The Queensland coast copped a hammering a few months ago with some nasty weather, but things are starting to pick up as we passed through many affected towns. Locals are hopeful that tourism will return, and return quickly.
Leaving Bundaberg mid afternoon, we pushed on to Eurimbula National Park with Steve and Karen in their trusty GU Patrol. With the floods over and the damage mostly cleaned up, the QLD coast is back to its former glory as a holiday destination.
Leaving the Agnes Water– Seventeen Seventy Road about ten kilometres shy of Agnes Water, we continued on the Eurimbula Access Road and aimed to get to Middle Creek Campground before dark.
There was quite a lot of water on the track with many mud holes, which made for an exhilarating drive requiring at times lots of momentum and care taken entering and exiting the boggy sections.
The campground at Middle Creek was down a second track to the left approximately 14km further, which had deteriorated somewhat and you'd need a quality aftermarket suspension set-up for comfort as the corrugations are quite bad. The landscape is similar to scrub country with paper bark trees everywhere, but the final destination is definitely worth the trip.
The last few kilometres had us going through much longer and deeper mud holes that required a decent run up amongst some beautiful swampy areas full of wildlife and scenery that is rich in colour.
There are two campgrounds at Middle Creek Headland. One site runs along the north-western side of the creek, and the second up a small track ascending a hill to the east with amazing 270-degree water views of the surrounding creek, river mouth and out to the Coral Sea.
It didn't take long to get the fire going and we were kicking back in no time at all. Some in our group went for a quick evening fish in Middle Creek, while others settled in for one of the most amazing sunsets you will ever experience.
We were sheltered by the headland and the night was still. Even more surprising was that the bugs were not as friendly as usual in these parts. With a boat ramp at the campground, even the most avid fisho would be in a heaven of their own.
Sleeping in a tent at a remote and beautiful campsite is just the most revitalising experience and the night's sleep was like no other. Refreshed and waking to a glorious sunrise glistening over the water with not a cloud in the sky, it was nice to be outdoors and not cooped up in an office. This was living the dream!
The area is synonymous with the township of 1770 just north of Agnes Water, which is rich in heritage and a historical legacy of European settlement from over a hundred years ago. The Endeavour skippered by Captain James Cook anchored near Round Hill Inlet on 24 May 1770, with the ship's naturalist and botanist, Joseph Banks, naming both Bustard Bay and Bustard Head.
The coastline's rugged natural beauty lured Cook to make this second landing in Australia and his very first in Queensland, hence the town of 1770 being referred to by some as the birthplace of Queensland.
1770 is a sleepy town and at the southernmost tip of the Great Barrier Reef. One of the features that every visitor must see is the Joseph Banks Conservation Park. The lookout is quite spectacular with a great view out to the Coral Sea and great opportunity for that perfect photo for the family album.
Further south is the town of Agnes Water, which has supplies and basic facilities should you need anything. We were intrigued at the amount of backpackers in the area though, and amazed at some of the cultural differences with the overseas tourists. Without going into it too much, let's just say they should really research our basic road rules, even if they're only a cyclist or a pedestrian, as we witnessed a number of near-collisions that could have ended in disaster.
After a quick stop and some tasty pastries at the local pie shop, we took off for our next destination, the Deepwater National Park. This national park, just south of Agnes Water, is relatively small but with some great beaches and fishing spots for anyone keen to drop in a line.
We visited Wreck and Middle Rock, two small headland outcrops and the terrain was similar to many of the beaches throughout Queensland. Beach driving is not allowed and to get around you just follow the inland tracks which require 4WD to be engaged. In some parts they were identical to many of the inland tracks of Moreton and Fraser Islands – soft deep ruts amongst lush green rainforest vegetation.
We chose to stop at Wreck Rock as the beaches were clean and untouched, with lots of shade for everyone. There was a narrow channel that was shielded by rocks running the length of the beach which gave some in the group a chance to jump on their paddleboards whilst others reached for their rods and reels. We had many bites, some caught a few undersized whiting but we all agreed that this would be a great spot for a fish at dawn or dusk, right on the turn of the tide. Include some fresh bait and you'd be hard pressed not to get some nice bream or flathead for the fry pan.
This particular area is great for the family and we could have stayed all day. We even considered coming back the next day, but since the sun was getting low on the western horizon, it was time to make tracks back to camp as it was quite a drive. So we hopped in our trucks and began the return trip home after a long day of fishing, sightseeing, swimming and 4WDing.
Upon reaching our campsite and reflecting on the day, 1770 was a highlight and a must-see for anyone visiting the area. It's so rich in history and in such a spectacular coastal location, but don't expect loud noisy bars or a bustling restaurant scene – it's slow, peaceful and just a marvellous place to visit.
Indulging in yet another remarkable sunset, we settled in for a few cold ones with our travelling companions, we'd had a full day and were looking forward to the next. We had spoken too soon with regards to the lack of bugs the previous night, the second night had everyone reaching for the insect repellent as the sand flies had come back with a vengeance.
Our last day at Eurimbula was spent leisurely cruising tracks in the national park looking for more great fishing spots and future campsites to visit. We found that Bustard Beach near the Bustard Beach Campground to also be a great place to go fishing with the little ones. With a boat ramp nearby and 17 comfortable campsites to choose from, it would be a good base for any family. With near perfect weather day after day and balmy still nights, one could stay in these parts for weeks on end.
Bustard Bay, similar to Middle Creek enters the Coral Sea and is another reason that trailer boat fishing is very popular in these parts. As a result some of us remarked that next time we return, we'll bring the fishing boats.
The tracks throughout the national park are rough in places, and after a shower they become quite a lot of fun. Our vehicles were all well prepared and set up and had no problems driving through some of the slippery quagmire sections.
To assist with traction and comfort of all passengers, we deflated the tyres to about 22psi and powered through some of the bog holes with relative ease. Even some of the deeper holes which had walls of water and mud flung around with every turn of the wheel posed no problem to anyone in our convoy.
Steve and Karen in their workhorse 4.2 turbo diesel GU made it look easy. It articulated nicely when it had to and had plenty of grunt to get through the harder sections that required momentum. It was a well set up tourer with many well thought out modifications and a complete testament to both Steve and Karen's 4WDing knowledge and skill. Well done guys, you've got a great truck!
Both Deepwater National Park and Eurimbula National Park have lots to offer the family or even the solo cruiser and to do it properly you'll need much more than a couple of days. But even being here a short time, this would be one place we'd definitely return to if the opportunity arises.
With magnificent weather, coastal views to die for, scenic campsites and oodles of great fishing spots, Eurimbula is a must see destination. The only two things that you really need, apart from a love of the outdoors, is make sure your 4WD has a good aftermarket suspension for the corrugations on the tracks and bring lots of insect repellent, the sand flies can be a downright pain at times.
Regardless of this, with the most awe-inspiring sunsets any of us have seen for a long time, we were glad to have experienced it all first hand.
Eurimbula National Park is approximately 110km north-west of Bundaberg. Drive on the Bruce Highway towards Miriam Vale and then take the Agnes Water– Seventeen Seventy Road. Turn left at the Eurimbula National Park sign 10km before the town of Agnes Water, travel a further 4km to the park entrance. Middle Creek Campground is a further 16km down a bumpy track.
Middle Creek Campground: Has two small separate campgrounds where campfires are allowed, but you must use current fire sites and bring your own firewood. One site is up on a small hill with great 270-degree views and the second is by the shores of Middle Creek. Cost is the standard QLD campsite fees $5.15 per person, per night.
SUPPLIES AND FACILITIES:
Supplies can be bought at Agnes Water, which is 10km towards the coast and there are a number or shops with everything you'll need. There's a large service station, basic mechanical services and a few tourist businesses offering activities.
Trips are rated A through to E, with A meaning only suited to vehicles with an extreme level of off-road modification and E meaning perfectly suited for all types of 4WD and AWD vehicles. The tracks into Eurimbula National Park are rated a D, it's very bumpy and an aftermarket suspension would be a necessity for comfort, but generally easy to get in and out. In the wet there are some tricky sections towards the end of the track at Middle Creek and some good mud tyres would be of benefit. Deepwater National Park is rated a D, some deep sand but nothing too difficult for the experienced tourer.
MAPS AND GUIDES:
Camps 5 Australia Handbook. Maps are available for download from the QLD DERM website.
24°0 7'30"S, 151°47'07"E
CONTACTS AND INFORMATION:
QPWS Agnes Water (07) 4974 9350
QPWS Bundaberg (07) 4131 1600
4WDing, bushwalking, camping, fishing, swimming, and many photographic opportunities.
WORDS BY VLAD MERZLIAKOV, PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATTHEW FEHLBERG