As an unassuming natural beauty situated at the southern end of the Whitsunday region, Mackay quietly gets on with the business of offering visitors plenty of opportunities to appreciate lush national parks, unspoilt beaches and conveniently located attractions.

Here are five must-do experiences waiting for you in Mackay.

Spot a platypus at Eungella National Park

Drive 80 minutes inland from Mackay through the aptly named Pioneer Valley to find spectacular Eungella National Park. Situated at the top of the Clarke Range just past Eungella township, the park is well known for being home to the elusive platypus. Make your way to the viewing platform primely positioned along the winding banks of Broken River between 6-8am and 4-6pm for a good chance at spotting these notoriously shy creatures. Eungella is also a great place for walking and hiking, with more than 20 kilometres of walking tracks suitable for everyone from experienced hikers looking to start the Mackay Highlands Great Walk through to paved river side pathways suitable for youngsters. Be sure to stop off for a spot of morning tea at Platypus Lodge on your way in or out, which is located at the Broken River information centre.

Eat a pie at Pinnacle Pub

Also located in Pioneer Valley about 50 kilometres from Mackay is the Pinnacle Family Hotel, or Pinnacle Pub as it's colloquially known. This country Queensland icon sits right on Eungella Road and is famous for its outstanding pies, schnitzels the size of dinner plates and mouthwatering steak and seafood. The Pinnacle Pie itself has become somewhat of an icon. Made onsite from locally sourced, quality produce, the pie's reputation draws visitors from around Australia and overseas who are keen to enjoy a bite roadside under the shade of an umbrella or have their picture taken inside the historic hotel.

Take a snap of kangaroos on the beach at Cape Hillsborough

Cape Hillsborough National Park is a popular, ocean front camping spot located 40 minutes north of Mackay and home to spectacular terrain, ranging from rainforest and eucalypts to mangroves, beaches and rocky headlands. The Cape is best known for its Insta-worthy sunrises and sunsets; see the large gathering of wallabies and grey kangaroos who come on to the beach at dawn and dusk to feed on seaweed and mangrove seed pods. The beaches will delight the family, with stunning landscape giving way to sand spotted with the patterns of sand crabs, shells and starfish washed ashore with the tide, gentle waves and tidal pools perfect for the littlies. There are also some excellent walking trails for exploring the park's rugged and diverse landscape; try the Andrews Point trail for spectacular views of the coastline from one of five viewing platforms and cross the causeway at low tide to explore the natural beauty of Wedge Island.

Stroll through the Mackay Botanic Gardens

Opening to the public in May 2003, the beautiful Mackay Botanic Gardens curve around naturally occurring lagoons and wetlands which are fed by the Pioneer River and are teaming with wildlife. There’s plenty to marvel at within the gardens, with over three kilometres of walking trails and five culturally themed gardens. At the northern end of Lagoon Street, kids will love the ‘Under the Banyan’ play garden while you’ll find the Botanic Gardens Café situated within the visitor’s information centre and best accessed via the Nebo Road entry. The café is the perfect place to stop and recharge after strolling through the gardens; perched high over the lagoons with perfect views of a myriad of bird life frolicking below and displaying monthly art exhibitions with an environmental or cultural theme.

Swim in the Bluewater Lagoon

The centrally located Bluewater Lagoon is the perfect place to cool off during Mackay’s warm summer months. Adults and children alike will relish the three-tiered swimming lagoons, with a waterfall connecting the two main swimming areas and a 19.5 metre waterslide connecting the top and middle lagoons. There’s also an interactive children’s water playground and drop-bucket to keep youngest family members entertained. Grab a snack from the Bluewater Lagoon Café when you’ve had your fill of water fun. The facility is fully fenced for Mum and Dad’s peace of mind and better still, entry to the lagoons is free.

Plan your next family getaway to Mackay with Virgin Australia’s great value domestic fares and explore this North Queensland gem in all its natural glory.