally built for military use in the Vietnam War and now ferries tourists across the 24kms of shallow sandbars and inlets that would be otherwise impassable.
As the LARC rolls along the sandy shores, our guide hands out photocopies of the London Gazette.
The date is August 19, 1768, a few years before James Cook arrived here.
The headlines read “Secret Voyage: Lieutenant Cook awaits fair winds. Search for unknown continent south of the equator.”
Thumbing through the newspaper, I’m amused to read that a discovery which changed the world in a significant way – James Watt’s steam engine – only occupied a small column in the paper while the cricket report dominated the entire back page.
We head along a stretch of beach and then plunge straight into the ocean.
There are a few squeals as we get accustomed to the rocking of the boat.
We float along the coastline past hectares of natural bushland which look much the same as it did when James Cook sailed along the shore in 1770.
It’s a wilderness panorama of sand, scrub and mangrove trees.
From James Cook’s historical accounts there were also kangaroos, bustards and remains of fires from indigenous campsites.
3- Visit Bustard Head Lighthouse
Bustard Head Lighthouse is the only operating lighthouse in Queensland that is open to the public and offers tours.
Full-day tours are on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday (9 am to 4 pm).
You need a 4WD to get to the lighthouse or join a tour.
Bustard Bay is set between Round Hill Head and Bustard Head.
It was named by Captain Cook when he landed there on 24th May 1770 after a shooting a bustard.
Cook described the bustard in his log as the best bird they had eaten since leaving England.
Bustard Head Lighthouse was built here in 1868 to mark the entrance to Port Curtis and to warn ships of the treacherous rocks that lie a few kilometres offshore from Bustard Head.
Back then, the resident light keeper would manually light the lamp each evening.
This lighthouse saved a lot of lives.
Lightkeepers continued to work here until 1986 when technology took over and the lighthouse was automated.
In 2002, the Bustard Head Lighthouse Association, a volunteer organisation led by former lighthouse keepers Stewart and Shirley Buchanan, obtained a lease over the light station.
Through years of persistence, the association has restored this national and state heritage-listed site to a pristine condition.
The light keeper’s cottage is furnished with lighthouse artefacts and has sweeping panoramic ocean views from the veranda.
Beside the lighthouse is a cemetery.
Lighthouse keepers entertain with stories about the early pioneers of the area.
Most of the stories have tragic endings and paint vivid pictures of a very hard life.
The people in the stories are larger-than-life characters who would fill the pages of a book.
They include two sisters, one blind, who ran a farm until they were so old that they were unable to survive on their own, a lighthouse keeper’s wife who drowned mysteriously and fishermen who disappeared in Pancake Creek under mysterious circumstances.
Look for the gravestone of Kate Gibson, who in 1877 left the cottage and wandered into the bush.
The next morning, one of her daughters found her with her throat slashed.
That mystery was never solved.
4- Spend the day at the beach in 1770
The Tree Bar in 1770 is right across from the beach and the spot for a sunset drink and a meal or to meet the locals.
As a beach destination, 1770 is rather sleepy. It’s where Noosa was 30 years ago.
It’s interesting to sit on the beach and ponder how Noosa has evolved into a vibrant upmarket seaside resort town (check out these things to do in Noosa).
And you can’t help wondering if 1770 and Agnes Waters are heading for the same fate.
5- Go surfing in Agnes Waters
The 5km Agnes Beach is a popular spot for families with kids, as the beach is patrolled by the Agnes Water Surf Life Saving Club.
Depending on the swell, this can be a good spot for surfing right off the point.
It’s also a good place to go fishing off the rocks.
6- Go sandboarding down the sand dunes
It’s a bit of a climb to the top of the smooth caramel coloured dunes at Middle Island.
Sliding down, face-forward on our boogie boards is a lot easier and much more fun.
As Middle Island is Most people do this as part of a longer LARC tour.
7- Go on a sunset kayak tour
See dolphins on a sunset kayak tour try out kayak surfing and wonder at the sun setting over the 1770 conservation reserve from the water.
8- Walk the Paperbark Forest Boardwalk circuit
It’s a short walk but a good one where you can touch the trees and imagine what James Cook must have thought when he first landed in 1770.
9- Go on a day trip to Lady Musgrave Island
Lady Musgrave Island is a 90-minute boat trip and a stunning island on the Great Barrier Reef.
There’s not much on the island besides campsites and an old lighthouse that is no longer in use.
As the water is slightly colder in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef, it’s also clearer and provides the opportunity to see marine life clearly.
10- Join a motorbike tour
By Benn Stubbs
Looking for a few days of fun in the sun that is a little more interesting than the standard sunbathing holiday we are lined up at the front of the grid on Rod’s Scooter-Roo chopper tour of the Queensland Discovery Coast.
10 years ago Rod was looking to add an element of ‘cool’ to the tourist experience around the towns of Agnes Water and 1770 Queensland so he bought 65 mini-chopper motorbikes.
He takes groups out on the modified 50cc motorbikes to explore this coastal strip that is renowned for being Captain Cook’s second landing spot in Australia in 1770 Queensland.
Rod flicks on his sunnies and half-face helmet and gives us the nod to start our engines.
There isn’t the attitude of the kick-start as these are push-button bikes, though when the engines grumble to life and settle into a low pulsing groan it’s still enough to elicit a smile from Rod as he strokes his handlebar moustache and leads us onto the road.
I recline as if in a barber’s chair, sitting back with my feet splayed wide on the chopper and hands high on the handlebars.
We start out slow and steady before we’re allowed to open the throttle once we’re out of town and the traffic is scarce.
The centipede of modified motorbikes roars around the bends startling grazing kangaroos and wallabies minding their own business in the fields.
Our bikes with attitude are painted with black and orange flames, Union Jack emblems and lashings of retro pink for the ladies.
I watch the speed click up in increments of ten, however, my Easy Rider fantasies are mellowed by the 70km/h max I hit on a downhill stretch.
In reality, we are a closer resemblance to Lloyd and Harry on their scooter in Dumb & Dumber rather than the leather-clad Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda on the open road.
When we stop for the sunset at ‘The Tree’ pub in 1770 Rod notices that my wife is looking a little frazzled at our outdoor adventure and he asks her if she’s ever seen anyone flying a small plane.
She nods, unsure where the conversation is heading. “And you know what pilots do if they need to slow down?”
She nods again, “They pull back on the joystick?”
Rod smiles and looks at me. “Well, now you know what to do if this fella is driving too fast ehh!”
Not wanting any sudden braking requests from my passenger I take it steady as we ride up towards the headland.
Rod’s advice to keep my mouth shut is taken as we take the back roads away from the 1770 Marina watching a swarm of eyeball sized cicadas zip through the air past our bikes.
We switch on our lights and ride back into Agnes Water behind Rod for the finale of our chopper tour. Rod picks up speed along the open road and I watch his red taillight fading into the dusk.
Looking further up the coast the deserted beaches lead to the Bustard Head Lighthouse, our next destination.
It’s impossible to get there by road so we hand our bikes back to Rod for the slightly larger transportation we’ll need to navigate the inlets and swampy shallows.
1770 Camping Ground is on the foreshore and is the place to sit and watch the sunset over Bustard Bay. Of the 100 sites, the pick of them would be the 27 on the beach front. It has all the facilities you would expect of a campground and is close to the tour boats.
1770 Caravan Park
Captain Cook Holiday Village has caravan sites, campsites and cabins. It’s not far from the beach.
Agnes Water Accommodation
Agnes Water Camping
This is a good option if you’re on a budget, as there are several places to camp. The cheapest camping is at Workman’s Beach but you can’t book a spot in advance. It’s run by the council and there are 38 campsites available.
Agnes Water Caravan Park
For more places to explore in the region read these posts:
- Exploring the Capricorn Caves on the Capricorn Coast.
- Whale watching in Hervey Bay is world class. Besides whales, here are some other things to see in Hervey Bay.
- Keep heading north and discover these Townsville points of interest and Magnetic Island things to do.