Mackay Travel Guide
Mackay, located in Queenstown, Australia is known as the sugar capital of Australia. It produces about a third of Australia's sugar. Its other attractions are 31 white sandy beaches, Cape Hillsborough National Park, a subtropical rainforest, and spectacular views. It is also one of the areas where visitors can see the very secretive platypus.
There's a beach where the visitor can watch a group of wallabies going down the beach at sunrise. Go on a whale watching cruise or follow the trail of early pioneers into the Queensland Outback. There's more to do and see in Mackay and its vicinity like aboriginal art, spas, shopping, and cultural exhibitions.
Food and wine festivals, adventure sports, and theme parks. Check out our Mackay travel guide including a list of activities you should do, recommended places to eat and drink for both tourists and backpackers vistiing on a budget, top festivals you might want to experience and also more sight.
Mackay City is the biggest sugar producer in Australia today and is home to sugar mills and refineries. Its economy also depends on its beef cattle and tourism. Coal mining is also present in the area. Its population is about 147,000 residents and has more young people than in other parts of the state. Mackay enjoys 300 days of sunshine annually which makes it an ideal vacation destination./
Captain James Cook arrived in the Mackay coast in 1770 and had the first sightings of aborigines. In January 1860, two young Scots, one named John Mackay left New South Wales and explored the area which today bears his name. The area of Queensland has been hit by many tropical cyclones since then but it has continued to survive to this day. The city today is situated on the banks of the Pioneer river and is continuing to expand to accommodate its ever growing economy.
The climate here tends to be humid and subtropical. Summers are mostly hot and wet, though the coastal area gets a regular afternoon sea breeze. Rain comes during the months of December to March. Winter days are mostly warm and sunny, while winter nights can be cool away from the coast. August and September represents the dry months. Average annual temperatures are from 14.4 centigrade to 29.5 centrigrade.
Best Time to Visit
The region welcomes visitors all year round but winter is the best time to come visit when the beaches are nice and warm. Excellent weather, great beaches and close to the Whitsunday Islands. Summer is hot and humid with rain from December to March. The warmest time of year in Mackay is in February when it is 23.2°C. There are 7 cool weather months and 5 warm months in Mackay.
Local Travel Info
The city of Mackay has its own airport which is the 14th busiest in the country. Four major Australian airline companies have their counters and lounges here. Getting to your destination from the airport is easy with buses, trains, ferry, and car rentals available. It is advisable to book your destination connections with your travel agent before coming to avoid confusion.
Places to Eat
Restaurant in Mackay vary in the cuisine they offer as well as location. There are simple menus to exquisite high-end dining. Wine and food in this region matches anything you will find in other restaurants in other places in the world. The city in recent years have developed its own cuisine to an art form in presentation and taste. The international cuisine has not lagged behind with Indian, Chinese, Thai, Italian as well as French getting equal attention in the sophisticated restaurant scene in the city.
1. Masala Indian restaurant serves genuine spicy Indian cuisine. Kid friendly place. Good service and excellent food. Staff are very helpful. Try the Masala, very tasty and very filling! Food is always made to your preference of spicy. Hours: Lunch, Dinner. Menu price: $0 - $34. Address is 132 Victoria Street, Mackay.
2. The Lantern Restaurant offers vegetarian, modern Australian, and gluten-free dishes. Warm ambiance and nice modern interior. Try the vegetarian dishes. Family friendly place. Hours: Mon-Sat 6pm – 9pm. Menu price: Mains: $17-$30. Address is 149-151 Nebo Rd, Mackay.
3. Hot Wok offers original true Thai cuisine. Great food,wonderful service and really good value. Kid friendly place. Try the mongolian lamb and crispy beef. Hours: Lunch, Dinner, Reservations. Take out. Menu price: $18 - $22. Address is 44 Macalister Street, Mackay.
4. Toscanis Mackay serves genuine Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. Staff are pleasant and the menu is varied and interesting. Beautiful and freshly made traditional food. Try the gnocchi and Tiramasu and lemoncello. Family friendly place. Hours: Breakfast/Brunch,Dinner . Menu price: Mains: moderate to expensive. Address is 1/31 Gordon street, Mackay.
5. Domino's Pizza serves well fast food pizza that's good for a quick , no fuss chow and reliable thin crust. Same fast food pizza atmosphere, clean and clinical. Try the house pizza. Service is nice and interior is fine. Dine in and delivery. Family friendly place. Hours: Breakfast/Brunch,Dinner, Delivery. Menu price: $6 - $21. Address is Shakespeare Street | Shop 10, Gas Works Shopping Centre, Mackay.
6. Creperie French Restaurant serves genuine French crepes and dishes. Nice, quiet atmosphere with great food. Try the house special crepes. Awesome to watch the guys making the crepes. Hours: Breakfast, Lunch. Menu price: $6 - $21. Address is Gregory Street, Mackay.
7. Maria's Donkey offers the diner great genuine Spanish cuisine. A lovely spot for a great meal and beer or sangria. Try the veggie kala. Tapas menu. Great vibe with live music. Restaurant on the water overlooking the harbour. Hours: Breakfast/Brunch,Dinner, Delivery. Menu price: moderate and expensive. Address is 8 River Street, Mackay.
8. Montezuma's Restaurant serves true Mexican dishes that sizzles! Service is excellent and the staff genuinely nice. Good cocktails at a good price. Great family restaurant. Try the rice meals and quesadillas, simply delicious! Hours: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Delivery. Menu price: moderate. Address is 94 Wood Street, Mackay.
9. The Austral Hotel serves the best steaks in Mackay. Good steak, good times, excellent for the Family. Austral staff are great - friendly, accommodating and very family friendly. Healthy options for children's meals. Try the Beef Wellington special. Hours: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Reservations necessary- weekends. Menu price: moderate. Address is Cnr Peel and Victoria Streets, Mackay.
10. The Restaurant & Cafe on The Lagoon serves Australian cuisine. Quiet, tranquil environment,excellent service and friendly staff. Family friendly restaurant. Lovely setting in the botanical gardens. Try the house specials. Comfortable couches and low tables are available for those who just want to drop in for a coffee. Beautiful cakes, sandwiches and eclairs. Hours: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Menu price: moderate. Address is 9 Lagoons Street | Mackay Botanical Gardens.
Things to Do
The outdoors of Mackay makes it an attractive destination for the tourist whether its adventure sports, food and wine tours or wildlife explorations. The whole family can enjoy the theme parks as well. Here, you can see and do things at the same time. Whale-watching, turtle hatching and koala spotting, this place seems to have just about everything the tourist would enjoy seeing.
Mackay offers the tourist a lot of activities as diverse as the needs of its visitors. In recent years, more time and effort has been dedicated to improving the selection of activities and attractions geared towards the needs of the visitor. There's the Bluewater Trail, Bluewater Lagoon, and the Bluewater Quay. Mackay has historic buildings as well and if eating is in your to-do list, you better come visit!
1. Go on an expedition to the ancient rainforest where the elusive platypus makes his home. An experienced guide will tell you about this pristine environment and show you parrots, fruit doves, goannas and unique butterflies. Next comes the Finch Hatton Gorge populated with trailing vines, ferns, and orchids. You are invited to take a swim in the waterfall pool. Afterwards, the guide will take you to Broken River to find the elusive platypus. Contact your hotel concierge for more details about this activity.
2. Get on a bike and explore the attractions along the Bluewater Trail. This trail is a scenic walk and bike ride that will take you past the beautiful Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens, the Sandfly Creek Environmental Walkway, the Catherine Freeman walk, the free three-tiered Bluewater Lagoon aquatic facility, Bluewater Quay (with barbecue facilities) and Iluka Park (all abilities playground). Lots of activities for the family. Contact your hotel concierge for more details about this activity.
3. Put on your walking shoes and spend the morning exploring the Melaleuca forest which is the largest of its kind in Australia. Walks through the forest from slade point start at several spoints. Lamberts beach, Keeley's Road, and several other trailheads are scattered around the edges of the woods. The walks close to the beach are slow walks on sand. Bring bottled water and snacks. Contact your hotel concierge for more details about this activity.
4. Spend an afternoon in a Percy island lighthouse and learn about its history and background. This lighthouse is a fully restored vapour kerosene lit lighthouse and one of the three left in the world. You will get the chance to tour the different sections and the guide will tell you about its different functions. Reservations is required. Contact: (07) 4959 8360. Contact your hotel concierge for more details about this activity.
5. Go on a glass-bottomed boat cruise to watch the rich marine reef life that Australia is known for in the region. Four hours of exploration includes a delicious hot and cold buffet lunch with seafood. The chance to snorkel includes equipment. Activities are set but client dependent, whether you want to get wet or stay dry, there are numerous activities available for you to enjoy. Contact your hotel concierge for more details about this activity.
The region has plenty of specialty shops in malls and shopping centres around the city. Pottery galleries abound in the area. There are handicraft stores in the city where the shopper has the first choice. Wine and food shops should be in the visitor's list with Australian wine and cheeses getting good reviews in recent years, these are must-bring home items.
1. Shax Home Decor and Gifts is an interesting little shop. The shop has lots of good gift ideas as well knick knacks and decorative items for the home. The selection here are vases, candles, photo frames etc. Location is 160 Victoria Street.
2. Mount Pleasant Shopping Centre ha underground car park. Lots of boutiques, eateries and speciality stores. Also K Mart, Coles and Woolworths. The selection here are clothes, books, cosmetics, shoes, liquor, homewares, flowers and jewellry etc. Location is Norh Mackay.
3. Canelands is the biggest shopping centre in the area. It has over 120 specialty stores. There is also a post office, several banks, a Big W, a Target and a Woolworths and the Action supermarket is also here. There is a large cafe court with some intimate eating places. Plenty of under cover parking. Location is Cnr of Victoria Street and Mangrove Road.
4. The Mackay City Heart is the down town shopping area. It has a nice layout and beautiful landscaping. The warm clime makes it easy to browse the many shops and arcades. Casual alfresco dining can also be enjoyed. Some of the buildings are brightly painted while others display a more heritage look. There is a Sunday Market on the second Sunday with live music and horse drawn carriage rides etc. as well as lots of craft and food stalls. Location is Victoria Street.
5. Whot's Hot is a women's boutique that sells lovely, modern and exciting clothes. The boutique deals in women's clothes and accessories. Merchandise are up scale and always up-to-date. Location is Victoria Street, Mackay.
The nightlife in Mackay does not really match those you find in Melbourne or Sydney but it does hold its own with its numerous venues, both pubs and clubs, ensuring there is always something happening every day of the week. There are venues with international and local performers nightly and themed nightclubs and bars with DJ s and live bands as the main attractions. Some clubs are so good you might not want to leave.
1. Molloys Irish Bar is a popular bar where the young and the young at heart hang out. Rear seating besides the main bar room. Live band provides the music. Great sounds. Location is 148 Victoria Street, Mackay.
2. Gordi's Cafe and Bar is a great place to spend a few hours drinking and has karaoke sessions on Saturday nights. Indoor and outdoor seating. Lunch and dinner served. Great steaks! Location is 85 Victoria Street, Mackay.
3. Wilkies Tavern and Balcony Restaurant is a hopping place for mature age habitues with a nightclub on the upper level. Great music and al fresco seating. Nice pub to stay for a few hours. Location is Cnr. Victoria and Gregory sts., Mackay.
4. Pulse Night Club is frequented by the younger yuppy set. It has DJ s providing the latest tunes from international clubs. Friday and Saturday nights till 3am. Location is Level 1, 99 Victoria Street, Mackay.
5. Satchmo's at the Reef features a classy ambiance and interior. Its menu is wine-and-tapas bar type. The habitues are the boaties type. This bar has live music on Sunday afternoons otherwise its DJ s. Location is Mulherin Dr Mackay Harbour, Mackay.
Events and Festivals
The region offers an annual calendar of popular festivities that reflects the region's individuality and ingenuity. The lifestyle that brought prosperity to this once little town is incorporated in every event and festival that has attracted millions of tourists every year. Come visit the city and join our many festivities that has the best in performing arts, wine, food, live music and cultural entertainment.
1. River Rock to Mountain Top Community Festival celebrates the natural and man-made attributes of the Pioneer Valley and Eungella. This is a 16 day event that features sub-events for every age group. The Eungella National Park also offers many activities during this time such as rainforest walks, camping, and platypus viewing. Dates: 26 April-12 May. Location is Pioneer Valle, Mirani,Eungella.
2. Traveling Film Festival Mackay brings the best in world cinema to Mackay City Cinemas. The audience will have a chance to see films from around the world in air-conditioned comfort. Movies from Australia, Hong Kong, China, USA, UK, Germany, France, Lebanon and Denmark will be on schedule for screening everyday. Thanks to a new partnership with Blackfella Films Presents, the TFF will also bring the very best of local films from Australia and around the world to Mackay. Dates: 12 October- 14 October. Location: Mackay.
3. Family NYE Party Mackay is the biggest free family New Year's Eve party. This event encourages families to attend with their children and enjoy a spectacular line-up of entertainment, followed by a family friendly 9pm fireworks spectacular. This event attracts over 3,000 people. Activities include; jumping castles, face painting, train rides and more! Date: 31st December. Location: Alfred Street, Mackay.
4. Mackay Marine Festival / Tinnie and Tackle Show is all about Boat shows, fishing information, engines, jet ski's, ski boats shows. The show is what the region's marine industry has to offer. Activities for the kids are marine and fishing workshops to face painting.There will be rock climbing as well. Date: 22 June- 23June. Location: Mackay Harbour.