Pancake Creek is a popular anchorage on the East Coast of mainland Australia and is 65 NM north of Bundaberg and about 25 nM south of Gladstone.
Approach and Anchoring
Entry into Pancake Creek should be made on a rising tide as the tidal flow at the mouth of the creek can be very swift - up to 3 knots at times. We have watched a small sail boat sit in the mouth's tidal race flowing out while he was trying to get in. He had his engine going full bore and a headsail out with the wind behind him and he still could not make way against the tide. He had to endure those conditions until the tide slackened and in he came.
Arriving with an incoming tide also assists with navigating the shallow parts of the creek. Entry is straightforward picking up the port markers off Clews Point and the floating starboard can maker. Just inside those two marks is a pool of good deep water (3-5m LWS) where one can anchor if wanting to make an early exit the next morning. This anchorage is protected from S-SE winds, but swell can invade the mouth anchorage depending on the tide. This anchorage is very swell-prone and open to northerly winds.
If you want a quieter night and intend to stay a day or more, ride the tide up the creek following your charts and buoyage. Pick up the port marker and round it to port and then make a bee-line for the next port marker. As you round the second port marker, "the gate" marked by port and starboard piles lays ahead with white lead marks on the shore directly behind. Once clear of that proceed into the anchorage area as shown on the map below.
The mainland shore side of Pancake Creek is very rocky and these rock ledges extend out a deceivingly long way. Anchoring in sand is best achieved by finding your preferred spot along the drying sandbank on the northern shoreline, allowing for swing room as the tides ebb and flood. Make sure you have a good hold as the tidal flow is swift. At low tide the rocks, mudflats and sandbanks show their true extent.
Once ashore, this is a delightful anchorage with good walks ashore and beaches to fossick. Sand-flies are a constant companion, and if having sundowners of the beach with friends off other boats, wear long garments and douse yourself in your preferred repellent. It might help but it won't save you.
Bustard Lighthouse Walk (Grade: Easy. Allow 30-40 minutes each way)
From the main beach at the national park sign, pick up the track through the bush which will come out to a patch of forest that has been invaded by salt water and where the trees have died. Cross this moonscape in a straight line making for the bush ahead, and a bit of plastic chair has been placed in the tree to mark the track. Once back in the bush, helpful national park signs point you in the right direction all the way to "Aircraft Beach" and the Bustard Head Lighthouse.
For a small fee you can get a guided tour of the lighthouse and outbuildings.
As you approach the lighthouse precinct be sure to visit the graves of early settlers of the region, some of who drowned in Pancake Creek. If you want to go further, there are walks to Jenny Lind Creek and a lookout a further 1.2 km beyond the lighthouse.
Are you heading for Townsville and beyond?
Check out my new cruising guide Townsville to TI (Thursday Island) . There's pages and pages of pictures, advice and maps built on us having being there and done that! You can download a free sample of the book now.