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.
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