Blue Water Dreaming
Great Keppel to Mackay - Lazily Sailing Up the Queensland Coast

After much consideration on how to do the 167 miles from GKI to Mackay (route, weather and Soccer World Cup considerations), we decided that this time we'll miss the beautiful stops along the way and instead we'll do a non-stop trip.

We left at sunrise and with the wind at 10 to 15 knots dead in the back for most of the trip we motor-sailed to keep good speed, the following seas made the trip quite comfortable.

The next day at around noon w
e arrived at Mackay Outer Harbour, after dribbling 3 of the dozens of cargo ships moving around in this busy area. Our AIS was not behaving properly as it was losing the GPS connection to transmit our position, but at least it was showing all info about the other ships. It was good enough for this trip but a constant source of worries and needed fixing. If you have AIS you need to trust it otherwise, it might be safer not to have it at all.
From Great Keppel Island to Mackay - Arriving at the Whitsundays' Southern Gateway - 26 to 27  June 2014
Mackay Marina is quite big, modern and reasonable priced. With strong winds forecast for the foreseeable future and the need to stock up on provisions before heading to the islands we were planning an extended stay. We found Mackay a booming town with lots to do and see including a couple of national parks to visit.

The marina is located a bit far from town and even though there is a bus that takes you to the main shopping areas we decided to rent a car to move around. We got a good weekly deal with Budget rental car in town. From the marina a bus took us to Canelands Shopping Centre which is a huge and modern mall and from the mall was an easy walk to the rental car office. As recommended by Alan Lucas' cruising guide, Mackay is a great place for provisioning before going island hoping.
Around Mackay - 27 June to 18 July 2014
This is a world-class marina with tropical palms in beautiful surroundings.

The marina personnel is very nice and helpful and once a week they organzie a BBQ, a great opportunity to meet yachties and exchange information as almost everyone  is going the same way and some people, unlike us, has been doing this for many seasons.
Mackay Marina
Visiting Pioneer Valley and the Eungella National Park
With promise of seeing great subtropical rain-forest, waterfalls and the famous platypus in Eungella (pronounce it Yangala if you want to be understood) we left one morning for the 1.30 hour drive to the town of Eungella and from there on a winding scenic road to the park entry.

The drive from Mackay is nice as it passes through the sugarcane fields with their charming country townships, where the farms are linked together by the local sugarcane train.

We took lunch with us and plenty of water, which was good as the only café in the park was closed that day.

We were not disappointed, it’s a magnificent rain-forest with outstanding trails and views, however no platypus came to swim in the Broken River to fulfil the tourist office promise.
The sugarcane train
Getting information, sotpping, looking up and listening to the forest sounds
The Broken River with ancient looking turtles but no platypus
On our way back we stopped at the Pinnacle Hotel to buy the famous Pinnacle Pies for dinner, they are worth their fame, big, juicy and delicious with really yummy dough.
After lunch we walked an easy trail that took us to a beautiful water fall and as per the guide’s recommendation, once in a while along the way we stopped, looked up and listened to the birds.

The Pinnacle Bar and Hotel
    Nowhere in sight
Visiting Cape Hillsborough
Two days later we packed our lunch again and went to visit another national park a bit north of Mackay, Cape Hillsborough. You can follow an easy track to the top for outstanding views of the coast and then visit the beach where one can, at low tide, appreciate the huge tidal range and the work of art left by the hundreds of little crabs as the water recedes.
Receding tides and the beach covered by little crabs  artwork
Rewarded by outstanding views at the top
We were expecting to see lots of wild life including wallabies but the park was full of kids in school holidays and there was not an animal to be seen, except for the only one we saw eating alongside the road side we left.

Finally, after three complete weeks in Mackay we left towards Brampton Island, just 20 miles away.