Location – Mackay Harbour, Mackay, Queensland Australia
SUP – Own Rigid Drift Purple Frangipani 10’6
Cost – Free access to harbour beach
Conditions – Salt water Marina
Other users – Mostly yachts coming into or leaving harbour
Entry Point – Sandy beach next to road
Surrounding amenities/Bathrooms- Reastaurants and bathroom facilities
Getting There – Mackay is 950km north of Brisbane along the Bruce Highway. Mackay has it’s own airport and flights from Brisbane are 1.5 hours however you will get so much more out of the trip if you travel by car – who doesn’t love a Road Trip? You will need to allow approximately 11 hours driving time and more for breaks along the way as there is a lot that is worth stopping for.
Once in Mackay, follow the directions to Mackay Harbour along Harbour Road until you reach the first round about, here you will want to take a right into Ron Searle Drive. Go straight through the second round about into Southern Breakwater Road. There is limited parking on both sides of the road just before you drive onto the breakwater. The marina beach is on the left. The ‘Map’ link below takes you to a restaurant which is the closest I can mark the map to the beach – you’ll be able to see it in satellite view. Ok off to sort out my technological understanding of maps now…
A wee blether
Having a paddle around the Mackay Harbour is a nice relaxed experience. You can check out all the yachts bobbling around in the sunshine, do a bit of jellyfish spotting and then go for a nice meal afterwards. There are many options along the marina as far as food goes and there are also bathroom facilities. I can recommend the Lighthouse Fish and Chips reputed to be the best in the area. Being right on the seafront you can be sure that everything is freshly caught and the views are pretty great too! Wander along the palm fringed path a little and you will discover Georges Thai on the Marina Restaurant another good option. The whole marina complex has a relaxed holiday vibe to it and you will find yourself spending longer than you thought you would chilled out under the palm trees watching the world go by.
A great way to see the Mackay area is by road trip and if you are wanting to stay close to the marina, the camping options are Mackay Marine Tourist Park on the main road back into town. Alternatively the Blacks Beach Holiday Park is a little further to the north and situated right on the beach and so is a little quieter and out of the way. If you are in this part of town it is definitely worth checking out the Eimeo Pub. Also known as the Eimeo Pacific Hotel, it has good food but the view is something else!!
The conditions can be pretty hot especially in the warmer months but the water is nicely protected, flat and calm – just the way I like it! One thing to be aware of in this part of the world is that if you are paddling in coastal waters between October and May you will need to wear a Stinger Suit to protect you from Stingers, these suits are usually made of lycra and if you have a full length rashie this will also do the trick. You also need covering for hands and feet if you expect to spend time in the water instead of on your board. Stingers found in Australian waters are some of the most dangerous in the world, a sting from them can cause serious injury and death so please don’t underestimate them. Fortunately most beaches have information signs to educate those wishing to use the beach.
The Surrounding Area
While you are in the region it is worth taking a trip up the Pioneer Valley. Here you will travel through acres and acres of lush sugar cane farms dotted with the graceful Old Queenslander style houses on their wooden stilts and surrounded by wide shady verandahs. If you want to do some river paddling there is a launch spot up the Pioneer River along the Mackay-Eungella Road just before the Playstowe Connection Road turn off (just past the ancient looking sugar mill). As always check local conditions before entering the water. It is worth noting that while this is crocodile country rocky outcrops can prevent these Salties getting up the river but you should always ensure your safety as conditions can easily change especially after the wet season floods. Stay safe!
Further up the Pioneer Valley is the Eungella National Park which offers walks amongst the lush tropical rainforest offering views back down the valley towards the coast. You can also visit Finch Hatton Gorge where there is the opportunity to swim in spectacular icy waterfalls and spot the shy platypus in the wild. While you are there it’s worth checking out the Ulysses Garden Cafe with it’s funky alternative vibe. Nestled amongst the rainforest in a world of it’s own, this cafe serves up a much appreciated selection of tasty delicacies.
To the south of Mackay is the sleepy town of Sarina home of the Giant Cane Toad. If you are after a coffee and the best Sweet Potato (Kumera Fries) do yorself a huge favour and stop at the Third Ground Cafe tucked out of the way down at No. 28 Central Street. Also worth noting is the little known haven of Sarina Beach tucked away down a blink and you miss it road. If you are passing through in September it is worth checking out the Sarina Beach Coconut Festival which started when we were living there a few short years ago and is growing in popularity each year. More information on paddling on Sarina Beach to come.
If getting up close and personal with wallabies is your thing then an overnight stop in Cape Hillsborough to the north of Mackay is an absolute must. Here you can see the cute marsupials hopping along the beach or you may even be lucky enough to have one come visit your tent!
While you’re here why not check our other posts on great places to paddle in Queensland.