The new Noosa
Wow! Queensland special promotion
At the towns of Agnes Water and 1770 you can enjoy a beach holiday without the crowds, writes Christina Pfeiffer.
When visiting Agnes Water and the Town of 1770, those who had been to Noosa before it grew into a vibrant hub of cafes, restaurants and luxury resorts are often struck by a sense of deja vu.
Picture a surf beach nestled against a national park headland framed by blue skies and lots of sunshine all year round. Add to that a chilled-out Queensland vibe and you have the ingredients of a good old-fashioned beach vacation.
This lesser-known central Queensland beach destination lies on the aptly named Discovery Coast between Bundaberg and Gladstone. Named after the year James Cook put foot on shore here, the phrase on everyones lips is new Noosa. Noosa, which is located about 300 kilometres to the south, on the Sunshine Coast, has long been popular with holiday- makers from southern states.
Like Noosa once was, Agnes Water and 1770 have long been a favourite spot for caravaners and campers. But even though the region is isolated - you have to fly into Bundaberg or Gladstone then face a 1-hour drive along the Pacific Coast Touring Route - sophisticated holiday- makers from Sydney, Melbourne, Britain and Germany are slowly but surely replacing the camping and caravan crowd.
Sitting at an outdoor table at the Saltwater Cafe, I gaze into a brilliant vermilion sun setting over the water. Chef John Howe places an enormous bowl of steaming mussels in front of me, announcing the dish as Hervey Bay mussels in white wine and garlic. Howe has driven the five-hour round trip to Hervey Bay today especially to pick up fresh mussels for tonights menu. Im amazed at his dedication but he simply shrugs it off as all in a days work.
Also on the menu is fresh seafood caught locally: crab (wok-tossed with garlic, chilli and coriander) and coral trout pan-fried in a five- spice sauce served with chat potatoes with red curry bok choy. Even though Saltwaters outdoor setting with plastic and aluminium chairs is distinctively beachy, the menu is a big step up from your typical fish and chip shop. A number of other suburban cafes are gradually evolving their menus to appeal to a more sophisticated palette.
At tables nearby, diners discuss property contracts, beach houses for sale and new holiday- apartment projects. Only a few years ago, accommodation was limited to motels and backpacker hostels. But these days the area is fast filling up with apartment-style holiday villas and luxury beach houses.
When I last visited three years ago, the building-boom hype was at its peak. Wealthy developers Michael Baevski (of the Myer family), ironman Grant Kenny and Flight Centre co-founder Jim Goldburg were in the throes of developing major projects in town.
Kenny developed Mantra Pavillions Mirage, a 75-apartment resort offering one-, two-and three-bedroom apartments, pools and landscaped gardens near the beach.
Now, as I drive around, I spot a few new buildings and boards advertising upcoming projects. Front yards are crowded with for sale signs and prospective out-of-town investors drive around checking out vacant land plots.
I walk through Joseph Banks Conservation Park to the rock monument that marks the spot where James Cook stepped ashore in 1770 while navigating Australia on HMB Endeavour. The park was named after the expeditions botanist who documented the flora and fauna here. Further along at the lookout at Round Hill Head, I soak in the rugged ocean view of waves crashing along the sandy beach at Agnes Water. A lone runner, wearing togs, jogs up the hill through the bushland.
At Agnes Water, the main beach is dotted with surfers. A group of schoolchildren are exercising on the sand away from a sprinkling of sunbathers lapping up the sunshine. The opportunity to lie on the beach is too good to pass up and I find myself quickly winding down.
Aside from beach activities and lying around the pool, one of the areas attractions is how close it is to the Great Barrier Reef. The southern part of the reef is pristine and receives fewer visitors than the northern section of the reef near Cairns. From 1770, there are day cruises that offer swimming, snorkelling and diving at Fitzroy Reef and Lady Musgrave Island, a coral cay at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. Other activities are estuary fishing or deep-sea fishing trips, visits to the turtle-breeding grounds at Deepwater National Park or the wilderness of Eurimbula National Park.
I meet up with Greg Millar, the manager of Sunrise at 1770, a luxury eco-sensitive development spread out on four kilometres of beachfront land. We drive through impressive security gates and around the 620-hectare development that is surrounded by national park and nature reserves. There are two recreation areas with 25-metre wet- edge pools, tennis courts, barbecue facilities, a childrens playground, beach-volleyball courts and direct access to out- of-the-way surf beaches (Springs Beach is Millars favourite).
This development operates under strict codes to protect the ecosystem with features such as low-density low- impact housing designed to blend into the environment, water- management initiatives and waste-management strategies.
I'm staying in the nearby Rocky Point Estate, another gated community where homes cost an average of $3 million. My accommodation, Coral View House, is a four- bedroom architect- designed luxury home perched on top of a cliff. A massive deck runs along the width of the house.
I sit with my feet up on the deck sipping a glass of chilled sparkling wine as I take in views of the ocean, forest and Honeymoon Bay below.
Theres no doubt that changes are occurring at 1770 and Agnes Water but no matter how fast the area develops, a stress-free luxury beach vacation looks likely to continue to be a highlight for visitors. And at the moment, I'm revelling in the absence of crowds.
Luxury beach houses
1770 Beach Accommodation, phone (07) 4974 7674 or seewww.1770beachacco mmodation.com.au.
Sunrise at 1770, phone (07) 4974 7733 or see http://www.sunriseat1770.co m.au.
Seabreeze, phone 0414 387 835 or see http://www.seabreeze1770.com.
Luxury serviced apartments
Mantra Pavillions Mirage, phone (07) 4902 1000 or http://www.mantrapavillions .com.au.
Edge on Beaches Resort, phone (07) 4902 1200 or http://www.edgeonbeaches 1770.com.au.
LARC tours start at $30 an adult for a sunset cruise or $115 for a full day cruise plus $7 park fees. Phone (07) 4974 9422 or see http://www.1770larctours.co m.au.
Lady Musgrave Cruises cost $160 (adult) for a full day and $80 (child under 14). Phone 1800 072 110 or see http://www.lmcruises.com.au.
See http://www.townof1770- agneswater.com.au or http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au.Wow! Queensland is published by Fairfax Media in conjunction with Tourism Queensland. All journalists travelled as guests of Tourism Queensland, Virgin Blue and the Queensland tourism industry. Details correct at time of publication and may be subject to change.