10 Things to do in Mackay

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Mackay in Queensland may not be as well-known as Cairns or Palm Cove but if you happen to be heading this way, take the time to explore. You’d be surprised at the fun things to do in Mackay.

Mackay is one of the lesser-known places to visit in Queensland and a good spot to stop during a Queensland road trip


10 Things to do in Mackay

1- Watch the sunrise at Cape Hillsborough

things to do in mackay
Looking for things to do in Mackay? Read on…Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & Mike Curtain

It’s 5.45 am, 20 minutes before sun-up, and our solitude is spoiled by two visitors who walk nonchalantly between us and position themselves between our cameras and the approaching sunrise.

To think, here on the beach at Cape Hillsborough we were told we’d have no disturbances.

Of course, the fact they’re kangaroos makes a world of difference and right now I can’t imagine anywhere else on earth where you can watch the sun come up over the ocean with a pair of animals represented on your country’s coat of arms. 

2- Meet the kangaroos on the beach

Mackay queensland
Seeing the kangaroos on the beach at Cape Hillsborough is one of the things to do near MacKay. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & Amber Toms

45 minutes north of Mackay, Cape Hillsborough is an 816-hectare national park nestled into the coastline, home to the world’s only sunrise-loving kangaroos.


The good news is they stick around till seven, delighting early risers by posing for photographs.

So at Cape Hillsborough, you’re guaranteed of watching a golden sunrise every morning with kangaroos for company.

What’s more, they’re not here to beg for food, they just seem to like the morning view.

So do the kookaburras, and the dolphins that jump most mornings only metres from the shore, one morning we even had the good fortune to share the experience with a humpback whale and her calf.

Don’t worry, for people who like to sleep in on holiday, they also love the sunset.

The best part is Cape Hillsborough is just one small attraction in the Mackay region, Australia’s most under-rated tropical paradise.

3- See platypuses at Eungella National Park

Two mornings later I watch platypuses catch their dawn feed while Yura, a gigantic, and very lovable, western grey kangaroo keeps me company at Eungella National Park, an hour south-west of Hillsborough.

mackay beach
Best Mackay beach? Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & Peter Lik

4- Explore Keswick Island

Another morning I catch a metre-long trevally on Keswick Island, an under-stated island paradise just 10 minutes flight time from Mackay airport.

Visiting the Mackay region of North Queensland is like discovering the most popular person at a high school disco has an even more gorgeous sibling, who’s completely available and desperate for company.

Each year, millions of tourists visit North Queensland to escape the winter blues in either Cairns or Airlie Beach, what they don’t realise is what they’re flying over may have been the sun-drenched tropical oasis they were looking for all along.

For more things to do in Queensland, read:

5- Go bushwalking in Finch Hatton Gorge

Located halfway between Brisbane and Cairns, the Mackay region is rich in diversity.

It boasts Australia’s largest and oldest stretch of sub-tropical rainforest in Eungella National Park, an hour drive west of Mackay.

Halfway to Eungella, take the turn-off to Finch Hatton Gorge, one of Australia’s most pristine forest areas and home to the gorgeous Wheel Of Fire Waterfall.

mackay attractions in the forest
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & Ezra Patchett

6- Watch the sunrise through the Sky Window

Eungella, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘land of the clouds’, lives up to its name, perched up high above the Pioneer Valley.

At dawn watch the sunrise through the Sky Window, one of the area’s most scenic rainforest walks.

Eungella is one of Queensland’s most popular national parks, covering over 52 000ha of rugged, unexplored land.

7- Go island hopping starting with Brampton Island

Brampton Island view
A cruise to Brampton Island is one of the things to do in Mackay. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & Keswick Island, aerial, airstrip

The Mackay region is also home to some of Australia’s most pristine off-shore islands and some many undiscovered Queensland islands.

The Cumberland Island Group lie protected inside the Great Barrier Reef, many of the group are protected national parks and are home to rare birds, green turtles and koalas.

Brampton Island is also just an hour boat cruise from Mackay.

It boasts seven gorgeous beaches and is almost entirely National Park.

Nearby, Keswick Island is one of the most picturesque islands in Queensland.

The coral just off the beach is some of the best-preserved in the world and is a diver’s paradise.

8- Hang out at the Mackay Marina

Mackay also has one of Australia’s best marina complexes.

The multi-million dollar project has introduced a whole new standard of living to the area, its location also makes it perfectly situated as the gateway to a piece of coast known as the ‘100 Magic Miles’.

9- Enjoy Mackay’s restaurants

things to do in Mackay
Check out the cafes and eateries in Mackay. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & Peter Lik

There’s any number of world-class restaurants and cafes to choose from in Mackay and on Mackay’s picturesque northern beaches.

10- Delve into Mackay’s culture

mackay things to do
Checking out the art gallery is one of the Mackay attractions. Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland & Peter Lik

Mackay is also emerging as one of Queensland’s culturally aware cities, especially with the addition of North Queensland’s best art gallery, Artspace.

So, spending time in the gallery is one of the things to do in Mackay.

11- Admire Mackay’s historic buildings

things to do in mackay
Photo: Cathy Finch

Mackay was built on the Pioneer River, the only city in Queensland built on a blue river, which flows past the city’s historical buildings.

For more stories about Queensland read:

Things to do in Mackay

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Craig Tansley
Craig Tansley is a freelance travel writer based in Queensland but most of the time he seems to be somewhere else. For the past 16 years, he's had no office and spent far too much time on airplanes and in hotel rooms around the world, getting to around 50 countries or so in his quest to see as much of Earth as he possibly can.