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Renae Atherton

Cape Hillsborough, Central Queensland (including Mackay/ Isaac/ Whitsunday)

When an image of a man and kangaroo watching the sunrise went viral, business boomed for Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park. Situated on what is now known as 'Kangaroo Beach', owners Ben and Renae Atherton have adapted their business to cater for increasing tourist numbers as visitors flock to witness the unique experience.

Hi, I'm Renae Atherton. I'm from Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park. We're 40 minutes north of Mackay.

Our business is a location where you can come to to disconnect from your everyday life and to reconnect with your loved ones.

To learn about my line of work, you could do what I did, jump in at the deep end. I haven't actually had any experience prior to coming into Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, but I've had little attributes here and there.

I love feedback, because there's no way we can improve without that feedback.

We have utilised a few grants from the Government, trying to step up our website, because we didn't have online booking, which we now have. Definitely enjoy those grants, they help a lot in a small business.

The fishing up there is great definitely. Walk down the beach, people are coming home with anywhere from 3 to 4 fish and just loving it, loving the experience, and they're all coming back into the area which is great.

A photo taken on Cape Hillsborough National Park's Casuarina Beach of a man and a kangaroo watching the sunrise together really put Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park on the map. The photo was a social media sensation, quickly generating over 120,000 likes and shared by Tourism Mackay and Tourism Australia. Thanks to the interest the photo generated, Ben and Renae experienced a dramatic increase in tourist numbers to their park. What used to be witnessed by only few lucky travellers soon increased to over 40 visitors daily, all year round.

Ben and Renae have adapted their business practices to capitalise on the interest in their local area. As their park faces onto the same beach as the iconic image, they now have staff present every morning to ensure the safety of both animals and humans. They have also incorporated introductory speeches and the opportunity for tourists to ask questions of local guides. They're working with their regional tourism office to transition into bookable experiences, and expanding their operations to include a beachfront restaurant and merchandise.

Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park is part of the Mackay region's tourism-led recovery after the downturn in the coal industry. They're working to achieve this by sharing their unique tourism experiences with visitors from all around the world.

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