It’s described as the green behind the gold which makes Mackay so special. The gold being its beautiful beaches, the green, its hinterland. Start this journey in the Mackay CBD, home to the innovative regional art gallery, ArtSpace Mackay; the pristine Mackay Botanic Gardens; stunning Mackay Marina; and the iconic Eimeo Pacific Hotel on a clifftop with views overlooking the Whitsunday Coast, Brampton, Keswick and St Bees islands.
Once you’ve had your fill of fine seafood and fresh sea breezes, head 80km west through the lush Pioneer Valley, towards Eungella National Park. Eungella means “land of the clouds” and you’ll experience this feeling as you drive through emerald lowlands, along sugar cane fields, and past quaint townships before arriving at Australia’s longest stretch of sub-tropical rainforest.
This is an easy day trip along the sealed road to Broken River and the journey takes you past Melba House in the heart of the Pioneer Valley in Marian. It is here that renowned opera singer Dame Nellie Melba spent her first years of married life and these days it’s been preserved as a museum displaying an array of photos, memorabilia, recordings, books and furniture of Melba’s era. There’s also an arts and crafts shop here selling locally-made gifts and souvenirs.
About 65km west of Mackay you’ll find the Pinnacle Pub and locals believe it’s the pies here that have put the Pioneer Valley on the map. Choose from eight different varieties, all made freshly on site. And it even comes with a story. Apparently the Pinnacle Pie was conceived in the mid 1990s when the Teemburra Dam was under construction and workers had no where to go for lunch. Still hungry? Check out the pub’s large crumbed steaks which are said to be the size of a dinner plate.
Continue along the same route and not far away you’ll hit Finch Hatton Gorge, home to superb rainforest walking trails. Both the Araluen and Wheel of Fire waterfalls are deep natural swimming holes which make a dip ideal on a hot day. Then it’s onwards and upwards towards Eungella National Park which covers more than 51,700ha of land and numerous walking tracks through tropical and temperate rainforest. There’s also some great camping spots at Fern Flat or Crediton Hall which are along the Mackay Highlands Great Walk.
One of the great highlights of this drive journey is the opportunity to spot usually shy platypus in their natural habitat. Head to the viewing platform at Broken River either early in the morning or late afternoon and you can watch as they use their duck-like snouts to feed on freshwater molluscs, crustaceans and other small invertebrates. Bird watchers also adore Eungella National Park, home to 225 species. And after a busy day of sight seeing, swimming, walking and wildlife watching, retire to one of the area’s many accommodation options.
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