The town of Seventeen Seventy is a misnomer. First of all it’s not a town and second of all, it was originally called Round Hill Head until 1936. It is however the site of the second landfall on Terra Australis of Lieutenant James Cook, RN, on his historic journey to the Pacific in 1770, in the barque Endeavour. No doubt, as the sequicentenary passed and bicentennial date approached in the 20th century, patriotic white Australians changed the name to mark the event.
We left Maryborough, en route to 1770, via Bundaberg and Childers, the fruit and veg growing towns of central Queensland. The huge Burnett River, which passes through and regularly floods Bundaberg, provides a rich floodplain. Bundaberg is a big sugar town and the iconic Bundy Rum is one of its by products, however the large sugar plantations we saw were nothing in comparison to the thousands of macadamia trees. At the turn off signposted Agnes Waters-1770, we passed the Pacific Gold Macadamia processing plant – and we thought Northern NSW was a big macadamia producer!
The road narrows, leading into Agnes Waters which really is the little township closest to 1770. Agnes Waters boasts the furthest northern surf beach on the east coast. From there north, the Great Barrier Reef prevents any surf reaching the coastline. In the afternoon light, we only saw young women surfing. The sand was coarse with black streaks, indicating its volcanic origin and wonderful crab art.
Our destination was the Sovereign Lodge 1770, a resort which boasted a Balinese ambience, including spa and pool. We arrived in the mid afternoon with a cool southerly breeze blowing and a message from our host, Mara to let ourselves in. The resort looked deserted, as did the surrounding little village, the long verandah pub having the only sign of life.
Despite this the view to Bustard Bay to our north was stunning and we set off for a stroll along the foreshore to the camping ground to check out the Beachcombers Family Bistro, as we were here for a special birthday occasion. It had been rated highly! But alas did not pass our test, so we adjourned to watch the sunset and try the pub, which had a good ambience.
As we watched the sun set over Bustard Bay, the only place on the east coast to see the sun set into the sea, the 1770 Dragons beat past, their oars held into the setting light.
On our second day, we decided to explore where the indomitable Cook set ashore. His diary is illuminating. On the 22 May, 1770, Cook’s clerk a Mr Orton was so drunk that some malicious persons cut off all his clothes while dead drunk in his bunk. Not satisfied with that they then cut off part of his ears! Cook writes that while he should punish the perpetrators, what was he to do with them in such a remote place. He goes ashore with Mr Banks and Dr Solander on 24th where they see Bustards like they have in England, one of which weighing 17 and a half pounds they kill, ‘which occasioned me to call this place Bustard Bay’. Cook also records evidence of human life but sees no local people. His visit is now marked with a stone cairn. The entry into the Bay is now full of sandy shoals, so one can imagine the longboat creeping in, taking soundings to guide the larger Endeavour to its anchor.
We leave the monument and walk along the Butterfly Way up to the Round Hill Head Lookout. There are many butterflies in the sheltered groves, where water courses track down to the fore shores and the Alexandra Palms and Moreton Bay gums provide shadow for them to flit in and out of the sunlight.
Our final evening gave us another spectacular sunset and back at the 1770 Pub we celebrated the birthday with a special 16 year old Sémillon from Sue’s wine cellar.