If spending an enchanting sunrise on Casuarina Beach watching the wild wallabies and roos bounding alongside you isn’t on your bucket list, then you may have been living under a rock! Mackay is well known for this iconic Australian experience, but those who venture here during the Summer holidays quickly discover there is so much more to uncover throughout this gem of Central Queensland.
With a thriving local tourism economy and strong community support, options for adventures are plentiful. Teamed with the spectacular natural sceneries, this laid back tropical city is perfect for families looking to recharge the batteries, whilst avoiding the masses of tourists.
Deep blue seas, golden sands and tropical rainforests are a paradise for travelling families this summer. Let us take you on a journey to discover Mackay’s iconic blessings and hidden secrets with kids in tow, no matter how little (or big) they are!
As you take the scenic journey from Mackay city though the Pioneer Valley, you’ll notice the quickly changing scenery as the valley leads to lush hues of emerald greens. There’s plenty of dramatic scenery for everyone to practice their photography skills to capture some special memories along the way.
On a hot summer’s day, you can’t beat the refreshing rock pools of Finch Hatton Gorge for some family fun. Park up and take the short bushwalk to where you’ll find impressive boulders amongst the pristine waters - the rock hoppers dream! Keen walkers and older kids can take a slightly more challenging walk with the Araluen Cascades and Wheel of Fire tracks; making some room for the region’s infamous sweet treats!
Get the heart beating and take to the treetops with Forest Flying where you’ll glide through the rainforest canopy for a spectacular view of the gorge in all its glory.
Camping and kayaking at Eungella Dam. Photo by @the_hungry_travellers
As you travel further up the range you'll find Eungella National Park where the adventures are endless for those that loveto get amongst nature with an abundance of bush walks and hiking trails for all levels of fitness. For a week long holiday, you’ll want to allow a good 2 day’s minimum to explore the tracks, creeks and breath-taking vistas of the National Park.
A visit to Broken River is a must to try and spot the cheeky platypus; dusk and dawn are your best chance to see this mysterious little creature in its natural habitat.
Eungella Dam is one of our all-time favourite go-to spots; perfect for camping, fishing, water-sports and some well-earned downtime. It covers a large area with on-site showers and toilets making it very popular in the holidays, so be sure to get there early to avoid disappointment.
If camping’s not your thing, there’s no shortage of family-friendly accommodation in the Valley. The Finch Hatton Gorge Cabins and Broken River Mountain Resort are both in convenient locations to use as a base for the family in-between expeditions.
Before heading into the city, you can’t miss one of the Valley’s best known attractions and World 1st experiences; Rainforest Scuba. Dive in and explore the crystal-clear rainforest waters, home to the platypus, turtles and many species of fish.
Take a relaxing 45-minute drive North of Mackay and you’ll stumble upon yet another jewel in the crown Cape Hillsborough. Choose from the array of comfortable accommodation options at the Cape Hillsborough Nature Resortand you can wake up at the crack of dawn to meet the famous ‘roos on the beach’at sunrise. The National Park also has some of our favourite hiking trails, including Andrew’s Point Track taking you up to Turtle Lookout where you can spot turtles feeding on the grass beds in the cove below.
A short drive to Sarina, 30 minutes South of Mackay will take you to the region’s Multi-Award winning Sarina Sugar Shed. Set in a real miniature mill you can experience a personal tour of the plantation and then watch the sugar producing process in action. A fun, informative and unique experience for all ages, topped off with a tasting treat of rums, liqueurs and fairy floss all made at the on-site distillery. The big and little kids will love it!
Back in the City Centre, head to the Greater Whitsunday Markets (held on a Wednesday morning at the Bluewater Quay) and pick up some locally grown, seasonal produce to whip up some sensational tropical salads and smoothies.
WHERE THE LOCALS GO
After a run-in with cyclone Debbie, Platypus Beach has been upgraded and re-vamped better than before and has quickly become the perfect spot for a picnic with the family. Well-known by the locals but quiet on the tourist radar, the sandy beach and fresh water welcomes kayakers, boaties and fisher-families looking for a more peaceful day out on the water.
Platypus Beach. Photo by @the_hungry_travellers
Lamberts Beach Lookout is another recently upgraded site. Overlooking the blue water of the beach and out to the Islands, you can watch the Humpback Whales on their winter migration North (between April and November). The new structure is perfect to provide some shade, so the whole family can enjoy a walk to the top with some fish and chips to soak up the breeze and sea views.
Lamberts Beach Lookout. Photo by @the_hungry_travellers
Perfectly positioned at the entrance to the Finch Hatton Gorge walk is Ulysses Garden Café which is a must for morning tea, lunch (or both)! Wildly favoured with visitors and locals alike, the fresh, local and organic ingredients will have your taste buds dancing and your waistline won’t even mind with these healthy homemade treats!
Whilst you’re exploring the Valley, a trip to meet Oskar at the Platypus Lodge Restaurant should be on your list. This vibrant character brings his European charm, infamous waffles and “yodelling” yodel burgers to Broken River for a post adventure feed.
If you’re heading back to the city from Cape Hillsborough, be sure to swing by The Old Station Teahouse for a not-to-be-missed Devonshire tea or a freshly made wood-fired Pizza (check out their purpose-built Pizza oven)! Michelle and Dwayne have created a fabulous space, nestled amongst the most perfect backdrop and their new deck has been home to some wonderful afternoons spent with friends. Even better, there’s plenty of room for the kids to run around whilst you devour a jam scone in peace!
TurBARlance @ Ibis Mackay. Photo by @the_hungry_travellers
For classic bistro-style food, start with the tasting platter followed by the chicken supreme and a cold beer at Harrup Park Country Club, which you can enjoy in peace while the kids are kept busy in the dedicated playroom… Yes, dedicated playroom!!
Heading out for the day? Instead of food shopping and prepping, save your precious holiday time with a Plattered Up creation. Another innovative local duo creating gourmet platters and picnics for you to take with you, so all you need to do is source the Prosecco!
Plattered Up picnic platter. Photo by @the_hungry_travellers
And if you’re flying in for your holiday from just about anywhere, your first stop should be at Ibis Mackay’s very own TurBARlance for a delicious meal from their modern menu. It’s super convenient being only a 5-minute walk from baggage collection and only a 10-minute drive to the city centre. Plus, the wine list is great in-case your flight with the kids wasn’t.