feature-image-pioneer-valley-cathy-finch

13 things to do in Mackay on land, sea and sky

Print Friendly

The sugar cane capital of Australia has been making global headlines as the best place to spot platypus in the world, but what else can you do in Mackay?

The region is popping up on the bucket lists of travellers who want to get up close with nature and wildlife, camp out under the stars, wet a line and hang with some friendly locals.

We’ve pulled together a list of the best things you can do in Mackay that will leave you happier than a sugar hit on a Friday morning.

1. SPOT A PLATYPUS

Platypus, Broken River, Mackay

These shy little cuties love the crystal clear waters of Eungella (pronounced “Yungulla”) National Park, around 90 minutes’ drive west of Mackay.

Come dawn or dusk you can watch the platypuses frolic and feed in the water from dedicated viewing platforms.

Broken River Mountain Resort is literally a hop, skip and a jump from the platypus viewing platforms, or you can try your luck at a face-to-face encounter with a SCUBA dive in freshwater streams with Rainforest SCUBA. Don’t believe us? Check out this video.

2. SUNRISE ON THE BEACH WITH AN AUSSIE ICON

Cape Hillsborough Kangaroo Sunset

Take your photography game to the next level and bag a pic that will make all of your Instagram buddies #jelly.

Snap the changing colours of the sky as the sun rises over the ocean at Cape Hillsborough National Park topped off with a kangaroo or wallaby in your pic – the perfect animal selfie.

This is one of the only places in the world where the marsupials happily bounce their way down to the beach to chill out, nibble and pose for the odd photo or ten.

If you’re like me and hate early mornings, spend the night at Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort – located directly opposite the beach. You can hop (pun intended) out of bed at the crack of sparrow’s and take a few steps to be on the beach in time for sunrise and wallabies.

3. ZIPPITY DO DAH! 

Release your inner rogue and zip through the lush tropical rainforest canopy like Tarzan (or Jane). At Forest Flying, you’ll be cruising along the flying-fox wire 25 metres above the forest floor.

Don’t forget your camera to take the ultimate bat selfie – you’ll spot hundreds of these flying mammals snuggled upside-down on the canopy as you make your way along the line.

4. HIKE YOUR WAY TO HAPPINESS

Finch Hatton Gorge, Mackay

Venture to Finch Hatton Gorge to discover waterfalls, freshwater swimming holes and some great walks. Take a 4.2-km stroll through dense tropical rainforest to see the spectacular Araluen and Wheel of Fire waterfalls.

After working up a bit of a sweat, cool off in clear rock pools which are signed for swimming.

5. SNAP A SWEET PIC

Pioneer Valley, Mackay

Oozing sweet appeal, the sugarcane fields around Mackay are a favourite for photographers. The lush green growth, blue skies, red earth and gentle rolling hills offer the perfect stage for avid snappers.

Head to the Pioneer Valley – a leisurely 45-minute drive west of Mackay – for some of the best spots.

Hot tip: Harvest season is from late May to November and is a great time to snap some of the big machines that harvest the crops.

6. SUGAR HIT

The ‘no sugar’ fad is blasphemy in this patch of the world with the Mackay region producing over one-third of the country’s supply of the sweet stuff. You can’t come to the sugar capital of Australia without trying it. My pick is the Sarina Sugar Shed.

This Willy Wonka tour will take you on an interactive journey to learn about the history and production of sugar in the region. Did I mention that this is the only distillery in Australia that produces its own massecuite and molasses? You’ll also have the opportunity to sample!

I’m talkin’ all things sweet and delicious from liqueurs, schnapps, ginger beer, gourmet sauces to wait for it… fairy floss! There’s also locally made ice-cream and rum for purchase. #sugarcoma

7. BURP LIKE A LOCAL 

BURP Restaurant, Mackay

I’m not talking about belching! Follow the locals to eat at one of the coolest (and tastiest) haunts in town. B.U.R.P offers seasonal produce by local chef and kitchen whizz Adrian Connors.

Don’t forget to check out his other restaurant and bar – The Dispensary. Hot tip: Book ahead. This place is in high demand on Friday and Saturday nights with both locals and travellers.

8. CABLE SKI

Get wet and show off your knee-boarding skills at the GoWake Cable Park.

Beginners can learn to wakeboard here and advanced riders can master and hone their skills in the controlled environment.

9. STAND ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

Sky Window Pioneer Valley, Mackay

There’s only one word for the views over the Pioneer Valley at Sky Window and Peases Lookout – breathtaking! Located in Eungella (indigenous for ‘land in the clouds’) National Park, these lookouts take in mountain-top views over Pioneer Valley – one of the richest sugar cane growing areas in Australia.

Best of all, both vantage points are less than 100 metres from the carpark. 

10. GET BACK TO NATURE

Broken River Camp Ground, Mackay

Ever had the urge to pitch a tent and spend a night in a storybook setting? Broken River Campground, in Eungella National Park has 12 bush camping sites that would make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs envious.

This patch of paradise is perfectly positioned to spot platypuses in the nearby river. Camping rates are from $5.75 per person per night to $23 per family per night.

11. SPEND A NIGHT WITH THE BIRDS

Twitchers unite! It’s not every day you can spend a night in a luxe birding retreat that has its own private plunge pool and aviary.

Just 30 minutes’ drive north of Mackay, The Feathered Nest is for the birds as well as the guests. Meet owner Gordon Lockie and have the chance to see some of his rare black cockatoos.

Gordon is a registered breeder of cockatoos and has a number of endangered species in his collection. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of a hatchling.

12. GET HIGH

Nothing screams #YOLO like throwing yourself out of a perfectly safe plane. There’s no better place for the ultimate adrenalin rush than at Mackay Skydive.

The brave can take in jaw-dropping views of the Whitsunday Islands and the ‘patchwork quilt’ of the sugar cane properties of the Pioneer Valley before landing on Mackay Town Beach.

13. WET YOUR LINE

Fishing in Mackay

Mackay has some of the best fishing spots in Australia with commercial fishing boats running daily from the Marina. Join one of the fishing groups as they head off for the day and come home with jewfish, mackerel and bream.

For whiting, flathead and smaller bream look no further than the Pioneer River, where you can drop a line for free. Check out Mackay’s top fishing spots here.

Have a great tip for things to do in Mackay? Tell us in the comments below.




  • divine_msn

    Can I suggest allow a leisurely drive to Eungella dropping into the Pinnacle Pub where home made pies washed down with cold beer make a brilliant lunch. Don’t order the crumb steak unless you’ve an appetite bigger than Ben Hur.

    Checking out the Sugar Shed at Sarina? Then divert left after Alligator Creek and take a look at the Southern Hemispheres largest Coal Port – the Hay Pt / Dalrymple Bay complex. The lookout provides a great view over the area and out to sea, complete with free use telescopes and presentations on Coal mining history of the region. Set off again for Sarina via the beaches rather than Highway. Lovely spots to discover and quiet family friendly low cost accommodation.

    Meanwhile, back in the City … The Lagoon, is a beautiful little water park located on the river bank, just a stones throw from Caneland Central SC. Facilities and fun for all ages and it’s FREE. Then there’s the Bluewater Trail following the Pioneer River. Walk or cycle – it’s a must do!

    So – C’mon! Whatcha waiting for? :-)

    • http://queensland.com/blog Queensland Blog

      Man, maybe we need you to be writing some posts too! Thanks for all the wonderful tips.

      • divine_msn

        :-D Do you pay? LOL! I’m passionate about my area and the attractions it has to offer. The mining boom has overshadowed tourism and I feel Mackay region has suffered from under-promotion at local level. It’s been great to come across this site and share it with others – hopefully to encourage visitors and also what I call “being a Tourist in your own back yard ..”, locals discovering the wonder of what’s under their nose! Cheers!

        • http://queensland.com/blog Queensland Blog

          So good to hear! We’re working with a small group of contributors at the moment but if we should need any further help down the line we’ll get back in touch.

        • HighSpirits

          Mackay looks amazing. Currently planning our holiday for next year and will be spending at least a week in Mackay…..scoping it out for a possible place to settle in the next few years. Any advice, hints or anything will be greatly appreciated!

    • Kiara

      Yes I went to Finch hatton the other day and stopped at the pinnacle pub and ate a pie.They are kinda big (small plate) But till ate it.Theres all a various of different cold drinks and ice-creams and iceblocks.The Crumb steak are huge! Friend of mine has eaten half of one and was struggling. Btw good suggestion,Alot of people will enjoy it!

  • Lyn McMurdo

    If you are visiting the Pioneer Valley, make your first stop at Melba House at Marian, the lovely country town that is the gateway to the beautiful Pioneer Valley. Melba House, run by Pioneer Valley Tourism, is the only official fully accredited Visitor Information Centre for the entire Pioneer Valley region.Built in 1882 as the marital home of Mr Charles & Mrs Nellie Armstrong, Nellie went on to be known internationally as the opera diva Dame Nellie Melba.( Hint: for the younger ones who are not sure as to how hugely famous she was, have a look on an Australian $100 note! ) The beautiful old Queenslander-style home, houses not just the Information Centre but an extensive display of Dame Nellie Melba memorabilia as well as local arts & crafts for sale and AUSTRALIAN MADE Australian souvenirs. We can help with maps of walking tracks, advise on where & when you are most likely to see a platypus, and as we are all volunteers, give unbiased up to date info on where to go, eat, stay, explore and so, so much more. For a friendly welcome from a local, call in to Melba House for advice, information, talks on Dame Nellie and local history,or to browse through the array of beautiful gift ideas, all very realistically priced & all locally handmade. We are open every day (except Christmas day) from 9am until 3pm. Admission is free.

  • Shaz Clare

    The Mackay Turf Club are racing on the 24th December for a great day of FREE local racing. The Event Centre will be open to everyone for free, with gates opening at 11am. A delicious lunch menu is also available along with local Bookies and TAB betting facilities. And let’s not forget the refreshing drinks from the bar! We look forward to seeing everyone Christmas Eve at Ooralea Race Course!