Pandemic cycling boom may help Mackay become Australia’s next mountain bike mecca

Noble Horvath

Shrouded by cool tropical rainforest and with a riding season that runs all year round, Eungella and Finch Hatton, in Mackay’s hinterland, could become prime mountain biking destinations. Key points: Mackay is aiming to become Australia’s best mountain bike tourism destination $3 million has so far been set aside by […]

Shrouded by cool tropical rainforest and with a riding season that runs all year round, Eungella and Finch Hatton, in Mackay’s hinterland, could become prime mountain biking destinations.

The Mackay Regional Council is aiming to change the faces of the sleepy communities with a multi-million dollar plan to connect them with a world-class network of trails.

Iain Masters from the Mackay and District Mountain Bike Club said he was excited about the growth opportunity the scheme could offer the region.

“It’s good that we will have world-class trails on our doorstep, but the main focus of this development is to bring people into our area,” he said.

“The Mackay region is perfectly situated for mountain bike tourism.

Shot of the Pioneer valley from Eungella, with steep slopes ether side of the valley.
Unlike similar sites in Burney, Tasmania and Rotorua in NZ, Mackay will have a year-long season.(ABC Tropical North: Tim Shepard)

Mr Masters said other Australian and New Zealand towns have used mountain biking as a drawcard to boost their economies.

“Council isn’t reinventing the wheel here,” he said.

“It’s a seed type development — people will come to ride and want accommodation, coffee shops, bike shops, restaurants and pubs.

Mr Masters said the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns might actually be a blessing in disguise for the project.

“With COVID, sales of mountain bikes have been going through the roof,” he said.

“Domestic travel will be this facility’s main market first, anyway — there are quite a lot of mountain bikers here in Australia.”

Man rides mountain bike on back wheel.
Local rider Ryan Rafferty shows off his skills at Mackay’s Rowallan Park.(ABC Tropical North: Melissa Maddison)

Tens of thousands of tourists

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said the council was committed to making the region a year-round adventure destination.

“We’re aiming to have the best downhill trail in Australia,” he said.

“The consultant we hired said, at the minimum, when this is finished in the first couple of years there will be 18,000 new visitors to Mackay a year.

Council has allocated $3 million to the first stage of the project, which will cover the engineering, design and land purchases for the first 30 kilometres of mountain bike trails.

Construction will be staged with lowland trails built first and the 30-kilometre downhill trail to follow.

“That gives us the chance to establish all of the commercial side and infrastructure in the town of Finch Hatton,” Councillor Williamson said.

“It’s not a huge project; by the end of next year we will see bikes on the track in the Finch Hatton area.

Kid launching mountain bike off jump.
Young gun Ethan Weiss hitting a trail head jump at Rowallan Park in Mackay.(ABC Tropical North: Melissa Maddison)

Councillor Williamson said council would need to consult with Indigenous groups, the State Government, and address the environmental impacts before work could begin work on the downhill trail.

“The track won’t take much,” he said.

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