Port Macquarie & Surrounds
With a climate widely regarded as one of Australia's best, Port Macquarie is a holiday haven for those seeking a relaxed getaway beside the sea. Known simply as 'Port' locally, it's a busy resort town which is becoming increasingly upmarket. It's also a happening spot for those wanting a bit of adventure on their holidays. You can take your pick of activities, from skydiving over the town, to powerboating on one of the rivers, to horseriding along a deserted beach.
Port Macquarie is approx 4.5 to 5 hour's drive (or 399km) north of Sydney, and is roughly the same distance south of Byron Bay. Located just off the Pacific highway, it's therefore a great mid-point stop off if you are driving between the two.
The town began as a convict penal settlement in 1821, when 60 convicts were shipped in. Many historical structures from those days still stand today, offering an insight into the hard grind of a life the early Australian convict settlers endured. They built the St Thomas of the Apostle church with 365,000 hand made bricks and you can still see the convict finger marks on the outside walls today, made as the workers marked their count.
Today life is a lot more relaxed in Port than it was for those early residents, and a holiday lifestyle prevails. In stark contrast to the early built structures is the strikingly modern Glasshouse, Port Macquarie's cutting edge arts, conference and entertainment centre, where you can catch a show or visit the impressive art gallery. It's also where you'll find the town's Information Centre.
It's a great little town for strolling around, sitting as it does on the banks of the Hastings River, and with some beautiful local beaches. The 9km Coastal Walk from the break wall at Town Beach (adorned with brightly coloured paintings and messages) and ending at Lighthouse Beach is a good way to take in the surrounds. It's an easy grade walk and takes in dramatic views around beaches and headlands, with boardwalks, viewing platforms and picnic stops along the way. Allow yourself 3.5 hours one way.
The heritage listed Sea Acres Rainforest Centre is well worth a visit, with its boardwalks among the tall palms and hanging vines. Soak up being in the midst of a sub-tropical coastal rainforest with guided walks, local aboriginal bush tucker experiences, and an eco gallery to keep you entertained for a day. There's also a scenic rainforest cafe to relax in and enjoy delicious local cuisine from their French chef.
Port Macquarie has one of the highest urban koala populations in NSW. The town is home to the world's first hospital dedicated to the care of koalas. Located in the Macquarie Nature Reserve in Lord Street, be sure to visit the Koala Hospital at feeding time (7.30am and 3pm daily) to see these cute and iconic aussie marsupials up close as they are nursed back to health. The koala hospital is the only one in NSW and treats up to 300 koalas a year. The Billabong Zoo Koala and Wildlife Park is another popular attraction where you can get up close to some true blue Australian wildlife – you can pet koalas, hand feed kangaroos and see reptiles, monkeys and dingos.
The Greater Port Macquarie region offers some stunning beaches and as with the entire coast, surfing forms a large part of the lifestyle here. Town Beach, Flynns, Lighthouse, Rainbow and North Haven are popular surf spots. Beach fishing is also a favourite sport here, and if you're looking to personally catch your dinner head to Rocky Beach, Lighthouse Beach, Rainbow Beach or Grants Beach.
The Hastings region is a hub for the finest food and wines. Its sunkissed location makes it the perfect home to a number of boutique wineries, unique cafes and specialist food producers. Verdelho, rosé, shiraz and chardonnay are some of the popular local drops. The temperate climate has also encouraged the setting up of some great microbreweries producing fantastic boutique beers. Fresh fruit and vegetables are plentiful from the fertile soils of the region, as well as premium wagyu beef, fresh seafood and local olives. So come and indulge!
Find the 'Journey of Flavour' logo as you explore restaurants, cafes, wineries and on local products – and you'll know you are getting quality items, quality service and local freshness. Each October the area is home to the 'Tastings of the Hastings' event, a month long food and wine festival celebrating the great food culture and offering visitors a taste sensation.
60 minutes’ drive south of Port and you'll find yourself in the Great Lakes area with 145km of coastline and inland waterways. Another beautiful playground. This region includes Seal Rocks (with its magnificent stretch of untouched surf beach, Treachery, perfect for 4WD off-roading, surf fishing and board riding). A walk up to the Sugarloaf point lighthouse here is a great way to spend a couple of hours, the views are stunning and the 1895 built lighthouse is in pristine condition. You can even rent the gorgeous cottages below the lighthouse to stay in. The Myall Lakes National Park and the sensational surf beaches of Boomerang and Blueys are favourite holiday spots within the Great Lakes area.
Heading up the coast north of Port Macquarie and you'll find Crescent Head, a spectacular place often rated as one of Australia's top 5 surf beaches (perfect for learning or for cruising on a malibu!). Picture perfectly placed overlooking the ocean is Australia's only 6 holes Golf Club, where you can tee off with views like no other. Hat Head is a great spot for surfing and whale watching. South West Rocks is another popular little beach haven where visitors can explore convict heritage at the historic Trial Bay Jail, as well as capture stunning views of the coastline from Smoky Cape lighthouse.