Picture this: as the sun begins to rise and the sky lights up in a spectacular rainbow of pastel colours, a group of kangaroos and wallabies tentatively appear out of the scrub lining the beach and hop down to the water’s edge.
Sounds like an idyllic Aussie dream, but this is, in fact, a daily occurrence on a picturesque beach just north of Mackay.
Every morning a group of iconic wallabies and kangaroos venture down to the sand at Cape Hillsborough, 40 minutes’ drive from the Mackay CBD, in search for food.
They have historically visited Casuarina Beach for the tasty mangrove seedpods and seaweed that wash up onshore.
But these days their diet is also supplemented by a special macropod feed spread out for them by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Rangers to keep the animals healthy and the tourists entertained.
Cape Hillsborough holiday
We have always wanted to experience this beautiful spot and over the New Year’s break we hit the road to make the dream a reality.
We stayed at the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, which boasts an absolute beachfront location near where the wallabies and kangaroos appear on the beach.
The park is well appointed, with a near-new laundry, BBQ facilities, a small shop and café, outdoor movies, and a pool with two waterslides.
The pool in particular was much appreciated, as the average temperature is 31 degrees Celsius during summer and the area is within the marine stinger and crocodile zones, making beach swimming pretty contentious for several months of the year.
The local wallabies and kangaroos are also regularly spotted around the park, feeding on the grass or resting in the shade of the trees.
A range of different type of camping/caravan sites and cabins are available, all within a few seconds walk to the beach.
Trust us, the proximity to the beach will be much appreciated when you have to get up at crazy o’clock in the morning to see the wallabies and kangaroos.
If we could offer just one piece of advice, it would be: don’t be lulled into a false sense of security that you can sleep in!
As we discovered, the main ‘show’ begins well before actual sunrise and by the time the sun is above the horizon, most of our new furry friends had hopped back into the security of the surrounding bushland.
This was even more noticeable on New Year’s Day, when the public holiday meant the Qld Parks Ranger had a well-deserved break from serving up macropod feed before dawn. The lack of extra food meant, while the wallabies and kangaroos still came down to the beach, they didn’t hang around for long.
So set your alarm early and get down to the beach ASAP! You definitely won’t regret it – and you can always go back for a nap later on in the day!
What you need to know
As long as you can get to Casuarina Beach, you don’t need to book a tour. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Rangers are there every day (except public holidays), and the daily informative talk is FREE.
And, did we mention, you need to arrive well before dawn! Plan to be on the beach while it is still dark.
The wallabies and kangaroos will gradually start to appear at the first glimmer of light, and the Ranger will set out markers which you are asked to stay behind.
The Ranger will place several piles of special macropod feed between the markers and the water’s edge, so the animals aren’t disturbed and to ensure everyone also gets a good view (and photo) of them.
Remember that while they are used to people, they are still wild animals. You are asked not to feed them, as much of the food tourists offer them is not their natural diet and can make them sick. You are also asked not to block their path back up the beach, as this can cause them distress.
All of this will be explained by the friendly Qld Parks Ranger.
But we found that rather than following the wallabies and kangaroos around (as some of the tourists did) it was better to stand quietly about 5 or 10 metres away from them and allow them to hop up to you.
This tactic worked for us on several occasions, with the wallabies coming within centimetres of us!
Also, make sure to also visit the beach at sunset, when there are far fewer tourists around but some of the wallabies and kangaroos are still likely to come down to the beach. Some of our best interactions with them were at sunset, so don’t miss it!