Mackay reef is only 30nm nth of Port Douglas and has a glorious sand cay on its Nth West edge. Good protection from the SE trade winds, two 24 hour moorings and plenty of space for anchoring make it an ideal place for us to hang loose for a day or two or a week or two. Two commercial boats call in regularly between 9 am and 1 pm: A large RIB from a cape Cape Tribulation and a rather speedy Sailaway cat from Port Douglas. Nevertheless, it never seems very busy and we often have it to ourselves.

Here’s my interpretation of Photographing Mackay Reef Nth Qld. A gem in the GBR paradise.

Mackay reef sand cay at low tide.

The water is clear, full of marine life, and beautiful coral gardens. The 250m swim from the boat to the sand cay is exhilarating not only with the superb coral, but schools of fish and leaping eagle rays are common.

Snorkelling on the way from our boat to the Mackay Reef sand cay.

Diving along the north edge of Mackay Reef

The wonderful coral extended past the cay and along a coral peninsular where scuba diving in 10-15m was excellent. There are quite a few interesting coral caves to add a little intrigue.

This cave went in about 25m and finished with a beautiful beam of sunlight 🙂
For my macro loving partner, there is always a smattering of slugs and critters. Macro pics by Syl.
This area is open to fishing so crustaceans can be either nice to photograph or nice to eat, depending on your taste.
What’s happening up top, Silhouettes are always good.

A dog‘s life at Mackay Reef

Getting back to the sand cay I found our most recent crewmember (Lilly the pug) was an excellent model, just add a few effects and we had some foto fun. Not sure if pug was as amused as us.

Lilly the Pug laid back about her modelling career.

Mackay reef under and over.

Always interesting to juggle the camera between the air and water. Droplets on the over really mess with the image but getting a reasonable effect is a fun challenge. For an added burst of creative genius or mayhem, I photoshopped an image by adding the setting sun from Lake Ayre.

Mackay Reef summer clouds.

I love a bit of drama in the sky. Most days in summer squalls and rainstorms never disappoint.

Greg and Joe in Foxy Lady anchored next to a mooring. Plenty of room. Cape tribulation in the background.

Coral spawning at Mackay Reef.

Once a year Coral spawning provides a  spectacular event on the Great Barrier Reef. It’s often called the world’s largest orgasm on the world’s largest organism.  Coral polyps release billions of tiny eggs and sperm into the water simultaneously creating a perfect environment for fertilization to take place. The above images show Polups about to let go of their eggs, eggs floating to the surface. and a slick of eggs floating on the surface the next day.

Mackay Reef south side.

The diving is not so exciting on the southern lee side of the reef. However, there is some beautiful giant clams and big lettuce leaf coral colonies. Plus in the event of a nasty NW storm, it offers reasonable protection. There is a couple of Pvt mooring here.

2023 by drone

Under and over family fun
Two public moorings and plenty of space to anchor.

For further info on the public moorings at Mackay Reef and elsewhere in Nth Queensland click

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  1. Barbara+and+Paul+Banks on 9 February 2022 at 1:20 pm

    You have excelled as always, thanks

    • Robin Jeffries on 9 February 2022 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks, we really enjoyed our laid back cruising this year. Mackay and lizard were happy healthy places with good company 🙂

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