Best things to do in Mackay

Are you planning a trip to Mackay? This article covers the best things to do in Mackay, including tourist attractions, activities and places to visit.

The Queensland Travel Guide acknowledges the Yuwibara  People, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which the Mackay region is situated.  We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continued spiritual and cultural connections to Country.  Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.

Main image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

A 2 hour drive south of Airlie Beach, you’ll find Mackay – affectionately known as the sugar capital of Queensland because it produces more than a third of Australia’s sugar.   While many people pass through while heading north, it’s worth exploring for a few days as there is plenty of Mackay things to do.

Some of the more popular things to do Mackay offers include exploring the beautiful Eungella National Park, where you can swim under cold waterfalls or watch the kangaroos at dawn on the beach at Cape Hillsborough. 

Mackay is adjacent to the Pioneer River, where fishing for whiting and flathead is a popular pastime. But Mackay’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef also makes it the perfect base for exploring some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches and reefs. 

For those visiting the region, this guide will help you decide what to do and which things to see in Mackay.  It covers a broad range of activities, including all the popular Mackay attractions, the best places to visit in Mackay, and all the essential information such as locations, opening hours and ticket prices where necessary.

So let’s get into it and help you discover the best attractions in Mackay and other places in the region.

This post may contain compensated links.  Please refer to our disclaimer here for more information.

MACKAY THINGS TO DO MAP

Before we get started on all the different Mackay tourist attractions, to help you plan your itinerary, check out the map below.  This map shows the location of all the things to do around Mackay covered in this guide.

It’s recommended you first make a list of your Mackay must do and then use this map to plan your day to day itinerary so you’re not travelling back and forth all over town.

BEST THINGS TO DO IN MACKAY

Below we cover the best Mackay places to visit and things to do in the region.

1 Mackay Water Park – Bluewater Lagoon

Image

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland & Brooke Miles

Finding a free lagoon in Queensland towns along the east coast is not unusual, but the Bluewater Lagoon water park in Mackay is one of the most impressive! This is one of the most fun things to do in Mackay, no matter your age – but particularly if you’re after things to do in Mackay for kids!

The lagoon is actually three swimming pools in a tiered design. There is a 19.5 metre waterslide, as well as a splash park with a tipping bucket for the younger kids to enjoy. There are also plenty of shallow water areas for those who just want to sit and cool off and there are handrails for differently abled people.

Not only is it one of the best hot weather activities in Mackay, but there are great free facilities surrounding the lagoon, like BBQs, picnic benches and a cafe, so you can really make a day of it.

Whether you just want to quickly cool off or need somewhere to spend a lazy day relaxing and picnicking, it’s well worth a visit. It’s one of the top free things to do in Mackay.

Location: River Street, Mackay

Opening Hours: 9 am to 5.45 pm during the summer months (September – March) | 9 am to 4.45 pm during winter months (April – May) | Closed from June for winter maintenance

Cost: Free

2 Go to the beach!

Image

Some of the best Mackay places to visit are the stunning beaches and there are plenty of options. Just keep in mind that from October to May, a stinger suit is necessary, or you can swim in areas where stinger nets are in place.

Eimeo Beach

Just 20km north of Mackay, this popular bay is patrolled during summer and provides a safe swimming area between the flags. Enjoy a picnic on the esplanade while the kids play at the park, or dine with a stunning view at the nearby Eimeo Pacific Hotel. It’s possibly one of the top things to do in Mackay.

Bucasia

This is a pet-friendly beach where walking, swimming, and fishing are favourite activities to do in Mackay for locals and tourists alike. This 4km long beach is perfect for keen fishermen as it’s possible to catch flathead right off the beach during high tide. Take a late afternoon stroll with your furry friend and catch the scenic views of Dolphin heads and the Cumberland Islands.

Shoal Point

The northernmost community of Mackay boasts a stunning beach with breathtaking views north of Cape Hillsborough and the Hibiscus Coast. The beach looks like a small desert during low tide, allowing a close-up view of Green Reef Island. Catch the sunset and enjoy the great facilities and playgrounds along the esplanade. A great idea if you are looking for things to do in Mackay with kids.

Harbour Beach

Harbour Beach is just a 5-minute drive from the CBD and is a patrolled beach, making it the perfect spot for a swim. Located near the multi-million dollar Mackay Marina, this beach offers two playgrounds, BBQs, and even a surf life-saving club for some lunch.

Lamberts Beach

Looking for unique stuff to do in Mackay? This beach offers a 180-degree view of the Coral Sea and is a popular spot for watching migrating whales. The state-of-the-art purpose-built whale watching platform provides the perfect vantage point to observe the whales between June and November.

3 Botanic Gardens

A visit to the Botanic Gardens is one of the best things to do in Mackay for free – particularly if you just want somewhere to wander around and explore for the afternoon and enjoy spending time in nature.

The gardens feature over 3km of walking and cycling trails, providing glimpses of diverse flora and fauna. Stroll along the wetland boardwalks, enjoy stunning views of the lush gardens and spot various birds and wildlife that call the gardens their home. It’s also great if you are looking for things to do with kids in Mackay so they can burn off some energy.

The gardens have a cafe and gallery above the lagoons filled with wildlife for a great view while you enjoy delicious food.

Location: 9 Lagoon Street, West Mackay

Opening Hours: Gardens and pathways lit from 5 am to 9 pm | Cafe open Wednesday to Friday, 9 am to 2 pm and weekends from 8 am to 3 pm

Cost: Free

4 Ride or walk the Bluewater Trail

Image

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland & Brooke Miles

The Bluewater Trail is a 20km shared path that encircles the town, offering a scenic and active way to explore the Mackay area. The trail comprises a network of walking and cycling paths that connect various popular attractions, including the Botanic Gardens, various beaches and the Bluewater Lagoon. 

Take a leisurely stroll or bike ride along the picturesque Pioneer River, which runs through Mackay, while enjoying stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

You will cross some beautiful wetlands on the Catherine Freeman section (there’s also a fishing pier) and the Sandfly Creek Environmental walk and a conservation area is a popular option amongst birdwatchers.

Whether you’re looking to explore Mackay’s many attractions or enjoy some outdoor recreation and wildlife, the Bluewater Trail is one of the top 10 things to do in Mackay.

Location: Over 20km of walking and cycling paths winding along beside the Pioneer River

Opening Hours: Always open

Cost: Free

5 Fifth Lane Street Art

Image

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

Another one of the cool Mackay things to see is the Fifth Lane Street Art. The lane has been transformed into a vibrant and colourful space showcasing Mackay’s diverse and talented art community.

This outdoor gallery is in the heart of the city and is home to a stunning collection of murals and graffiti art created by local and international artists. The lane’s walls are covered in bold, bright, and intricate artworks that tell stories and convey messages. 

In addition to the stunning street art, Fifth Lane is also a popular spot for events and community gatherings. The lane hosts regular exhibitions, festivals, and markets, making it a hub for creativity and entertainment. 

Location: Fifth Lane, Mackay

Opening Hours: Always open

Cost: Free

6 Queens Park Orchid House

The Orchid House, situated within Queens Park, boasts a spectacular display of tropical orchids, bromeliads, and ferns. Visitors can enjoy the vibrant colours and delicate fragrances of over 2,000 orchids worldwide. In addition, the collection includes rare and exotic orchids, some endemic to the region.

The Orchid House also provides a wealth of information about these beautiful flowers, including their history, cultural significance, and unique features. In addition, the knowledgeable staff are always available to answer any questions and provide insights into the plants and their care.

The setting of the Orchid House is also worth noting, as beautifully landscaped gardens and mature trees surround it. It provides a peaceful and serene environment for visitors to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. 

Location: Goldsmith Street, Mackay

Opening Hours: Weekdays from 10 am to 11 am and 2 pm to 3 pm | Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm

Cost: Free

7 See kangaroos at Cape Hillsborough

Image

If you’re looking for an unforgettable wildlife experience, seeing kangaroos at Cape Hillsborough is one of the best things to do near Mackay. In the heart of the Cape Hillsborough National Park, you can experience these iconic Aussie animals hopping along the beach at sunrise.

It’s common to see kangaroos posing for pictures or approaching people. The stunning beach and rock formations make for a picturesque backdrop. If you plan to visit Cape Hillsborough, bring your camera and arrive early to catch the kangaroos in action.

If you want to see them early in the morning, staying at the Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park is a great idea as it’s just a 2 minute walk.

Location: On the beach in front of the Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park

Opening Hours: Best viewed around 30 minutes before sunrise

Cost: Free

8 Go fishing

Image

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

Fishing is a popular activity in Mackay, with a variety of options for anglers to choose from. 

The Pioneer River, located in the heart of Mackay, is a popular spot for freshwater fishing, and you might be lucky enough to pull in a Barramundi or Mangrove jack. Anglers can also try their luck in the nearby Kinchant Dam. 

For those looking for an ocean fishing experience, the waters around Mackay are home to many fish, including coral trout, red emperor, and Spanish mackerel.

If you are not a super confident fisherman, there are plenty of experienced operators offering fishing charters and day tours out to the Great Barrier Reef or to explore the nearby islands. 

With so many fishing options available in Mackay, there’s something for every angler; whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, this could be one of your top ten things to do in Mackay.

9 Take a walk on one of the many tracks and trails

Image

As far as things to do and see in Mackay go, it’s hard to beat walking and exploring one of the great tracks and trails in the area. The Bluewater Trail was mentioned above, but many more tracks exist to explore. 

For those who need something a little shorter or want to experience some wildlife, the 1.1km Kommo Toera Trail allows you to birdwatch while exploring a wetland conservation area. Alternatively, the Slade Point track starts from the Pacific Esplanade and includes beautiful, quiet beaches.

If you have plans to visit Cape Hillsborough to see the kangaroos, there are also some great walking tracks here that are well worth checking out. The most popular is the Andrews Point track, which will take you through some beautiful rainforest and along the headlands for picturesque ocean views. 

In addition, the Beachcomber Cove track and Yuibera trail offer some shorter options.

10 Explore Wedge Island

Image

At low tide (2 hours on either side), the causeway to the island becomes accessible, and you can walk across. If you can’t wait for low tide, it’s an easy kayak across at any time.

Once on the island, you’ll find a lovely small beach with some good snorkelling (just be aware that stinger suits will be required during stinger season) or take the track through a cave up to the top of the island to take in some breathtaking views of the coastline and surrounds.

Location: Cape Hillsborough National Park

Opening Hours: Accessible two hours either side of low tide

Cost: Free

11 Sarina Sugar Shed

Image

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

When looking for Mackay things to see and do, a visit to the Sarina Sugar Shed is a must-do activity. The interactive and educational tour offers a unique sneak peek behind the scenes of a working sugar mill, providing an insight into the sugar cane industry. 

The tour begins outside, where you’ll learn about how sugar cane grows and see the various machines used to harvest it, including those used over time. Then, inside the onsite miniature sugar mill, you’ll witness each step of extracting sugar from sugar cane and even try some freshly squeezed sugar cane (spoiler alert: it’s not for everyone!). 

The tour lasts just over an hour and is an excellent opportunity to learn about the process of sugar making. At the end of the tour, you can indulge in tasting a range of yummy products made on site, including ginger beer, sauces, fairy floss, and even spirits and liqueurs.

Location: Field of Dreams Parkland, Bruce Highway, Sarina

Opening Hours: Daily from 9 am to 4 pm | Guided Tours 9.30 am, 11 am, 12.30 pm, 2 pm | Tasting Sessions 10.45 am and 1.45 pm | Rum Distillery Tour runs at 12 pm 

Cost: Sugar Shed Tour: $ 27.20 Adults | $13.60 Kids (5 – 17) | $75 Family (2A+2C) | 4 and under free | Tasting Session: $15.40 Adults | $6 Kids (5 – 17) | 4 and under free | Rum Distillery Tour: $18 Adults (over 18s only) | Cocktail Masterclass: $55 Adults | $10 Adults (no alcohol) | Complimentary driver free

Click here to book tickets online.

12 Artspace Mackay

Artspace is a contemporary art gallery and studio complex in the heart of Mackay. The venue offers diverse exhibitions, workshops, artist talks and cultural events throughout the year, showcasing the work of local, national and international artists.

The gallery space is modern and spacious, with large windows allowing natural light to flood in and illuminate the artworks on display. The exhibitions on show range from traditional paintings and sculptures to multimedia installations and performance art.

Artspace is a vital cultural hub for the Mackay community, providing opportunities for artists to showcase their work, engage with the public and collaborate with other artists. It is one of the great Mackay things to do and see for anyone interested in contemporary art and culture.

Location: 61 Gordon Street, Mackay

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed Mondays)

Cost: Free

13 Art Deco Walk

Image

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland & Brooke Miles

The Art Deco Walk is a self-guided tour around Mackay, showcasing the city’s rich Art Deco heritage. The walk takes visitors through the city’s streets and offers a glimpse into its Art Deco past, with stunning examples of architecture from the 1920s and 1930s. 

The Art Deco Walk is a great way to explore the city and take in some of its most iconic buildings, such as the Commonwealth Bank, the Mackay Court House, and the Pioneer Shire Council Building. 

The walk is easy to follow and takes approximately 90 minutes to complete. Visitors can pick up a map from the Mackay Visitor Information Centre or download it from the council website.

Location: Around Mackay

Opening Hours: Always open

Cost: Free

14 Mackay Museum

The Mackay Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of the region. Housed in a charming old building, the museum showcases a range of exhibits highlighting Mackay’s development and surrounding areas. 

The museum’s collection includes a range of artifacts, photographs, and documents that illustrate the region’s cultural, industrial, and natural history.

One of the most popular exhibits at the Mackay Museum is the sugar industry display, which offers insight into the important role that sugar has played in the region’s development. 

Visitors can also explore exhibits dedicated to the local Aboriginal culture, the region’s early pioneers, and the impact of World War II on the area.

Location: 4 Casey Avenue, South Mackay

Opening Hours: General opening hours: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm. Closed late November until late March. 

Cost: $3 Adults | $2 Kids

13 The Leichhardt Tree

Image

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland & Brooke Miles

The Leichhardt Tree is a historic tree on River Street. It is believed to be over 150 years old and was named after the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, who camped under the tree during his 1844 expedition through the area. The tree has been declared a heritage site by the Mackay Regional Council.

Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the riverbank and view the tree up close. In addition, several informative signs are posted near the tree that provide historical information about Ludwig Leichhardt and his journey through the area.

Location: River Street, Mackay

Opening Hours: Always open | Guided tours available from the Mackay Visitor Centre

Cost: Free

14 Greenmount Homestead 

Greenmount Homestead is a historic property located in Walkerston. Built in 1915, the homestead was originally owned by Albert Cook, a prominent sugar planter in the region. Today, the homestead is a museum that showcases the history and lifestyle of the Cook family and the wider Mackay region.

The homestead is on a large property with well-manicured gardens and walking trails. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the property and explore the many rooms of the homestead. The homestead also features a collection of antique furniture, household items, and farming equipment that provide a glimpse into the past.

Greenmount Homestead hosts various events and activities throughout the year, including live music performances, art exhibitions, and educational programs. 

Guided tours are available upon request, and it’s a great way to experience the rich history and culture of the Mackay region.

Location: Greenmount Road, Walkerston

Opening Hours: General opening hours: Monday to Wednesday from 9 am to 1 pm | Last Sunday of the month from 9 am to  1 pm | Tours begin at 9 am, 10 am, 11 am and 12 noon. Closed late November until late March. 

Cost: $7 Adults | $3 Kids (5 – 18) Under 5s free

MACKAY DAY TRIPS

While there are so many places to see in Mackay – if you’re keen- a few destinations nearby make great day trips.  

Eugenella National Park

Image

Places to visit near Mackay don’t come much better than Eungella National Park, a natural wonderland just an hour or so drive inland from Mackay. The park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna and a range of great outdoor activities.

One of the most popular things to do in Eungella National Park is to try and spot a platypus in the Broken River. The park is one of the few places to see these elusive creatures in their natural habitat. Visitors can take a guided tour with a knowledgeable ranger to increase their chances of spotting a platypus. 

Hiking is another popular activity in Eungella National Park, with a range of trails suitable for all fitness levels. The Sky Window trail is a particularly stunning walk, taking visitors to an elevated lookout with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The Broken River trail is also popular, offering the opportunity to spot wildlife along the way.

There are also plenty of swimming holes to cool off, including Cameron’s Pocket.  But if you don’t mind a bit of a hike – then it is highly recommended to trek to Araluen Cascades and Wheel of Fire Cascades.  These waterfalls and swimming holes are at Finch Hatton Gorge, and the walk is totally worth the effort!

Explore the Great Barrier Reef

Image

Mackay is a fantastic base for exploring the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most iconic natural wonders. The reef is easily accessible from Mackay, with several tour operators offering day trips and multi-day tours to various parts of the reef.

One of the most popular ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef from Mackay is by taking a snorkelling or diving tour. These tours take visitors to some of the best spots on the reef, where they can explore the vibrant coral gardens and swim alongside various colourful fish, turtles, and other marine creatures. Glass-bottom boat tours are also available for those who prefer to stay dry, allowing visitors to see the reef’s incredible marine life from above.

Generally, these tours visit islands of the Great Barrier Reef, such as Cockermouth, Brampton, Keswick, St. Bees, and Scawfell, all accessible from Mackay.  The islands offer beautiful secluded beaches, crystal-clear waters, and excellent snorkelling and diving opportunities.

Tour operators like Red Cat Adventures offer regular Great Barrier Reef tours from Mackay – click here for more information.

BEST HOTELS IN MACKAY

Looking for somewhere to stay in Mackay?  We recommend booking through Booking.com as they offer a wide range of room types, most with free cancellation, which is ideal for last-minute changes.

However, if you want our recommendation for a hotel, we’ve listed our top pick for a luxury hotel, family hotel, mid range and budget hotel below.

Best Luxury Hotel: Mantra Mackay

The Mantra Mackay hotel is an excellent luxury accommodation option in the heart of Mackay. This stylish and contemporary hotel is just a few minutes drive from the city’s central business district in a lovely quiet area.

The hotel has spacious and modern rooms and suites, each with air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, work desks, and private bathrooms. Additionally, guests can enjoy various facilities such as an outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre, onsite restaurant, free wifi throughout the hotel and free on-site parking.

One of the hotel’s biggest positives is its great location in the quieter northern area of Mackay, with easy access to Harbour Beach and the Mackay Surf Club (less than 1 km away). 

Despite the quieter location, there are some great tourist attractions within a short drive, such as the Bluewater Lagoon, Artspace Mackay, and Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens.

Overall, the Mantra Mackay hotel offers comfortable and stylish accommodation with amenities catering to families, couples and solo travellers. Its prime location, modern facilities, and exceptional dining options make it a great choice for anyone visiting Mackay.

Click here for more information or to book.

Best Family Hotel: Discovery Parks – Mackay

Discovery Parks, Mackay is a premier holiday park in the heart of Mackay. This superb accommodation offers guests a range of options, including cabins, villas, and campsites, making it ideal for families and couples and solo travellers alike.

The park’s cabins and villas are fully self-contained and feature all the modern amenities guests need for a comfortable stay. They have air conditioning, fully-equipped kitchens, private bathrooms, and flat-screen TVs. The park also has a range of camping and caravan sites available, including powered and unpowered sites.

Discovery Parks Mackay also boasts a range of facilities, including a swimming pool, playground, barbecue, laundry, and a camp kitchen. Guests can also make use of the park’s free wifi.

The park’s location is another standout feature, with easy access to some of Mackay’s top attractions, including the Bluewater Lagoon (5.3 km away), Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens (9.1 km), and Harbour Beach is just 2.4 km away.

Overall, Discovery Parks Mackay is an excellent choice for those looking for a comfortable and affordable stay in Mackay. With a range of accommodation options, modern facilities, and a prime location, it’s the perfect place to base yourself when exploring the region.

Click here for more information or to book.

Best Mid Range Hotel: Ocean View Resort Apartment

Ocean View Resort Apartments is a great accommodation option in the coastal suburb of Dolphin Heads just north of the centre of Mackay. This resort offers luxurious apartment style living with stunning ocean views, perfect for guests looking for a peaceful and relaxing holiday.

The apartments at Ocean View Resort are fully equipped with modern facilities, ensuring guests have a comfortable stay. Each apartment is air-conditioned and has a fully equipped kitchen, laundry facilities, a flat-screen TV, and a private balcony with ocean views. In addition, the resort offers a range of apartment sizes to suit guests’ needs, from one to three bedrooms.

Guests at Ocean View Resort can enjoy a range of on-site facilities, including an outdoor swimming pool, barbecue area, and a fitness centre. The resort also offers free parking for guests and free wifi in public areas.

The location of Ocean View Resort is another major selling point. The resort is just a short walk from Dolphin Heads Beach, and Eimeo Beach is just 2.5 km away. In addition, the Mackay Marina Village, Bluewater Lagoon, and the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens are within easy driving distance, making it a perfect base for exploring the local area.

Overall, Ocean View Resort Apartments is a great choice for guests who want a luxurious and relaxing beachside holiday. With modern facilities, stunning ocean views, and a prime location, it’s the perfect place to stay when exploring the Mackay area.

Click here for more information or to book.

Best Budget Hotel: Mid City Motor Inn

Mid City Motor Inn is a comfortable and convenient accommodation option in the heart of Mackay. This motel offers affordable accommodation ideal for anyone on a tight budget.

Mid City Motor Inn rooms are air-conditioned and feature modern amenities, including a flat-screen TV, mini-fridge, microwave, tea/coffee making facilities, and a private bathroom. The motor inn offers a range of room sizes, including standard rooms, deluxe rooms, and family rooms to suit guests’ needs.

Mid City Motor Inn also offers a range of facilities, including an outdoor swimming pool, a barbecue area, and a guest laundry. The motor inn also provides free parking for guests and free wifi in public areas.

The motor inn is situated in the heart of Mackay, making it easy to explore the local area. The Bluewater Lagoon is just 650m away and the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens is 4 km away. The motor inn is also within walking distance of various restaurants and cafes, making it easy for guests to find somewhere to eat.

Overall, Mid City Motor Inn is a great choice for guests who want affordable and convenient accommodation with modern facilities. With a range of room sizes and on-site facilities and a great location in the heart of Mackay, it’s the perfect place to stay on a budget.

Click here for more information or to book.

ENJOY MACKAY!

Hopefully, this guide has given you lots of inspiration on things to do in Mackay.

If you’re planning a trip to Mackay, I highly recommend you check out our Whitsundays and Mackay guide, which provides links to everything you need to know to plan your trip.

I’d also recommend you join our free Queensland Travel Guide Facebook community, where you can ask all your questions and find even more great trip suggestions.

If you’re heading to Mackay, you might also be interested in the following nearby destinations: