Story Nathan Torpey
Images Mackayregion.com & Ocean Rafting
Since Ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie crossed the Queensland coastline in March, RACQ has been working hard on the ground and behind the scenes to help Queensland recover as quickly as possible.
RACQ so far has received more than 6176 claims from members affected by the natural disaster, from Proserpine in the north to the New South Wales border.
To date, more than $42.8 million has been paid to RACQ members affected by the disaster.
To show the region is back on its ‘feet’ and shining brighter than ever, we sent out The Road Ahead journalist Nathan Torpey to see just how Mackay and the Whitsundays is coping in the aftermath.
This is his story.
Queensland, I need to get something off my chest – I have taken you for granted.
I have never given my own state’s unique landscapes, natural beauty and one-off experiences a chance to compete with other worldly wonders.
Instead, I turned my back on my homeland and elected to trek across Europe, party my way across the United States and immerse myself in Asian cultures.
But no longer could I ignore the call of the land down under. It was time to see what all the fuss was about – on a road trip from Mackay to the Whitsundays.
I know what you’re thinking – with all of Queensland to choose from, why did he pick Mackay?
While I understand your trepidation, and can see why Mackay may not be on the top of some people’s Australian travel bucket lists, it was a highlight of my trip.
Mackay is one of Queensland’s hidden treasures with its sweeping landscapes, beautiful nature walks, stunning views, scenic drives and unique experiences.
To fully understand the allure of Mackay, one only needs to do a Heritage Walk through the city centre, where art deco architecture blends seamlessly with modern styling.
Step back in time at P Comino & Sons, which has operated since 1932. Here they sell modern products but remain true to their historical roots, conducting business with no cash registers, hand written receipts and stock hand-marked off a sheet.
The road trip began from the heart of Mackay and included a stop at the Pinnacle Hotel, famous for its home-cooked and hearty pies.
After adjusting my belt buckle a few notches, we headed to Finch Hatton Gorge for a forest flying experience. The tour takes about an hour and offers a bird’s eye of view of the region while darting through the tree tops.
The Finch Hatton George has some fine hiking trails, with several options catering to all fitness levels. Here you can swim in the crystal-clear water on the Araluen and Wheel of Fire Cascade trails.
If you’re looking for a cosy, family-friendly place to stay, head to the Broken River Mountain Resort in Eungella National Park. The drive alone makes the trip worthwhile, with stunning mountain views on either side of the twisty terrain.
Next door to the resort is Platypus Lodge Restaurant & Café, where diners can eat native Australian meats like crocodile and kangaroo while watching platypuses swim in the waters below.
No trip to Mackay would be complete without a stay at the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, where there are countless bushwalks, beautiful beaches and amazing sunsets to enjoy.
Early risers can enjoy the sunrise with the wallabies and kangaroos on Casuarina Beach, right behind the park. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, must-do experience right in our backyard.
What trip across Queensland, even Australia, would be complete without a few nights in the Whitsundays and an adventure to the world-famous Whitehaven beach?
If you’re travelling with family, towing a caravan, planning to camp or simply wanting to unwind, the BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort is the place to be.
Accommodation ranges from camping and caravan sites to luxurious condos, and fun abounds with waterslides, poolside massages, outdoor cinemas, tennis courts, mini golf and more.
If you’re pressed for time but want to enjoy most of the 74 islands the Whitsundays has on offer, book an ocean rafting day cruise.
The full day adventure takes you on an exhilarating ride to Whitehaven Beach, where you can swim in stunning turquoise water and relax on glistening white sand, then to Hill Inlet Beach and Lookout where you can take some out-of-this-world photos.
The highlight of the trip was snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. During my adventure, the reefs weren’t crystal clear due to stirred-up sediment from Tropical Cyclone Debbie, but even so it was a truly breathtaking experience.
If you feel the need for speed, try Island Jet Boating through the Whitsunday waters at breakneck speeds with amazing thrills and spins. It’s also a good opportunity to check out the rebuilding of hotels on islands that were largely destroyed by the cyclone, including Hayman.
A mammoth recovery effort by the Whitsundays community has erased nearly all signs of damage in the area, and people’s spirits are as high as ever. Sure, you still might see the occasional bit of damage, but overall the beauty of the Whitsundays shines through.
All in all, this trip proved Queensland more than stacked up when compared to other international destinations. The only question left to answer is, where should I go next?
RACQ members can save on various experiences including tours, cruises and day trips. Visit RACQ.com/whitsundays for more details.