Why Mackay Is The Ultimate Unexpected Vacay To Lean Into This Winter

By Caitlin Booth
21st May 2022

If the cool change has filled your head with daydreams of a toasty, sun-filled, coastal escape, then rest easy because we have the perfect antidote to your autumn blues.  Nestled between the pristine coastline and sub-tropical national parks, the stunning city of Mackay on Queensland's east coast is the perfect spot for your next Winter vacay. 

This gateway in the tropics offers a smorgasbord of stunning views, epic winter events and delicious eats that are only made the better by the quintessential Queensland winter warmth. We’ve pulled together a guide to stimulate your senses, tantalise your taste buds and maximise your relaxation on your next winter escape. 

Where To Eat and Drink 

Sarina Sugar Shed

If there’s one thing that’s distinctive about the journey into Mackay, it’s the abundance of sugar cane. If you’ve ever wondered what exactly happens to all the cane and how it’s turned into delicious treats, head to Sarina Sugar Shed for a tasty education. Take a tour of the unique, on-site, miniature working sugar mill and distillery during the crushing season from late June to December, and try homemade sauces, liqueurs, schnapps and ginger beer. If you’re after something with more of a savoury pallet, the attached Just Sweet Cafe offers a range of light lunch options and cheese and tasting boards to satisfy all palettes.

The Flackyard

Championing locally produced ingredients and Indigenous-owned and led suppliers, The Flackyard offers an exquisite range of degustation menus that will connect you with the best Mackay has to offer. Low transport product options, a kitchen garden and even an onsight worm farm are all clues to how this dining experience will fill your belly with delicious Australian fare, as well as your sustainably-minded soul. Natural, organic and award-winning wines are paired with the likes of Red Claw crayfish, burnt butter and sea grapes. Australian native cherry pie is the, well, cherry on top of a truly satisfying dining experience.

Austral Hotel and Steakhouse

If it’s a quintessential Queensland pub experience you’re after then you can’t go past this local in Mackay’s city centre. From first impressions, the wraparound balcony sets the tone for a night of ice-cold beers and tender steaks. For those looking for something a little more reef than beef, this inviting pub offers a range of culinary options including fresh oysters, and crispy skin salmon. A flexible menu guarantees all dietaries are catered for with options like the Char-Sui Pork Belly Baos turned vegan with a perfectly fried, tofu substitute. 

The Old Station Teahouse

Fresh local produce is the backbone of this idyllic teahouse on the cusp of the popular Cape Hillsborough National Park. The menu features all your favourite high-tea sweet and savoury players, including classic scones with jam and cream and perfectly crafted sandwiches. Nestled in lush surroundings, relaxation is sure to set in from the first sip of complimentary punch served on arrival. 

The Dispensary 

Whether you’re after an early breakfast before heading out for a day of activities, refuelling after a day at the beach or settling in for a long, relaxing lunch, The Dispensary will have you well taken care of. Boasting the region's largest wine and whisky collection, and with more locally sourced beers than you can poke a stick at, no matter what the occasion, there’s a beverage here to suit it. 

Zarby's Cafe

For anyone venturing out to Cape Hillsborough or Seaforth, make sure to stop in at this family-run, retro-inspired cafe for a classic diner feed. The open plan cafe features red vinyl furniture and a jukebox. Let old-school tunes set the tone while you enjoy a juicy burger and fries or all-day breakfast. 

What To Do In Mackay This Winter

Mackay Marina Run | June 5

Whether you’re a social runner, serious runner, or legit marathon champion, this annual event has something for everyone. The course runs through the beautiful features of the coastal cityscape, finishing up in Marina Village–the perfect location to seek out a well deserved post-run meal. 

Mackay Beach Horse Races | June 10- 12

Put on your best fit and head down to Mackay Harbour for a weekend of music, fashion, food and drinks. A European-style beach club will play host to prominent Aussie DJs and market stalls, food trucks and after-parties that will make this one of the best beach-side events of the year. 

St Lawrence Wetlands Weekend | June 24 - 26

This weekend event will immerse you in all things that get your green thumb tingling. Head to a gardening session with green guru, Costa, and see him face off with chef Matt Golinksi in live cooking demonstrations. Held off the beaten track in the small community of St Lawrence, the festival offers art workshops, bird watching, wetlands tours, environmental presentations, pop-up shops, and live entertainment. 

Mackay Festival of Arts | June 30 - July 30

This month-long festival is all about creativity and culture. With a program featuring new theatre, dance, comedy, visual art and cabaret, and a jam-packed fringe event program, there’s something to tickle everyone’s fancy. The G&S Engineering Wine and Food Day is definitely one not to miss.

Grasstree Motorcycle Beach Races | July 10

Calling all rev heads, this one is for you. This event is the only competitive beach motorcycle race in Australia and promises to be an electrifying day. With a rich history stretching back to 1927, the event caters for thrill-seekers, beachgoers and anyone looking for a day out with a difference. Market stalls, live entertainment and jumping castles accompany the petrol and pedal-powered races. 

NQ Rock'n Country | August 19 - 21

We love any excuse to crack out the cowboy boots and this massive, three-day festival showcasing the best of Australia’s national and local country rock artists is the perfect opportunity. Headliners include Gina Jeffreys, Casey Barnes and Lee Kernaghan and on-site camping means you can lose yourself to the music for the full three-day experience. 

Rumble on the Reef | September 19 - 24

Kickflip your way down to this sports-focused festival to check out some world-class skateboarding and wakeboarding. With live music and the opportunity to watch and learn from the best, we recommend dressing for an active day at this event that will take you for a ride. 

Where To Stay

Comfort Resort Blue Pacific

If a tropical holiday looks like lazing by the beach and sea views as soon as you open your eyes, then put this lush resort at the top of your list. Featuring a vista that looks out to the southern edge of the Whitsundays and the stunning Blacks Beach just a few metres walk from your room, Comfort Resort Blue Pacific has all your tropical dreams sorted.

Coral Cay Mackay

For anyone travelling with a four-legged friend who still wants a tropical resort experience, this one’s for you. With a range of pet-friend rooms on request,  Coral Cay Mackay will provide a relaxing haven to recharged after a full day of activities. Relax by the pool or head to the in-house Bar & Restaurant to enjoy the Queensland climate with alfresco dining and dishes highlighting fresh seafood and local produce. 

Oh Deere Farm Stay

If travelling with a caravan or catching a kip in your tent is more your speed, be sure to check out this beautiful farm stay. Situated on a working cane farm, all types of vehicles, tents, camper trailers, caravans, mobile homes, buses or swags are welcome to sleep under the stars and enjoy a nightly beverage and yarn with the locals. Amenities at the main homestead make for a comfortable stay and barbeques are available to cook up a seafood feast. 

Lanai Riverside Apartments

Crisp modern amenities and a CBD location make these lush and comfortable apartments our top pick for your city centre stay. Lanai Riverside Apartments offer resort-style living with complimentary gym access, a sauna and steam room, and an outdoor heated pool–everything you need to feel refreshed after a ticking off you travel to-do list, and walking distance to all of the culinary delights Mackay’s city centre has to offer.

Broken River Mountain Resort

Immerse yourself in the lush offering of the Broken River at this sub-tropical retreat. This eco-resort strives to highlight the importance of the natural surroundings and promotes environmental and cultural conservation and understanding. Located in what is considered the platypus capital of the world, you can start your day by saying hello to your monotreme mates down at the nearby viewing platforms. 

White Lace Motor Inn

Centrally located, this picturesque motor inn is the perfect springboard into everything Mackay has to offer–and its heritage architecture looks great on the ‘gram. Cool down in the pool and indulge at the complimentary continental breakfast before heading out to explore.

Ready to eat, sip and play your way through Mackay's stacked Winter itinerary? We're right there with you. For all the local info you need and to check out even more options for maximum relaxation or epic adventures this Winter, head over here

Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by Tourism and Events Queensland and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland, Mackay Region

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