How to do Brisbane to 1770 in 5 days
A leprechaun and two Japanese students.
It might sound like a joke, but three times in the last twenty years, international travellers have lobbed on my doorstep with the same big ask: “Show me the best of Queensland, including the reef, and do it in less than a week”.
Whoa. Hard call, that one. Made even harder by the fact that all three wanted to see the reef and none had the funds to fly to the Tropical North. I got creative, jumped in the car (from Brisbane) and travelled to the Seventeen Seventy (aka The Town of 1770), a sweet little sleeper on the Southern Great Barrier Reef and the next BIG thing in travel.
Here’s how to do 1770 in five days from Brisbane.
Day 1: Monday
Throw a 70-year-old bloke, his city-slicker daughter (that would be me), and a Japanese student with faulty English (and on another occasion, a very pasty Irishman) into a Corolla and point due north for 520 km until you get to 1770 – a sleepy little village populated by laid back locals halfway between Bundaberg and Gladstone.
For 200 years, 1770’s only claim to fame was a brief landing made by Captain James Cook during his epic voyage of discovery. That landing is still celebrated every May when the locals come out in topcoats and tails to re-enact the saga, but these days the village’s reputation has more to do with it being the meeting point for the northern-most surfing beach in Australia (Agnes Water) and the southern-most point to jump off and see that humungous organism, the Great Barrier Reef.
While there’s a huge range of accommodation available, beachfront camping is hands down the best way to wake up and there are two sites to choose from: Agnes Water Beach Holidays (which has permanent plush safari tents rocking the tideline in addition to some swanky apartments and powered sites) and 1770 Camping Ground where you pitch your own home.
We opt for the second for two reasons: There’s 27 camping spots overlooking a pretty inlet and you can light an open pit fire. It’s also across the road from The Tree Hotel, quite possibly the best spot in the world to watch the sun go down with a cool ale.
Day 2: Tuesday
This is the day to get your bearings. The Town of 1770 has a collection of 40 or so beach houses on a knob of land that’s connected to neighbouring Agnes Water by a lean strip of road or a lovely beachfront walk. Agnes is the bigger town and has a handful of restaurants, some upmarket apartments, and a lot more action.
Wake up early and take the headland path up to the top of the ‘knob’ before winding your way down to the beach on the other side. From there, it’s six very serene and sandy kilometres along a surf beach to Agnes Water.
My Japanese friend and I spend the rest of the morning playing Gidget and attempt to surf the gentle waves with Lazy Lizard Surf School.
The afternoon is free to explore. Dad decides to hire a ‘tinnie’ (a small motorised tin boat) and takes us fishing up the inlet. First stop is the sandy flats to pull up 40cm beach worms and pump for yabbies (that’s fish bait, mate) before heading further up the creek to fish for flathead, mangrove jack and whiting. If you’re not sure where to throw the line, best to just pop into the local bait and tackle store on Roundhill Road for some tips.
As we pull back into shore at sunset, a few dozen young things roar past us in a congo line of mini chopper motorbikes. Each is fiercely dressed in flaming black leather jackets and iconic Harley helmets for the nightly Scooteroo Tour around the headland. From a distance the roar from the bikie gang is a bit frightening, but the accents are upper-class Swedish and the tattoos have been stuck on just in time for the start of the tour. It seems a bit of a laugh.
Day 3: Wednesday
Some 32 nautical miles north east of 1770 is one of most picturesque coral cays along the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Musgrave Island, and our destination for the day. For those who are not sailors, 32 nautical miles means 90 minutes across the ocean in a bloody big boat. The trip can sometimes be choppy, so don’t be afraid to quaff down a ginger tablet and settle the tummy before you go.
Lady Musgrave is magnificent. It sits smack in the middle of a translucent lagoon that is home for wriggly, wonderful fishy things. And with water depths from 30cm to seven metres there’s a lot of life to see; from clownfish (hello Nemo), to loggerhead turtles, white tipped sharks, and a rainbow of coral.
It’s also an ‘important bird area’ and a guided trek around the 35-acre island will show up a few terns, shearwaters and boobies (I just had to say that!), some of which contributed to guano mining in the 1800s. Yup, it can be a bit whiffy here.
In addition to snorkelling, the full-day trip includes a smorgasboard lunch , glass bottom boat tours, and a guided tour around the island. If you prefer to stay longer, camping is permitted, but you need to carry everything in, including your own drinking water as the island only supports a brackish pond. Still, at $5 per night, it’s possibly the cheapest place to stay on the Great Barrier Reef.
But for us, it’s back to the mainland and a bite to eat at the gorgeous little Getaway Garden Café.
Day 4: Thursday
The reef may be the number one attraction, but right behind that is the LARC!, a massive tutu-pink amphibious vehicle that takes adventurers across deserted beaches and estuaries to the remote Bustard Head Lighthouse.
Here, you get to clamour around the restored museum and lighthouse cottages and hear about the tough times of the early settlers. (Keep your eye out for the tours that also offer sand surfing and the chance to practice whizzing down towering dunes on a small plank). The trip includes morning tea, lunch and an Aussie Billy Tea and what is a one-day super-charged biology lesson on the region.
Day 5: Friday
Last day and there’s still lots to do. We start with another morning walk, this time south of Agnes Water taking a stunning beach path past half a dozen secluded bays to the mega million dollar mansions at Sunrise. You can’t get into the elite estate without a key (or a few million bucks), but you can check them out from the beach.
Then it’s back to 1770 foreshore for a three-hour guided eco kayak tour with 1770 Liquid Adventures. The tour paddles along the mangroves and through the waterways of the region, spotting birds, crabs, and stingrays along the way.
There’s lots more to do in 1770, but I will have to wait until the next traveller knocks on the door.
Have you been to 1770? Got any hot tips you’d add to this itinerary?