5 of the best scenic drives and hikes around Mackay
You just arrived in Mackay and you’ve got a car, some legs, energy and a good pair of shoes…. now what?
Road trips and hiking, that’s what!
Too busy? Maybe you have dinner plans? Don’t worry these are day hikes. If you’ve ever said, “I want to hike and see some amazing stuff but I don’t want to have to train for three weeks to do it”, then day walks are for you.
The best part is the drives to get there are just as beautiful as the walks.
Get set to cruise to some epic hiking spots with this list.
Driving to Cape Hillsborough National Park
The first part of the drive to Cape Hillsborough National Park is mostly the Bruce Highway. It’s when you turn down Yakapari-Seaforth Rd that things get interesting.
The road weaves through mountains, past fields and over creeks and streams. The lush green colours of the landscape are speckled with old-style Queenslander houses and rusted forgotten farm machinery.
You can’t help but feel calm and collected when driving this road. It takes you right into the heart of what makes rural Queensland special. It’s the space, the freedom and the sense the people that live here have figured something out that us ‘city slickers’ will never understand.
Take a right turn down Cape Hillsborough Rd and the anticipation of meeting the ocean starts to build.
There is a mangrove swamp on the right-hand side of the road that has a short walk if you want to explore what makes the mangroves tick.
Another minute down the road, you’ll arrive at a parking area.
There are kangaroos on the beach, amazing rock formations sitting in the ocean, sea turtles popping up out of the water to say hello and you’re still sitting in the car.
Put on your hiking shoes because it gets sooooo much better…
Hiking Cape Hillsborough
You’ve got some choices to make here.
The Yuibera (Yuwi) Plant Trail or Andrews Point Track. Hint: DO BOTH.
They are both really easy walks and shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours each.
The Yuibera Plant Tail is like taking a two-hour crash course on how to survive in the bush like a boss.
The trail weaves through the jungle and the beachside. There’s even a traditional ‘fish trap’, which is made of rocks, ingenuity and years of experience.
Along the trail there are signs that describe the plants and how you can use them to not die if you’re ever stuck. The Yuibera people use the forest like Batman uses his Bat Cave. It will open your eyes to how little you know about anything.
Andrews Point Track is more of a oh-my-god-this-view-is-amazing kind of walk. It takes you right out to the peninsula and through the forests along the coast of Cape Hillsborough. There are six different lookouts along the way so you’re going to need to pace your gasps of excitement.
If you’re really lucky (or just amazing at planning) you can walk back along the beach, but only if the tide is out. If the tide is in and you still want to walk back along the beach just carry your scuba gear with you. It’s that easy!
Driving to Finch Hatton Gorge
Time to kick it up a notch. Head west out of Mackay along Mackay-Eungella Rd. This is a straightforward drive that leads you through Marian and Mirani – two small towns with some great fishing nearby.
You’ll continue for about 40 minutes and then you’ll see the turnoff for Finch Hatton Gorge on Owens Creek Rd, or you can get there from Kowari Gorge Rd.
It’s paved and winding but nothing crazy yet. Then you’ll see the sign to go down Currans Gully Rd.
This road is narrow and winds up into the border of Eungella National Park. Misty forests surround you and the cries of exotic crazy birds ring out… if it was nighttime there would be bats and things would be much, much scarier.
It’s daytime though and instead of scary everything’s just drop-dead gorge-ous (excuse the pun).
Once you reach the section of the road covered by a stream, you’ll meet Gorge Rd. Drive through the stream and get a free carwash. It’s fun and kind of exciting and makes cool splashing noises that take us back to jumping in puddles as a child. Except now you have a car and can make BIGGER splashes! Adulting is coooool!
Here you’ll see the entrance to Forest Flying, a company that gives a tour of the forest canopy, so if you don’t want to walk, it’s a great way to reach a higher perspective on things.
Keep going up Gorge Rd and over a few more streams until you reach the parking area for your hike.
Hiking Finch Hatton Gorge
Three hundred steps.
Can you climb 300 steps? Heck yeah, you can!
The Wheel of Fire track is a scarily named, yet surprisingly un-scary hike at Finch Hatton Gorge. You’ll get pretty sweaty, but that’s about as hot as things get on this two- to three-hour fun fest.
Travel west of Mackay for about 80km and you’ll see the turnoff to Finch Hatton Gorge. From there, you just follow the signs for the Araluen Cascades track. The Cascades are a bunch of sexy mini waterfalls, so things are looking good right off the bat.
You’ll follow the trail for about an hour and then take the Wheel of Fire track the rest of the way up. To what?
An amazing rock pool that screams for you to swim in it. The water is cold but after 300 steps you’ll want to hug the huge boulders that surround this oasis. Lay back on a boulder and let the sounds of the running creek wash your worries away. Before tackling those 300 steps again.
One more quick stop before you head off…
If you’ve just finished your hike in Finch Hatton, head back to Mackay-Eungella Rd but instead of going back to Mackay, head towards Eungella.
Keep going until you see a sign that says: “Steep climb ahead. [Only really awesome people who want crazy good views should continue]. Trucks use low gear.”
This is no joke. The hill is STEEEEEEEEP. But because it’s so steep you get an amazing view at the top thanks to the Sky Window lookout.
The road switches back and forth, back and forth, over cattle grids and around fallen branches. Slow and steady wins the race here, especially if it’s been a cold morning and the mist of the mountains is thick.
At the top of the road there’s an intersection. If you go left you’ll make it to the Sky Window and the view will make you happy for the drive.
Look out over the Mackay hinterland and appreciate that places like this still exist. Places on the edge of rural that feel “middle of nowhere”. Places that give you the comforts of the city and the open spaces of the wild all within an hour’s drive.
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*Please note the temporary closure of all Queensland campgrounds in national parks, state forests and state-managed recreation and protected areas, in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.