Some 360km north of Rockhampton along a famously unexciting stretch of Highway 1, the fertile Pioneer Valley makes the MACKAY area a welcome break from the otherwise dry country between Bundaberg and Townsville. Despite encounters with aggressive Juipera Aborigines, John Mackay was impressed enough to settle the valley in 1861, and within four years the city was founded and the first sugar-cane plantations were established. Sugar remains the main industry today, though the coal mines out west in the Bowen Basin have forced Mackay to become a service centre, and its dreary parade of motel accommodation is usually full with casual workers and travelling business people.

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