Port Macquarie, a small town of fewer than 50,000 residents along the Pacific Coast in Australia, is often overlooked by local and international travelers. It’s a city with a rich convict history dating back to 1818, but one that over the years has gained a rather uninspiring reputation of a “retirement destination”.
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But the truth is, it’s so much more than that! Visiting Port Macquarie, Australia, we found no reason to label it a “an old people settlement”. There are plenty of things to do in Port Macquarie allowing you ways to soak up its vibrant, youthful, and adventurous culture.
By sharing our Port Macquarie Australia experience we hope to give you a glimpse of what makes Port Macquarie special and worthy of a spot on your Australian itinerary.
Soak up the Friendly Vibe
We visited Port Macquarie on a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney while getting around and living in a campervan. Finding a place to safely park a campervan overnight is always a struggle for nomads on the road, but Port Macquarie couldn’t have been more accommodating!
We pulled up to Flynn’s Beach late in the evening and despite our initial hesitations felt an immediate sense of relief. The car park was filled with other campervans, all parked next to each other facing the moonlit Flynn’s Beach. If you are planning to road trip from Port Macquarie to Sydney, Flynn’s Beach is the perfect starting point.
You’ll be made to feel more than welcome. We joined a group of backpackers hanging out in the picnic area and shared travel stories over wine and beers. The mood was buoyant and friendly. It felt like we were all one big happy family living a dream life on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Sleep on the Beach and Wake up to Mesmerising Morning Views
Sleeping on any of the Port Macquarie beaches will be an experience like no other. We were rocked to sleep by the gentle sounds of the waves sweeping along the rocky beach and woke up to a beautiful sunrise affectionately infusing the air with warm light. We drank morning tea on the beach, looking out onto the ocean. It was absolute bliss. The kind of bliss you picture in the sacred dreams of the nomadic lifestyle.
Explore the Never-ending Beaches
Being a coastal town, it’s no surprise that one of the main Port Macquarie attractions are its beaches. Inspired by the early morning sights, we dedicated many hours to exploring the rest of Port Macquarie’s 18 beaches, that range from family-friendly swimming beaches, to secluded patches of sand surrounded by incredible rocky headlands.
Some beaches were only accessible by 4WD, others were best explored on foot, and many offered great picnic areas and BBQs, making them ideal stomping grounds for families, groups, and those traveling as a couple.
Flynn’s Beach, Rocky Beach, Nobby’s Beach, and Lighthouse Beach were just a few of our favourite Port Macquarie beaches! Many of the beaches offered fantastic surfing opportunities which helps the town flourish as an up and coming surfing destination.
Join the Surfers of Port Macquarie Beaches
We couldn’t walk past Town Beach without stopping to admire the surfers in the water. Many of them were so young and so talented!
It’s no surprise that surfing is one of the most popular things to do in Port Macquarie. There are plenty of surf shops to hire a board. Don’t worry if you’ve never caught a wave before, it’s never too late to learn something new! Head to Port Macquarie Surf School for some surf lessons and enjoy Port Macquarie beaches like a local.
Walk Along the Breathtaking Coastline
The locals told us that one of the best ways to explore many of Port Macquarie’s beaches is to embark on the famous 9km (one way) Coastal Walk. The walk stretches from the Town Green foreshore to Lighthouse Beach, passing through eight beautiful beaches, including Miners Beach, Shelly’s Beach, Nobby’s Beach, Flynn’s Beach, Rocky Beach, Oxley Beach, and Town Beach.
We only had one day to spend in Port Macquarie, so we choose to explore the Coastal Walk by car, driving from beach to beach and seeing the stunning views and the diversity of the coastline without the time sacrifice. We may have cheated our way through these Port Macquarie’ attractions, but it didn’t make it any less memorable!
Take a History Lesson with a Twist
Port Macquarie Australia has a somewhat dark history having begun life as a convict settlement. Apparently, back in the 1800’s, this seaside town was where they sent the “worst of the worst” convicts. If you are a bit of a history buff and looking for interesting things to do in Port Macquarie, then you should definitely check out the walking tours.
Or, if you like the macabre and are at a loss of what to do in Port Macquarie at night, why not try an after dark ghost tour with Port by Night Tours.
Admire the Fascinating Art at the Breakwall
The painted rock wall that stretches along the breakwall next to the Port Macquarie Caravan Park is nothing short of amazing and serves as a true testament to the wonderful Port community.
What began as an art competition back in 1995, has since grown into an incredible rock gallery commemorating life, love, and adventures on the road! Every rock is unique, hand painted by locals and visitors alike. Some paintings were elaborate meaningful tributes to family, friends, or loved ones, others were simple scribbles on the rocks, marks of casual passers-by.
We are not usually the ones to admire art in a museum or appreciate the meaning of a painting in a gallery, but walking along that breakwall, we felt a connection with every single rock, every person who left their mark along the river. It touched us, inspired us, and sometimes brought us to tears. Mark this one as not-to-be-missed on your list of things to do in Port Macquarie!
Our adoration of Port Macquarie was unexpected. It was a stop that we weren’t even planning on making in the early stages of our Brisbane to Sydney road trip, but one that left us with found memories and a desire to one day return to this special town.
Our stay in Port Macquarie was picture perfect: sharing a bottle of wine with fellow travelers on the beach at moonlight, waking up to the sounds of the ocean and the sun rising over the beach, spending days exploring beaches and secluded walks, taking in the world’s most beautiful attractions for absolutely free.
Gone are the days of retirees in Port Macquarie. Today, this town is a place worth visiting! It’s a place for the young (and young at heart) and free. There are so many sights and things to do in Port Macquarie that make it the perfect stop for those traveling solo, exploring with a loved one, or those traversing with families.
It’s the perfect destination for those that appreciate the simple things in life, the whispers and roars of the oceans, and those that feel at home in nature’s stunning playgrounds.
Essential Travel Info for Port Macquarie Australia
Port Macquarie is located 400km north of Sydney. It’s a great stop to make if you are embarking on a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane (or the reverse). If you are getting around by bus, both Greyhound and Premier Motor Service stop in Port Macquarie en route from Sydney to Brisbane and in reverse, dropping passengers off at the Port Macquarie Coach Station.
By car, the trip from Port Macquarie to Sydney takes approximately 4 hours. Port Macquarie to Brisbane is about 6hrs.
The town of Port Macquarie is pretty compact with lots of places located within walking distance of the Town Centre, including many of the beaches and other attractions.
Where to Stay
Being a vacation town, Port Macquarie offers plenty of accommodation options ranging from simple backpacker hostels to nicer resorts. Booking.com offers 147 accommodation options in Port Macquarie and is a great place to start your search. Alternatively, consider staying in a local’s home through Airbnb.