Because I'm Australian, for me, Mackay is only good for a vacation, not for a permanent stay -- everything is so expensive.
Safe, maybe. Friendly, maybe. Lots to do, you're kidding -- it's a mining and cane farm town! Any backpacker coming here has made a wrong turn off the highway to Airlie Beach. It's a bit like taking a day trip to Slough or Luton -- totally pointless!
Mackay is a great, friendly town -- lots to do.
Mackay is a safe town to walk and explore. Non-touristy and friendly locals.
Mackay is a city on the Australian East Coast, in the state of Queensland. Home to a bit over 80,000 people, Mackay hostels are popular among backpackers traveling the East Coast, because there are seasonal work opportunities in the area within the large sugar production industry in the city. Mackay is often referred to as the sugar capital of Australia.
Mackay is served by the Mackay Airport, (MKY) and also a variety of bus lines. There is also a train line. However, some visitors to the area rent their own cars, which is a great option to travel the East Coast, especially if you're not traveling alone.
Hostels in Mackay are in the same price range as other spots in Australia: about 25 dollars for a dorm bed. You can also look for weekly deals which will save you some money. If you're looking to make a little spending money while in the city, Mackay hostels can often help arrange work with the local industries who employ backpackers. This can be the best option to get a job in the area, even though you might have to wait in the hostel for a bit before getting to work (if the season is already going etc.).
If you're looking for entertainment and relaxation when you're staying at a Mackay hostel the marina area offers some great eating possibilities and there are many good pubs scattered throughout the city. There is also a nice beach close to the marina, called Harbour Beach and there are two large shopping centers in the city if you're looking for souvenirs or other gear.