ELISA ELWIN discovers the Mackay region, just south of the Whitsundays, abounds with family-friendly options
Surrounded by rainforest and the UNESCO-listed Great Barrier Reef, with palm tree-lined streets filled with Art Deco buildings, laid-back accommodation and spectacular beaches, it’s no surprise Mackay has quietly emerged as one of Queensland’s top family-friendly holiday spots. Humpback whales, dolphins and turtles can be spotted in the offshore waters, while a short drive from the city sees you amidst wildlife-filled rainforests dotted with cascading waterfalls.
Translating as ‘Land of the Clouds’, Eungella encompasses a long stretch of subtropical rainforest and is considered one of the best locations in Australia to spot platypus. Watch the bubble trails of these shy creatures from the viewing decks along the Broken River, then walk through the iconic Tree Arch on the Cedar Grove Track. For some of the best views in the Mackay region, don’t miss the Sky Window Lookout.
Between Mackay and Eungella National Park, Finch Hatton Gorge is a must-stop destination for bushwalking and swimming. Its walking trails weave through a majestic landscape of waterfalls and volcanic boulders, with highlights including the Araluen and Wheel of Fire Cascades. There are nearby rock pools where you can enjoy a refreshing dip, accompanied by the sounds of rare gastric-brooding frogs and Eungella honeyeaters.
Early risers will be rewarded with one of Australia’s most iconic wildlife experiences on the beach at Cape Hillsborough. Eastern grey kangaroos and wallabies arrive each morning to feed on seaweed and mangrove seed pods, which wash ashore with the overnight tides. Accompanied by the rich colours of the sunrise sky, this furry encounter makes for some unforgettable photos. Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park is the perfect place to stay for this early morning experience.
Wake House Australia combines jumping, slidingand racing your friends around on inflatable obstacles, with a state-of-the-art cable ski park. The Aqua Park sessions are great family-friendly fun, operating most mornings before the cable ski park gets going. Check the website for opening times, bookings and to answer your safety questionnaire before arriving.
Discover the sugar cane-growing history of Queensland at the award-winning Sarina Sugar Shed, a miniature mill and distillery that’s the only one of its kind in Australia. After touring the sugar shed, there’s fairy floss tasting for kids and homemade schnapps sampling for adults, as well as delicious ice cream made on-site.
Family owned and operated, Sorbello’s is located in the heart of Mackay and dishes up authentic Italian cuisine. From pizzas to pasta, seafood and steaks, their extensive menu caters to everyone. Be sure to arrive hungry, the portions are generous.
Take a break from platypus watching with an alfresco lunch or great coffee and cake at this restaurant set in the rainforest of Eungella National Park. It’s run by talented Austrian chef Oskar Krobath, who personally delivers the Yodel Burgers with a startlingly impressive performance.
Occupying a 110-year-old railway station in Cape Hillsborough, the Old Station Teahouse serves soups, wood-fired pizzas and decadent cakes in an atmospheric setting. There’s plenty of room for the kids to run around and burn off energy in a delightful setting.
Magpies Sporting Club is a dining and entertainment hub for the Mackay community, with sporting, gaming and function venues as well as two bars and Centro Restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner daily, Centro is a casual dining spot suitable for the whole family. The Modern Australian menu offers a broad range of dishes, and locals love the nightly specials, where excellent values steaks and roasts are available.
Sitting right on Casuarina Beach, the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park is located less than an hour from Mackay. It’s surrounded by an untamed wilderness of dramatic rock outcrops, waterfalls and creeks, with a rich indigenous heritage. Cape Hillsborough provides exceptional wildlife encounters, including kangaroos, wallabies, sea turtles and whale sightings during the annual migration. You can book one of its fully-equipped beach huts or family cabins, with powered and unpowered sites also available for campers. The park is family owned and run, with Ben and Renae Atherton at the helm along with their three children; Kira, Sean and Alysse. Make sure you stop and say hello before you head into your own reconnect family time.
Overlooking the southern islands of the Whitsundays, this BIG4 is positioned on the longest of Mackay’s northern beaches. Settle in at one of their family villas, then take advantage of the resort pool, kids splash pad and family-friendly activities that are held during the school holidays.
Mackay Resort Motel is one of Mackay’s finest Motels which has recently been refurbished (2016) to ensure they exceed guest’s expectations.
Perfectly located, Mackay Resort Motel is just minutes to the Airport, Central Business District, Shopping Centres, Botanic Gardens and the many attractions which make Mackay the perfect business or leisure destination.
The Mackay Resort Motel offers facilities you would expect from any leading four-star property. These include: 40 modern, comfortable rooms from spacious Deluxe Queen Motel rooms to Self-contained Family suites, a tranquil Tuscan resort-style swimming pool, Blue Gecko Bar and Restaurant with poolside alfresco dining, three Conference / Board rooms with high technology equipment and fast NBN Broadband, free Foxtel cable television with 16 channels, tour desk with brochures and maps, undercover free parking with parking also available for large vehicles, including trucks, busses and trailers.