About 30 minutes’ drive south of Mackay lies the town of Sarina, in the heart of sugarcane country. And where there’s sugarcane, you usually find one or two – make that one or two thousand – cane-toads.
Largely considered a scourge, one ugly brute has actually won the hearts of Sarina residents. They’ve affectionately named him “Buffy” which is short for the cane-toad’s scientific name of Bufo Marinus. “Buffy” squats proudly in the main street – the community’s contribution to ‘all things big’ in the state.
Sarina was originally called Plane Creek but the present name, bestowed in 1908, better suits this quiet rural town. Regardless of moniker, Sarina is proud of its past and on the southern outskirts you’ll find a cluster of heritage buildings that make up the “Field of Dreams”.
Step inside the Sarina Visitors Information Centre and you might just think you’re dreaming! There are bars on the windows and prisoner graffiti from the 1930’s scrawled on the walls – but don’t panic. The original town lock-up has found new life as a hub for things to do and see in the area. Next door to Sarina’s century-old jail sit the heritage courthouse, now an art and craft shop.
If you can escape the company of the friendly volunteers, it’s a few steps to Sarina Sugar Shed.
This multi-award-winning attraction sits next door to the sugar mill. Join a guided tour that begins with an insight into how sugar was made in days gone by. Inspect the old horse-drawn cane wagon along with other early relics, machinery and tools used in the back-breaking task of harvesting sugarcane by hand.
Extracting the sweet stuff is a lot easier nowadays and the Sugar Shed is the only place in Australia where you’ll see a miniature sugar mill and distillery at work. Plus you get to taste-test freshly squeezed cane juice.
But that’s not the end of the tasty treats. The Sugar Shed produces a bevy of delicious beverages and food, all hand-made on-site by volunteers. Sample sauces, schnapps, rum liqueurs and rum-flavoured ice-cream – one of 10 flavours. It’s the perfect antidote to the summer humidity.
The other is to head ten minutes out of town to Sarina Beach. This sandy stretch of the Serenity Coast is where you’ll find Thirsty Sound Beach Bar & Grill – a top place to position yourself, frosty drink in hand, and let another lazy tropical day slip away.