FIND THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN PORT MACQUARIE
When you visit Port Macquarie, with world-class beaches and stunning coastal views, you will be spoilt for choice for fun things to do! Port Macquarie makes a great stand-alone holiday spot and a perfect stop off on Sydney’s classic road trip to Brisbane.
You might be wondering if Port Macquarie is worth visiting? Well, we think it is, with its beautiful beaches and lush rainforest, Port Macquarie is one of Australia’s most scenic towns.
- Where is Port Macquarie?
- Beaches in Port Macquarie you need to see
- THE PORT MACQUARIE COAST WALK
- Activities on the water
- Uncovering Port Macquarie’s past
- Koala Hospital and Koala sculpture trail
- Billabong Zoo
- Food and drink
- How to get to Port Macquarie
- Port Macquarie accommodation
- Check out more road trip ideas
A population of around 50,000 makes it one of the bigger beachside towns along the NSW mid-north coast, meaning there is a good range of holiday accommodation on offer. The town offers numerous services and amenities for visitors, and you will easily find lots of things to do to fill your days.
Hastings River area where Port Macquarie was home to the Birpai Aboriginal peoples for tens of thousands of years before the colonials arrived.
Apart from its scenery, Port Macquarie is brimming with history, and there are plenty of historical sites and stories for visitors to discover.
Where is Port Macquarie?
Perched at the mouth of the Hastings River, Port Macquarie is a holiday town on the upper Mid North Coast, just under 400 kilometres north of Sydney (or four and a half hours driving time).
It’s also about 600 kilometres from Brisbane, making it a good stopover point if you’re taking a road trip up Australia’s East Coast.
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Beaches in Port Macquarie you need to see
Port Macquarie and its surrounding towns are home to many gorgeous beaches, about seventeen if locals are to be believed. The official count in town is about eight or so, but we recommend trying to find some of the secret beaches if locals share them.
We have written in detail on our favourite Port Macquarie Beaches here but basically, the main ones are
- Town Beach – most accessible
- Oxley Beach – good for a picnic
- Rocky Beach – dog-friendly beach, not great for swimming
- Flynns Beach – best beach cafe
- Nobby’s Beach – good for dog walking and surfing
- Shelly Beach – great for a dip after the coastal walk
- Lighthouse Beach – good surf and home of the camel rides
THE PORT MACQUARIE COAST WALK
The Port Macquarie Coastal Walk isn’t your short and casual stroll, it’s a veritable trek, running over nine kilometres from Westport Park on the Hastings River down to Tacking Point Lighthouse on Lighthouse Beach.
The whole walk will take you about three hours, so many visitors opt to walk just a section of the track. We did it over two days mainly because we were staying at Flynns Beach, which was almost the halfway point. The walk’s difficulty varies, with some parts veering onto loose sand and others climbing headlands.
Be sure to pack plenty of water and a bite to eat if you’re doing the whole thing. We arrived at Sea Acres hoping for a late lunch only to find they had closed service at 2.30 pm so be prepared.
Should you opt to take on the challenge, rewards await. The walk takes you past any number of lookouts and vantage points over the ocean, perfect for whale watching should you be here in season.
A highlight of the walk is the section through Sea Acres Nature Reserve. A remnant of pristine littoral rainforest, the track takes you through a 1.3-kilometre boardwalk underneath the canopy. Make sure to stop at the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre to look at some local art and history or a great feed at the café.
Activities on the water
Built where the Hastings River meets the Tasman Sea, Port Macquarie is a very maritime town, and there’s a wide variety of activities available on the water for adventurous visitors
Like many towns up and down Australia’s eastern coast, Port Macquarie is a great place to watch the whale migration, typically during the middle of the year heading north and both sides of October heading south.
Apart from the numerous lookouts and vantage points along Port’s coast, the town also has several boats that offer whale and dolphin watching cruises at peak times. Don’t miss the chance to nab yourself a priceless picture of these kings of the deep in their natural habitat.
Rent a BBQ, Kayak or Paddle Board
If you fancy the idea of getting out on the water and messing about, then you might want to consider hiring a “tinny” for a spot of fishing or a kayak if you are up for some exercise. There are numerous places you can do this. We checked out Dunbogan Boat Shed on our last visit, and we were impressed with the staff’s service and friendliness. They also have a cafe and offer a chance to feed the fish off their wharf.
Uncovering Port Macquarie’s past
Port Macquarie is one of Australia’s oldest European settlements, founded in 1821 to dump troublesome convicts after Newcastle had become too attractive. As a result, Port Macquarie has its fair share of heritage buildings, dating right back to its founding.
Port Macquarie was established as a penal settlement in 1821, the first free settlers arrived nine years later.
Self Guided History Walk
Pop into the Port Macquarie Historical Museum
The Port Macquarie Museum has a number of exhibitions that will help you learn more about the area including Port Macquarie’s Beginnings and Timber, a story on the areas timber industry. Kids will enjoy ‘I Spy’ family trail.
When: Monday – Saturday 10am-4pm
Where: 22 Clarence Street, Port Macquarie
Roto House was built by John Flynn in 1890 and home to the family right up until 1979. Today it is maintained by the NSW National Parks service and can be visited for the cost of a gold coin.
Volunteer guides are on-site to answer any questions you have as you explore this beautifully restored eleven room property. There is a small food van selling coffee and tasty treats and the lawns are perfect for picnics.
Where: 2 Roto Place, Port Macquarie,
When: Open daily 10am-4.30pm (closed Christmas, Easter Sunday and Anzac Day)
Port Macquarie’s Tacking Point Lighthouse
Tacking Point Lighthouse has the lucky (or perhaps unlucky) distinction of being the thirteenth lighthouse built in Australia, constructed in 1879 after an extraordinary amount of ships were wrecked in the area. Another of Colonial Architect James Barnet’s many works.
The lighthouse is a squat sort of building, Tacking Point being so high that a tower of only eight metres was required. Today the lighthouse marks the end of the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk, a suitably iconic end to the journey.
It’s about 8-9km from town and the end of the Coastal Walking track. The point offers fantastic views over Lighthouse Beach and Little Bay.
If you’re in the mood for some more interactive history, head out to Timbertown, around fifteen minutes out of central Port Macquarie. Timbertown is an interactive museum that transports visitors back to a colonial-era sawmilling town.
Timber was a vital industry for early European colonists. Some of the earliest and most brutal forays into the Biripi country on which Port Macquarie sits were made by the infamous cedar-cutters. Today Timberland offers a far more family-friendly view of history, with steam train rides, bullock team displays, blacksmithing and gold panning.
Koala Hospital and Koala sculpture trail
If Port Macquarie is known for any animals, then that animal is the koala. The town even has a permanent exhibition of koala art, the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail, which at last count featured 65 large and colourfully painted koalas. Download a koala map before you head out and see how many you can tick off.
Despite last year’s catastrophic fires, Port’s koala population is bouncing back with the help of the town’s famous Koala Hospital. Right next to the historic Roto House, Port Macquarie’s Koala Hospital is a haven for sick and injured koalas from around the region.
If you are keen to visit, you need to make a booking for one of the day’s 45-minute time slots. The site is very small, and on our visit, perhaps due to Covid, there was not a lot to see. We were only there for about 25minutes, and guided tours were not being offered. The Koalaseum space was also closed.
I think the interaction with the staff, who are very passionate about their work, is a highlight of a visit here so I would consider postponing until the tours are being offered again.
Apart from the hospital, there’s also the ten-acre wildlife park known as Billabong Zoo, filled with various local and exotic animals. Residents of the zoo include saltwater crocodiles and cassowaries along with lions, meerkats and marmosets. You can also feed kangaroos and pat koalas.
Where: 61 Billabong Drive, Port Macquarie
When: 9am to 5pm every day (except Christmas)
Food and drink
As a tourist town, Port Macquarie has plenty of places to eat and drink. Although there are far too many venues in the town to cover here, a couple of places stand out to the writers.
- Chop ‘n Chill Bar and Grill sits right down on the Hastings River and serves great meat with a South-East Asian twist.
- ChowHaus is similar, serving hip Asian-inspired street food but with far more focus on burgers, which are highly acclaimed by locals.
- Off the Hook generally has lines running out the door with seriously good fish and chips
- Bill’s Fishhouse and Bar offers more sophisticated seafood priced accordingly.
- Sandbox – this Flynns Beach cafe is a local favourite or breakfast with a view.
Like many towns along the coast, Port Macquarie is having something of a craft beer boom. Several microbreweries have sprung up in the town’s industrial area, each offering a great drop for beer connoisseurs. Wicked Elf Brewery, Moorebeer and Black Duck Brewing all offer tasting and tours for visitors and are more than happy to sell you a bit of their product to take home with you.
Strawberries and tomato picking
And if you like to combine your culinary adventures with a nice bit of fresh air, you’ll have to make it trek it out of town to Ricardo’s Tomatoes and strawberry. Along with its own BYO café, Ricardo’s offers free entry to its orchard, allowing fruit fans of all ages to pick what they can and pay by the bucket.
Where: 221 Blackmans Point Road, Port Macquarie
When: Farm Gate Sales – 7am to 5pm Mon-Fri, 8am start Sat-Sun – Free farm tours 11am weekdays.
How to get to Port Macquarie
It’s a four-five hour drive north from Sydney along the Pacific Highway to Port and 7 hours south from Brisbane.
Can you fly to Port Macquarie? Yes, flights generally operate daily (pre-covid) between Sydney and Port Macquarie, and there are usually flights between Brisbane and Port Macquarie. Flying time is about 1 hour. Please check the current schedule here. Fly Pelican now offers direct flights from Canberra.
Is there a train from Sydney to Port Macquarie? You can take a train from Central Station to Wauchope Station where a connecting Countrylink bus continues the short journey to the centre of Port. The trip takes just under eight hours.
Port Macquarie known for their mild winters and warm summers, for many years it attracted retirees from Sydney looking for their place in the sun, today everyone else has caught on!
Port Macquarie accommodation
You can choose to base yourself in Port Macquarie, or if you prefer things a little quieter, you might like to check out the nearby towns of, Wauchope, Laurieton, North Haven and Lake Cathie.
There is a great range of visitor accommodation on offer making this a fantastic choice for a beach holiday in NSW. From campsites to caravan parks, hotels to resorts and some fabulous holiday rentals you will find something for every budget.
Caravans and Campsites in Port Macquarie
Free campsites near Port Macquarie – The nearest free coastal campsites are about an hour away at Crowdy Bay and Diamond Head. The closest budget option is at Wauchope Showground which will cost $10 for a tent site and $20 for a vehicle.
Caravan Parks in Port Macquarie – there are dozens of parks to choose from. We like our caravan parks small and family-run wherever possible, they are usually quieter and less expensive than the big chains.
We stayed at Flynns Beach Caravan Park on our last visit. It’s just a couple of minutes walk from Flynns Beach and lovely and quiet. There is a small pool, old but clean bathrooms and beautiful shaded sites. We would stay again in a heartbeat. The people and the sites were great. There are no special kids facilities so probably not the best choice for families with young kids.
For families, we would recommend either the NRMA Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park which has a pool with a separate babies pool, a playground and a kid playroom. It’s only 400m from North Shore Beach too.
Hotels in Port Macquarie
Rydges Port Macquarie faces the Breakwall and is surrounded by cafes and shops. A mix of hotel rooms and 2-3 bedrooms apartments, Rydges offers an on-site gym, pool, restaurant and bar.
Other hotels you might like to consider include
- Mantra The Observatory Port Macquarie – directly across the road from Town Beach
- Mantra Quayside – apartments, some with water views near shops
- Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges – recently refurbished apartments with a riverfront location
- Mercure Centro – Centre of town behind the visitors centre and museum
- Ibis Styles – water views at an affordable price
For accessible accommodation options in Port Macquarie check out Have Wheelchair Will Travels guide to their visit
So there you go – our best tips from our recent visit to Port Macquarie. If you are planning more NSW travel these articles might help.
- Fun things to do in Coffs Harbour
- All the must-see sites on the Waterfall Way
- How to plan your east coast itinerary
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Want more travel tips for exploring Australia? Have a question about your visit to Port Macquarie we have not covered?