Are you looking to unwind and get back in touch with nature?
Then the Mackay region is the place for you! I’ve put together the top 5 nature experiences in this little slice of paradise from sensational sunrises with kangaroos and wallabies, through to wonderful waterfalls and amazing island escapes.
1. Cape Hillsborough
For the ultimate Australian sunrise experience you can’t go past Cape Hillsborough. It’s a short 45minute drive north of Mackay and well worth the early start! Home to a number of wallabies and kangaroos, each morning they come down to the beach to feed on the mangrove seed pods and seaweed that have washed ashore the night before. Be sure to bring your camera and if you’re lucky one or two may even hop right up to you and pose for a photo!
Tip: Cape Hillsborough isn’t just all about the kangaroos and wallabies. Be sure to check out the walking trails around the national park. There are some sensational views out over the Coral Sea from various look-outs around the park and at low tide you can even walk out to Wedge Island.
2. Keswick Island
Just a short 15 minute flight from Mackay is Keswick Island. Surrounded by beautiful blue waters, fantastic fringing reefs and stunning beaches, Keswick is a great destination for those looking for a taste of the Great Barrier Reef. During the winter months you may even be lucky enough to spot whales swimming past on their annual migration north!
Tip: The best snorkelling at Keswick is at the end of the runway. It’s subject to tides and it needs to be high tide to snorkel here. It’s well worth it though, with one of the best fringing reefs in the region. You can also hire a golf buggy for the day to explore – you’ll feel like it’s your own personal island.
3. Finch Hatton Gorge
If you’re looking for waterfalls then make sure Finch Hatton is on your itinerary. Finch Hatton is 70km west of Mackay and a great place to experience the sub-tropical rainforests of the region. The two most popular waterfalls here are Araluen and the Wheel of Fire Cascades. Araluen is a 1.6km walk from the carpark and the Wheel of Fire is a further 1.4km.
Tip: It’s a good idea to bring suitable footwear and lots of water as it can get quite warm during the summer months. If you decide to do the walk up to the Wheel of Fire, then you will most likely need to do a small creek crossing where your shoes will get wet. Don’t worry, they’ll dry out by the end of the day!
A little further west from Finch Hatton is the town of Eungella. Both Eungella and Finch Hatton are a part of the Eungella National Park, which is home to Australia’s largest continuous stretch of sub-tropical rainforest. It’s also one of the best places in Australia to observe a platypus in its natural habitat! There are viewing decks along the Broken River to help you spot them, with optimal viewing times at dawn or dusk.
Tip: For amazing views over the Pioneer Valley below, make sure you take the time to do the Sky Window walk or stop in at the Chalet. It’s quite often a little cooler up here – the temperature can be up to 10 degrees less than on the coast – so it’s worth bringing some warmer clothes if you’re visiting in the winter months.
5. Northern Beaches
20 minutes north of the city are the beautiful northern beaches. The longest beach in the region, Black’s Beach, is located here and stretches out over 6km. Other popular places include Eimeo Beach and Bucasia, with volunteer lifeguards patrolling some of these beaches seasonally.
Tip: During the summer months the northern beaches are a great place to spot turtle tracks as the females come in to nest and if you’re lucky you may even spot some baby turtles hatching and scurrying down the beach and swimming off into the ocean for the first time!
Accommodation in Mackay
Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina has spectacular views over the marina and the Coral Sea and offers modern, high quality accommodation. There’s a pool and bar downstairs, as well as a delicious restaurant and only 10 minutes from the city. You can also stroll along the boardwalk, with plenty of dining options on the way!
Comfort Resort Blue Pacific is located at the beautiful northern beaches and is the perfect place to relax, with three acres of lush tropical gardens right on the beach. When you wake up each morning, you can step outside and onto the sand for a spectacular sunrise. For every day spent here you’ll feel like you’ve been on a weeks’ worth of holidays.
Words and images by Mark Fitz.