If you’re after a lark of a time, try a LARC tour of Queensland’s 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. Today, the park is still as pristine as it was when Cook first stepped ashore. It is a paradise for bushwalkers, boaties and anglers.
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.
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.
Town of 1770
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.
Bustard Head Lighthouse
We emerge from the sea onto an uneven rocky outcrop. The LARC shudders and jerks as it slowly makes its way to the top of the steep rocky hill. This slow and bumpy ride is the only way to reach Bustard Head Lighthouse, a historic monument which was Queensland’s first coastal lighthouse.
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.
Light keepers 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. Here, our guide entertains us 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.
We stop at 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.
Back down the hill, we stop for sandwiches and Billy tea at a sheltered cove near Jenny Lind Creek. Our last stop is at Middle Island’s sand dunes where we grab a boogie board and trudge to the top of the smooth caramel coloured dunes. Sliding down, face-forward on our boogie boards, is a lot easier and much more fun.
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest ot Tourism Queensland
For more ideas on what to see and do in Queensland go to Best of Queensland.
Another interesting place to explore in Queensland is Capricorn caves.
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