A pivotal date in Australia’s history. An iconic location in Australia’s heritage.
On Wednesday 24 May 1770, Lieutenant James Cook anchored the HMB Endeavour about 3 kilometers off the Queensland coast at an area he named Round Hill, claiming the eastern portion of the Australian continent for the British Crown, naming it New South Wales. In his journal, he wrote: “So far as we know (it) doth not produce any one thing that can become an Article in trade to invite Europeans to fix a settlement on it.” Eighteen years later, the First Fleet arrived to establish a penal colony in New South Wales.
Today, marking that spot where Captain Cook landed is a small monument commemorating the first European landing on the Queensland coast, and the area so named Round Bay is today known as the Town of 1770. Every May since 1991, a re-enactment of Cook’s landing is staged as part of the annual ‘1770 Festival’.
With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on our travel plans, throughout 2020 Dinah and I have been largely confined to travel within our own state of Queensland. Which is not necessarily a bad thing as this is a huge state with many beautiful places to visit and things to see. We would certainly recommend to any fellow Queenslanders that they consider exploration of their own state before crossing any borders.
Country to coast
In late October 2020 we set out with our MDC Forbes 13 hybrid off-road caravan in tow to combine inland touring with a little coastal exploration, initially heading north-west through Gympie to Gayndah, Monto and Biloela on Highway 70 then due east to Calliope on the coast and then south to the Town of 1770 and Agnes Water. The final leg of our trip was south through Hervey Bay and home on the Sunshine Coast. A relatively short trip of about 10 days and 1200 kilometres. Our first stop was the small town of Gayndah and the Riverview Caravan Park. This town is certainly worth the visit, with a number of excellent historic buildings to visit and sights to explore. The town is easy to walk around but in October, it is extremely hot. If you plan to travel during our warm seasons, come prepared to combat the heat.
From Gayndah, about 175 kilometres north towards Monto through Mundubbera to our second stop, Cania Gorge National Park and the Big 4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park. This is a beautiful and unspoilt part of the world, home to Aboriginal people for a least 19,000 years. Freehand art on the sandstone walls of the gorge is a reminder of their special way of life. The gorge preserves a valuable remnant of the Brigalow belt natural region, with over 150 different types of plants and more than 90 species of birds found here. Everything in the park is protected – plants, animals, soils and rocks. It is a natural paradise to enjoy with numerous walking tracks through the rugged topography. So, bring robust walking shoes.
There are two places where you can stay at Cania Gorge. The first, the Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat and the BIG 4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park. The Tourist Retreat offers shady powered and unpowered campsites and basic cabins and is located right at the entrance to the national park, a few kilometres in from the highway and just 24 kilometres west of the township of Monto. Being just outside the entrance to the national park, it is pet-friendly.
The second, and within the park itself is the BIG 4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park where we opted to stay. This is a naturally beautiful and well-presented park in an authentic Australian bush setting with large shady sites for camping and for caravans. Sites are both powered and unpowered. Being October, we were missing the peak season when the park gets quite crowded and the temperature can hit 40 degrees plus. We found a great site away from the main camping area that provided us with an environment that resembled free-camping – but with the luxury of power. The wildlife at the park is abundant. Kangaroos, rock wallabies and birds everywhere, particularly around late afternoon which is their feeding time. The most magnificent parrots that eat right out of your hand. One of the best features of the Holiday Park is the waterpark; swimming pools and water slides to keep kids (of all age) amused and cool.
The BIG 4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park makes an excellent base for exploring all the national park has to offer. While TV and mobile phone reception is limited throughout the gorge, the BIG 4 Holiday Park does offer good TV and 3G mobile reception. Here you will also find a well-equipped camp kitchen, washing facilities, a convenience store and clean amenities. An added bonus – you can have your own campfire. The BIG 4 Cania Gorge Holiday Park is 4.5 stars and is a fantastic place to stay if you are looking for a true Aussie bush camping experience – with those essential creature comforts! And speaking of creatures, as it is located within a national park and is abundant with Australian wildlife, no pets are permitted. Check the Holiday Park out at: www.caniagorge.com.au or www.big4.com.au
From the bush to the beach.
Leaving Cania Gorge, we headed due east across to the coast, a journey of about 350 kilometres via Monto and Calliope to our destination, the twin settlements of Agnes Water and the Town of 1770. The drive into Agnes Water from the Bruce Highway takes us through naturally beautiful Australian coastal vegetation. Approaching the coast, the view from the crest of the final hill is spectacular, looking directly across the small township of Agnes Water to the shimmering expanse of the Coral Sea and the southern-most extremities of the Great Barrier Reef. We were booked into the Agnes Water Beach Holiday Park which is located right on the beach. The park features established rainforest trees, palms and an abundance of flowering tropical scrubs in keeping with its coastal location. As well as caravan sites, the park offers a selection of outstanding beachfront bungalows and beach houses. ‘Glamping’ is well and truly catered for with fully furnished self-contained Safari Tents built on raised timber decking on the hillside to take advantage of the ocean views. The Agnes Water Holiday Park is an ideal place to base yourself to explore all the region has to offer. This park is particularly popular with caravanners and tourists all year round, so it is advisable to book well in advance. As luck would have it, we rang to book just as another visitor rang to cancel, so we were able to secure the only remaining site – as it turned out, the best site in the park with direct ocean views and access to the beach. You can contact Agnes Waters Beach Holiday Park on: www.agneswaterbeach.com.au
The township of Agnes Water has everything you need to support your holiday time here, with grocery shops, tourist clothing shops, liquor shops, newsagents, cafes and restaurants and fuel. Atop the hill is the Agnes Water Tavern with views over the township. We caught up with friends from the Sunshine Coast while we were in Agnes Waters and shared a coffee and late breakfast with them at the Holidays Café, the excellent restaurant and café located within the park.
Just a short drive north of Agnes Waters is the Town of 1770 where it may be argued Queensland’s modern-day history began with the landing of Captain James Cook in May 1770. Here you will discover a quaint seaside village nestled in the sandy coves of the coastline bordering the Coral Sea at the southern-most point of the Great Barrier Reef, with Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave islands just off the coast. There is ample accommodation here as well if you choose to stay at the Town of 1770 rather than Agnes Water. The aptly named captain Cook Holiday Village offering caravan sites, powered and unpowered campaign sites, bungalows and villas. Check the park out and book at: www.1770holidayvillage.com.au
The Town of 1770 is a beautiful place to explore. It offers stunning beaches, nearby islands and coral reefs and it has surf, the most northerly location on the Queensland Coast to do so. Coastal bush tracks offer spectacular views of the azure blue waters. Look out for dolphins and turtles in the crystal-clear waters of Bustard Bay and the Coral Sea and visit the memorial site of Captain Cook’s historic landing in 1770. There is plenty to do in 1770. Check out: www.1770reef.com.au or www.discover1770.com.au
Times up! Ten days in this paradise and it was time to head home to the Sunshine Coast to projects waiting to be completed before Christmas. From one paradise to another, some might say. An easy and relaxing pre-Christmas trip seeing some of the best of what Queensland and Australia has to offer.
Tips for the Trip:
The coastal villages of Queensland are extremely popular with caravanners and travellers in general, all year around. Make sure you pre-book your accommodation to avoid disappointment. And to maximise your stay, do your research on where to go what to see before you arrive. Everything you’ll ever want to know is just a click away.
Main picture: Plaque commemorating James Cook’s landing at the Town of 1770