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Tropical Mackay
mackay qldThe city of Mackay offers so much more than sugar cane and beaches; but that's not to say that these aren't enough! Mackay is a popular stop for travellers journeying up the magnificent East Coast of Australia. In fact, many of those travellers fall in love with Mackay so deeply that they choose to stay!

The beautiful beaches of Mackay can be found approximately half way between Brisbane and Cairns, only the centre of Queensland's coastine. This city of Mackay is extremely vast, covering a large stretch of land, as well as many islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

Mackay enjoys some of the best weather in the country with a subtropical climate, meaning that there are sunny days and blue skies almost all year round. However there is the occasional thunderstorm, but cyclones are not as common, so be sure to check the latest weather reports while planning your trip. The hub of Mackay is the city centre and, as a result of a recent community arts project, the central area has been beautifully revamped with 580 pieces of environmental art. Artspace Mackay, which is the local museum and art gallery is a popular hot spot for tourists and locals alike, as it displays some of the region's finest talent. You could also spend a day or more enjoying the 400 plus shopping outlets, located in three major shopping centres in Mackay.

The Regional Botanical Gardens lies just south of the city, and although they are a relatively new development, they are home to many unique species of vegetation common to the tropics and surrounding rainforests.

Support the local industry and visit a sugar mill. During July - November, which is the crushing season, you can join a tour which takes about two hours, and includes taste tests. Experience the way of life for so many Australians and sink your teeth into the local cane!

For a special day out, nothing beats Brampton Island. This spectacular off-shore hideaway is known for its magnificent national park, brilliant coral reefs and dozen white beaches. The peace and solitude of this amazing place will leave you breathless and allow you to relax, sit back and take it easy. Smaller islands are Keswick, St Bees and Skawfell, and they all deserve attention as they are also National Parks, and day trips are allowed.

The beach at Cape Hillsborough National Park is one of the only beaches in the world to feature a rainforest back drop. This mainland icon is perfert for swimming, surfing or just relaxing by the sea and is the perfect way to bond with your kids. There are also 30 other beaches to choose from, which means one for every day of the month. Just watch out for box jellyfish and other stingers, but if you are swimming in patrolled areas you are unlikely to come across them. This aside, the beaches here will amaze you in every possible aspect and leave you wanting more and more. Fishing is a popular past time with the locals, and fishing competitions run throughout the year for locals and tourists alike. Everywhere you turn there seems to be a great spot to cast your line and relax. The estuaries, river systems, beaches and creeks are all brimming with great eating fish so even if you are not a keen fisherman, it's a great place to learn.

The uniqueness of the National Parks here will allure you and invite you to explore them to their fullest depth. Take a 90 minute drive west of Mackay and you will come across Eungella National Park, a stunning example of some of Australia's best wildife. The camping grounds have campervan facilities and are central to the beauty of this region. There are many short walks to choose from and if you think you can handle it, the Mackay Highlands Great Walk is a must to make the most of the breathtaking scenery and getting into the heart of the rainforest.

Finch Hatton Gorge is located an hour from Mackay in the Eungella Range, and promises brilliant scenery. The two main rainforest walks take you to the Wheel of Fire and Araluen Falls where you can take some time to enjoy a sparkling swimming hole and waterfall.

Mackay is a tropical haven, and the perfect city to stop for a while and enjoy the raw beauty of the Australian coastline. For a long or short break, you will find plenty to do in this beautiful part of the world, so much so that you may never want to leave.

Christine Barton

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