Once known as the sugar capital of Australia, Mackay offers some sweet retreats for travellers looking to enjoy tropical ambience and natural beauty. Picturesque coastline, sea views, marine life, rainforests and rivers are all in reach of the palm lined streets of the laidback city centre, with the casual al fresco dining offering one of the best ways to take in the art deco architecture and other heritage buildings.
Offering a Mediterranean feel five minutes from the CBD is the newly refurbished four-star Quality Inn Marco Polo Motel. Visitors after a more luxurious experience will enjoy the Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina, which is the only hotel offering marina views over the Coral Sea. The peace and beauty of Illawong Beach is a short stroll from Econo Lodge Beachside, while a bit further out, you can enjoy the Northern Beaches from beachfront apartments at Comfort Resort Blue Pacific.
While Captain James Cook was one of the first Europeans to travel through the region, the town is actually named after explorer John Mackay who led an expedition there in 1860. In more recent times, it’s been industry that has put Mackay on the map, with sugar and mining being the two things it is best known for.
As Mackay is situated on the Pioneer River, water lovers can enjoy fresh water swimming holes or 30 beaches throughout the region. You don’t even have to leave the city centre, however, to enjoy Bluewater Lagoon. This family-friendly leisure facility comprises three tiered lagoons, two being connected by a waterfall, with a children’s water playground as well. Overlooking the picturesque Pioneer River, Bluewater Lagoon provides a stinger-free swimming environment and best of all, it is free.
North of Mackay you’ll find the world-famous Whitsunday Islands. Endless opportunities await for enjoying these 74 islands right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. The stunning coastal landscapes can be explored by boat dabbling in snorkelling or diving, or by foot or mountain bike along national park trails back on land.
The Great Barrier Reef, also in the Whitsundays is considered the largest and only living structure visible from outer space. Of course, you don’t have to go so far up to see the magnificent marine life below. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, and on the World Heritage list, the Great Barrier Reef is home to tens of thousands of species of brightly coloured coral and fish, which you can view swimming, snorkelling, diving or boat cruising.
While the region boasts endless natural beauty, Mackay also has its share of cultural attractions. Gallery Artspace Mackay has a constantly changing program of international standard visual art and social history exhibitions in its award-winning architecturally designed building. The Mackay Isaac Anywhere Festival presents circus, cabaret, drama, comedy, music and performance art anywhere except in theatres. Now into its 29th year, The Mackay Festival of Arts offers a ten-day program covering visual arts, music, theatre, family events, food, wine and more.
There’s much to enjoy about marvellous Mackay.