The Mackay region has some of the most amazing outdoor experiences in Queensland. Day trips from Mackay can have you offshore exploring stunning islands one minute and then cruising the open road lined with vibrant green sugar cane farmland the next.
What you may not know is that the region offers some of Australia’s most outstanding paddock to plate experiences that are perfect for day trips from Mackay by car. From gourmet farmers markets showcasing the best locally sourced seasonal produce to the Sarina Sugar Shed right in the heart of sugar cane country, you are going to be blessed with heaps of things to do with the kids when you explore farms near Mackay.
Many of the destinations listed in this article have won numerous awards acknowledging the quality of their produce, their commitment to sustainable practices and the exceptional tourism experience they provide for day tripping guests like us.
It has never been more important to support local and teach our kids where their food comes from. Every day trip from Mackay we have listed is family friendly. You will be received with open arms by the friendly farm families who love what they do and sharing the stunning places they call home. Whether you are travelling for a holiday or you’re a local looking for some road trip fun we highly recommend you get a taste of farm life in Mackay. We have rounded up your ultimate list of ‘must visit’ day trip ideas from Mackay! Enjoy!
So, without further ado, here are our suggestions for one of the best day trips from Mackay.
Mackay day trip map
Below is the map of where to find these Mackay area tourist attractions.
The best day trips from Mackay
We think we have nailed one of the best day trips from Mackay for families. Add this to your bucket list now and thank us later!
In this article we will show you all the best places to visit in and around Mackay to get a real sense of the local area. We show you where to go, how to get there, how long to stay and what to try. It is a Mackay day trip itinerary for families that you are going to love!
Mackay CBD to Greater Whitsunday Farmers Market – 6 minute drive
The Greater Whitsunday Farmers Market is a weekly ritual of food, friendly faces, and a place for the community to access the best seasonal produce grown in the Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday Region.
It is without a doubt the perfect spot to start your day exploring a taste of farm life in Mackay. The markets open from 6:30am on Wednesdays and are located along the waterfront at Bluewater Quay on River Street in Mackay City and Waterfront. We suggest you pop down to grab breakfast plus a coffee to take in the stunning view while touring Mackay.
With over 20 stalls, you are going to struggle to choose what to buy first! On our visit we were able to sample fresh honey in celebration of World Bee Day and pick up the perfect farm fresh eggs from Freckle Farm.
We just love that all stall holders are guaranteed to be local to the Mackay region and are selling guaranteed local goods that either are grown and caught locally or are made with local ingredients.
Just wait till you see the fruit and vegetables on offer! We stocked up on plenty of the season’s tropical fruit including pawpaw, banana, passionfruit, pineapple and limes. If you enjoy a good salad, you can also purchase the freshest green leaf blends from Blue River Microgreens or edible flowers to really impress the kids.
Speaking of the kids, if your little loves are eager to understand where their food comes from the Greater Whitsunday Markets will give them the chance to meet local farmers in Mackay and ask about the produce you will be taking home to share. Where was it grown? When was it picked? The friendly and passionate Mackay farmers who also act as stallholders will be only too happy to answer your questions.
Now we did say this was a great spot for breakfast and it is the baked goods that seal the deal! You can grab freshly baked pies, sausage rolls, cakes, bread, donuts, iced scrolls, and pastries to go with your coffee.
Another win for the big kids is Shore Fresh Seafoods who have plenty of huge mud crabs, fish already filleted, delicious prawns, scallops still on the shell and oysters. Dinner sorted!
The Slade Point Meat Specialist is also on hand with locally made bacon, smoked sausages, and cured meats. Add a picnic blanket, some crusty bread, locally made preserves (also found at the Greater Whitsunday Farmers Market), and you are all packed for a delicious picnic on your Mackay road trip for later in the day.
The other great thing about the markets is there is plenty of room for little legs to stretch out before jumping in the car to explore the rest of the stunning region on your Mackay day trip.
Check the Farmers Market Facebook page for seasonal produce and updates on workshops, demos, and special events. The Greater Whitsunday Farmers Market is made possible due to the generous support of Mackay Regional Council.
INSIDER TIP: Bring your own shopping/cooler bags so you can stock up on the morning!
Opening Hours: Markets are held every Wed from 6:30am – 10am.
Address: Bluewater Quay, River Street, Mackay QLD
Facebook page: click here
Mackay to Ballantyne’s Strawberry Farm, Mount Charlton– 55 minute drive
If you love strawberries, you are going to fall in love with Ballanytne’s Strawberry Farm. We can absolutely say their berries are the sweetest and juiciest bites of joy in the Sunshine State. Picked at full colour, unlike the strawberries you have tasted from the supermarket, these strawberries are jam packed with 100% sugary goodness. What is even more appealing is a visit to Ballantyne’s gives you the chance to harvest your own strawberries with 45,000 plants to pick from.
Surrounded by lush green rolling hills in Cameron’s Pocket, Ballantyne’s Strawberry Farm is the perfect destination for a fun foodie adventure with the kids. You can easily see why Margaret and Alan Ballantyne, owners of Ballantyne Strawberry Farm, fell in love with the property back in 1983.
The couple, originally from New Zealand, made Queensland home and became first-generation farmers in Mackay after purchasing the farm – between Mackay and Proserpine – in 1983, when Alan put a deposit on the property without his wife’s knowledge.
After a brief stint trying to grow paw paws, they quickly found their niche with strawberries. You will not find friendlier hosts than the Ballantyne’s who work the land themselves planting up to 1000 plants a day in peak season
Margaret and Alan know the challenges of farming better than most after being forced to close their much-loved farm back in 2016 after a dismal season. The good news is they quickly bounced back, and their farm in Mackay is now thriving!
So much so that they have added blueberries to their farm. You may have picked strawberries but how about blueberries? This is definitely another reason to visit on your Mackay day trip. Picking your own blueberries means less time on your knees as they grow on the branches of small trees and of course, they are also delicious!
If you still need convincing that a Mackay road trip to Ballantyne’s Strawberry Farm needs to be on your list, we have been holding out to tell you there is a Dessert Café onsite where all they sell is DESSERT made from the strawberries, blueberries and mangoes grown on the farm. Yes, we are drooling too! The Ballantyne’s make their own creamy ice cream with strawberry, blueberry, vanilla, and mango flavours. Trust us when we say you will experience true bliss when you try one of their homemade smoothies or their infamous cheesecakes made from a top secret 100-year-old recipe. You can also take home jars of delicious strawberry and blueberry sauce.
Give yourselves around 30 minutes to pick your strawberries and at least another hour to visit the café and take in the stunning surrounding areas. Depending on when you visit, you may even get the chance to snap a photo with sunflowers as the Ballantyne’s plant around 5-6 rows each year and they are in full bloom from August.
INSIDER TIP: Before you jump in the car and make your way to Ballantyne’s Strawberry Farm, we have a few Families Tips to make the most of your visit. Firstly, no bookings are required but get there at 8am as they sell out quickly. This will also help you avoid the hot sun. Bring cash as the Eftpos onsite can be slow. Around 900m from the farm there is a great spot for a swim in St Helens Creek so be sure to pack your swimmers.
Cost: $10 per 500g punnet which includes your entry fee
Opening Hours: Wed-Sunday, 8am to 4pm, seasonal.
Strawberry Season: June to end of September.
Blueberry Season: from October.
Address: 36 Brodies Road, Camerons Pocket, Calen QLD
Facebook page: click here
Ballantyne’s Strawberry Farm to Freckle Farm, Brightly – 50 minute drive
If you are wanting to give the kids a REAL taste of farm life in the Mackay region you simply can’t do better than Freckle Farm. It really is the ultimate opportunity to help kids understand where their food comes from.
Nestled in its own little gorge at the edge of the picture-perfect Pioneer Valley, Freckle Farm is home to the happiest and arguably healthiest cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, horses and dogs you’ll meet! And it is easy to see why! The 265ha sustainable free range farm backs onto the beautiful Ben Mohr State Forest providing plenty of room for the animals and visiting families to roam free.
Freckle Farm owners, Rob Bauman and Deb McLucas, have pioneered a chemical-free approach to farming, drawing on a lifetime of experience in agriculture as fourth-generation farmers. Their deep passion and respect for the land and their animals saw Freckle Farm named as #eatqld champion’s at the end of 2020 in recognition of their sustainable and ethical approach to farming.
Rob and Deb’s three girls love helping with every aspect of what happens on the farm and when you visit, your kids will have the opportunity to learn and develop respect for the land too.
On the self-guided walk, you will enjoy a leisurely stroll around the farm, learning about the animals and Freckle Farms farming system along the way. You will see firsthand how they produce food in an environmentally and ethically responsible way while enjoying a relaxing day out for the family.
It is important to note that Freckle Farm is a real working commercial farm and not a petting zoo. There is generally the opportunity to pat the animals and sometimes feed the pigs and horses, but the needs of the animals always come first. This makes us love Freckle Farm even more! Rest assured kids are guaranteed a great day out on the farm with farm vehicles to explore and plenty of hands-on farm experiences available.
The permaculture food forest and worm farm are also really interesting especially if you are into sustainable practices. Demonstrations and talks about how Freckle Farm works without chemicals and fertiliser and the benefits of doing so for the environment are also held when you visit. For example, the eggs are laid in mobile houses that are moved around the property. This impressive rotational grazing system allows pastures to recover and provides the animals with fresh feed on a regular basis. Win, win!
Freckle Farm is a working farm, so tours are scheduled to fit in with their annual calendar. Self-guided walking tours are run every two months during the cooler parts of the year when it is more comfortable for families.. For 2021, they have two events remaining over the following weekends: 3 & 4 July and 4 & 5 September.
If you happen to be attending the September event there is the opportunity to get up close with sunflowers that bloom in their full glory, come September.
Freckle Farm was the winner of a 2019 Mackay region Tourism Award plus multiple award winners at the Australian Food Awards. Therefore, you will be delighted to note that when you visit you can purchase a snag made from Freckle Farm beef at the sausage sizzle and indulge in homemade mini quiches baked with eggs from the property. Delicious!
Lastly, Freckle Farm has recently introduced a ‘best dressed’ junior farmer competition (for kids under 7 years) at their weekend events. If you’re planning to visit the farm with your youngsters, then dust off their boots and rustle up a few props to be in the running to win some great prizes. You never know, this could be the start of a future career in agriculture. Judges are on the lookout for boots, sunsafe shirts and hats as well as any props that indicate your little one will make a good farmer.
Can you tell we just loved our time at Freckle Farm? Pram-friendly tracks, shady picnic spots, great people and just 45 minutes from Mackay. What’s not to love? Throw in a picnic rug and some snacks if you would like to stay a little longer and enjoy the tranquillity of beautiful Freckle Farm.
INSIDER TIP: Make sure you pick up some fresh eggs laid by the happy Freckle Farm chooks.
Cost: $5 to enter per person online or $6 at the gate. Bookings required.
Opening Hours: Three weekends per year in the cooler months between 9am-1pm. School and group tours can be booked separately.
Address: 247 Olletts Road, Brightly, QLD
Website: Click here
Freckle Farm to the Sarina Sugar Shed – 40 minute drive
If you have ever wondered where sugar comes from, this is the perfect destination for you! The Sarina Sugar Shed offers a unique behind-the-scenes paddock-to-plate experience where you can get hands-on with sugar cane and taste all the delicious products it creates!
Sarina is just 37kms south of Mackay along the Bruce Highway in the heart of sugar cane country. More than likely, you’re going to smell the Sarina Sugar Shed before you see it. Whenever we visit, the whole family winds down their car windows to see who can smell the delicious molasses churning through the mill first.
This multi award-winning tourist attraction celebrates the paddock-to-plate journey of sugar cane, with interactive and hands-on family friendly guided tours. There are 4 session times to choose from each day making it easy to fit one of the hour-long guided tours into your family’s routine.
The tour starts with a walk past the sugar cane plantation and outdoor display area where your family can see how sugar cane is grown. Our kids loved this part and asked heaps of questions. Then it’s indoors to see how the sugar cane is crushed (the miniature mill operates during the crushing season, from late June to early December). The passionate and knowledgeable staff will then share a touch of history and an outline of farming innovation before giving you a demonstration of how sugar is made. This is all topped off with a tasting treat – fairy floss for the kids, a taste of homemade Chefs’ Gusto sauces and a nip of liqueur, schnapps, or ginger beer for the adults. The tour has special activities for the kids too and is suitable for all ages.
If you’ve got more time up your sleeve, there are other experiences to try including tasting-only sessions and the Distiller’s Sensory Experience. You can even book the Sarina Sugar Shed for small corporate events and functions.
By now, you may be starting to feel a little peckish. Therefore, it’s time for a Sarina Sugar Shed cheese platter or tasting platter, which is more like a charcuterie board. You can order a platter ahead of time to enjoy after the tour or take it away to devour in the lovely Field of Dreams Parklands or at Sarina Beach. Match it with a homemade ginger beer, delicious coffee or Mooscoop ice cream for a delightful afternoon tea or early dinner. If you visit at morning tea, they also offer homemade scones, house-made jam and freshly whipped cream.
Before you leave make sure you drop into the Sarina Sugar Shed’s retail store affectionately called the ‘yummy shop’, by staff. It is filled with all sorts of scrumptious goodies including award-winning rum and rum liqueurs, fruit liqueurs, non-alcoholic ginger beer, Mooscoop ice cream, and Chefs’ Gusto chutneys, relishes and sauces – yum! All made with love onsite at Sarina Sugar Shed! Plus, they sell speciality items such as rum glasses, shot glasses, tea towels, farm hats, recipe books – all perfect gift ideas or a souvenir of your visit.
Parking for cars, caravans and coaches is available at the adjacent Field of Dreams Parklands, and there’s easy, direct one-level access within the Sarina Sugar Shed that’s great for prams and wheelchairs.
INSIDER TIP: As there is limited capacity for each tour, these can book quickly during busy periods, such as long weekends, school holidays and the winter period for southern travellers. It is best to book online in advance to confirm your preferred day and time.
Cost: New prices from 1 July 2021.
Adult – $26.50 |Pensioner/Senior Card Holders – $22.50 (ID required) | Child (under 18 years) – $13.30 | Children under 5 years – No charge | Family – $69.50 (2 Adults and 2 Children plus $8.20 for each additional child u18). Group bookings (min. 10 adults) are available.
Opening Hours: Open 7 days from 9am-4pm except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Good Friday. Four Tours Daily at 9.30am, 11.00am, 12.30pm and 2.00pm – 7 Days.
Website: click here
Taste farm life with these easy day trips from Mackay
You are simply going to love exploring the region with your family on your day trip Mackay. It’s the perfect place to connect back in with nature, meet genuine people who value community, support local businesses in the farm Mackay industry and get a REAL taste of farm life.
The kids will learn heaps on the farm visits while having fun and you’ll get the chance to unwind in one of the most scenic locations in the world. Not to mention the endless amount of world-class seasonal produce available everywhere you go on your Mackay day trips.
Whether you’re planning holidays to Mackay or simply looking to see more of what’s in your own backyard as a Mackay local, we highly recommend you visit our new friends at these great locations.
For more farm visit ideas visit qld.gov.au/tastefarmlife.
You can taste farm life on these regional QLD day trips from:
Looking for more fun road trips to do in Queensland with kids?
- Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip
- Brisbane to Rockhampton road trip
- Brisbane to Byron Bay road trip
- Brisbane to Hervey Bay road trip
- Brisbane to Bundaberg road trip
- Brisbane to Cairns road trip
- Gold Coast to Sunshine Coast road trip
- Road trip from Townsville to the Outback
- Townsville to Porcupine Gorge
- Longreach road trip
- Bundaberg and North Burnett road trip
- South-western Queensland road trip
You can find all our Queensland content here.