With more than 15,000 towns in our vast country, naming Australia’s Town of the Year is a difficult task. But we took on the challenge and found the towns that offer everything great holidays are made of, here we have Australia’s town of the year.
The winner: Mackay, Queensland
Named after a 20-year-old Scot who led an expedition through the now-named Pioneer Valley in 1860, the Queensland town of Mackay (pronounced ‘Mack-eye’) produces more than a third of the country’s cane sugar, earning it the title of ‘Australia’s Sugar Capital’. But now it’s assumed another title – and a pretty praiseworthy one at that – when Wotif.com named it the 2018 Australian Town of the Year, describing it as a destination that “delivers the charm of a country town with the adventure of a tropical paradise”.
Positioned on Queensland’s Tropical Coast, Mackay has the pristine waters of the Coral Sea lapping at its east, the blue Pioneer River to its north, and a tapestry of cane fields, lush rainforest, mountains and valleys to its west.
The town is an historic delight with most buildings dating back to the 1920s and ’30s rendered in a gorgeous Art Deco style, the result of a catastrophic cyclone that destroyed most of the original town in 1918. The Town Hall, built in 1912, was one of the only structures to remain intact.
It also boasts a modern marina with a palm-lined promenade, home to a host of restaurants; family-friendly Harbour Beach, just one of 31 beaches in the area; and the Pioneer River, which has several riverside cafes. There’s also a spectacular bank-side trail that takes you past the Botanic Gardens and Bluewater Lagoon, a three-tiered man-made pool that overlooks the river.
Located on the Goulburn River, this culturally diverse town is an incredible arts centre, with a focus on Indigenous works, and also boasts vineyards, dairies and orchards.
2. Mildura, Vic
Located on the edge of the Australian outback, this peaceful river oasis has a fabulous wine region and the Murray River on its doorstep; the perfect place to hop on board a houseboat.
3. Bunbury, WA
Well-known for its bottlenose dolphins, Bunbury is a stunning water-world surrounded by the calm waters of Koombana Bay, the great surf of the Indian Ocean, and the mangroves of Leschenault Inlet.
Famous for its rum, but with so much more to offer, Bundaberg is home to a colony of rare sea turtles, a southern gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and a sugar region.
Australia’s largest inland network of waterways, on the edge of Ninety Mile Beach, Lakes Entrance is a favourite aquatic getaway with amazing seafood.
Sitting pretty between the Great Barrier Reef, the outback, and the Wet Tropics, Townsville has more than 320 days of sunshine each year, beautiful heritage buildings, great cafes and shopping.
‘Port Mac’ is a classic Australian holiday destination with 17 beaches and a heap of family-friendly attractions: camel rides on the beach, jet boating, a koala hospital, and easy bike trails to name a few.
This northern NSW coastal town has long been a favourite for its boho-chic vibe, epic surf beaches, a host of hip eateries and bars, and gorgeous hinterland.
Sitting on the Clyde River, sleepy Batemans Bay is famous for its oysters, snorkelling trails, and waterfront dining.
10. Echuca, Vic
On the banks of the Murray, Echuca is a charming town rich in riverboat history with the largest paddlesteamer fleet in the country.