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Map of Mackay and Whitsunday region © Queensland Government

Our 12 Queensland regions are the best that Australia has to offer.

One of Australia’s most iconic destinations, the Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. The area is also home to hinterland, waterfalls and busy coastal towns like Airlie Beach, Proserpine and Mackay.

This region is home to memorable tourism experiences and filled with innovators with ground-breaking ideas that are putting us on the world map.

Whether it’s building a pontoon with underwater accommodation or supporting research projects to improve water quality and boost coral abundance on the reef, we’re backing Queenslanders who live and work in this region.

We know innovation and tourism are crucial to the region’s growth – now and in the future.

The Mackay-Whitsunday region has many local success stories supported by our strong innovation and tourism investment. We’re doing this to deliver jobs, economic growth and benefits for your community, our state and the world.

  • $5M

    Advance Queensland funding

  • 280+

    Advance Queensland recipients

  • 35+

    projects for Great Barrier Reef protection

  • $46M+

    local tourism investment

  • 179+

    local tourism jobs

  • $25M

    Great Barrier Reef island resorts rejuvenation


Anyone can have a great idea or come up with an innovative solution to a problem. The hard part when you’re in a region can be getting access to the help you need to turn your idea into a business and your business into a global success story.

Advance Queensland is helping Queenslanders to grow their business and build our innovation economy.

The Mackay-Whitsunday region has many local success stories that we support though programs such as Ignite Ideas.

We have designed or funded many programs to support innovators across Queensland including:

  • Advancing Regional Innovation Program - gives each region up to $500,000 to develop region-wide innovation projects.
  • Regional Startup Hubs Support Program - a local skills-building program delivering education and networking events.
  • Startup Onramp Regional Queensland Program - shows people with a great idea how to become a startup founder.
  • Regional Angel Investors Support Program – helps investors to find innovators who need financial backing.
  • Queensland Connects Regional Pilot Program – Mackay has received up to $100,000 in funding to further grow and encourage entrepreneurship in the regions while diversifying the economy and supporting job creation.

Case study: Making the Great Barrier Reef healthy

Advance Queensland is investing in 30 projects worth $3 million to help Queensland’s best and brightest minds address issues facing the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Industry Research Fellowships program is delivering eight research projects to improve water quality and boost coral abundance on the reef.  They are working with the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy to trial new ways of supporting coral populations.

The Great Barrier Reef has vital environmental and economic value to the Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday region.  Not only will these projects protect the reef, they will help to safeguard the thousands of jobs that rely on it.


Following ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie making landfall in March 2017 in the region, the Queensland Government quickly put in place with the Australian Government, a joint $10 million tourism recovery package. Of this, $7 million was allocated to a Tourism Recovery Fund designed to support the delivery of additional infrastructure projects in the region that would drive demand and increase tourism expenditure. Eleven projects were approved, including underwater art sculptures, coral gardening/restoration, island short walks, an inclusive family-friendly water play attraction, and the Hill Inlet Lookout upgrade and expansion.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of Queensland’s most celebrated attractions. Island resorts are an important part of tourism and help attract new and return visitors to the reef. Our $25 million Great Barrier Reef Island Resorts Rejuvenation Program, with resort re-openings and operational improvements, has made a significant impact to the region.

Hamilton Island now has new facilities for day trippers and resort guests, including a new marina terminal, better walking trails and a new lookout viewing platform as well as upgraded water, sewerage and waste facilities. Hook Island had a resort that has been dormant since 2013. Funding has been used to clean up the site, remove damaged buildings and remove the decommissioned underwater observatory. The site is now ready for redevelopment. A number of other island resorts in the region have also had improvements which helped support a range of construction and ongoing jobs.

The fund is a great example of how we are putting money back into the region and creating sustainable eco-tourism opportunities that will attract visitors in their thousands. Tourism is crucial to Queensland’s economic growth and we will continue to support the Mackay-Whitsunday region to attract visitors and boost the local and state economy.

Case study: Attracting more tourists to the Whitsundays

Through the Growing Tourism Infrastructure Fund we have supported Cruise Whitsundays to develop the Great Barrier Reef pontoon which is giving visitors access to something never experienced on the reef before. Situated on Hardy Reef and costing more than $10 million, the pontoon is a game changer for the reef with visitors able to sleep underwater with the marine world.

During the day the pontoon can accommodate 300 day-trippers who can enjoy an underwater observatory, semi-submersible tours, scuba diving and snorkelling. By night visitors can sleep underwater in premium suites or above the water under the stars. The pontoon is expected to bring an extra 60,000 visitors a year to the Whitsundays and boost the local economy by $23 million annually. Construction of the pontoon supported 40 jobs and now that it is operational, 35 jobs have been created.

Under the Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs Plan, the Queensland Government established the $15 million Queensland Aviation Route Restart Program to attract new services and resume existing services. This funding has been provided to 16 Queensland Airports including the Whitsundays to fast track the return of aviation routes and develop new routes into Hamilton Island and the Whitsunday Coast from intrastate.

Last updated: 01 Jul 2022