Twenty-six years ago, Simon Young packed up with his young family and spent six weeks camping along an idyllic coastline near the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.
- Agnes Water Holiday Park says tourists book up to a year in advance for school holiday periods
- Simon Young is renting out his future retirement home near Agnes Water, with strong bookings for the Christmas and New Year holidays
- Gladstone Area Promotion and Development says during peak times an additional 1,500 people visit smaller communities
Mr Young and his wife Janette were so taken with the small towns of Agnes Water and 1770 in central Queensland that they bought a property a few years after their first visit and plan to retire there.
“We literally camped on the beach, it was so beautiful,” Mr Young said of his 1996 trip.
“It was the real Queensland experience and we just loved it.
“The closest comparison is Bermuda.
“The softness of the temperature, the air, it has this soft, gentle feeling.”
In the two decades since the Young family’s first visit, they’ve seen the towns’ popularity skyrocket.
They decided to capitalize on the growing demand for holiday accommodation in seaside towns, by renting out their cottage, which is in the middle of the bush a short drive from Agnes Water, to tourists in 2018.
Demand is skyrocketing
Mr Young said bookings this year had been “very good”, with Christmas and the start of 2023 already fully booked.
Liza Thompson manages the seaside Agnes Water holiday park, aimed at caravanners and families.
“Every school holiday for us, we’re just booked, booked, booked,” she said.
“They usually book a year in advance for school holidays, that’s why it’s hard to get in here.”
When full, the caravan park can accommodate up to 600 people.
Ms Thompson said the park had no vacancies until the end of November, which has traditionally been a quiet month for the accommodation provider.
“There are a lot of people who have started to open up [their] properties on your way to Agnes Water, with beautiful bush settings so people can still come and experience the beauty of Agnes Water and 1770,” she said.
Cities were once considered hidden gems, unknown to most tourists.
“He was found, let’s put it that way,” Ms Thompson said.
Call for better roads, boat ramp
Gladstone Area Promotion Development CEO Gus Stedman said the area has seen exponential growth in visitation.
Mr Stedman said there were around 3,000 residents between Agnes Water and 1770, but during peak season an additional 1,500 people could stay in the towns.
“It puts a lot of strain on infrastructure…we don’t have a lot of water there, we have a desalination plant and it’s very expensive to run them,” Stedman said.
He would like to see improvements to meet growing demand, such as an “all-weather” road for people going in and out of towns and better boat ramp facilities.
Mr Stedman said that although there has always been a high number of holiday homes, online booking sites have made it easier for more people to advertise their properties for short breaks.
“If you want to go and you can’t find accommodation, take a day trip and come swim and have a bite to eat somewhere, soak up the tranquility,” he said.
“It’s like postcards”
Tourist Jenny Bogue walked along the main beach at Agnes Water, the waves lapping at her feet.
Ms Bogue has traveled thousands of miles from Kokomo, Indiana, US to visit and travel with her daughter, who lives in Hervey Bay.
“We finally got to come since the world reopened…it’s unreal, it’s like the postcards and photos you see online,” she said.
Yeppoon local Rebecca Dietz was also visiting the area with her family.
She said she planned to book for her next trip in January before returning to Yeppoon, to make sure she could find accommodation.
“When we wanted to come last year, it was sometimes full,” she said.
Mr Young said on his first visit that Agnes Water had no tarmac roads or a supermarket.
“There was a pub, a grog shop and that was more or less everything, and now you have a school, a fire station, the police, some good supermarkets, some good shops and restaurants,” he said. he declares.
He said that despite the development, the community has retained the same charm that dazzled him decades ago.
“I think what really sets Agnes Water, 1770 apart is that it’s a very chilled and very happy place and people relax,” he said.
James Spicer, a member of the executive committee of the Discovery Coast Tourism and Commerce group, said the two towns were desperate for staff in the tourism industry, with a lack of backpackers remaining a problem.
“There’s a huge opportunity for young kids, or anyone who wants to ditch the boring nine-to-five desk and shoot the coast here,” Spicer said.
“We need personnel and we are ready to train and you live in paradise.”