After arriving at Agnes Water on Friday afternoon we settled in to our site at the Discovery Coast Caravan Park (http://www.discoverycoastcaravanpark.com.au/) about six kilometres away from the Agnes Water town centre. The proximity to the town did not worry us unduly as we prefer the peace and quiet offered by this park and enjoy the comfort of space between the vans (something not available in the parks in town where vans are slotted in like sardines). The owners of the park have only recently arrived from Western Australia and have plans to make changes at the park, including, I suspect its name – the credit card slips list the park as The Reef Caravan Park.
The park has an area of 40 acres and a good variety of birds have made their home in the trees in and around the caravan sites. There are concrete slabs, power, water and television points for the caravan sites and a centrally located modern amenity block (in discussions with the owners we learned they have plans to update the ablution facilities in the near future). We thought the park was very good and will have no hesitation in returning for a future visit.
Perusing the literature we had picked up at the park office we discovered there was a LARC Tour (http://www.1770larctours.com.au/) available the following morning so we rang up and booked our spots on the tour. We had intended to sleep late but because we needed to be at the tour office by 8:00am next morning we set the alarm to rise early enough to meet the deadline.
The LARC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LARC-V) is an amphibious vehicle originally used mainly for military purposes and in the 1960’s was used to ferry goods from ship to shore. The unit we toured in was built in December 1960 and had the US Army number of 682. We were informed that maintenance cost of the LARC was quite high given the environment in which they mainly operate.
Our tour departed at 8:30am from the marina at the Town of Seventeen Seventy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1770,_Queensland) and we assembled there with sixteen other passengers, a driver and a tour guide to embark on the journey along the shores of Bustard Bay (http://www.bonzle.com/c/a?a=p&p=36586&cmd=sp) to the lighthouse on Bustard Head (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bustard_Head_Light).
The journey would take us across the waters of Round Hill Creek on a making tide then along the beach adjacent to the Eurimbula National Park (http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/eurimbula-joseph-banks/) to Eurimbula Creek. At this point there is a camping area in the National Park (http://www.findacamp.com.au/camp-site.php?camp=1202) which on the day of the tour was well patronised with several families in place. Fishermen were taking advantage of the incoming tides and were casting for whiting and other species.
Being in an amphibious vehicle has advantages when driving from land to water to land and this is the beauty of the LARC Tour. Along the beach a little further and we come to Middle Creek and when we cross the creek we reach Middle Island (http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=101049) which was formerly leased for grazing purposes and occupied for many years by the Bowton Family. Two sisters lived alone on the island after the death of their father and while one left the island very infrequently the other essentially left the island only once when the sisters relocated to live on the Gold Coast.
On the banks of Jenny Lind Creek (http://beachsafe.org.au/beach/qld1460) named after the schooner Jenny Lind which floundered at the mouth of the creek in 1857; interestingly the ship was salvaged and pressed into service only to flounder again in the future lending its name to Jenny Lind Bank (off Tannum Sands); the tour stops for morning tea at a site established by the tour company. Morning tea is comprised of many tasty treats with tea or coffee provided. Toilet facilities (via chemical toilets) are available at this site for the convenience of visitors. Following morning tea, the LARC moves across Jenny Lind Creek and starts the climb to the site of the lighthouse on Bustard Head (http://www.lighthouses.org.au/lights/qld/Bustard%20Head/Bustard%20Head.htm).
The slow climb up the steep hill is accomplished without too much difficulty by the LARC and we reach the restored lighthouse facility now operated by the Bustard Head Lighthouse Association Inc. The lighthouse was automated in 1986 and the site was no longer permanently occupied. As a result the buildings on the site were vandalised; in 2002 the Association obtained a lease of the area and steadily restored the buildings and grounds to the standard that prevailed in 1986 (http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2004/s1120499.htm). The standard of the buildings and grounds that visitors inspect is quite spectacular and a credit to the Association and particularly to Stuart Buchanan and his wife Shirley. We were invited to inspect the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage and found the interior relatively modern and very well restored compared to the pictures of destruction (following the earlier vandalism) hanging on the walls of the cottage.
The lighthouse itself was manufactured in England and shipped to Australia in pieces (it was actually assembled in Britain to ensure it all fitted together before being shipped to Australia in pieces); when finally located on site the bits and pieces were all bolted together again to become the lighthouse. Inside the lighthouse the number of bolts and nuts is amazing and one can imagine the difficult task of bolting together each of the sections and tightening the many, many bolts and nuts.
Climbing to the top of the lighthouse is achieved by a circular staircase inside the walls; at one stage part of the staircase was on the exterior of the structure but modifications were made to enclose the staircase as the elements were proving too harsh on the exposed metal staircase. The view from the platform at the top of the structure is delightful even though the lighthouse is not the tallest structure as lighthouses go. From the top one can see the ships moored waiting to gain entry to the Port of Gladstone and of course the panorama of the nearby area is simply stunning. We were lucky to be blessed with a relatively clear day although there was some haze in the distance.
On the ground again we visited the graveyard where a number of early residents associated with the area are buried. Then it was back on the bus (err LARC) and slowly done the hill from the lighthouse to Jenny Lind Creek then across the creek for a tasty lunch of sandwiches, fruit and billy tea. With everybody’s appetite satisfied it was back onto the LARC and down the creek a short distance to a substantial sand blow where those who were keen enough had fun sand boarding. There were a number of young folk among the group who thoroughly enjoyed the escapade together with a few of the more mature among us who also enjoyed sliding at furious pace downhill and into the shallow water near the shore – others like me just watched the fun.
After the sand boarding we all re-boarded the LARC for the return journey to the Town of Seventeen Seventy retracing our steps along a much larger beach as the tide was much lower than during our morning trip.
Back at Seventeen Seventy we decided to take a little drive around the town to see what had changed in the 30 years since we lived at Miriam Vale; we found that while some things still existed there was much more that was new or upgraded. One thing that was missing was the Doorway of Destiny monument (http://www.smh.com.au/travel/activity/active/the-other-cook-town-20081113-5z01.html); apparently the monument which existed in the late 1970’s was demolished due to failure of the supporting columns; the brass plaques from the monument now reside in the Agnes Water Museum and the rest of the structure was apparently buried on site. A further account written by Jeanette Elliot (wife of John Elliot who was Chairman of the Council when I was the Shire Clerk at Miriam Vale) makes interesting reading (http://lcboard.com.au/community/article/dc/59-Captain-Cook-Monument-The-Doorway-of-Destiny.html).
There has been a lot of work constructing car parks, walking tracks and viewing platforms on the headland at Seventeen Seventy where the monument once stood and most people would be unaware that the structure ever existed. We walked the tracks and took in the views and quite enjoyed our afternoon.
Returning to Agnes Water we went in search of a particular street; for whatever reason, after I left Miriam Vale Shire, the Council (or possibly the Developer) decided to name a street at Agnes Water after me – mind you it is a very small street which leads me to think that the developer (one Lance Woodrow) may have had a hand in the matter as I made life difficult for him (in the interests of the ratepayers of the Shire); nice to see that one’s time in a position was not forgotten. Anyway I was not aware that the street had been so named until a Councillor from Maroochy (where I went to work) some years later presented me with a photo of the street sign. So we found the street and took a photo of me under the sign.
We had decided that fish and chips would be a fitting evening meal after our tour and so went to one of the local restaurants for takeaway. We sat out the front of the shop happily consuming a great feed of Barramundi, Dory, Potato Scallops and Chips served on a platter of white paper.
A little further exploration of Agnes Water followed before the daylight faded and we found that the town of Agnes Water today bears very little resemblance to the town we knew in its infancy when the Jeffrey Brothers allowed fishing shacks to be constructed on their forty acre block on the beach. I doubt either Arthur or Tom Jeffrey would have ever envisaged (or desired) what the place would develop into.
On Sunday morning we returned to the Agnes Water Museum (http://places.lcboard.com.au/dc-qld/Agnes-Water-Museum-l3.html) as it was not open the previous evening. We spent an interesting time reviewing the exhibits and reading newspaper clippings from the past. We discovered a centenary book about the Miriam Vale School and spent some time leafing through this as our eldest daughter started school at Miriam Vale.
Back at the van we prepared for our departure next morning as we headed for home on the Sunshine Coast.