SOUTH BALLINA TO EVANS HEADS
It’s the perfect combination of north and south. The tropical climate of the north of Australia, with warm winters and hot summers, but with a rain level more on par with south. It has stunning beaches, nearby islands and reefs like Far North Queensland, but it has surf, one of the last places north on the Queensland coast to have it.
The Town of 1770 and Agnes Waters are a little diversion from the main highway between Brisbane and Cairns so it doesn’t see the high volume of traffic and tourists. It’s sleepy and quiet and undeveloped. Only a few houses sit on the side of the hills with magnificent views of Round Hill Creek and the well-known stunning sunsets.
It’s one of only three places on the east coast where you can see the sun set over the water. The Town of 1770 is a protected area so all future building has ceased. It’s almost in the pristine condition it was in 1770 when Captain Cook first sailed past Round Hill Headland to rest his ship the Endeavour. Except when you get to the Town of 1770 and you explore the nearby beaches and creeks and headlands that Cook and his crew sailed past. Its natural state has been unchanged for thousands of years. The longer we stayed the longer we wanted to stay. There’s a beauty and rawness here that gets under your skin.
It has everything a traveller will need, yet not many venture here. Now we don’t want to send you there in droves, but we can’t keep this a secret from you. We think you should definitely be pinning it to your Australian Bucket List. We first heard of it years ago from friends who visited and stayed awhile. They say it’s their favorite place in Australia.
Agnes Water is about 8km south of the Town of 1770. Agnes is the ocean town where you’ll find the surf and a fantastic beach. It also has most of the cafes and shops and room for development.
Easily a highlight of this area was our LARC Paradise Tour. We saw and experienced so many amazing things on the water and the land. It was a lot of fun and Kim now has a new hobby – sand boarding! We were stopping every few seconds to watch crabs scuttling in the water, pelicans flying into land and brown kites circling overhead on alert to catch their prey.
To get to this desolate curved stretch of beach in the Eurimbula National Park, we had to morph into a boat and chug along the Round Hill Creek, detouring the long way to avoid the soldier crabs marching up the sand bank at low tide.
The only one way to explore this unique part of the Southern Great Barrier Reef region is by LARC, or your own off-trail vehicles – 4WD or boat. Even then, the LARC can go where no other vehicle can and gives you the option of both land and water. Getting to the lighthouse was an adventure in itself, as we drove up a steep and bumpy track only accessible by the LARC. We could sure use this vehicle ourselves on some other drives around Australia. As we climbed the track the 360 degree views over Bustard Bay and Pancake Creek and the mountains behind were truly spectacular.
Across Jenny Lind Creek is a beautiful picnic area on the northern tip of Middle Island where we enjoyed a lunch of cold cut salad sandwiches and an afternoon tea of lamingtons and billy tea – that’s tea brewed over a camp fire. We were now ready for our afternoon of fun on the sand dunes of Middle Island. Who would have known hidden behind the coastal scrub were 35m high sand boarding planes? We were all sad to leave this place of mystery, fun, and serenity to drive back over the beach and four tidal creeks to return home.
We had a couple of breakfasts at Agnes Beach Cafe. We could have sat in this beach front cafe all day. It’s one of our favourite cafes in Australia so far. The views are just incredible, it has a really laid back vibe and the coffee is sensational! It’s perfect for families as the kids can play on the beach in front of you while you relax.
One of the days, we drove on to the industrial port of Gladstone. This city’s industrial nature cannot be missed, if, by some miracle, you were oblivious to the power station and numerous plants and refineries, the fact that literally 50% of the population is wearing high visibility jackets and work boots is a dead giveaway. That said, it’s a friendly city and there’s a certain calmness and down-to-earth in the air. Considering that there is a population of just fewer than 30 thousand, we had expected there to be a better infrastructure and more retail outlets though. Most of the shops and bars are in the vicinity of the Goondoon and Auckland Streets. The latter name (there are also the Auckland Hill Lookout and the Auckland Point Wharves) is not actually derived from the New Zealand city, but rather from the vessel ‘Lord Auckland’ which carried some of the first settlers to the Gladstone area in 1847. A little out of town we found a hidden treasure, the Gecko Valley Winery, a lovely spot in the hinterland where you can sample the produce and have a delightful lunch. On the way from Gecko Valley we passed the Tondoon Botanic Gardens.
Another day we travelled to Bundaberg, affectionately known as “Bundy” by the locals, is sunny, friendly and laid-back. I’ve been here many times and have many happy memories of barbeques, bonfires, beach sports, the Air Show, and the legendary ginger beer. The only hill in the whole area is “The Hummock”, an extinct volcano from the top of which there is a beautiful view of the surrounding farms, a smattering of small communities, and the sparkling Queensland coastline. The town is set amidst fields of sugarcane which provide the molasses for the rum’s production. On our tour around the distillery, we learnt that the only other two ingredients are water and yeast. Learning about the history and production of the rum was fascinating.
Only White American Oak timber, sourced from the boarded of Canada and the USA, is used to make the vats in which the rum matures. Not very carbon neutral… but then the rum’s flavour would be altered if they were to switch to a different timber. A large rum bottle graced the entrance of the distillery and there was a life-size version of Bundaberg Rum’s emblem, the big white polar bear. What seems like a bit of an odd choice for liquor company was essentially a clever marketing concept. The image of the polar bear is to imply that the drink can ward off even the wickedest chill. The yummiest part of the distillery tour was, of course, the tasting at the end. Kim chose the Red Label rum with a beautiful vanilla flavour and I went for the dark Premium Release Reserve. We both finished off with the decadent Royal Liqueur which combines rum, coffee and chocolate flavours. Delicious. We were very tempted to buy a bottle, especially when we were told that it is not offered in retail stores and only available from the distillery itself, but I can proudly say that our willpower won in the end.
Finally, we couldn’t leave the Bundaberg area without a visit to the lovely town of Bargara. Every inch of this picturesque little spot (on and off shore) is protected, and we can see why. We went for a drive along the shore path, admired the beaches, checked out the cafés and shops along Bauer Street and stumbled across the super cute Windmill Market. This gem is a small out-of-the-way community space with a few stalls and a coffee shop.
On the way home we dropped into the township of Childers which is positioned on a ridge with magnificent views overlooking thousands of hectares of vivid green sugarcane and avocado farms. You can step back in history as you visit the town’s many historical buildings, some dating back to Queensland’s early pioneering days. Childers is a fascinating place to stroll around or visit the local wineries and cafes and sample famous local ice cream.