If you’ve only got a limited time in Mackay, this itinerary will still allow you to seek nature experiences in the rainforest, get up-close-and-personal with wildlife on the coast and soak up the city scene all in a 48-hour period.
Start your day with breakfast at one of the cafes along Wood Street in the Mackay City Centre. Digest with a stroll through the City Centre, heading towards the Bluewater Quay for a look at the unique artwork and 1930s art-deco buildings scattered throughout the city.
Hit the open road and enjoy picturesque views of Mackay’s hinterland. When you reach the Pioneer Valley (approximately 15 minutes west of Mackay), take in the greenery and canefields of the small country towns. Stop in for lunch at one of the local pubs or cute cafes along the way at Marian, Mirani, Gargett, Pinnacle or Finch Hatton.
Swimming in the fresh water at Finch Hatton Gorge is a must – it’s literally breathtaking. You’ll need to take a right off the Mackay-Eungella Road just after Pinnacle and follow the signs to the Gorge. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are not necessary however it’s important to check road conditions and weather prior to visiting the Gorge.
Finch Hatton Gorge is a great place to tackle a short bush walk with a refreshing swim afterwards. Try the 1.6-kilometre walk to Araluen waterfall, or go a further 1.4 kilometres and visit the Wheel of Fire Cascades.
Once you’ve finished exploring Finch Hatton, continue west on the Mackay-Eungella Road, travelling up the steep Clarke Range until you reach the Eungella township. Follow the road sweeping left to get to Eungella National Park.
Welcome to Eungella, where the air is clear and the scenery is spectacular! Travel along the winding Eungella-Dam Road, surrounded by lush rainforest. You will find a number of accommodation options, offering family-friendly stays and hearty meals. Find a bed for the night, enjoy a delicious meal and relish in the peace and quiet of the rainforest.
Can you spot the platypus? Dawn or dusk are the best times to see them. Make your way to the special platypus viewing platforms near the Broken River Visitor Information Centre. From here, you can also explore more of the spectacular rainforest with a variety of walking tracks.
For the committed and experienced bushwalkers, this is also the start point for the 56- kilometre Mackay Great Highlands Walk. The walk takes between three and five days to complete and finishes at Mt Britton, an 1880 gold-mining township near Nebo.
Eungella National Park is Australia’s longest stretch of sub-tropical rainforest and one of Queensland’s most ecologically diverse national parks. The Park boasts 860 plant species, making it a perfect spot to enjoy the rare flora and fauna.
Selfie spot: The Sky Window Lookout (which is on the way to the Broken River Visitor Information Centre) is a great spot to look out and admire the rolling hills of the green Pioneer Valley region.
Once you’ve finished exploring the tranquil rainforest, you may like to explore another national park – this time on the coast. There are a few roads heading east that will bring you past canefields (and the Bruce Highway) to the Hibiscus Coast beachside communities of Cape Hillsborough, Seaforth, Halliday Bay and Ball Bay.
While there may not be a tribe of tours available along the Hibiscus Coast, this area is perfect for relaxing on the beach with a book, beach fishing or lacing up the hiking boots. You can camp or hire a beach house at any of the communities, but our tip is to stay close to Cape Hillsborough National Park. Bring along some food for the barbecue and enjoy a dinner by the beach.
Set the alarm for sunrise because, at Cape Hillsborough National Park, the early morning hours are when the wildlife come to play. Enjoy sunrise on the beach while kangaroos and wallabies feed and be sure to capture the moment – these creatures are not camera shy!
Selfie Spot: It’s the iconic Aussie photograph; a tribe of kangaroos, sunrise and the beach – what more could you want?
There are also some great bushwalks at Cape Hillsborough National Park. Explore Andrews Point to see turtles and other marine life from the viewing platform.
Cairns is a city that feels more like a big town. Devoid of the traffic and high rise buildings plaguing other east-coast cities, Cairns exudes a relaxed vibe that keeps people coming back. While there’s no denying it’s best known as a hub to explore the World Heritage-listed double act of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest – and yes, we’ll let you know the best ways to do so – there’s even more to Cairns than this. Teeming with bars, restaurants, and cafes for all budgets, you’ll need a little guidance on the best haunts to visit in 48 hours. So, swap your briefcase for boardies and your heels for thongs (or flip flops – depending on where you’re from), because you’re in the tropics now and we like get down to business in comfort here.
What was once a sleepy little fishing village is now a luxurious base from which to explore the two World Heritage-listed gems of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. So, aside from these two must-see sites what else is there to do in, and around, this idyllic seaside location? You mean besides the boutiques, cafes, fine-dining restaurants, art galleries, scenic lookouts, tours, spas, and beach activities? Yeah, you get the picture. But let’s say you only have 48 hours and you want to snap the most drool-worthy Instagram pics. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a suggested run down, with a couple of alternative options thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!
Perfectly positioned half-way between Cairns and Port Douglas, Palm Cove is a laidback, seaside village that has the best of both worlds. Head south and you have the comforts of the city only 30 minutes away – cinemas, shopping centres, markets, and must-see tourist attractions. Head north along the spectacular coastline of the Great Barrier Reef Drive, and you’ll reach Port Douglas – gateway to the world’s oldest, continuously living rainforest – in just half an hour. But chances are, you’ll never want to leave Palm Cove. With its pristine stretch of sand, Coral Sea views out to Double Island, fabulous eating establishments, spas, and boutiques, it’s the perfect getaway. Here’s how we’d spend 48 hours in Palm Cove.
How long does it take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns? It very well may seem like a simple and easy question to answer, however, there are so many variables that make the answer not quite as straight forward as you may have initially thought.
No matter whether you are a snorkeller or a certified scuba diver, there are number of amazing Great Barrier Reef experiences that are a once in a lifetime absolutely ‘must do’. And a Minke Whale snorkel and dive Expedition is one of those that should be on your list!
Thinking of becoming a Certified Scuba Diver and looking to do your learn to scuba dive PADI certificate? Do you wish to learn to dive with a high quality professional company that has an outstanding reputation for not only skill but also safety and can match this with some of the best liveaboard dive boat fleets on the Great Barrier Reef?
This tour is special in so many ways, and is unrivalled to all other reef tours in Far North Queensland. First of all, it has the shortest open water crossing to get to the Great Barrier Reef. Fantastic news for anyone prone to motion sickness. Although this tour is a ‘Reef’ tour, it includes a ‘River Cruise’ on the journey there with Island activities on arrival. And a huge PLUS to guests that like to avoid the crowds, it has one of the lowest passenger capacities of all the island tours with a maximum of 100 guests. The destination is to an uninhabited continental island called Normanby in National Park which is part of the archipelago of Frankland Islands. It is located 10km offshore from the mouth of the Russell and Mulgrave Rivers at Russell Heads, which is approximately 45km South-East of Cairns. The Normanby Island has an abundance of wildlife not only in the water, but also on the island itself. The island is pristine, and has its own rainforest and a fringing reef not far out from its sandy shores. There are also coral gardens located further out from the island for the those that want to explore the deeper waters.
This is not a blog, it is a pitch on how good this Great Barrier Reef 2 day 1 night liveaboard dive trip from Cairns is such good value. One of our team members wrote it because she thinks it is such an amazing good value Great Barrier Reef tour, she wanted to write about it and put it on our Barrier Reef Australia blog page. We were not sure it was appropriate to pitch a single tour but we decided on free speech and free opinions so read more if you are inclined, or go to another page now. From our wonderful Great Barrier Reef Tour Specialist Chelsea Are you looking for a good value liveaboard Great Barrier Reef scuba diving adventure from Cairns without the crowds? Do you want the best dive deal money can buy in Cairns? If your answer is yes, then check out what deals we have on offer with our Great Barrier Reef Tour 2 Day 1 Night Sail, Snorkel and Scuba Dive tour!
If you are scared of the water and the creatures that live there or have never been exposed to an aquatic life in your younger years, but still wish to live out that lifelong dream of seeing the iconic wonders of the world the Great Barrier Reef, then that is okay, we have a tour that will enable you to see the coral reef from above the water and also below the water’s surface without you even getting your hair wet!