Mackay is a city on the eastern coast of Queensland, Australia. It is located about 970 kilometres (603 mi) north of Brisbane, on the Pioneer River . Mackay is nicknamed the sugar capital of Australia because its region produces more than a third of Australia's cane sugar.
There is controversy about the location of the region for administrative purposes, with most people referring to it as a part of either Central Queensland or North Queensland, though much confusion still lies within the Queensland Government, with government services being provided through both Townsville (North Queensland) and Rockhampton (Central Queensland). Generally, the area is known as the Mackay–Whitsunday Region.
Mackay CBD as seen from the rooftop of Mackay Grande Suites
The City of Mackay was founded on Yuibera traditional lands.
One of the first Europeans to travel through the Mackay region was Captain James Cook, who reached the Mackay coast on 1 June 1770 and named several local landmarks, including Cape Palmerston, Slade Point and Cape Hillsborough. It was during this trip that the Endeavour's botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, briefly recorded seeing Aborigines.
In 1918, Mackay was hit by a major Tropical Cyclone causing severe damage and loss of life with hurricane-force winds and a large storm surge. The resulting death toll was further increased by an outbreak of Bubonic plague.
The foundation stone of the Mackay War Memorial was laid on the river bank on 18 November 1928 by the mayor George Albert Milton. It was unveiled on 1 May 1929 by the mayor. Due to flooding, the memorial was relocated to Jubilee Park in 1945. Due to the construction of the Civic Centre, it was relocated to another part of the park in March 1973.
The largest loss of life in an Australian aircraft accident was a B17 aircraft, with 40 of 41 people on board perishing, on 14 June 1943, after departing from Mackay Aerodrome, and crashing in the Bakers Creek area.
On 18 February 1958, Mackay was hit with massive flooding caused by heavy rainfall upstream with 878 mm of rain falling atFinch Hatton in 24 hours. The flood peaked at 9.14 metres (29.99 ft). The water flowed down the valley and flooded Mackay within hours. Residents were rescued off rooftops by boats and taken to emergency accommodation. The flood broke Australian records.
On 15 February 2008, almost exactly 50 years from the last major flood, Mackay was devastated by severe flooding caused by over 600 mm of rain in 6 hours with around 2000 homes affected.
The Rats of Tobruk Memorial commemorates those to died at and since the Battle of Tobruk. The memorial was dedicated on 4 March 2001.
Mackay was battered by Tropical Cyclone Ului, a category three cyclone which crossed the coast at nearby Airlie Beach, around 1:30 am on Sunday 21 March 2010. Over 60000 homes lost power and some phone services also failed during the storm, but no deaths were reported.
Mackay is situated on the 21st parallel south on the banks of the Pioneer River. The Clarke Range lies to the west of the city. The city is expanding to accommodate for growth with most of the expansion happening in the Beachside, Southern, Central and Pioneer Valley suburbs.
Compared to many of its neighbouring cities and regions in Queensland, Mackays tourism industry is small and still developing. This is despite being close to notable attractions including Eungella National Park the Great Barrier Reef, and the Whitsunday Islands.
Latest figures indicate about 685,000 domestic and international visitors come to the region annually. More telling, however, is that domestic and international visitor night stays have increased to 2.7 million annually, an increase of nearly 1 million since 2000.
Several new hotels have opened in the region since 2000, further indication of a growing industry. These include The Clarion International and Quest Serviced Apartments.
The Bluewater Trail project, managed by the Mackay Regional Council, covers more than 20 kilometres (12 mi) of dedicated pedestrian paths and bikeways. Now completed the track links several new attractions and tourism infrastructure pieces around the city including the Bluewater Lagoon, the Bluewater Quay and the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens. It also incorporates the Sandfly Creek walkway through East Mackay, and the Catherine Freeman Walk which connects West Mackay to the city under the Ron Camm Bridge.
Located in the south of Mackay, the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens are the start of the Bluewater Trail. The gardens opened and replaced Queen's Park as Mackays botanic gardens in 2003 containing an array of rare plants native to the Mackay area and Central Queensland. Before 2003, the area was commonly called The Lagoons, and is centred on the shores of a billabong that years ago formed part of the Pioneer River further to the north.
Heading east past the Mackay Base Hospital and along the Catherine Freeman Walk, the Bluewater Lagoon emerges. Comprising three tiered lagoons, the lagoon is a free family-friendly leisure facility overlooking the Pioneer River in the heart of Mackays city centre. A waterfall connects the two main lagoon areas, which vary in depth up to 1.8 metres. Similar to the well-known Streets Beach at the South Bank Parklands in Brisbane, the lagoon is a popular summertime attraction for locals and visitors.
Further east along the trail is Bluewater Quay. As part of Queensland’s 150th anniversary celebrations, $12 million has been invested into the transformation of River Street, to the immediate east of the Forgan Bridge. The street now has various public amenities including access to a new viewing platform, upgraded fishing jetty, stage areas, cafes and space for weekend markets. Being 250 metres long, the quay is built around the historic Leichhardt Tree (which falls under the Nauclea evergreen variety), a common meeting point for new migrants to Mackay who arrived at the old Port district along River Street.
The Mackay region is home to the Mackay Festival of Arts held annually throughout July. Now more than 20 years old, it is the largest regional arts festival in Queensland. The festival features wine and cheese tasting sessions, live jazz and other music, stand-up routines, art exhibitions, dance and other performances.
Mackay has 31 beaches within driving distance. Closest to the city are Illawong, Far and Town beaches. The patrolled Harbour Beach, adjacent to the Mackay Marina, is the most popular, being suitable for swimming. Lambert's Beach is also close to the city. Further north of the city are popular beaches at Bucasia, Dolphin Heads, Blacks Beach, Shoal Point and Eimeo – collectively these areas are known as the Northern Beaches. The Northern Beaches are popular with visitors, but are increasingly being developed as residential areas for Mackays growing population.
The islands immediately off Mackay are renowned for their azure blue waters, and are popular with fishermen. St Bees Island in particular is a well- known fishing spot. Brampton Island, to the north-east of the city, is a resort destination, with body therapy, water sports and snorkelling on offer. Flights to Brampton are available from Mackay Airport, as are boats from the marina. Carlisle, Scawfell and Keswick are other notable islands. Each is a national park surrounded by coral reefs. During the peak season from June to the end of August, whales can be heard and seen around these islands.