The Mackay Region, “Where Nature Comes To Life,” is located in the middle of the Queensland Coast. Whether you’re road tripping up Australia’s coast to checkout the Great Barrier Reef, or flying in for a peaceful trip away from tourists, the Mackay Region has something for everyone. It’s known for its 261 days of sunshine a year, along with the 31 untouched beaches. While our trip happened to fall in the 104 days that didn’t have sunshine (you could say it was a little rainy), it surely didn’t dampen our experience! Here are the best 10 sites to see in the Mackay Region.
1. Tree Arches at Eungella National Park
Eungella National Park is home to Australia’s longest stretch of sub-tropical rainforest. Eungella is an aboriginal word meaning “land of the clouds,” and we certainly saw plenty of those! On a clear day, the Sky Window Lookout offers stunning views of the national park. Rain or shine though, this lush rainforest is not to be missed. I highly recommend checking out the Cedar Grove Track, a 2.8 km walk that highlights a massive strangler fig tree arch. Walk through the tree arch (or take shelter from the rain in it like we did) and be sure to look up!
Eat: Eungella Chalet. This historical restaurant and lodge is known for its stunning views over the Pioneer Valley. The Eungella Chalet was opened in 1933 by the Prime Minister and has been around ever since. You’ll find tasty country food at this spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Sleep: Broken River Mountain Resort. The Broken River Mountain Resort is set in the heart of Eungella National Park. Channel your inner outdoorsman as you enjoy your self-contained cabin, cozy up by the fire, and snack on some local delicacies (a hearty pie was calling my name!).
2. See a Platypus
Make your way down to Broken River if you want to see a platypus! If you stay at Broken River Mountain Resort, the river itself is just a few minutes away. Broken River is considered one of the best locations in the world to spot a platypus. So, head on over to the viewing decks, make yourself comfortable, and watch for air bubbles and ripples rising to the surface — that’s the most noticeable sign that you’re about to see a platypus!
Eat: Platypus Lodge Restaurant. Run by Oskar Krobath, the Platypus Lodge Restaurant is situated in the rainforest and uniquely infuses Aussie and Austrian influences into the food. I had the most delicious waffle with ice cream, and a latté with a platypus footprint on it!
3. Check Out The Black Cockatoos In Your Own Aviary
If you’re looking for your very own luxury wildlife escape, make your way to the Feathered Nest. Not only does it exudes relaxation, but your own private villa even comes with its own aviary and aquarium! Hop on the couch to watch “nature’s TV” and enjoy watching the Cockatoos fly, the turtle swim up to the glass, and the duck quack. I’ve never seen anything so unique at a place in which I’ve stayed.
Eat & Sleep: The Feathered Nest. There’s one private villa on site that can host up to four guests at The Feathered Nest. Prior to arrival, you will be provided with a list to check off your meal requests. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are ordered a la carte, and absolutely delicious! Between the private aviary and aquarium, plunge pool, and two-person spa, you’re bound to have an incredibly relaxing time at this 5-Star Eco Retreat!
4. Get Up Close & Personal With Kangaroos and Wallabies at Cape Hillsborough
Watching Kangaroos and Wallabies hop down the beach at sunrise should certainly be on your Australian bucket list. Sign up with Wallaby Tours (led by Ranger Sam) to ensure that you have the opportunity to see Australia’s national symbol so close. Each morning, they head to the beach to feed on mangrove seed pods and – believe it or not – they say that there’s a guaranteed sighting! We didn’t have an epic sunrise due to the weather conditions, but even in the rain, the kangaroos and wallabies came out to eat and play! It was an incredibly unique and special experience that I’d recommend for everyone…even for Aussies!
On a nice day, spend some time exploring Cape Hillsborough National Park. The 5.2km Andrews Point Track is said to offer phenomenal beach views; while it was a washout for us, I can definitely see how it’d be a stunner in nice weather. As a whole, Cape Hillsborough National Park is home to 8 amphibians, 22 mammals, 25 reptiles, and 140 avian species, so you certainly won’t be lacking for a wildlife sighting!
Eat: Old Station Tea House. On your way back from Cape Hillsborough, be sure to stop of the Old Station Tea House, a 110-year old railway station that was relocated within the rainforest over 20 years ago. Whether you’re looking for coffee or tea, pastries and sweets, or something fresh and savory, the Old Station Tea House is a great place to relax after a morning at Cape Hillsborough.
5. Mackay Aqua Park
If you’re looking for a morning filled with fun and lots of laughter, make your way to Mackay’s Aqua Park. This giant inflatable park is enjoyable for people of all ages… because, let’s be real, who wouldn’t like to be launched off the blast bag? I think I flew at least 5 meters in the air before unintentionally backflipping and landing in the water! Or would you rather be tumbled around on the hamster wheel or jumping on the water trampoline? No matter which inflatable activity you choose, you’re bound to have a great time!
Eat: Breakwater Bar & Restaurant. Breakwater Bar & Restaurant is located just five minutes from downtown Mackay, along the marina. It has a beachy vibe and great specials of the day. The sweet potato soup was delicious!
6. Kommo Toera Trail
The Kommo Toera Trail is a hidden gem within Mackay, just make sure that you have on plenty of bug spray. While the mozzies are rampant, the scenery is simply beautiful! Take some time to meander through the Melaleuca trees and the beautiful ecosystem surrounding them. If you’re keen on doing the whole trail, it should take you about 40 minutes. It’s easily accessible for people of all ages and abilities.
Eat: Eimeo Pacific Hotel. After a nice walk, nothing is better than a bit of tasty food! Make your way to the Eimeo Pacific Hotel for a delicious lunch overlooking the beach below. I devoured a flavorful vegetable pizza and a vanilla creme brulee, but they also specialize in seafood as well.
7. Northern Beaches
If Bondi Beach or the Gold Coast is too crowded for your liking, make your way up to Mackay’s Northern Beaches. They’re beautifully pristine and absolutely empty! Remember, the Mackay Region isn’t just known for its rainforests, but its reefs too! Talk about a relaxing beach getaway…
Eat: Salt Café, Bar, and Restaurant. Salt Café, Bar, and Restaurant offers quite the array of food! From tapas-style starters to large main dishes and unique desserts, you’re bound to find something you like. We tried the fish tacos, grilled salmon with steamed veggies, and a Tim-Tam cheesecake… yes, you heard that right and, yes, it was amazing!
Sleep: Comfort Hotel Blue Pacific. Looking for beachfront property? You got it! The Comfort Hotel Blue Pacific is situated on Blacks Beach, the longest stretch of beach in Mackay spanning 6 kilometers. You can have your choice of regular rooms or self-contained cabins depending on the style you’re looking for.
8. Brunch Like A Hipster At The 9th Lane Grind
If you’re looking for a delicious place to brunch in Mackay, look no further than the 9th Lane Grind! From smashed pumpkin to the power bowl and hangover burger, this place has it all, and the food is beautifully presented too! Or for those with a sweet tooth, I highly recommend the peanut butter and salted caramel cookie sandwiches! They’re to die for (or drool, for that matter).
9. Sugar Shed Sarina
Australia’s only miniature sugar mill and distillery is known as the one and only Sugar Shed Sarina. Having won multiple awards, this hour-long tour teaches you the ins and outs of the sugar cane industry; I had no idea that there were so many sugar cane fields in the Mackay Region! The highlight of the tour, for me, was having the opportunity to taste rums, chutneys, sauces, sweets, and even cotton candy (which apparently call fairy floss here in Australia) — all of which were made using the sugar extracted from the cane on site! I loved the variety of ways in which they use their product. Don’t miss out on Lime NOI liquor if you’re looking for something smooth and sweet, and the HTLS sauce if you’re wanting something more spicy!
Eat: Sarina Motor Inn Restaurant & Bar. Directly across from the Sugar Shed Sarina, you’ll find the Sarina Motor Inn Restaurant & Bar. The Mansfield’s are an absolute joy to speak with and they cooked us up a tasty, savory lunch (which was very much needed after having just consumed so much sugar). Be sure to stop in, say hello, and grab a bite if you find yourself in the center of Sarina.
10. Cape Palmerston National Park
We made the last minute decision to drive to Cape Palmerston, an absolute hidden gem of the Mackay Region. Do note that you need a 4WD car for this adventure, as you’ll find yourself driving down dirt roads and then, eventually, onto the beach. It’s a secluded paradise — picture kilometers of sand without a soul in sight. From rocky headlands to mangroves, swamps, rainforests, and sand dunes, Cape Palmerston has it all. I definitely plan on going back to further explore the National Park in the future!
While these are 10 of the best sites to see in the Mackay Region, there’s certainly much more to see and do if you have the time. If you have a flight the following day though, make your way to the airport for one more night of relaxation before flying home or to your next destination.
Sleep: ibis Mackay. The ibis Mackay is conveniently located beside the airport, so you certainly won’t have to worry about missing your flight! Enjoy the comfortable beds and a good night of sleep before packing your things and walking across the street. Surprisingly enough, it was quiet; we never heard the planes and it was easy to forget that we were even near the airport!
Eat: TurBARlence. After a good night’s rest, make your way downstairs to TurBARlence, located on the ground floor of the ibis Mackay. While they have a good continental breakfast, I highly recommend ordering off their menu. They have sizeable portions and even better food!
I absolutely cannot wait to explore the Mackay Region more in-depth in the future, especially with it being the gateway to Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays (home to the Great Barrier Reef and some of the most spectacular coastline in Australia). There’s so much to be explored from rainforest to reef and we loved just how easily we were able to go from the lush, green rainforest to the long expanses of beach along the coast. I’m sure next time we will have better luck with the weather too!
For those looking to explore the Mackay Region, the Mackay Airport is serviced by Virgin Australia, Qantas, and Jetstar and you can easily rent a car straight from the airport, as we did. Otherwise, if you’re road tripping up the coast, the drive from Brisbane to Mackay takes about 11 hours and the drive from Mackay to Cairns takes about 8.5 hours; both of which are easy and done frequently.
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I’d like to extend a big thank you to the Mackay Region Tourism Board for hosting us during our adventure! As always, all opinions are my own.