Town of 1770 – COVID-19 delivers ‘paradise’ a bounty
Ian Browne is a writer based on the Tweed. He has written for numerous magazines and has a travel book on its way.
Ian wrote this piece about the impacts of Covid on the 1770/Agnes Water region after a visit there this month.
On the Queensland coast at the southern base of the Great Barrier Reef, the Town of
Seventeen Seventy has long been held with much regard, though to many it remains a
It's one of those paradises that people talk about - "I hope to go there one
day" or "I could have purchased a few acres there in the 90s, and now it's worth a ton!"
Well, those that have been, taken the time to head off the main highway sneaking away north
of Bundaberg, become nicely seduced, returning time and time again.
Due to its somewhat "off the beaten track" label, this stunning, natural part of the world was protected by the hordes, dispelling a fear in the thoughts of locals as "the next Byron Bay or Noosa".
Sadly, since covid grounded flights abroad, and while Queenslanders snubbed their noses at the rancid folk of Melbourne and Sydney, this town has now become swamped with visitors who have now bothered to take the time to show up.
A degree closer in latitude to the equator south, as Miami Florida is north, this subtropical
region delivers a peaceful marina with stunning views along beige sandflats and turquoise
waters; a large family-friendly lagoon laps at the shoreline where native livistona, and
coconut palms, flutter in the hot air above.
Crocodile and box jellyfish free, for now at least, this place is a user-friendly paradise, make no bones about it.
I have arrived the past four years now, rocking up via a stay along the way at Maleny in the mountains behind the Sunshine Coast.
But this January I was actually meant to be snapping away at the intrigue of India, but for obvious reasons I couldn't, and 1770 once again beckoned.
Next door to Seventeen Seventy, along the brown sands of Agnes Water, the stars startle visitors as they sparkle abundantly above a warm ocean.
For the many international backpackers who fall for this region, this is the first place they learn to surf.
Myself, well I stay in a very affordable bungalow behind a boardwalk, which tinkers through tranquil palm and paperbark forest to the dunes overlooking the last surf beach on the east coast.
I was concerned that my usual accommodation might have been no more due to the hindrance of covid during the winter months, the usual movement north from cooler lands to the south: the grey nomads and the backpackers on their march to tropical Cairns, momentarily postponed.
Instead, for the past six months this town has been heaving; any available real estate has been snapped up by those "umming-n-ahing" from the cities in the south, and it's "good luck" getting into anywhere for even a brief stay, at least till post Easter!
I took my chances and turned up unannounced to find just one night available to me.
Chatting to a couple who were staying in 1770, they decided to leave a day early and offered me their bungalow for my second night.
They suggested that as there were less backpackers on hand, and perhaps staff being "run off their feet busy" for the past half a year, establishments were delivering second rate food to the tables of local establishments.
But I found some positives since last year's visit.
The new pizza café in Agnes Water looks great, the relaxing ambience and colourful menu at the Drift & Wood bar and restaurant was appreciated.
Taking up roost behind my bungalow in the coastal paperbark forest and refusing to be left out of the real estate grab, a huge camp of little red flying foxes filled the sunset skies for as far as the eye could see.
Leaving earlier than intended, I entertained a stay an hour to the south in a town whose river,
its bridges; palm lined roads and grand historic buildings, seemed worthy of a night out.
But downtown Bundaberg seemed too quiet for my likings, so off to Childers I went.
Childers is a place I enjoy stopping off at to enjoy coffee and lunch.
But it was here that I found very nice and affordable accommodation, friendly banter with young locals in a beautiful old pub over dinner was appreciated.
Greeted by the cool dark interior of this fabulously old building with its timber odours, the gorgeous young lady serving delicious coffee at the Paragon Theatre welcomed me backstage to enjoy a reprieve from the sweaty 34-degrees weather.
Reminiscing past days in the large open space of the old cinema, arranged for pleasure were the abundant deckchairs and lounges which have enchanted many since 1927.
For breakfast the following morning, I finally visited the Insane Caffeine café, having wondered this establishment the past year.
What I discovered was one of the most exciting cafes I have experienced.
The artwork, the lavish tropical garden and bottle trees, special.
I have never seen such generously bulging-in-sin deserts, but you do pay extra for this, and though the coffee was nice, the Paragon's is a tastier option.
Like Bellingen and Mullumbimby down in New South Wales, the town of Maleny is one of
After my best body surf the past two years, I left the clear waters of Peregian on the Sunshine Coast, my car struggling to reach to the top of the mountains leading up to Mapleton, and on through the vibrant vistas via Montville to Maleny.
I love arriving to Maleny but so hate leaving.
It is alternative but not crusty, cooler than the steamy coastline below, and it is non-pretentious.
Due to the fear of the English variant of covid having arrived to Brisbane, and Maleny itself, this gorgeous town was the polar opposite to booked-out 1770.
But the locals were out and about, nonetheless.
Other than the very tasty Indian cuisine on offer, the centre of town also has an international food marketplace complemented by two old bush house cafes with outdoor seating in the subtropical surrounds.
Here Korean, Thai and Krishna cuisine delights.
While living in Brisbane in '95, I used to roll through Maleny with my brother and friends in our combi van, on our way to camp out in the luxurious rainforests of nearby Booloomba Creek.
The town was tiny then.
Staying in the old wooden heritage pub and enjoying banter in the tropical garden on dusk, is very enjoyable.
I love my Salty Aunt for breakfast!
Fear not, tis just a poached egg dish with hollandaise sauce and sharpened by a small school of anchovies swimming in salsa verde.
I partake in this at the happy and very sociable Shotgun Café.
Talking about armed staff, down the other end of town the picture that greets you above the service area, and again on the cover of the restaurant's menu, is of a mobster with a machine gun - surely suggesting you tip generously!
The Cappriccios is my favourite Italian restaurant, the food delicious, the outdoor
decking area also provides views out over the rainforest creek where platypus shimmy and
dive in the cool mountain waters.
As I have done in earlier years, I enjoyed chatting to the attractive host, her now retired father Phil, I also sat down with for a chat to explore his family's life during last years' visit.
The Venditti family arrived from the town of Acquevive in the Province of Isernia Italy, and three generations of Oz life later, the Cappriccios Italian restaurant has called Maleny home since 1995.
The morning brings with it the chance to lie in the shade within the bubbling creekline of
Gardner's Falls, allowing the gurgling waters to cool away the summer heat.
The view from the café at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve - looking down over the Glass House Mountains - is stirring.
You must not miss the nocturnal theatre room in the adjoining museum, where
the mystery of rainforest life plays out. Lights are timed to illuminate models of fauna, all
coordinated with the film rolling at the centre of the scene, which depicts the coming and
going of rainforest life during a summer night's storm.
The rainforest trails here themselves are brilliant.
As soon as I enter the hidden realm of rainforest, I am immediately humbled, yet
I feel at home.
I also scorn those with greedy hands in development projects who just don't "get it!"
The huge figs, the massive red cedar, the bounty of bangalow palms, and native
birdlife - such as the noisy catbirds and bouncing jungle robins, beguiling, and there's every
chance you will fall upon the local rifle birds at play, the males perched hilariously,
vigorously sending their small wings up and down to impress a mate.