In September 2016 Sigi and I flew to The Town of 1770/Agnes Water for a couple of nights. This twin town is the site of Captain James Cook’s first port of call in what is known today as Queensland on his voyage of discovery up the east coast of Australia in May 1770. There were just two small settlements here until it was rediscovered by some celebrities about 20-30 years ago. Being some 500km north of Brisbane it is quite remote and used to be even more so. Apparently it used to take 4-5 hours to drive the last 60km from the main highway over a rough track. In the mid 90’s a sealed road was completed. Since then resorts and accommodation galore have been constructed. Fortunately for us, there’s a grass airstrip too, located smack bang between the township of Agnes Water and the Town of 1770 and there’s a resort literally just across the road.
We took off from Redcliffe on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. It happened to be the day of the aeroclub open day so, after spending a few hours at the club in the morning, we managed to taxi away in the ROC (Cessna 182) just after lunch and climb out to the north west. It was about a 90 minute flight via Gympie, and to the west of Bundaberg. I’d decided to fly IFR as there were a few clouds forecast on our way. As it turn out our flight path actually managed to avoid the clouds even though some reasonably heavy rain was falling closer to the coast.
There’s a hill at the southern end of the runway at Agnes Water and it slopes down gently to the south, so normal practice is to land from the north and take off to the north unless there’s a strong northerly wind. Guess what? I’d rung up the aerodrome owner (“Woody”) before we started and he’d said that although the strip was in good condition there was a strong northerly blowing and we may have to land from the south. As I’d already been to there before and knew the lay of the land that didn’t bother me, I’d just have to be prepared to do a couple of overflies and check it out well before we attempted to land. If it were too difficult I could divert to Gladstone.
We made an approach call on the Agnes Water frequency when we were 10 miles out and were advised by one of the local pilots that they were indeed landing from the south. He was heading off up the coast so said we’d have the circuit to ourselves. There would be plenty of room for us to check out the field and do a couple of overflies.
Approaching from the south at about 1500ft I advised Brisbane Centre that we were in the circuit of Agnes Water and cancelled the Sarwatch. I then concentrated on the state of the strip, the wind and the surroundings. We did a midfield crosswind join on RWY33 then joined the left downwind, eyeing off the hill to the south of the strip and the houses on its flanks. Turning base and then final I got a feel for how high I’d have to be to clear the hill and how I’d have to drop down to reach the threshold. On this instance however I remained at 500ft and did a flyover to inspect the strip, check the windsock and look for animals or obstacles. It was all clear and the wind was a consistent 10 knots from the north. The strip looked in good condition and I could see a clear path to climb out to the north if we had to abort the landing and go around.
We climbed back up to 1000 ft and turned downwind for the second time. This time I was confident we could land so prepared the aircraft and turned base once again. Passing over the top of the hill we turned final and once we’d cleared it dropped down towards the threshold. We touched down softly not too far down the runway and taxied the remaining distance to the tie down area.
While we were tying the aircraft town, Woody called to see how we’d fared. I told him it was fine and he seemed relieved. We put our $50 landing fee into a secure box mounted within a tree trunk and walked 300m down the bush track and across the road to the “Lagoons at 1770” resort. This is a top spot with amazingly friendly staff and a restaurant that would do any capital city proud. It was a 5 minute walk to the beach that stretches 6km from the Agnes Water town centre in the south to the Joseph Banks Conservation Park at the northern tip of the peninsula on which The Town of 1770 is located.
We spent two nights at Lagoons at 1770, spending the Monday walking up the beach to 1770 and back and swimming in the pool and at the patrolled beach at Agnes Water. It was a very relaxing spot and would be a nice spot to spend a week sometime.
On day 3 however it was time to head back to Redcliffe. The weather was fine and clear with no cloud forecast so I decided on a VFR flight back along the coast. We checked out at about 9am and by 10am were rolling down RWY33 to the north (with a slight tail wind). One of the local aircraft told us over the radio that they’d just seen a number of whales breaching about 25 km north at the northern end of Bustard Bay so we headed up that way to look for ourselves. We weren’t as lucky. We couldn’t see any whales and after doing a couple of orbits we headed back south, passing over 1770 and Agnes Water towards Bargara. The weather remained kind as we continued down the coast to Hervey Bay. As we passed to the west of the airport we saw a Virgin jet taxiing to the runway. He called up and asked our intentions. I mentioned we were heading direct to Rainbow Beach and he said “Where is Rainbow Beach”. Once I explained I meant the southern tip of Fraser Island he understood and said he’d climb out to the east to avoid us.
Further down we heard a light aircraft was taking off from Rainbow Beach for a parachute drop so we had a chat and agreed to remain over water to avoid him as he climbed out.
The Cooloola Coast was full of holiday makers with 4WDs on the beach. There must have been some good fishing spots down there. As we passed Noosa we called up Sunshine Coast Tower and got a clearance through the D Class airspace and then set course direct to Redcliffe via Bribie Island.
It was great little trip and is ideal for a weekend or a couple of nights mid week. The promity of a number of resorts to the airstrip makes it very convenient. Alternatively a taxi could be called to reach accommodation in central 1770 or Agnes Water. Although the strip can be a bit tricky in a northerly wind it’s not anything that anyone with a bit of experience landing on grass strips wouldn’t be able to handle although they may need to go around once or twice to get a feel for it. Under normal conditions you’d land from the north over some mud flats. The $50 landing fee may seem steep but it’s used to maintain it and Woody provides a very friendly service and advice as required. There’s plenty of room to park and tie down as well.