With a strong focus on the wildlife attractions in surrounding national parks, what is there to do in Mackay if you are visiting with a dog? From walking trails to botanic gardens to laneway art, find out about the dog-friendly sights of the Mackay region in central Queensland, plus where to dine and stay with your pup.
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Mackay
From Mackay’s city centre to the Northern Beaches, there’s a variety of dog-friendly attractions on offer. Make sure you tick off some of these sights…
1. Walk Along the Bluewater Trail
One of the highlights of Mackay is the Bluewater Trail. Named after the blue water of the Pioneer River that cuts through the city, the almost 20km long trail is a network of paths that connects many of the top sights in the southern part of the city.
Rather than attempt to walk the entire trail (better suited to a bike ride), perhaps just stroll along one or two of the most scenic stretches. The Pioneer Promenade passes by the city centre, with a boardwalk right along the river. Or head to the Sandfly Creek Environmental Walk near the mouth of the river.
Dogs on leash are allowed along the length of the trail, except for one section during part of the year. Due to the presence of migratory shorebirds, dogs are prohibited from the Sandfly Creek Environmental Reserve from October to April. A alternative route to the south of the reserve is suggested. Double check the signs at the reserve.
If you’re particularly interested in history, also check out the Mackay City Centre and Waterfront Heritage Trail, that deviates from the Bluewater Quay and Pioneer Promenade section of the Bluewater Trail. Check out the guide online or pick up a brochure from the Mackay Tourism information centres.
2. Watch for Whales at Lamberts Lookout
While dogs may not be welcome to spot wallabies on the beach at Cape Hillsborough National Park or platypuses at Eungella National Park, it’s possible to spot another of the region’s most popular visitors with your dog at your side.
Each year whales migrate along the Mackay coastline, generally heading north in July and then returning south in September. To help spot some of these graceful giants of the sea, a whale observation platform has been constructed at Lamberts Lookout, also known as Slade Point Lookout.
We unfortunately didn’t spot any during our visit, despite perfect calm seas for whale watching, but were assured they put on a terrific display only a couple of days earlier.
3. Visit the Mackay Regional Botanical Gardens
For more wildlife spotting opportunities, head to the Mackay Regional Botanical Gardens. Planted alongside two long lagoons, there were plenty of waterbirds enjoying the lagoons during our visit, with a handy guide to common species at a viewing platform.
Leashed dogs are welcome to join you in the gardens, although no dogs are permitted at the cafe, even at the tables on the verandah, or in the shade garden. We followed the self-guided introductory walk, a short 750m stroll. Some of the highlights were the Malta Garden, the carpet of golden everlasting daisies and the many cycad species.
4. Check Out the Street Art at Fifth Lane
A recent addition to the sights of Mackay has been the painting of street art murals along Fifth Lane in the heart of the city. Situated just a few blocks south of the Pioneer Promenade, it’s worth detouring for this outdoor art gallery.
All concentrated along one short laneway, meaning there’s no difficulty in tracking down artworks from a map, many of the murals in the Mackay Laneway Project depict the colourful wildlife found in the region, from birds to platypuses.
Naturally, leashed dogs are fine to join you. There’s also plenty of shade even during the heat of the day. For an extra special experience, scan the QR codes located on site to bring the artwork to life.
5. Head North to Shoal Point
While visiting Mackay, I recommend heading to the most northern point of the Northern Beaches, Shoal Point. This pretty spot feels a world away from the city centre, and is a great spot to chill out for awhile.
When the tide is low, head out on the expansive sand flats, that stretch towards Green Island. While dogs are welcome to join you, they will need to stay on leash. Don’t also miss heading up to the lookout at O’Brien Esplanade, where a picnic table and chair are handily located.
Dog-Friendly Beaches in Mackay
Mackay is home to two off-leash dog beaches. The closest option to the city is the northern end of Far Beach, in between Evan Street and Bridge Road. Head to the “Town Beach Carpark (South)” pin on Google for access to the northern end, or access from Quota Park. Note that off-leash hours are restricted to 5am to 8am and 5pm to 8pm – during other hours dogs are meant to remain on-leash.
My pick of the two beaches is probably Bucasia Beach, located along Mackay’s Northern Beaches. The off-leash section of Bucasia Beach is in between Williams Avenue and Symons Avenue, and once again is limited to 5am to 8am and 5pm to 8pm. It’s a beautiful, wide sandy beach with gentle waters.
If you’re passing through Sarina, the southern end of Campwin Beach is also an off-leash dog beach from 5am to 8am and 5pm to 8pm.
For further details, see the council website.
Dog-Friendly Parks in Mackay
If it’s not beach weather or you’re looking for an off-leash run during the middle of the day, Mackay is home to three off-leash dog parks, as listed on the council website.
Probably the best option are the fenced off-leash areas at Queens Park, a beautiful old park to the east of the city centre. There’s two large fenced areas, for small dogs (under 15kg) and large dogs, along with plenty of shade, water fountains and picnic benches. Park alongside East Gordon Street, just east of the Chain Street intersection.
Another great off-leash dog park is the Police Dog Tunza Dog Park, named after a heroic local police dog. Also known as the Gooseponds Dog Park, it’s just opposite the back of North Mackay State Primary School.
This park is also fenced, but the fence is only about 1m high, plus there’s no separate area for small dogs. However, there’s a variety of agility equipment, picnic tables inside the fenced area and a large carpark adjacent.
The final off-leash dog park within Mackay is at Camilleri Street Park, in Eimeo. There’s two fenced areas for small and large dogs. However, the dog parks are located right in the middle of the park, not close to any of the adjacent streets, and there’s no shade for hot days.
There’s also a dog park in Sarina, south of Mackay, in the Apex Park on Sichter Street.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Mackay
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About half of the caravan parks within Mackay are pet-friendly, so double check in advance if the park you are wanting to stay at accepts pets. We stayed at the Mycow Bakers Creek Caravan Park on the southern side of the city. As well as a great camp kitchen and riverside area, there’s also a fenced dog exercise area.
Another great dog-friendly option is the Bucasia Beachfront Caravan Resort. Located at the southern end of Bucasia Beach, it’s a great spot for on-leash walks with your pup on the beach, plus in walking distance of the off-leash dog exercise area.
If a motel room is more your style, the Alara Motor Inn in West Mackay has pet-friendly rooms. A four-star rated motel with a licensed restaurant onsite, both small and medium sized dogs are allowed, with other pets considered by prior arrangement. Double check any rules and fees, and make sure you select a pet-friendly room option.
The Coral Cay Resort is another pet-friendly option just south of the Mackay CBD. Some of their spacious queen rooms have been designated as dog-friendly – make sure you select a “Pet Friendly Queen Room” option. A small surcharge applies per night. The resort has a restaurant open daily, including a buffet breakfast on weekends.
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About the Author
Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.