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Visiting the Town of 1770 was one of our top highlights of Australia. Not only is the town itself incredibly interesting, but you can explore it in a fun and unique way – by LARC.
A LARC is a lighter amphibious resupply cargo vessel that was used by soldiers to transport goods in times of war. Think of a boat that can drive on land – incredible!
Travelling by LARC is the only way to explore this unique part of the Southern Great Barrier Reef region unless you have your own off-trail vehicle, 4WD, or boat.
So what if you don’t have your own LARC? Well, you’re going to need one of these Town of 1770 LARC tours! But which is the best one and how do you decide? This guide will tell you everything you need to know.
Where is the Town of 1770?
Seventeen Seventy, or The Town of 1770 as it’s commonly known, is just 6 kilometers north of Agnes Water in the Gladstone Region of Queensland. It’s also a 6 hour drive north of Brisbane and connects to the Southern Great Barrier Reef region of QLD.
It was found by Lieutenant James Cook in May 1770, which is why the town was named Town of 1770.
It was his second discovery of Australia, the first in Queensland, and so the area claims to be the birthplace of Queensland.
Today it feels just like it was over 200 years ago when Captain Cook discovered it. And the thousands of years before that when the Gooreng Gooreng Aboriginal tribe were the caretakers of the land.
Town of 1770 LARC Tours
There are not many companies that offer Town of 1770 LARC tours, in fact, there is only one. 1770 LARC! Tours are the official operator of LARC tours in 1770.
We took the full-day LARC Paradise Tour and it was pretty much paradise. You can also book a half-day tour (a 2 hour tour) with a picnic lunch, or a custom tour where you can create something special and unique – though this is usually aimed at groups.
If you have the time though, we do think full-day tours are worth it.
Neil Mergard, the founder of Town of 1770 LARC! Tours, was our skipper for the day and has been running these tours for 20 years.
His passion for the area has not died one bit and his knowledge of the area was amazing, as was our tour guide David, who was great at entertaining us all with his jokes and love for the bird life.
They might be the only company doing this tour, but if there were competitors, they would certainly be the best.
Stops on the LARC Paradise Tours
If you’re not sure whether the full-day LARC tour is for you, then here are the stops that it takes…
Bustard Bay, Eurimbula National Park
As I was driving along Bustard Bay in the Town of 1770 in a bright pink LARC, I couldn’t help but think this was one of the best experiences in Queensland.
The LARC can go where no other vehicle can and gives you the option of both land and water.
We were stopping every few seconds to watch out for the abundant wildlife, such as crabs scuttling in the water, pelicans flying into the land, and brown kites circling overhead on alert to catch their prey.
To get to this desolate curved stretch of beach on the coastline of Eurimbula National Park, we had to morph into a boat and chug along the Round Hill Creek, detouring the long way to avoid the soldier crabs marching up the sand bank at low tide.
We stopped along the long stretch of beach to collect shells and stretch our legs.
Visiting the Bustard Head Lightstation
Neil made the area come alive with his stories of Captain Cook’s arrival and the various families that travelled through this area and lived at the isolated Bustard Head Lighthouse, Queensland’s first coastal lighthouse and the only operating lighthouse that the public can access.
LARC tours give you this exclusive access. Although due to Australian building standards, children under 8 are not allowed to enter.
When it switched to automatic control in the late 80s the light keeper’s cottage was trashed by vandals.
A previous lighthouse keeper, Stuart Buchanan upon visiting several years later was devastated at what he saw and made it his mission to restore it to its former glory.
After years of hard work, his vision, and former home, returned to their glory. We were shown through the museum filled with light station memorabilia, and then to historical Bustard Head lightstation.
We learned about its history and restoration project from volunteer guides who work with the LARC and spend 6 weeks at a time living at the lighthouse to keep it maintained.
It’s not a bad job.
Getting to the lighthouse was an adventure in itself, as we drove up a steep and bumpy track to Bustard Headland only accessible by the LARC. We could sure use this vehicle ourselves on some other drives around Australia.
As we climbed the track the 360-degree views over Bustard Bay and Pancake Creek and the mountains behind were truly spectacular.
Tales of Tragedy
After our interpretive tour of the lighthouse we walked down to the cemetery and on the trip back down the headland, Neil told us all the stories of those buried in the graves.
We quickly discovered why it’s been named ‘The Lighthouse of Tragedy.’ If you read my guide on the Ghost tour at Port Arthur, you know how I sat on the edge of my seat to hear these tales.
There was the mysterious death of Kate Gibson whose throat was slit from ear to ear. The coroner put it down as self-inflicted, but Neil’s sleuthing around has shown him that it is physically impossible for someone to kill themselves in this way. All fingers point to the alcoholic husband, Nils, who died not long after of cirrhosis of the liver.
There were many other deaths of those who lived at the lighthouse caused by shipwrecks, drownings, an abduction, a murder, and several other freak deaths.
My favourite story was of the young lighthouse keeper’s daughter, Edith Anderson who went to work in the nearby Turkey Station and fell in love with a young man George Daniels.
A family friend, and the son of a nearby cattle ranch owner, had it in his head that he was the one that would marry Kate. He convinced her family that he needed to rescue her from Daniel and he collected her from the station.
Daniels ambushed them, shooting him in the stomach and disappearing with Edith. Despite a massive search, they were never to be seen again.
After the story appeared on television, Neil had a call from a person claiming to be the great-great granddaughter of the two and said theirs was truly a love story.
They were hidden by the Aboriginal tribes for months until the search party for them was called off and they lived happily ever after.
Aww. Such a lovely story that would be made into a Hollywood movie!
Sandboarding on Middle Island
Across Jenny Lind Creek is a beautiful picnic area on the northern tip of Middle Island where we enjoyed a lunch of cold-cut salad sandwiches, and an afternoon tea of lamingtons and billy tea – that’s tea brewed over a campfire.
We were now ready for our afternoon of fun on the towering dunes of Middle Island. Who would have known that hidden behind the coastal scrub were 35m high sand boarding planes?
Because of the slight chill in the air and water, we opted out of skimming out across the water in a grand finale and instead stopped on the sand flat at the bottom of the hill.
It was wild fun.
Kalyra loved jumping on our backs to join us as we tore down the dunes. We couldn’t convince her to go down the highest part on her own, but she took on the smaller dunes and enjoyed racing her daddy.
The Final Stop, Four Tidal Creeks
We were all sad to leave this place of mystery, fun, and serenity to drive back over the vast sandy beaches and four tidal creeks to return home.
But there was one last bit of fun for the kids as Neil allowed them to play skipper and drive the LARC back up the beach, dodging the incoming tide and experiencing the thrill of sand passing beneath them.
And to welcome us back to the Town of 1770, we had this magnificent sunset. A paradise end to a paradise day.
Final Thoughts on Town of 1770 LARC Tours
Our day out exploring the Town of 1770 on a LARC vehicle was one we will never forget. The sheer thrill of our unique amphibious vessels taking us through this remote wilderness, where we could see prolific wildlife and past pristine waterways, was an experience in itself.
Of course, it was exciting sandboarding in the dunes and exploring the lighthouse and lightkeepers cottage, but simply being able to drive on land or water was something else.
We hope this guide helped you decide whether a Town of 1770 LARC tour is right for you and helped give you an idea of what you can expect!
You can read more in our post on why you should visit the Town of 1770 and nearby Agnes Waters and more travel ideas for the Southern Great Barrier Reef region of Queensland.
Disclaimer: Our tour was in partnership with Tourism Queensland, but all the thoughts, ideas, and opinions in this guide are our own.
Have you experienced the Town of 1770? Have you ever been on a LARC tour? What are your favorite things to do in the Town of 1770? Let us know in the comments.