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For other uses of Mackay please see Mackay (disambiguation)

Mackay City Heart Bank building.jpg
A heritage-listed building in the Mackay City Heart
Mackay is located in Queensland
Population: 81,148 [1] (21st)
Coordinates: 21°08′28″S 149°11′10″E / 21.14111°S 149.18611°E / -21.14111; 149.18611Coordinates: 21°08′28″S 149°11′10″E / 21.14111°S 149.18611°E / -21.14111; 149.18611
Elevation: 11.0 m (36 ft)
Time zone: AEST (UTC+10)
LGA: Mackay Regional Council
State District: Mackay
Federal Division: Dawson
Mean Max Temp Mean Min Temp Annual Rainfall
27.0 °C
81 °F
17.7 °C
64 °F
1,533.4 mm
60.4 in

Mackay is a city on the eastern coast of Queensland, Australia, 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.[citation needed]

There is controversy about the geographic location of the region, with most people referring it as a part of North Queensland, with some, even the Bureau of Meteorology, calling it the far north end of Central Queensland.[citation needed] Equally, there has always been much contention over the pronunciation of the name Mackay. Correspondence received by Mackay City Library in 2007, from descendants of John Mackay, confirms that the correct pronunciation is /məˈkaɪ/ (rhyming with sky), from the Gaelic name "MacAoidh" which is pronounced "i" not "ay".



Town Hall, built in 1912, now serves as a tourist information centre

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. The City of Mackay was later founded on Yuibera traditional lands.

Although several other maritime explorers sailed through the waters off Mackay, it was not until 1860 when moves were made to claim the region’s virgin pastures.

Two young men, John McCrossin and Scottish-born John Mackay, assembled a party of eight, including an Aborigine named Duke, and left Armidale, New South Wales in January 1860. Two men left the party in Rockhampton while the others reached the top of the range overlooking the Mackay district's Pioneer Valley in May. After descending into the valley and exploring almost to the mouth of the river, which they named the Mackay, the members of the party selected land and began the trip back to civilisation. On the return journey, they all suffered from a fever that claimed the life of Duke.

Mackay returned to the area with 1,200 head of cattle in January 1862 and founded Greenmount station. Although the other members of his first expedition had marked runs, none but Mackay took up their claims. However, Mackay remained in possession of Greenmount for less than two years. Ownership transferred to James Starr in September 1864 and, despite Mackay’s protests, he never succeeded in regaining control. Greenmount passed through a number of owners’ hands before being bought by A.A. Cook in 1913. Before leaving the district, John Mackay chartered the vessel Preston, which landed stores from him on the riverbank about a kilometre upstream from the present Hospital Bridge. Mackay made a survey of the river and the chart was sent to Rockhampton. The Port of Mackay was then officially declared a port of entry.

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 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.

Panoramic image from pathway to Rats of Tobruk memorial in Queen's Park, Mackay.


Mackay is situated on the 21st parallel south on the banks of the Pioneer River. The Range lies on the western side of the city, with the Athelstane Range to the west. The city is expanding to accommodate for growth with most of the expansion happening in the Beachside, Southern, Central and Pioneer Valley suburbs.


Mackay Sunrise and Sunset Times

Mackay has a humid subtropical climate (CWa) under the Köppen climate classification.[2]

On 18 February 1958, Mackay was hit with massive flooding caused by heavy rainfall upstream with 878 mm of rain falling at Finch Hatton in 24 hours. The flood peaked at 9.14 metres (29.99 ft).[3] 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. [4]

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. [5]

Climate data for Mackay
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 30.1
Average low °C (°F) 22.8
Precipitation mm (inches) 327.2
Source: [6]


Mackay's growing CBD

As of the 2007-2008 period, Mackay contributed $15.4 billion to the Australian economy, which represents 7.1% of Queensland's GSP.[7] This is largely on the back of its export-oriented industries of sugar and mining.

Mackay is famous for its history as one of Australia's largest cane farming regions. However, in recent years, the mining industry has become the mainstay of the local economy. Heavy investment and planning is also going into Mackay's growing tourism industry.


Mackay is widely recognised as the gateway to the famous Bowen Basin coal mining reserves of Central Queensland. It is the single largest coal reserve in Australia, with 34 operational coal mines extracting over 100 million tonnes annually.[8] This represents some 83 per cent of the State of Queensland’s coal production, among its most important export commodities. While much of this is used in Australia, Japan and China are the largest export recipients. Although coal was reported to be discovered late in the 19th century, it was not until 1971 that the first coal from Goonyella was produced on a commercial scale.

Over the last 10 years, Mackay has become the location of choice for many mining service companies which supply and consult to the mine operators. This is due to its strategic proximity to the mines, major highways and train lines, and the Hay Point coal terminals. Paget, to the city's south, has become the suburb most of these companies choose to locate to. Global companies which have set up major facilities in the area include Caterpillar Inc., MMD Sizers and Le Tourneau Technologies.

Despite its benefits, it is widely recognised that Mackay has come to depend too heavily on the mining industry for local economic growth. However, the Mackay Regional Council (in conjunction with the Queensland Government and other key stakeholders) have made efforts to diversify the economic base of the region, particularly into emerging sectors including eco-tourism, bioenergy and the marine industry.


The bulk sugar terminal

Mackay is widely noted as the ‘Sugar Capital’ of Australia, producing a sizeable portion of Australia’s domestic supplies and exports.

The industry in Mackay has its roots back in the 19th century. Historically, plantations were small and had their own mills to crush the cane during harvest. Over the years as the industry grew and developed, Co-operatives formed which consolidated the harvesting, crushing and distribution of the sugar in selected zones. Throughout the 20th century, the privately owned mills in the Mackay district closed one by one until only four remained - Marian, Racecourse, Farleigh and Pleystowe. Today, Pleystowe is the oldest surviving mill in the district.[9]

Mackay Sugar now owns and operates three of these remaining mills, including Racecourse Mill which became site of the region’s first Sugar Refinery (which is owned by CSR Sugar) in the 1990s. Growers in the region have a total cane production area of approximately 86,000 hectares. The growers are capable (in good seasons) of supplying up to 6.5 million tonnes of cane to the factories for processing. On average, Mackay Sugar produces about 850,000 tonnes of raw sugar and 180,000 tonnes of the by-product molasses annually.[citation needed] Mackay is also home to one of the largest bulk-sugar loading terminals in the world at Mackay Harbour.

The sugar industry in Mackay has faced steep challenges over the last 10 years as it is largely dependent on high world sugar prices to remain viable. However, efforts are going into diversifying the use of sugar cane for different purposes. This includes a planned energy cogeneration plant that could deliver up to 30 per cent of Mackay’s annual electricity supply.[10] Use of sugar can in ethanol-based fuel for vehicles also has strong potential.


Compared to many of its neighboring cities and regions in Queensland, Mackay’s tourism industry is small and still developing. This is despite being close to notable attractions including the Eungella National Park, the Great Barrier Reef, Eimeo Pacific Hotel and the Whitsunday Islands.

Latest figures indicate approx. 750,000 domestic and international visitors visit the region annually. More telling, however, is that domestic and international visitor night stays have increased to 3.2 million annually, an increase of nearly 1 million visitor nights since 2000.[11]

Several new hotels have opened in the region since 2000, further indication of a growing industry. This includes the Mackay Grand Mercure, The Clarion International and Quest Serviced Apartments. Currently underway is the Eastpoint development, a $250 million eco-tourism precinct on the northern bank at the mouth of the Pioneer River, which is expected to draw large numbers of tourists.

A number of other notable facilities have opened in the region over the last decade, providing a wider offering for the tourist market. (Mackay’s tourism offering is discussed further below in the section Local attractions.)


Mackay Marina

Like tourism, the marine industry in Mackay is small but has a lot of potential. Mackay is well situated to become a major service centre for the marine industry, being in immediate proximity to the Whitsundays, and located halfway between Brisbane and Cairns. Currently the Mackay Marina is the largest base in the district for the maintenance, refit and related services for all marine craft, particularly Super Yachts. The Mackay Whitsunday Super Yacht Cluster, a group of regional companies focusing on providing integrated repair, refit and provisioning for the increasing number of visiting super yachts, was established in 2001 to support and promote the development of this sector.


Mackay has three main shopping centres. Caneland Central is the largest of these, with over 130 specialties stores. Owned by Lend Lease, the centre is undergoing a $220 million redevelopment which will increase its footprint to over 66,000 sq metres. Myer is expected to be among the new anchor tenants, along with a host of other major stores. This expansion is expected to be completed sometime in 2011.[12]

Mount Pleasant-Greenfields is the second major shopping centre in the Mackay region. It hosts a number of department stores, supermarkets and other speciality outlets. Outside the main centre, a number of bulky-good outlets also operate, along with a 5-screen cinema complex.

The Mackay City Heart, located in the older city-centre, is also another thriving part of the city. It is the location of choice for many of the region's banks, law, accounting and other professional service firms.

Local attractions

Mackay caters for a growing number of domestic and international visitors. There are two Visitor Information Centres located in Mackay, where bookings and further enquiries about the whole Mackay Region can be made.

The Bluewater Trail

The Bluewater Trail project, managed by the Mackay Regional Council, will complete more than 20 kilometres of dedicated pedestrian paths and bikeways. Nearing completion, the Bluewater Trail will link a number of new attractions and tourism infrastructure pieces around the city including the Bluewater Lagoon, the Bluewater Quay and the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens.[13] It also incorporates the Sandfly Creek walkway through East Mackay, and the Catherine Free Walk which connects West Mackay to the city under the Ron Camm Bridge.

Located at the southern gates to Mackay, the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens represents the beginning of the Bluewater Trail and are situated on Lagoon st, West Mackay. The Gardens opened and replaced Queen's Park as Mackay's Regional Botanic Garden in 2003 [14] 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 centered along the shores of an oxbow lake (also known as a billabong) which many 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 picturesque Pioneer River in the heart of Mackay’s 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 summer-time attraction for locals and visitors alike.

Views from the Bluewater Trail over the Pioneer River to Mt. Pleasant

Further east along the trail is the Bluewater Quay. As part of the State of Queensland’s 150th anniversary celebrations, $12 million has been invested [15] into the transformation of River St, to the immediate east of the Forgan Bridge, to comprise 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 Leichardt Tree (which falls under the Nauclea evergreen variety), a common meeting point for new migrants to Mackay that arrived at the old Port district along River st.

Festival of Arts

The Mackay region is home to the Mackay Festival of Arts held annually throughout July. Now over 20 years old, it is the largest regional arts festivals in Queensland and among the most well-established in Australia.[16] The festival features an array of wine & cheese tasting sessions, live jazz & other music, stand-up routines, art exhibitions, dance and other performances.

The City Heart

Mackay’s City Heart district is noted for its art-deco inspired architecture, with many buildings throughout the main streets of the CBD featuring distinctive designs from the early 20th century. The precinct underwent a major upgrade in the 1990’s through a unique community arts project. The overall theme depicts the environmental beauty of the Mackay Region and consists of bronzed plaques, sculptures and terrazzo/ mosaic tiles.[17] Of particular interest is a sculptured free-form seat in the shape of a "bommie" and covered in a myriad of colours depicting the Great Barrier Reef through to the rainforests of Eungella National Park. Many boutique stores, restaurants, bars and nightclubs are established throughout the precinct.

Mackay Marina Village

Mackay Marina Village is a coastal precinct located adjacent to the Mackay Harbour. The Marina is a favorite haunt for locals who often make a day of swimming at the nearby Harbour Beach, meeting at the Mackay Yacht Club or one of the many outdoor eateries, and using the free bbq facilities at the historic Mulherin Park. The Marina itself features nearly 500 berths,[18] along with one of the most advanced boat maintenance and repair facilities along the coast of Queensland. It is also home to a sizeable residential village of luxury apartments, in addition to the Clarion Mackay Marina luxury hotel.

Gateway to the Pioneer Valley

View from the Eungella 'Sky Window' looking east down the Pioneer Valley

The scenic Pioneer Valley spreads out to the west of Mackay, with the Pioneer River meandering through it 120km to the mouth at the port of Mackay. The clear majority of sugar cane grown in the Mackay region comes from the Pioneer Valley, and it is synonymous with the rich soils and irrigation with which the sugar industry in Mackay has thrived over the last century.

Driving east along Eungella Rd from Mackay, the lush canefields are dotted with many small historic townships established along the banks of the Pioneer River including Pleystowe, Marian, Mirani, Pinnacle, Gargett, Finch Hatton and finally Eungella at the very top of the range. Other townships away from the river include Eton and Farleigh, where tours of working sugar mills and cane farms are available nearby. Many of these townships feature history centres and true Queensland country-style pubs.

Perhaps most notable are the natural assets of the Pioneer Valley. This includes the walking tracks and swimming holes of the famous Finch Hatton Gorge. The Eungella National Park, located at the very top of the mountain range, is the longest and oldest stretch of subtropical rainforest in Australia, covering over 51,700 hectares. It is one of the few places that Platypus can be seen swimming in the wild, while over 225 species of bird have been recorded in the surrounding forests.[19]

Islands and beaches

Mackay is surrounded by sandy coastlines, a total of 31 beaches within comfortable driving distance. Situated close to the city are Illawong, Far, and Town beaches. Harbour Beach, the most popular, is a patrolled beach suitable for swimming, adjacent to the Mackay Marina. 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 many visitors, but are also the location of the many emerging sub-divisions for Mackay’s growing population.

The islands immediately off the coast of Mackay are renowned for their azure blue waters, and are popular with fishermen. St. Bees Island in particular is well noted as a fishing hotspot. Brampton Island, to the north east of the city, is famous as a resort destination, with body therapy facilities, water sport activities and snorkelling on offer.[20] Flights to Brampton are available from Mackay Airport, along with boat services from the Mackay Marina. Carlisle, Scawfell, Keswick and St Bees Islands are other notable islands, each are national parks and surrounded by magnificent coral reefs. During the peak season from June to end August, whales can be heard and seen underwater around these islands.


Mackay is connection point of two major National Highway routes, the A1 (Bruce Highway), and highway 70 (Peak Downs Highway). The A1 connects Mackay to Townsville and Cairns in the north, and Rockhampton and Brisbane in the south. The Peak Downs Highway connects Mackay to Moranbah, Clermont and Emerald in the south-west.

Numerous major road projects are under construction within the Mackay Region, these include the Forgan Smith Bridge duplication, the Hospital Bridge replacement, the Joint Levee Road and the Mackay-Bucasia Road duplication.

Mackay Station

The North Coast railway line, operated by Queensland Rail, meets the Western line in the city's south. Rail services from Brisbane pass through Mackay and continue through to Townsville and further to Cairns, including the regular Tilt Train service between Brisbane and Cairns. The minerals from the western line (Moranbah and other coal mining centres) are transported to Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminals for trans-shipment to other destinations. The Port of Mackay (the Harbour) deals mainly with the exportation of sugar and the accommodation of international passenger liners.

The City is served by Mackay Airport, in which Qantas, Virgin Blue, Jetstar Airways and Tiger Airways offer flights to Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, as well as to regional destinations such as Geelong, Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Gladstone. Macair previously provided a limited service into and out of Mackay for mining companies, before it ceased operations in 2009.[citation needed]

Mackay Transit Coaches operates from North Mackay in the North, down to South Mackay, in the South. The areas with the best service coverage is Mackay CBD.

Health and Education

The Mackay Base Hospital is situated in West Mackay, and is located around 4 km from Mackay City and is the major hospital for the Central Queensland Region. The Pioneer Valley Hospital and Mater Hospital are located on the city's northside.

Mackay has numerous primary and secondary schools. Separate systems of private and public schools operate in Queensland. There are 11 state primary schools and 3 state high schools operated by the Queensland state government Department of Education within the Mackay City Council area.

The private system encompasses five primary schools, one secondary college, two P-12 colleges, one P-10 college, one 8-10 college and the state's only 11-12 college.

The Mackay Campus of the Central Queensland University is located in the rural suburb Ooralea and the Mackay campus of James Cook University is located in South Mackay. The city is also home to a TAFE college which is located in the south of the inner city.


Mackay Regional Council Building, Gordon Street, Mackay.

Mackay is governed locally by the Mackay Regional Council, a product of the amalgamation of the former City of Mackay, formed in 1869, with surrounding shires. The mayor is Col Meng. Tim Mulherin and James Bidgood (Dawson) are the state and national government representatives.


The Mackay Cutters rugby league team played their first season in 2008 in the Queensland Cup and will act as a feeder team to the North Queensland Cowboys. The Whitsunday Miners Football Club represents the Mackay region in the Queensland State League and act as a feeder club to the North Queensland Fury FC. The Mackay Meteorettes (Women) and Mackay Meteors (Men) represent the region in the Queensland Australian Basketball League and act as feeder clubs to the Townsville Fire (WNBL) and Townsville Crocodiles (NBL) respectively.

Cyclone: Cyclone Ului is expected to hit Mackay early morning on 21st of March 2010 as a catergory 2 cyclone.


  • The Daily Mercury (newspaper)
  • Seven Local News (Monday to Friday local news bulletin)
  • WIN Local News (Monday to Friday local news bulletin)
  • Hot FM
  • Sea FM
  • MY105 FM Hot Country & Legends
  • 4MK AM
  • Zinc FM
  • ABC Tropical North
  • 1026AM Easy Listening
  • 4CRM Community Radio Mackay

Notable people from Mackay

Sister Cities


  1. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Mackay (QLD) (Statistical District)". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  2. ^ Linacre, Edward; Geerts, Bart (1997). Climates and Weather Explained. London: Routledge. p. 379. ISBN 0-415-12519-7. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Climate statistics for Mackay". Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 11 February 2009. 
  7. ^ - Mackay Regional SD profile 2008
  8. ^ Bowen Basin Research Exchange (Central Queensland University)
  9. ^ "A short history of Mackay - Sugar". Mackay Historical Society. 
  10. ^ Stephen Robertson (June 18, 2009). "Bligh sweetens Mackay’s clean energy future with $9 million investment". Queensland Government Cabinet news release. 
  11. ^ Tourism Research Australia, National and International visitor survey year ended June 2008
  12. ^ "Myer Project Hits Hurdle". The Daily Mercury. 17 April 2009. 
  13. ^ Anthony Albanese (08.05.09). "Nearly $3 million for Bluewater Trail at Mackay NEARLY". Comonwealth Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. 
  14. ^ "Botanic Gardens Conservation International". 
  15. ^ Mackay Regional Council – Major Projects description
  16. ^ Mackay Festival of Arts,
  17. ^ About Mackay City - Queensland Australia - The Natural Centre,
  18. ^ Mackay Marina website
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^ Internet Movie Database: Delvene Delaney

External links

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