Last Updated on September 22, 2020

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Whether you are a grey nomad planning to visit the Mackay Region, a couple or family on a road trip along the east coast of Australia or a prospective expat looking to relocate to central Queensland you will find plenty to do and see in Mackay.

Having spent over 3 months living and travelling extensively around the region I have identified the top 10 things to do in Mackay. These are must-do’s to add to your itinerary.

If you are driving the Queensland coastal route do stay in Mackay for a few days at least and explore the area. I have also added my recommended places to stay and eat in Mackay at the bottom of the post.

WHERE IS MACKAY?

Mackay is located over 900 kms (and a 10 hour plus drive) north of Brisbane in the heart of Queensland’s tropical coast. It has a population of approximately 117,000 people and stands on either side of the Pioneer River – one of only a few blue water rivers in Queensland.

Often called Australia’s sugar cane capital due to the predominance of its production in the area Mackay also offers visitors a choice of 31 beaches along the warm waters of the Coral Sea.

TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN MACKAY AND SURROUNDS

1. TAKE A WALK (OR CYCLE) AROUND THE RIVERSIDE BLUEWATER TRAIL

Enjoy a stroll through the centre of the city and spot the numerous Art Deco buildings before heading down the the riverside to follow the Bluewater trail.

Take a bike ride along the trail, past the lagoon and if you feel energetic continue on to the botanical gardens.

Mackay Bluewater Trail

2. VISIT THE BLUEWATER LAGOON

If you are visiting Mackay with kids or are looking for somewhere to cool off on a hot and humid summer’s day head to the Bluewater Lagoon.

The lagoon is free and is open all year round bar a few weeks in July and the month of August.

3. VISIT THE BOTANICAL GARDENS

Take a walk through the botanical gardens and stop off in the Lagoons cafe for a cuppa!

Make sure to walk carefully though as snakes can be found in the gardens!

4. VISIT SOME OF THE 31 BEACHES

There are many stunning beaches to choose from in Mackay. Beautiful soft sand, the warm waters of the Coral Sea and fringed with palm trees take a picnic with you and enjoy a day at the beach!

The most popular beaches are the Northern Beaches made up of Eimeo Beach, Dolphin Heads and Bucasia Beach.

Beaches in Mackay Queensland

5. VISIT EUNGELLA NATIONAL PARK AND LOOK FOR PLATYPUS

Drive 80 km west of Mackay to the end of the Pioneer Valley and you will discover Eungella National Park. As well as being the home of that strangest of Australian creatures the platypus Eungella has 22 kms of bush walks to enjoy.

Home to a diversity of birdlife and wildlife Eungella is a great weekend destination.

LEARN MORE – How to spot platypus in the wild at Eungella National Park

Eungella National Park

6. VISIT CAPE HILLSBOROUGH

Our favourite destination at a weekend is Cape Hillsborough about 50 km north of Mackay. Get up early to arrive at dawn when the kangaroos and wallabies come down to the beach to feed. (Be careful of kangaroos on the roads if you are driving at sunrise)

There are accommodation options at Cape Hillsborough including Airbnb if you prefer to stay a little closer.

LEARN MORE – How to see kangaroos on the beach at dawn in Cape Hillsborough

Cape Hillsborough Mackay Region Queensland Australia

7. VISIT FINCH HATTON GORGE

At Finch Hatton Gorge you will find many walking tracks which take you through the sub-tropical rainforest. Take the 1.6 km walk to Aruluen waterfall and a further 1.4 km to the Wheel of Fire Cascades where you can take a dip in one of the rock pools.

Finch Hatton is 60 km to the west of Mackay and on the same road that takes you to Eungella.

Finch Hatton near Mackay

8. VISIT THE SARINA SUGAR SHED

Ever wondered how the sugar we buy from the supermarket is made? In the Mackay region you will see fields and fields full of  sugar cane fields and refineries in the area.

We spent a fantastic day at my friend’s brother’s sugar cane farm finding out all about how it is grown before heading to the Sarina Sugar Shed to see how the cane becomes sugar.

LEARN MORE – Visiting a sugar cane farm in Queensland

sarina sugar shed and cane farm truck

9. TAKE A DRIVE TO SLADE POINT

During the months of July to November humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of the Coral Sea to give birth. The best place to see the whales from Mackay is at Slade Point.

The viewing platform provides a sweeping view of the Coral Sea. Keep your eyes peeled for the whales as they swim up (and down) the coast!

Slade Point lookout in Mackay

10. TAKE A STROLL ALONG THE MARINA

There are some great restaurants at the marina. Head there at the weekend for lunch and check out all the boats moored in the harbour and experience a bit of boat envy!

PLAN YOUR VISIT TO MACKAY

BEST PLACES TO EAT IN MACKAY

After living in Mackay for over 3 months these were our favourite restaurants. Both serve good food that won’t cost a fortune.

The Deck Steakhouse

A great destination for Saturday lunch offering beautiful views of the Mackay marina as well as great food at a reasonable price.

I recommend trying the specials which usually include fish/steak options.  Budget around $60 for 2 adults with 2 soft drinks.

Where – Mackay Marina

the deck restaurant in mackay

Mt Pleasant Tavern

The ultimate destination in Mackay for a schnitzel is the Mt Pleasant Tavern (House of Schnitzel). They offer a tempting choice of toppings for their chicken or pork schnitzel. The food is excellent and the staff  friendly.

This is a popular choice for Mackay residents so can get busy. Budget  around 60 dollars for 2 (one soft drink/one alcoholic)

Where – Malcomson Street, North Mackay 

HOUSE OF SCHNITZEL IN MACKAY QUEENSLAND - things to do in Mackay

ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN MACKAY AND SURROUNDS

There are lots of accommodation options in Mackay to suit everyone’s budget.

If you prefer an airbnb you can find a selection of great stays in the map below – just click for more info!

LANAI APARTMENTS

Although we were housesitting for 3 months in Mackay we spent our first week at the Lanai Apartments.

The apartments are not cheap but they are central and the staff were excellent.

Well equipped apartments and good facilities make these a sure bet for a stay in Mackay.

CLICK TO CHECK PRICES AND AVAILABILITY AT LANAI APARTMENTS

Enjoy your visit to Mackay

So there you have it – 10 great things to do in Mackay. If you are planning to relocate to Mackay do check out my complete guide which details everything you need to know before you move!

If you are driving along the coast up to Cairns or perhaps down to Brisbane or Sydney do check out these other great posts:

Things to do in Bowen

How to visit Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays

25 things to do in Queensland

Australia’s Big Things (and where to find them)

Complete guide to visiting Australia

Related reading

This post may contain compensated links. Please read our disclosure for additional information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

33 thoughts on “Top 10 things to do in Mackay Queensland (how to make the most of your visit)

  1. Jenn | By Land and Sea says:

    It’s sounds like you’ve been having a great time in Mackay so far! I’m all for pedicures on the spot, but snakes…. not so much!

  2. Ruth | Tanama Tales says:

    Tracy, this is all so awesome! Those beaches are gorgeous. I will like to see platypus. I think you are the first person I hear is having problems with an automatic car (it is usually the reverse). I can tell you we rented a manual in Iceland since my husband told me he knew how to drive it. Well, it was kind of a mess because he couldn’t remember some things. #feetdotravel

  3. Isobel Malloy says:

    This is fantastic reading and so informative. A must for all travellers in your new location. I look forward to reading your next blog. Keep up the good work.

  4. Linda Tallett says:

    Brilliant review Tracy, loving learning all about Mackay! It certainly looks like a good start to your expat adventure!

  5. Shona @ paraphernalia.co says:

    Mackay is a great spot on the Qld coast for you to explore from. You’re going to love Cairns and Port Douglas. See if you can get to Double Island off the coast between Port Douglas and Cairns. It was the first glamping accommodationin in Aus back in the day and is still pretty cool now. Looking forward to your foodie post on Mackay’s restaurants. I’m loving your Aussie posts. “I still call Australia home!” BTW, the 50c piece is huge, but what about it’s shape. LOL! 😀

  6. Scarlett Begonias says:

    I can’t believe all the dead kangaroos, that really surprised me! I am still envious of your platypus sighting, and hope to meet one eventually. Good luck with the job, I think it’s going to be a beautiful stay. 🙂

  7. Sian Mansey says:

    It all looks absolutely fab, I don’t mind snakes but not keen on the sand flies! Can’t wait to have a trip out there someday. Keeps the posts coming they are a great read and very informative. The pictures are awesome ?

  8. Angie (FeetDoTravel) says:

    Haha, yes you are certainly settling into Aussie life – and if you think it’s hot now in QLD, wait until summer! Strewth, you will be melting like an ice-cream, it’s easy to see why people in North Queensland don’t own a coat or sometimes even a jumper! Looking forward to reading more about your tales from Down Under #feetdotravel

  9. Jenny Guest says:

    FI love reading your blog! Things in feet though?? I was interested to hear about the ten week terms in school – that would be a massive adjustment! So Woolies still going strong? Is it the same? Netflix is good!
    The place looks amazing – such beautiful beaches and the weather looks good. I’d like to see what the towns and houses are like? Keep up the posts – they make even me want to travel and I’m a real homebody! Thank you ?

    • Tracy Collins says:

      No Woolworths abroad is not the same as the one that used to be in the UK – it only sells food! More coming next month about the houses – particularly the traditional Queenslander houses! They are lovely!

  10. Kreete says:

    You have summed it up excellent! I remember my first 15 kangaroos I saw when first coming to Australia were all dead on the side of the road.. I love the Mackay area and this makes me coming up for a visit! Watch out for the hurricane season coming in though ha!

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