Mackay: Sugar-coated city

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01 September 2007
The marina at Mackay. Photography Andrew Gregory.

She was always the bridesmaid, never the bride, but now it’s Mackay’s time to shine.

When Queensland tourism hit its straps, Mackay, halfway along the Sunshine State’s coastline, drew the short straw. How could a city built on sugar cane, cattle and coal compete against the nearby Whitsundays?

While the recent mining boom has the town buzzing, the first faint hum came a few years back with the completion of its multimillion-dollar marina. It’s one of only six superyacht bases in Australia and serious sailors will discover much moolah floating around these jetties.

On land, a restaurant renaissance is in progress. Tourists take tapas at Satchmos at the Reef while enjoying Sunday jazz sessions, pacific oysters rub shoulders with sand crabs at the nearby Lighthouse Seafood Restaurant, and at George’s Thai on the Marina, the cooking classes are so hot they sizzle.

From the top of the lighthouse – open to the public – to the penthouse suite at the swanky Puerto Galera residential waterfront apartments, the marina is the focus of Mackay’s turnaround. At the 4½-star Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina, all 79 rooms offer harbour views, including the 13 spa suites. Downstairs, its Latitude 21 Restaurant & Bar presents an innovative menu (crumbed button mushrooms stuffed with lamb, and saffron-glazed pineapple with coconut cream) with a snazzy drinks list.

If you get tired of its 31 beaches, the city centre’s art deco buildings are redolent of Mackay’s historic past. For something new, the Grand Mercure Mackay has five levels of world-class suites and studios. The contemporary Artspace Mackay pays homage to home-grown heroes like Cathy Freeman and Wendell Sailor. And one of Queensland’s most beautiful islands, Brampton, is only 15 minutes away by light plane.

By the Pioneer River, coral trout practically plunge onto your plate at Pacinos on the Waterfront. The Organic & Natural Store,  only a short drive away at The Leap, has one of Queensland’s largest ranges of organic foods and natural products.

Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens opened in May 2003 on the site of the original lagoons. A garden with the requisite bocce lawn celebrates Mackay’s rich Maltese heritage. About one in four residents is of Maltese descent. All things considered, Mackay is now well and truly on the tourist map. 


Satchmos at the Reef
Mackay Marina Village.
+61 7 4955 6055.

Lighthouse Seafood Restaurant
Mackay Marina Village.
+61 7 4955 5022.

George’s Thai on the Marina
Mackay Marina Village. 
+61 7 4955 5778.

Pacinos on the Waterfront
8 River Street.
+61 7 4957 8131.

Latitude 21 Restaurant & Bar
Clarion Hotel, Mackay Marina. 
+61 7 4955 9400.


Grand Mercure Mackay
9 Gregory Street.

Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina
Mulherin Drive.

See & Do

Artspace Mackay
Civic Centre Precinct, Gordon Street. 
+61 7 4957 1722.

Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens
9 Lagoon Street, West Mackay.
+61 7 4952 7300.

Organic & Natural Store
60 Seaforth Road, The Leap.
+61 7 4954 0820.

Source: Qantas The Australian Way September 2007


Christine Retschlag


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