West Mackay, immediately south-west of Mackay's central business area, has the Bruce Highway as its main transport axis. Numerous motels have their frontages on the highway.

West Mackay was an outlying area of the original town of Mackay (1869), suitable for Mackay's cemetery (now the 'old cemetery') and the base hospital which originated in 1885 (a new hospital was erected in 1921-22 and a major extension was added in 1980). West Mackay's outer boundary was the lagoons, now the Mackay botanic garden, where James Robb built a sugar mill in the early 1870s. The mill failed in a few years, but land near the lagoons was reserved for a government sugar nursery (c1890), which was replaced by a Sugar Experimental Station (1898).

Residential development occurred in the interwar years, and many houses of that period are substantially intact. West Mackay primary school was opened in 1924 and a Catholic primary school was opened 13 years later. Several churches, two bowling clubs and local shops marked out the suburb. Persistent presences are the highway's accommodation facilities and the sugar industry with its research institute (1949), built on land east of the lagoons which had once been the site of another mill, the Balmoral (1873-78). The institute's building, completed in 1966, was to the design of the noted architect, Karl Langer, and is listed on the Queensland heritage register. The institute transferred its work to Brisbane in 2006.

West Mackay's census populations have been:

census datepopulation
20066268
20116507