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Mackay – Whitsundays region, so much to see and do

Mackay

We arrived in Mackay just after Easter (2016) and for the next 3 weeks the region quickly became a place we felt relaxed and at peace with.

With the help of some friends who live in Mackay, we received some great tips on what to see and do and the caravan park manager, Macca, was such a chilled dude it was really hard to stress about anything.Photo1-IMG_6198

We had terrific weather most of the time, all except our day at Cape Hillsborough but we made the most of that day too.

Here are our tips on what to do in Mackay and the surrounding region.

 

Sarina is a small town just 34kms south of Mackay. Whilst it might be small, it packs a huge punch when you consider Sarina and Mackay provide two-thirds of Australia’s sugar. Sarina is the sugar capital of Australia with cane field farms a key component to driving the local economy.

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Whilst staying in Sarina we visited the Sarina Sugar Shed. Adele’s cousin Lyn and her husband David own a local sugar cane farm and Lyn now volunteers as a tour guide at the Sarina Sugar Shed. We were able to take a tour with Lyn as our guide and it was very interesting to go through the process of Sugar Cane farming, taste the sugar cane and then some of the final products such as fairy floss and there own brands of Rum, Rum Liqueur, Butterscotch Schnapps and more.

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Sarina is also very close to the coastline with local beaches such as Armstrong Beach and Sarina Beach less than 10 minutes from town.

Hay Point is nearby, just 15kms further north of Sarina and is one of the world’s biggest Coal distribution terminals. We took a drive to the Hay Point lookout where we had spectacular views of the coastline and islands and we counted the many coal ships waiting offshore.

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Mackay is one of regional Queensland’s largest towns with a population of approx. 75,000. Several islands are located just offshore from Mackay including Brampton, Keswick and St Bees Islands. They offer great fishing, beautiful beaches and a quiet, tranquil location to visit by boat.

Brampton Island was once a thriving Island resort location until it was closed in 2011 for renovations, which have never occurred. It was reported in 2015 that redevelopment plans had been approved, let’s hope Brampton is back as a tourist destination sometime soon.

Keswick Island offers a range of accommodation including Glamping or a Beach House. Camping is also available on the island.

Eimeo Pub – Ever wanted to relax at a pub with magnificent ocean views, overlooking beautiful islands with boats moored in their coves, where the water is that spectacular blue and green colour and you sit up so high you can see it all and feel like it’s literally at your fingertips.

The Eimeo Pub has all that and more.

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The food is also good. I ate a seafood linguini and it was as delicious as any I’ve ever had. Adele enjoyed the Calamari the first time and on our second visit the Pork Belly.

Did I mention the views?

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All up we visited the Eimeo Hotel 3 times during our stay in Mackay. Some meals were great, others not always but the views steal the attention, especially on a clear day. It sits high in the mountain looking out over the cliff face to Brampton Island, Keswick Island and the Southern end of the Whitsundays.

www.eimeohotel.com.au

 

Our stay was spent at Bucasia Beach. It’s long beaches and fantastic views makes relaxing and romantic beach strolls enjoyable.

You can fish from the beach or try the mouth of the river nearby. Yabbies are plentiful and make great bait for an assortment of fish you can catch.

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The Bucasia Beach Caravan Resort at first glance may not be the most modern park in which you will stay but the facilities are good and clean. Most of all it is right on the beach with incredible views. The park is dog friendly, it has a pool and good free wifi. Talk to the managers about how they can help your stay more enjoyable, it’s amazing what they will do to assist you.

Being dog friendly and absolute beachfront it was a perfect location for MACKS to enjoy numerous swims at the beach. A short stroll across the dune and she was swimming for as long as we were prepared to keep throwing the stick.

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Both the sunsets and sunrises from Bucasia Beach were fantastic. We would often take the time to watch as the sun rose in the morning and set in the afternoon.

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We also had plenty of local birdlife and Possums to entertain us. Lorikeets, Ducks and Cockatoos would often come to say hello as did the Possums at night. We fed them fruit, mainly apples or grapes. Bread is not ideal and can kill them whereas fruit is much more natural for them.

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Like most beaches in Queensland, midgies are an issue so remember to apply a repellent as often as required. Talk to Macca the manager, he has a repellent worth giving a try.

www.bucasiabeach.com.au

 

The Mackay Harbour Marina is a new modern facility with 500 berths, a large upmarket residential complex and is also an important base for large boats including Super Yachts.

Locals will often spend Sunday lunch at one of the restaurants or enjoy fish and chips whilst listening to a local band playing. The food is great, the bar has plenty of drinks on offer and the outlook over the marina and the yachts provides an excellent ambience for a Sunday sesh.

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You can also take a walk or short drive out to the point from the Marina where a rock wall provides excellent fishing and a great spot to watch the sunset.

Take a drive up to the Slade Point Lookout, which is just 5 minutes from Mackay Harbour, for a fabulous viewpoint back towards Eimeo and down on to Lamberts Beach.

From here you have clear unobstructed views of the ocean and beaches nearby and can see any boats or ships in Harbour.

You will need at least a full day to visit Eungella National Park and Finch Hatton Gorge, a short drive west from Mackay. An overnight trip is probably ideal.

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Eungella is one of the few places where you can view the ever elusive Platypus swimming in the wild. Broken River offers terrific viewing locations, you just need to time it right and be a bit lucky. We were lucky enough to find one, swimming and playing in the river and we stood and watched “him” for an hour. Also swimming with our new Platypus friend were a number of turtles of all sizes.

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We went for a walk upstream and found some beautiful river streams and bushwalks plus we saw Kangaroos and Wallaby’s and a range of beautiful birds and some amazing rainforest.

Be prepared, the temperature atop the range is normally around 10 degrees cooler than Mackay.

Whilst in Eungella, have lunch at the Eungella Chalet, which provides incredible views out over Pioneer Valley. From the rear of the Hotel, Paragliders would jump off to fly through the valley, soaring high above the range.

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Finch Hatton Gorge is located at the foot of the range and within a short drive in from the main road. From the entry point a walk of just 1.6kms begins a journey through Rainforest to the first waterfall. Another short walk and you will find the Wheel of Fire cascades, more waterfalls and a large rock pool. There are some lookouts with fabulous views also.

On our way back to Mackay we stopped at Melba House, the home of Dame Nellie Melba who was a world renowned Australian Operatic Soprano singer in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Born in Melbourne, where she took her name Melba from, the family moved to Mackay after her mother’s sudden death in 1881 where her father built a new sugar mill.

Melba House is full with Memorabilia and information about Dame Nellie Melba and her life as an Australian who made International fame.

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Her death was front page news throughout many countries around the world. She died of Septicaemia in 1931 at the age of 69.

A visit to Mackay has to include a stay at Cape Hillsborough National Park. The Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the region. Located just 30kms north of Mackay, a feature is the Kangaroos and Wallabies that make their home throughout the Tourist Park and especially along the beach at Sunrise each morning. In the early morning they go to the beach to eat the weed washed up overnight by the tides.

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The Wallabies are much more timid than the Kangaroos who allow you to get quite close, but remember, these are wild animals and not pets. You should never pat a kangaroo in the wild.

There are 3 walking tracks which take you around the mountain with various lookouts with great views. Unfortunately the day we stayed there was 100mm of rain and we didn’t get the opportunity to do the walks. Due to the rain I decided to catch up on some work at reception and was kept company by Bridget and Emily, the local kangaroos who don’t like the rain either, so they shelter in the games area next to reception.

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The park also provides other facilities including an excellent big pool, Mini putt putt, pool tables and table tennis.

Birds are plentiful and the black cockatoos and kookaburras are easy to find.

www.capehillsboroughresort.com.au

Not far from Cape Hillsborough are the beachside towns of Seaforth and Haliday Bay. Here you can find some beautiful beaches with safe swimming opportunities with stingers nets available. We tried some fishing from the beach without success but it was a very enjoyable few hours on such beautiful beaches.

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The turnoff to Cape Hillsborough is just past a tiny town of The Leap. The town consists almost entirely of The Leap Hotel where we stopped for lunch on our way back to Mackay.

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The Leap derives its name from an historic event in 1867. Local farmers had been losing cattle to suspected Aboriginals who were spearing the cows for food. The police were called and in those days it has been noted by historians that the local police would actually kill full tribes of aboriginals. Once trapped on top of the mountain a mother with her child jumped from the cliff rather than face the police. The 3yo daughter survived and later married an Englishmen and had 2 children, a boy and a girl. Descendants of one of the children now live in Brisbane.

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The Whitsundays are an amazing aquatic playground made up of 74 islands and every one seemingly more amazing than the last. The town of Airlie Beach is the gateway to this amazing marine wonderland of tranquil turquoise waters and pure white sandy beaches.

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The Whitsundays provides something for everyone regardless if you are looking for somewhere to relax or an action packed adventurous experience.

Spend the day captaining your own yacht and sailing around the islands or take a tour including free drinks and make your own party. Relax in Airlie Beach’s man made lagoon or go Parasailing. Or try Stand Up Paddleboarding or take a fishing charter to some of the best and closest reef fishing you will find so close to shore. Relax at the many fine restaurants and party at night in the nightclubs or pubs in Airlie Beach.

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Regardless of your preference you can find a lifestyle to suit you right here.

For more about Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays read all about it here – http://indefiniteleave.com.au/top-13-must-airlie-beach-whitsundays/

 

The Proserpine River is known to have the highest population of Salt Water Crocodiles on the Eastern coastline and the Whitsunday Crocodile Safari is fantastic at taking you on an educational tour of the river and spotting Salt Water Crocodiles. They also take you on a Wetlands tour, exploring the area and teaching you some fantastic survival tips and interesting features of the region.

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The Mackay Whitsundays region is a travelers paradise. With so much to see and do it will provide something for everyone. A trip to Queensland should always include a visit to Mackay, it’s an area you can always see more than once.

Did we miss anything?

What was your experience of Mackay?

Kev, Adele and Matt

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