5 secret camping spots near Mackay

The Mackay region has this whole ‘nature thing’ down pat. It’s more organic than a kale and goji berry smoothie with quinoa on the side.

Forget the resorts and spas that manufacture your stress free stay. Grab a tent and get organic!

Mackay delivers gently lapping waves with a side of rustling palm fronds. For dessert? A soft sea breeze blowing over your tent.

Sound good? Then you need to pitch a tent at Mackay’s most secret camping spots.

Psst! Need more ideas to camp along the coast of the Great Barrier Reef? Check out this free drive guide.

1. Smalley’s Beach

 Smalleys Beach

When you’re on your way to see Cape Hillsborough National Park (and you should be), take a left on Smalleys Beach Road.

This road unsurprisingly leads you to Smalleys Beach. There are 11 campsites you can book on the Department of National Parks website and each one is about 10 metres back from the beach.

There are flushing toilets and drinking water on hand so you’re not roughing it but it feels like the closest person might as well be on the moon.

The beach here plays a bit of hide-and-seek thanks to the massive tide. One minute you’re a 30-second walk away from dipping your toes into the ocean and then BAM, it’s a five-minute walk and sunscreen for you!

The best part about the huge tide is that you’ll never get bored. The scenery changes so much it’s like you’ve gone for a 50km hike to a new beach but in reality, all you did was take a nap. Awesome.

2. Broken River

Broken River camping area

The road up the mountain that leads to Broken River almost needs an introduction from Gandalf it’s so epic.

Mist rolls down the side of the hills and settles in the valley and all you can think is, “Yes! I get to camp here!”

The campsite itself is bare bones. Just a nice circle of grass with some fire pits and a slow babbling river with platypus in it.

Oh you like platypus? Yeah, nature’s Frankenstein lovingly plays in the waters around your tent.

Trek your way around the rainforest discovery trails that line the river on either side. The walks are tranquil and give the feeling that all your worries are washing down the river itself.

Looking for somewhere even more mystical and private?

Just outside of Broken River you’ll find Diggings Road – load up your 4wd and head to the Diggings Campsite. The road crosses the river a few times and is not for the faint hearted but once you find a spot you can assume it’s yours and yours alone.

Campsites can be booked through the Department of National Parks.

3. Cape Palmerston National Park

Cape Palmerston National Park

Cape Palmerston National Park is 7200 hectares of places for you to camp. If you have a neighbour here you’ve done something wrong or you’re just super friendly. Either way, you’re going to have a good time.

Head 60km south of Mackay and you’ll spot signs for Cape Palmerston, then it’s up to you and your off-road skills to journey the rest of the way (you’ll need a 4wd to get in here but it’s worth every single bump).

Windmill Bay campground is where you’ll want to point your tyres and when you get here you’ll see why.

If you love mangroves swamps, it’s got one. If you love picturesque beaches, it’s got those too. What about rocky headlands and sand dunes? Yeah, it’s got all of that AND a mountain. Just give in to the awesome display of everything you’ve ever wanted.

4. South Cumberland Islands

5 secret camping spots near Mackay - Keswick Island

South Cumberland Islands National Park consists of Scawfell, Cockermouth, St. Bees, Penrith and Keswick Island. All of these have their own distinct characteristics but if you like a few creature comforts with your camping adventure, head to Keswick.

Megaforce Charters offer day trips to the island as well as transfers and there’s glamping on offer once you arrive, just in case you tire of pitching your own tent.

If you have your own boat, you can call each of the South Cumberland Islands yours for as long as your food and water will sustain you.

Sitting 60km offshore you’re surrounded by reef, which means there’s more food for you in the ocean than at your local Woolworths. Just make sure you check your marine maps for protected areas.

5. Mackay Highlands Great Walk

Mackay Highlands Great Walk

So you’ve parked your 4WD, the tinny has a hole in it and you’re not a pilot. What options do you have left? How are you going to go camping?

With your feet, that’s how (and a backpack, supplies, a map… basically everything outlined in this awesome guide to doing a Great Walk)!

Hiking the Mackay Highlands Great Walk is like setting your treadmill to ‘stunning vistas mode’. The walk is 56km long and should take between 3-5 days. That means you get to set up your tent 3-5 times… so it better be an easy one to set up.

Camping is done at Fern Flat, Crediton Hall, Denham Range and Moonlight Dam. All of those sound straight out of a spaghetti western. So make like Clint Eastwood and hit the trails!

Drive to Eungella National Park to find the start of this epic journey.

Got an even more secluded spot to camp and want some neighbours? Let us know in the comments section below!