Town of 1770, between Gladstone and Agnes Water

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Cruising along the stretch of tar known as Bruce, heading south from Gladstone for The Town of 1770 and Agnes Water, you can tell you are heading somewhere special.

The country inland opens up, the hinterland rolling along happily, giving your gaze cause to linger away from the road for longer, perhaps, than is prudent.

The hills, those grand old folk of the earth, continue to loom around as you head towards salt water. Their gentle slopes curve gracefully to touch the Pacific - as if their toes are testing the water.

Naming a town 1770 is perhaps an unusual thing to do. But it's fitting when that town was the birthplace of Queensland: the first place Lieutenant James Cook landed on 24 May 1770 (and only the second in Australia).

After my arrival just on dusk, I decided it would be a good option to pick up a pizza from local eatery Kahunas before getting to bed for the early start the next day aboard the Reef Jet.

Fitzroy Reef Lagoon

I arrive at the marina ready to experience a trip out to the Fitzroy Reef Lagoon. The jet gives a yell, delighting in its power as it puts on a turn of pace once clear of the marina and the disapproving view of the coastline. As I look out the window (or should that be porthole) through the spray I see the sky and water shaking hands in a circle as far as the eye can see.

Today, the Lady Pacific has opted for a gown in deep blue, tipped with gold, the subtly-shifting colour bleeding into the horizon.

As our captain announces we are closing in on our destination - necks start craning, and in the distance a brilliant aqua marine, cuffed with white-breaking waves heralds our imminent meeting with the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

You feel privileged just to be able to set eyes upon the splendour that is the Fitzroy Reef.

Everything about the reef becomes clearer on closer inspection. The coral, brown and cream from the surface, shows its flashier side to those willing to get up close and personal. Dazzling blues, purples, oranges and yellows - like the technicolour spawn of some deranged artist's imagination.

Once out there, bobbing like a cork in a bucket, everybody piles out the back of the boat to either snorkel or scuba dive. Being a novice to diving, I decide to take the snorkel option. This time around I have a secret weapon for my aquatic adventure… a sea scooter.

You may have seen these things on television, they are a little propeller in a yellow plastic case that drags you around. The ride is like something out of a Jacques Cousteau film - a slow-motion vehicle for cruising around some of the most spectacular coral in the world.

We head back to shore in the afternoon just in time for the sun to set over the mainland… the water electrified by the changing light, all blues and greens and silvers.

Not all the attractions in this beautiful area are water-based however. If you like to be close to nature pitch a tent right on the beach at 1770 or settle into a cabin or caravan with water or bush views. If space and comfort's your thing there are several beachfront houses for rent or if you like to be really looked after book into a bed and breakfast. You can explore 1770, Agnes Water and Eurimbula National Park in a conventional car. Deepwater National Park is four wheel drive only country, and these vehicles can be hired in town.

One of the best places to appreciate 1770 is while lunching on the deck of the 1770 Saltwater Café. The only thing that obstructs your water views is a large tree, the afternoon sun illuminating its leaves to a brilliant green. Visitors can also drop into Kahuna's for an amazing seafood pizza dinner and a drink or Mangos Restaurant for a good coffee and their amazing ricotta pancakes with banana and maple syrup and creme fraise.

Bushwalking is popular in the National Parks or Joseph Banks Conservation Park. The area also offers a choice of surf beaches or safe calm water swimming beaches for younger f

Getting there
The Town of 1770 and Agnes Water are just over five hours drive from Brisbane or 90 minutes from Bundaberg. Alternatively you can fly (50 minutes from Brisbane) or travel on the Tilt Train to Bundaberg then hire a car. For bookings call the Queensland Travel Centre, Tel 13 18 01. For further information on attractions call Bundaberg Tourism, Tel +61 7 4152 2333 or Queensland National Parks, Tel +61 7 4974 9350 or visit http://www.bundabergregion.info for a comprehensive rundown on the Bundaberg region.

Other activities
- Game, reef or fly fishing in Round Hill Creek, off the surf beaches, the rocks or on the offshore reefs.
- Day-trip or extended fishing charters as well as sailing, snorkelling and diving day trips out to Lady Musgrave Island and an amphibious tour of Bustard Bay are available from the 1770 marina.

For more information:
Make the Discovery Information Centre your first port of call when you arrive at Agnes Water. They can help with maps, directions and local knowledge on where to visit and what to see.

 
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