The key to an enjoyable family walk is to go far enough to wear the kiddies out sufficiently, but not go too far so that you end up with whinging, tears and you having to carry them and their scooters/bikes/prams all the way back to the car. It also needs an element of play and usually I include a picnic or sometimes we enjoy a treat out.
In Mackay we are incredibly lucky to have such a beautiful environment to enjoy, so here is my pick for the top 5 family friendly walks in Mackay:
1. Bluewater Trail (Canelands Shopping Centre to Forgan Bridge section) The trail is a shared pedestrian and bicycle pathway around the city linking the main recreational facilities. My kids enjoy the section from Canelands Shopping Centre to the Forgan Bridge which crosses the Pioneer River. This section is great as it has a playground and fitness stations that kids and adults can use. The walk along the river is scenic and I always feel safe even if I happen to be walking on my own. Returning back to Canelands we often stop in at the free Bluewater Swimming Lagoon for a refreshing dip. A great half day out if you stop for a swim.
2. Botanic Gardens Mackay's Botanic Gardens includes a 3km walking and cycling trail through 5 cultural themed gardens and includes a kids playground and a fabulous café that overlooks wildlife filled lagoons.
I usually park at the visitors centre and café and walk west towards the playgrounds stopping along the way to admire the flora and occasional fauna on display here. Once you've completed your walk and play you can stop for a picnic under the beautiful old shady trees near the visitors centre or head in to the café for refreshments. Allow an hour or two here.
3. Gooseponds, North Mackay Affectionately known as 'The Goosies' to locals this walkway around a large lagoon features exercise stations along the way and lots of wildlife including geese, ducks, turtles and fish so make sure to take some bread to feed them. We usually start and end at John Breen Park which is a fantastic park featuring equipment for ALL ages including a flying fox. Major fun so allow a few hours here.
4. Harbour Beach to Mackay Marina Park your car at the Surf Club and head north along the beachside pathway to the marina precinct which ends at the old lighthouse. While dunes block your view on the southern part of the walk, once you cross the breakwater access road it's a really lovely walk through gardens in front of all the apartment buildings overlooking the marina. I don't recommend taking kids out along the breakwater as there are no railings and no real dedicated path. There are two park and playground options here: Harbour Beach has a playground, massive open space area, access to patrolled beach, BBQ facilities, toilet facilities at surf club and fabulous grassy hills that kids never tire of rolling down. Then there's Mulherin Park (the marina end) which has a playground, open space area, picnic facilities and toilet block. We generally make this at least a half day out as we include a BBQ or picnic.
5. Northern Beaches
I may be biased as I live north of the river but I really do believe Mackay's Northern Beaches are the best in the region. The reason I haven't split them up into individual beaches is because I can't choose as they are all great for different reasons but please note that none of them have extensive pathways so leave the bikes and prams at home. Starting at the top is Shoal Point, arguably the prettiest of them all this is a lovely beach walk overlooking the islands with shallow waters for paddling, BBQ facilities and a playground. Eimeo Beach is my kids' favourite simply because at low tide massive shallow lagoons are exposed with all sorts of creatures and shells in them. Caution the kiddies with what they touch though! It also has a patrolled beach, toilet block, shady park and playground. Bucasia Beach is my dogs favourite as it's an off leash area that also includes a permanent swimming enclosure. Adjacent to the beach is Seaview Park which has a pathway, open spaces, BBQ facilities, and toilet facilities.