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Mackay in Queensland has a lot to offer, from pristine beaches to virgin rainforests and a historic city centre. The town sits on the banks of one of Australia’s rare blue rivers, as well as on the shores of the reef-rich Coral Sea, making it a haven for diving, swimming and sailing. There are also trails through the lush forest to mountaintop views and dramatic waterfalls. In the heart of Mackay, colonial 1930s architecture and decorative mosaic art sit alongside a high-end marina.
At many of the Mackay backpackers hostels, you'll have air con and lots of freebies, from linen and towels to city maps and Wi-Fi. There is one Mackay hostel that is a contemporary-style campsite of static caravans with shared kitchens, a laundry room and table tennis. Meet fellow visitors and listen to travel tales at a Mackay hostel with plenty of common spaces, like an outdoor terrace that's all ready for a barbecue.
This historic city has some enticing neighbourhoods. For waterfront views, head to the city's contemporary marina, where you'll find luxurious yachts moored in the harbour and a palm-lined promenade with shops, bars and restaurants. If you fancy a swim or a barbecue on the sand, visit nearby Harbour Beach. A short drive north from Mackay is Slade Point, where you'll have huge views of the sea and out towards the southern islands of the Great Barrier Reef.
In Mackay, you can take a volunteer-led tour of the Art Deco buildings in the city centre, or stroll along the Bluewater Trail by the Pioneer River. A little further out are Eungella National Park and sugarcane-rich Pioneer Valley. You can see some of Australia's kangaroos and wallabies roaming freely among the mangroves and beaches at Cape Hillsborough National Park or spot sleeping bats as you zip-line through the tropical rainforest canopy at Forest Flying. At Finch Hatton Gorge, there are freshwater rock pools to swim in, and the Araluen and Wheel of Fire waterfalls to discover.
MacKay Airport is close to the city centre in the South Mackay district. To get to and from the airport, jump on the regular Translink public bus to the Central Business District. If you're coming from another town on the Queensland coastline, you can catch a Greyhound coach or a train. Mackay Train Station is 5km south of the centre. There are public buses with routes across Mackay and out to its suburbs.