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The Top Things To Do In Mackay

Located in North Queensland, Mackay is a picturesque city surrounded by 31 beautiful beaches and luscious rainforest, all in close proximity to the world famous Great Barrier Reef. While not the largest city on the popular Queensland tourist route, Mackay is loved by those who like to travel off the beaten track. With a range of things to do to occupy and delight those who make the effort to visit this tropical locale, you’ll be tickled pink by the selection of activities on offer in Mackay.

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The Top 10 Things to do in Mackay, QLD

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by Brittney Deguara
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Mackay is a growing and upcoming city located on north Queensland’s east coast, known for its mixture of beaches, rainforest and cane fields - as a result, there is a diverse range of things to see and do around the region.

Exploring Mackay as a tourist is one thing - but exploring it with insight from a local who grew up in this part of Queensland is another entirely, and having spent much of my youth here, that's exactly what I'm going to give you!

Here, I've put together a list of my top 10 things to see and do in Mackay and around the region from my 18 years of knowledge from living in the area.

1. Cape Hillsborough

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Location: Cape Hillsborough Rd, Cape Hillsborough, QLD

An iconic attraction in the Mackay region, Cape Hillsborough is a popular destination for wildlife lovers. The National Park is filled with local wildlife, including wallabies and kangaroos, who are friendly and inquisitive to visiting humans.

Gracing the beach at dawn and dusk, visitors are often approached by these photogenic Aussie icons are sure brighten up your day.

Cape Hillsborough National Park also offers a number of scenic walking trails as well as picnic facilities to use free of charge.

Make sure you bring insect repellent on your visit as the sandflies and mosquitoes have a strong presence in the region.

Getting to the Park can be a pain if you don’t have access to a car as it is located around 40 minutes north of Mackay. However, local operator Reeforest Adventure Tours offers tours to Cape Hillsborough as part of their Northern Safari.

2. Finch Hatton Gorge

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Location: Eungella National Park, Eungella

A popular walking track and swimming hole, Finch Hatton Gorge is often filled with locals and tourists enjoying the fresh water and beautiful scenery.

Located in the luscious Eungella National Park, you can walk the 1.6 kilometre trail from the picnic area to Araluen Waterfall, which is the closest and most popular swimming hole.

Eungella National Park is a picturesque location hidden away from the tourist hub of Airlie Beach and is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle amongst nature and wildlife. With over 860 plant species and a variety wildlife- the Eungella is a great place to set the reset button.

If you’re up for more of a challenge, you can climb the following 1.4 kilometre uphill trail to the Wheel of Fire Cascades to enjoy the second swimming hole in the region.

An ideal day trip for those looking to escape the city, you can enjoy hiking, swimming and a picnic all in the one, beautiful location. In terms of facilities, the gorge offers barbecue and picnic facilities and onsite car parking.

Note: Swimming isn’t advised after heavy rainfall, visitors urged to take care in the park.

3. Tour a Sugar Cane Mill

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Location: Farleigh Mill, 49 Christoe Street, Farleigh, QLD

For many years Mackay has been known as one of the biggest sugar cane regions in the country. All you have to do is drive around the outskirts of the city and you’ll lose count of how many cane fields you see.

The region is also home to a number of sugar cane mills, with a small handful still in operation and open to tourists to explore. Farleigh Mill is a short 15 minute drive from Mackay CBD along the Bruce Highway, and during the crushing season offers tours of the mill.

While touring a sugar mill might not be the first thing you think of doing when you are on a holiday, the tour is actually quite informative and interesting for both children and adults alike.

Local tour operator Reeforest Adventure Tours will take you on an adventure into the mill to see and learn about the crushing process.

Running seven days a week, June to mid November from 8:30am, this tour is great for families and those interested in the cane growing industry.

Note: Children must be over 1.2 metres tall to join tour and must hold their parent/guardian’s hands at all times.

4. Dine at Eungella National Park

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Location: Eungella Hinterland, Eungella, QLD

A rich, luscious rainforest, Eungella National Park offers visitors a contrasting adventure to the region’s popular beaches.

Featuring a number of walking trails and swimming holes home to local platypus, Eungella offers a beautiful location to sit back, relax and enjoy a bite to eat.

Don't settle for another restaurant meal, head outdoors and enjoy the beautiful vistas of the Eungella. Not only are the views stunning but your wallet will also thank you for it.

With various picnic facilities located throughout the park you can bring your own food or dine at one of the local establishments nestled in the rainforest.

Eungella Chalet lets you enjoy a meal while overlooking the Hinterland, the Platypus Lodge Restaurant offers breakfast next to wild platypus and Broken River Mountain Resort with their old-time feel and mixed cuisine.

5. Lamberts Lookout

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Location: Pacific Esplanade, Slade Point

Offering incredible views over Lamberts Beach, the Cumberland Islands and Slade Point, Lamberts Lookout is a popular viewing platform year round.

Often drawing crowds at sunrise and sunset, the lookout features a number of useful facilities including shaded areas, picnic tables and barbecues.

Lamberts Lookout is an ideal viewing platform to see humpback whales during their migration period as they play off the coast in the ocean. You could spend hours here staring out into the ocean on the search for these playful marine creatures.

No matter when you visit, you’ll be treated to impressive views of this popular region. Drive up to the lookout, walk around or enjoy a picnic, whichever way you choose to enjoy the lookout, you’ll be blown away by the beautiful sights.

6. Fish and Chips at Mackay Marina

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Location: Mulherin Drive, Mackay Harbour, QLD

As with many other coastal cities, Mackay Marina forms a focal point for sightseeing and activity as well as simple boat traffic. Local eatery The Lighthouse cooks up a delicious feast of fish and chips. From your basic combo to overflowing fish burgers, seafood lovers will be well in their element at this local establishment.

You can dine in in their indoor and outdoor seating areas or you can order takeaway and drive out onto the breakwater to enjoy your meal just off the shore.

The breakwater is a popular fishing spot as well with locals scurrying across the rocks and throwing in a line to catch their own dinner.

There's nothing more Australian than stopping to have fish and chips by the beach in the warm sun with the ocean breeze in your hair and the glare of the turquoise blue waters so bright that it makes your eyes hurt.

You can walk or drive out on the breakwater as there is a small amount of parking available.

If you’re wanting to save a bit of money, you can BYO a picnic to enjoy on the other end of the Marina either on the beach or on one of the sheltered picnic tables.

Offering various facilities including barbecues, toilets, showers and a large grassed area, you could easily spend the whole day in this popular area running between the patrolled surf and the sand.

7. Bluewater Lagoon

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Location: 32 River Street, Mackay

A popular and safe place to cool down from the muggy Mackay heat, the Bluewater Lagoon is a free attraction suitable for a range of ages and swimming abilities.

Made up of three tiered pools equalling the area of three 50 metre swimming pools, you can choose from the deeper pools or kids pools depending on your swimming ability.

The Lagoon also has a 19.5 metre slide that, during the summer months, creates a line of excited visitors.

The Bluewater Lagoon is a popular place to cool down from the humid Mackay heat and it is free entry!

The kid’s play area is another popular area as it features a water playground complete with a large tipping bucket.

With the pools reaching depths of up to 1.8 metres, the lagoon is patrolled by on-duty lifeguards Monday to Friday during operation hours to ensure the safety of all swimmers.

The lagoon is open at 9am until 4:45pm from May to August, and 9am until 5:45pm from September to April.

8. Bluewater Trail

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Location: Mackay, CBD, QLD

Looping around the river, the Bluewater Trail is a scenic and relaxing walking and cycling trail. Linking some of the city’s main recreational attractions including the Bluewater Quay, Bluewater Lagoon, Botanic Gardens and Iluka Park all abilities playground.

The trail also links some of the scenic walks in the region such as the Catherine Freeman Walk, Pioneer Environmental Walk, Sandfly Creek Environmental Walk and Ocean Way all along the river.

The trail also links some of the scenic walks in the region such as the Catherine Freeman Walk, Pioneer Environmental Walk, Sandfly Creek Environmental Walk and Ocean Way all along the river.

Traversing boardwalks, pathways and mangrove environments, the Bluewater Trail is often used by local running groups and fun runs.

Come weekends, parts of the trail are often busy with two way foot and wheel traffic. A great way to explore the river front precinct, no matter if you’re walking or cycling, this trail is an enjoyable and scenic journey.

9. Enjoy a "Pinnacle Pie"

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Location: 604 Mackay-Eungella Road, Pinnacle, QLD

Another out of town attraction, Pinnacle Pub is somewhat of an icon in the Pioneer Valley region due to their famous pies.

Aussies do love a good meat pie, but you haven’t tasted a good one until you’ve dined at the historic Pinnacle Pub.

Made from locally sourced ingredients, these pies are handmade daily to accommodate for the large crowds that frequent the pub on a weekly basis.

Made from locally sourced ingredients, these pies are handmade daily to accommodate for the large crowds that frequent the pub on a weekly basis.

The menu features a number of delicious mixes including the basic meat (my personal choice), and a steak, mushroom and cheese.

You can pull up a chair on the large verandah to enjoy your pie or you can buy a frozen selection and take them home for later – the choice is yours.

Either way you choose to enjoy a Pinnacle Pie, just make sure it is on your list of must-do’s, you won’t regret it.

10. Kinchant Dam

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Location: Kinchant Dam Road, Kinchant Dam

If you consider yourself a pro on the waterskis, then head to Kinchant Dam on the weekend. A popular spot, you’ll often find groups of locals towing their boats towards the inland dam ready for a big day on the water.

If you don’t have access to a boat or ski equipment you won’t be disappointed! Kinchant Dam is also a great spot for a picnic, camping, swimming and fishing with the dam filled with barra, sooty grunter and cod, drawing expert anglers from around the country and the world.

A park overlooks the dam and is a perfect spot for a picnic or a bbq if you don't fancy jumping in the water and getting wet.

Getting to Kinchant Dam requires a car, however the drive out there is part of the journey. Located 40 kilometres out of Mackay, you’ll pass seemingly endless paddocks of sugar cane fields, an iconic landscape of the region.