A Sea Kayaker’s Holiday around Mackay, Queensland

by Rod

in Sea Kayaking

Holidays in Queensland

Sea kayakers on holidays in Queensland may pass through Mackay on their way North to the more famous Whitsunday Islands or Hinchinbrook Island. That is unfortunate because the Mackay area has a lot to offer sea kayakers for day trips or even longer paddling excursions. I would like to give a short description of some of the beautiful areas around Mackay.

Sarina Inlet

Sarian Inlet

Sarina Inlet

Starting from Sarina in the south, actually Sarina Beach and the neighboring Inlet is very picturesque.

View Larger Map

Just as you come into Sarina Beach there is a road to the right called Sunset Drive. If you follow that road to the end there is a boat ramp where you can launch from. Just remember as with a lot of places around Mackay district we have large tide variations and when the tide goes out you could be stranded a kilometer from the beach or boat ramp. From the boat ramp you can explore Sarina Inlet or paddle across to Freshwater Point. There are some good beaches there.


There are plenty of easy and interesting paddles around Mackay city itself.  The Pioneer River itself is a beautiful blue water river for most of the year. Now that the Mackay city is starting to utilize the banks of the river it is a unique way to see the city. Even though it is salt water I feel quite safe paddling in the Pioneer compared to most other North Queensland rivers. From the river boat ramp or the town beaches it is a very enjoyable paddle out ot the islands of Flat Top & Round Top Islands which are about 3 & 5kms from the mouth respectfully. Flat Top island has a disused light house on it which is worth a visit. There is a track to the light house from the southern end of the island. There is a previous post about this trip  here.

Flat Top and the Lighthouse

Flat Top and the Lighthouse

From the Mackay Harbour you could also paddle to Flat Top & Round Top Islands or there is another little island and reef just outside the harbour mouth. This island called Slade Rock is also worth a look and if you are interested in kayak fishing, this is a very popular fishing spot. From the harbour you could also paddle north to Slade Point. I always enjoy paddling around rocky cliffs or headlands and this one is no exception. Another idea is to try out the surf at the North Wall of the Harbour.

A drive out to the northern beaches of Mackay will find you at Dolphin Heads, Bucasia Beach, Eimeo, and Shoal Point. All these beaches are worth a paddle around. Out from Shoal Point is the small island of Green Island. A post I wrote about this trip is here.

Cape Hillsborough

Further north from Mackay is the National Park and Marine Park of Cape Hillsborough. This is where the natural beauty of the north’s rainforest come down to meet the sea. Camping at Cape Hillsborough is a must. All around the park is the land based fauna such a wallabies and scrub turkeys and in the ocean are sea turtles and other marine life, such as dolphins and dugongs. Although the dugongs are hard to spot.

View Larger Map

From Cape Hillsborough it is about a 8km paddle along the coast past Ball Bay and the seaside town of Seaforth to the Newry Island National Park group of islands. There is at least eight islands in this group with some great beaches and Camp sites. This is well worth a paddle around these islands. This is one of my favourites around Mackay. On the map above you will see Cape Hillsborough in the center and if you scoll the map up along the coast you will see the Newry Island Group near the top left corner. Rabbit Island is the largest island of the group.

Newry Island Camp

Admiring the veiw from Newry Island

Brampton Island and on.

For strong sea kayakers the 22 – 25 km paddle across to the more outer islands from Mackay, Shoal Point or even Cape Hillsborough is also a possibility.  These islands include Keswick, Scawfell, St Bees, Carlyle and Brampton. The paddle out to these islands is more on the serious side and should be planned properly. A more popular idea among sea kayakers is to use this as the first leg of a paddle which can be used to island hop all the way up to the Whitsunday Passage and Airley Beach or Shut Harbour. The first leg of this trip is in fact the longest leg. From Brampton Island another jump across to The Smith group of Islands. This group includes another twelve islands. From there it is onto Thomas Island then the more famous Lindemangroup then Hamilton and into the Whitsunday Islands. They are for another time. The best time of year to do this trip is from August through to October. Generally the weather is fairly stable with south easterlies blowing to give you a push.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: