A booming city of sunshine, scenery, arts and heritage
Mackay is a laid-back and cosmopolitan coastal city, with more than 30 secluded beaches and easy access to 11 national parks. Australia’s sugar capital features a revitalised city centre that links up to the pretty Bluewater Quay riverside precinct.
The riverside precinct includes the city’s Bluewater Trail – 20km of cafe-lined pedestrian and bike paths. The paths link up attractions such as Bluewater Lagoon, Bluewater Quay and the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens.
Mackay’s city centre boasts Art Deco-inspired architecture and has one of the best art scenes in the state. It plays host to the electric Mackay Festival of Arts, the largest event of its kind in Queensland.
Venture west for about an hour by car to Eungella and catch a secretive platypus feeding at dawn or dusk, or share a sunrise with sociable kangaroos and wallabies. If you’re lucky and the season is right, you might even spy an echidna, possum, turkey or turtle at Cape Hillsborough. Spectacular views over the untamed coastline are assured at Andrews Point.
Things to do: Mackay
Swim at Blue Lagoon
In the heart of Mackay’s city centre, the Bluewater Lagoon is a family-friendly spot with three tiered pools overlooking the Pioneer River. A spectacular waterfall connects the two main lagoon areas and a children’s water playground. The pools go from shallow to deep and are accessible for all ages and abilities. There are shaded barbecue areas, changing rooms and toilet facilities – and best of all, it's free.
Spot a platypus at Eungella National Park
Want a chance to spot the notoriously elusive platypus in the wild? Head to Eungella National Park, just an hour’s drive west of Mackay. Hike the Mackay Highlands Great Walk (the entire trail is 56km, but there are plenty of short sections you can tackle) to see some of its 860 plant species and abundant wildlife. If the platypuses are bashful, the stunning views over the Pioneer Valley will make the effort more than worth it.
Go fishing at Kinchant Dam
There are plenty of barramundi in the Kinchant and Teemburra Dams. Kinchant is just a 40-minute drive south of Mackay and is renowned for its abundance of barramundi and sooty grunter. The Australian Fishing Championships recently named Kinchant Dam one of the best locations in Australia for catching the elusive fish.
Escape to Keswick Island
Indulge in a private weekend away at nearby Keswick Island, situated within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This gorgeous island, edged in white sand, is a treasure trove of rainforests, national parks and crystal waters perfect for a scuba or snorkelling adventure. You don’t even need to stay overnight. Take a day trip or stay at the island’s guesthouse. The choice is yours.
Sweeten up at Sarina Sugar Shed
You're in sugarcane country here – forget about your dentist and your diet and take a trip to Sarina, 30km south of Mackay, to visit the Sarina Sugar Shed. Take a guided tour to learn how the humble sugarcane is magically transformed into sweet treats like ice cream, liqueurs, sauces and the award-winning Sugar Shed Rum. And don't worry, there are plenty of tastings to be had along the way.
Distance to Mackay city centre 6km
Taxi Taxis are available outside the terminal, and cost around AUD $25-30 (plus a AUD $2 airport surcharge). The trip takes around 15 minutes.
Rideshare Ola and Shebah operate from Mackay Airport. Pick-up and drop-off points are at the coach bay area (outside baggage claim) and outside the Ibis Mackay Hotel.
Bus Translink public bus route 303 travels to the city centre 11 times a day during the week, and 4 times a day on Saturdays. The trip takes around 30 minutes and tickets cost around AUD $5.
Distance to Airlie Beach 160km
Bus The Greyhound bus, with only a few departures a day, costs around AUD $40-45 and takes around 2 hours to get to Airlie Beach.Back to top
When to go
The best time to visit Mackay is between January and April when the temperature is in the mid 20s. In the cooler months, the temperature ranges between 10°C and 20°C – winters are sunny and fairly dry. December is the start of the wet season.
The whale season is between July and September with some sightings possible outside that time frame – humpback and pilot whales are a common sight in the Whitsundays. The Mackay Festival of Arts takes place in July and features art exhibitions, wine and cheese tastings, live jazz, stand-up comedy and other performances.Back to top
If you’re without wheels, make use of the local bus service, operated by Translink, for easy and cheap travel around the city centre and outer suburbs. The two main bus stops are located behind Canelands Shopping Centre and at the corner of Victoria and Gregory Streets. Mackay Whitsunday Taxis also operate in the area.Back to top
Discover more about Mackay
Fun in the tropics: the best things to do in Mackay
With a bounty of rainforests and beaches, urban lagoons and knockout architecture, Mackay sure has a lot of jewels in its crown.
Sun, fun and little ones: Mackay with kids
With its beaches, pools and wildlife, Mackay is kid-fun central.