Agnes Water and 1770 accommodation providers fully booked as tourists flock for school holidays

Twenty-six years ago, Simon Young packed his young family and camped for six weeks along an idyllic coastline on the south side of the Great Barrier Reef.

Mr Young and his wife Janette were so taken with the towns of Agnes Water and 1770 in central Queensland that they bought a house a few years after their first visit and plan to retire there.

“We literally camped on the beach, it was so beautiful,” said Mr. Young of his 1996 trip.

“It was the real Queensland experience and we loved it.

“The closest is Bermuda.

“The softness of the temperature, the air, it has that sultry, soft feel.”

A man and a woman stand together, with bushland and a yellow cottage in the background
Simon and Janette Young like to share their property with tourists.(ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines)

In the two decades since the Young family first came to visit, they have seen the towns grow in popularity.

They decided to take advantage of the booming demand for holiday accommodation in the seaside resorts and in 2018 rented out their cottage, which is nestled among the bushland, a few minutes’ drive from Agnes Water, to tourists.

Demand is rising

Mr Young said bookings had been “very good” this year, already fully booked at Christmas and early 2023.

Liza Thompson runs the Agnes Water Holiday Park on the beach, for caravans and families.

“Every school holiday for us, we’re just booked, booked, booked,” she said.

“They usually book a year in advance for the school holidays, so that makes it tricky to get in here.”

Sunset on the beach with boats in the ocean.
Agnes Water and 1770 (pictured) won Queensland’s Top Small Tourism Award last year.(Delivered: Simon Young)

When full, the caravan park can accommodate up to 600 people.

Ms Thompson said the park had no vacancies until the end of November, traditionally a quiet month for the accommodation provider.

“There are a lot of people who are starting to open up [their] properties on the way to Agnes Water, with beautiful bush settings so people can still come and experience the beauty of Agnes Water and 1770,” she said.

The cities were once considered hidden gems, unknown to most tourists.

“It’s been found, put it this way,” said Mrs. Thompson.

Drone shot of coastline
The town of 1770 is located on the Discovery Coast of Queensland.(Delivered: Simon Young)

Call for better roads, boat ramp

Gladstone Area Promotion Development CEO Gus Stedman said the region had seen exponential growth in visitor numbers.

Stedman said there were about 3,000 residents between Agnes Water and 1770, but during the peak season, there could be an additional 1,500 people living in the towns.

“It puts a lot of pressure on the infrastructure … we don’t have an abundance of water down there, we do have a desalination plant and they are very expensive to operate,” said Mr. Stedman.

He would like to see improvements to meet the growing demand, such as an “all-weather” road for people driving in and out of the cities and better boat docks.

A beach and pam tree scene
Agnes Water is located between Bundaberg and Gladstone.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

Mr Stedman said that while there was always a large number of holiday homes, online booking websites made it easier for more people to advertise their properties for short stays.

“If you do want to go and can’t stay overnight, just take a day trip and come have a swim and have a bite to eat, enjoy the tranquility,” he said.

‘It’s like the postcards’

Tourist Jenny Bogue walked along the main beach of Agnes Water, waves lapping at her feet.

Ms. Bogue flew thousands of miles from Kokomo, Indiana in the United States to visit and travel with her daughter, who lives in Hervey Bay.

A woman with glasses on a beach
Jenny Bogue, from the United States, visits the small seaside towns.(ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines)

“We were finally able to come since the world opened up again… it’s unreal, it’s just like the postcards and photos you see online,” she said.

Yeppoon local Rebecca Dietz was also visiting the region with her family.

She said she planned to book her next trip in January before returning to Yeppoon, to make sure she could get lodging.

“When we wanted to come last year, it was really fully booked,” she said.

Community is booming

A man is smiling with his hands on his hips, there is a palm plant in the background
Simon Young loves the tranquility of the area.(ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines)

Mr. Young said that when Agnes Water first got there, there were no tarmac roads or a supermarket.

“There was a pub, a grocery store and that was more or less it, and now you have a school, fire station, police, good supermarkets, some good shops and restaurants,” he said.

He said that despite the development, the community had retained the same charm it had decades ago.

“I think what really separates Agnes Water, 1770 is that it’s a very chill, very happy place and people relax,” he said.

A man with blond brown hair smiles, there is a surfboard and a beach photo in the background.
James Spicer first came to Agnes Water in 2009 as an English backpacker and fell in love with the region.(ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines)

James Spicer, a member of the Discovery Coast Tourism and Commerce group’s executive committee, said both cities were desperate for tourism industry staff, while a lack of backpackers remains an issue.

“There’s a huge opportunity for young kids, or anyone who wants to get out of the boring 9-5 office and shoot the coast here,” said Mr Spicer.

“We are screaming for staff and we are ready to train and you live in paradise.”

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