It’s easy to lose count of all the impossibly good things to see and do in and around Mackay. But listen up, Alice! Don’t just ponder six impossible things before breakfast, make them happen. Here’s how…
1. Blowing bubbles with platypus
Curiouser and curiouser! Like a modern-day Alice in Wonderland, I too momentarily forget how to speak good English, zipped-up and loaded with scuba gear for an out of this world opportunity to blow bubbles with the world’s strangest animal… the platypus.
I’m not diving in some controlled environment, but in this little Aussie icon’s natural environment – a sleepy freshwater pond surrounded by sugarcane fields. Most curious indeed! Welcome to Mackay’s Pioneer Valley – home to a world-first ecotourism venture, Rainforest Scuba.
2. Beach patrol with roos
Sandcastle (noun): A small castle-like structure made of wet sand, as by children at a beach. If you build one at Cape Hillsborough, however, there’s every chance it may get jumped on. Not by excited children, but mobs of resident wallabies and kangaroos that bounce along the beach that fronts Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort, 50 kilometres north-west of Mackay.
They come at dawn. Why? Like most good travellers, they’re there not just for the scenery, but the food. In their case, floating mangrove pods washed in on the tide. There are also no flies on this beach; just constant overhead traffic streams of butterflies. Yes, butterflies! Around 25 different species inhabit Cape Hillsborough National Park.
3. Where Avatar meets Medicine Man
It’s the kind of experience normally reserved for big-screen action heroes, not someone like me, with a mild aversion to heights. Move over Stallone and Connery, it’s time to harness up for a Forest Flying experience, 25 metres up, promising an eagle-eye view across a pristine rainforest canopy.
‘Flyers’ are in control of speed, thanks to a unique hand-braking system. Forest flying or ziplining is not all about speed. You can, of course, whiz along the 350-metre cable like a bat out of hell. However, it’s far more rewarding to ‘hang out’ in the canopy with colonies of fruit bats, a visiting sea eagle, and an overwhelming sense of calm.
4. Head in the clouds
Grab your walking boots and swimmers and head to the hills of Australia’s largest continuous stretch of sub-tropical rainforest. Eungella National Park is home to the spectacular Araluen and Wheel of Fire waterfalls and is the unofficial platypus capital of the world.
I quickly understand why it earned its Aboriginal name “Eungella”, meaning “Land of Clouds”, as white wisps blow through my rental car’s windows on the drive up the range. Travellers, take note: Eungella is not “yoon-jellar”, as my American-sounding GPS navigation system touts, but “young-gulluh”.
5. Sweet dining options
Famous for sugar, Mackay offers a smorgasbord of delights beyond the sweet treats to keep any foodie happy. From high tea in a church-turned-café in the heart of a sugarcane field at Coffee Devine, to feasting on more-ish pork belly treats and fresh oysters in the heart of the CBD at The Dispensary, Mackay’s tasty treats will leave you with a smile bigger than the Cheshire Cat.
6. City escape
You don’t have to venture further than Mackay’s doorstep to experience a truly magical place; a city framed by a beautiful art deco skyline and a hosting a creative hub that would keep any White Rabbit enthralled.
Dive into Mackay’s very own Rabbit Hole or go on a creative journey at Paxton’s Creative Space and release your own Queen of Hearts. Looking for something a bit more wacky? Forget flamingo croquet and head to one of only three beach horse races in the world at the Mackay Beach Horse Races.