It's easy to lose count of all the impossibly good things in and around Mackay, like stepping into a fantasy world. But listen up Alice! Don't just ponder six impossible things before breakfast, make them happen. Here's how...
“Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
— Lewis Carroll [from Alice in Wonderland]
1 Blowing Bubbles with Platypuses: “Curioser and curioser!” Like a modern-day Alice in Wonderland, I too momentarily forget how to speak good English, zipped-up and loaded with scuba gear for an “out of this world opportunity” to blow bubbles with the world's strangest animal… the platypus. Not in some controlled environment, like extreme diving with sharks in an aquarium, but in this little Aussie icon's natural environment. A sleepy freshwater pond surrounded by sugar cane fields. Most curious indeed! Welcome to Mackay's Pioneer Valley; home to a world-first ecotourism venture, Rainforest Scuba.
2 Beach Patrol with Roos: Sandcastle. Noun; a small castle-like structure made of wet sand, as by children at a beach. If you build one at Cape Hillsborough, however, there's every chance it may get jumped on. Not by excited children, but mobs of resident wallabies and kangaroos that bounce along the beach that fronts Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort, 50km north-west of Mackay. They come at dawn. Why? Like most good travellers, not just for the scenery, but the food. In their case, floating mangrove pods washed in on the tide. There are also no flies on this beach; just constant overhead traffic of butterflies. Yes, butterflies! Around 25 different species inhabit Cape Hillsborough National Park.
3 Where Avatar meets Medicine Man: It's the kind of experience normally reserved for big-screen action heroes, not someone like me, with a mild aversion to heights. Move over Stallone and Connery. It's time to harness up for a Forest Flying experience, 25 metres up, promising an eagle-eye view across a pristine rainforest canopy. It's believed to be the only flying fox adventure of its kind in Australia. Why? “Flyers” are in control of speed, thanks to a unique hand braking system. Forest flying or zip lining is not all about speed. You can, of course, whiz along the 350-metre cable like a bat out of hell. However, it's far more rewarding to “hang out” in the canopy with colonies of fruit bats, a visiting sea eagle, and an overwhelming sense of calm.
4 Head in The Clouds: Grab your walking boots and swimmers and head to the hills of Australia's largest continuous stretch of sub-tropical rainforest. Eungella National Park is home to the spectacular Araluen and Wheel of Fire waterfalls and is the unofficial platypus capital of the world. I quickly understand why it earned its Aboriginal name “Eungella”, meaning “Land of Clouds”, as wisps of cloud blow through my rental car's windows on the drive up the range. Travellers, take note: Eungella is not “yoon-jellar”, as my American-sounding GPS navigation system touts, but “young-gulluh”.
5 Foodies, Fear Not: Famous for sugar, Mackay offers a smorgasbord of delights beyond the sweet treats to keep any foodie happy. From high tea dining in a church turned café in the heart of a sugar cane field at Coffee Devine to feasting on moreish pork belly treats and fresh oysters in the heart of the CBD at The Dispensary. Mackay's tasty treats will leave you with a smile bigger than the Cheshire Cat.
6 City escape: Do as Alice did and experience a truly magical place. You don't have to venture further than Mackay's doorstep; a city framed by a neck-craningly beautiful art deco skyline and a creative hub that would keep any White Rabbit enthralled. Dive into Mackay's very own Rabbit Hole or go on a creative journey at Paxton's Creative Space and release your own Queen of Hearts. Looking for something a bit more whacky? Forget flamingo croquet and head to one of only three beach horse races in the world at the Mackay Beach Horse Races.
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Author: Tourism and Events Queensland
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