Our visit to Mackay was unfortunately brief but we believe we managed to see most of what the city had to offer, as well as the surrounding attractions. We spent the morning to the west, exploring Eungella National Park before seeing the sights in Mackay and admiring their beautiful art deco buildings. We then ventured south to Sarina to check out the Big Cane Toad before heading inland towards the Central Highlands.
Mackay sits on the Pioneer River about 970km north of Brisbane. It’s considered to be the sugar capital of Australia because the region produces more than a third of Australia’s sugar cane, but the same can be said for the Burdekin Shire. The city was named after John Mackay, who led an expedition through the valley in 1860. Since then, Mackay has been hit with destructive cyclones, the deadly Bubonic plague, and severe flooding. These days, its economy is based on coal mining, sugar cane and tourism, as it’s close to the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef and Eungella National Park.
Things To See And Do
This was our first stop in Mackay. A free, three tiered swimming pool with a slide, BBQ facilities and no jelly fish. It’s also the perfect opportunity to have a shower and clean up.
We had a quick stroll through Queens Park, and watched a few kookaburras terrorise a sun bird. Because it was the weekend, their Orchid House was closed, but we managed to peep through the cracks.
Mackay Marina Village
Just north of the city is the Marina Village, a district with residential blocks, restaurants, cafes and pubs, as well as the Pine Islet Lighthouse. This little kerosene lighthouse was constructed in 1885 and was operational for a hundred years in the Pine Isles. It was the last kerosene lighthouse to operate in Australia.
About 30 minutes south of Mackay is Sarina, a small town with a sugar mill and the Big Cane Toad. This is one of the ugliest Big Things we have come across, and it sits right in the middle of the main street.
Eungella National Park & Finch Hatton Gorge
West from Mackay, the road passes through Marian and Mirani. The Melba House in Marian is home to the visitor information centre, and was also the home of acclaimed opera singer Dame Nellie Melba (for one year in 1883). We drove through on a Sunday and both towns were holding markets. We stopped to see the local wares and scored a few fishing lures for cheap.
By the time we completed the steep climb to Eungella, it was midday and we knew there was no chance of spotting a platypus, but we made the most of our time anyway. Markets were on in Eungella town and after sampling some bliss balls and visiting the lookout, we went to check out the national park.
Camping is available there, which is great if you want to catch the platypussies frolicking in the calm waters of the Broken River in the early hours of dawn or in the late afternoon.
On our way back to Mackay, we stopped by Finch-Hatton Gorge for a refreshing swim. Unfortuantely, after the 1.4km walk to Araluen Falls, we discovered that the water was a little too refreshing. Nobody likes getting their eyes poked out…