Port Macquarie, a small town of fewer than 50,000 residents along the Pacific Coast in Australia, is often overlooked by local and international travellers. 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 as 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 “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.
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Is Port Macquarie Worth Visiting?
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 for couples, a perfect stop for those travelling solo, or traversing with families.
It’s the perfect destination for those who appreciate the simple things in life, the whispers and roars of the oceans, and those who feel at home in nature’s stunning playgrounds.
The Best Things To Do In Port Macquarie
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!
Flynns Beach is also a great spot for beginner surfers most of the year, located about 3 kilometres south of Port Macquarie. Its nice 500-meter-long beach is tucked between two rocky headlands that protect it from westerly and southerly winds.
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.
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 beer. 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.
If you are planning to road trip from Port Macquarie to Sydney, this family-friendly Flynns Beach is the perfect starting point.
Sleep On The Port Macquarie Beach And Wake Up To Mesmerising Morning Views
Sleeping on any of the 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 into 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 is its beaches, from the gentle waves of Town Beach to the family-friendly Lighthouse Beach.
Inspired by the early morning sights, we dedicated many hours to exploring the rest of Port Macquarie’s 18 beaches, which range from family-friendly swimming beaches and patrolled 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 travelling 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 helped the town flourish as an up-and-coming surfing destination.
READ NEXT: Best Beaches in Port Macquarie, NSW
Visit Sea Acres National Park
Sea Acres, National Park in New South Wales, is a long seaside boardwalk. You’ll find a rocky coast, lush subtropical rainforest, and lots of wildlife.
The Sea Acres Rainforest Centre offers only a few walks, like the Sea Acres Rainforest boardwalk.
This elevated walkway is an easy 1.3 km stroll in the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre that you can enjoy at your own pace or with a rainforest guide. Sea Acres Rainforest boardwalk typically takes about 45 minutes to complete.
Explore Bago Maze and Winery
Bago Maze and Winery in the Mid-North Coast of NSW is perfect for outdoor adventures and wine tasting.
It’s a family farm set in a scenic valley 30 minutes out of town, surrounded by tall Eucalyptus trees. You can enjoy wine tasting and relax with a glass of wine or coffee, along with a regional cheese and meat platter of local produce from around the region.
And don’t forget to explore the Maze! It’s one of the world’s largest hedge mazes, featuring a native Lilly Pilly hedge maze.
Go Kayaking or SUP Down The Hastings River
For the most fun on Hastings County’s waterways, rent or bring your own stand-up paddleboard (SUP) or kayak. You can find out where to learn how to use (or simply hire) all the good gear here.
Head to Pelican Island and paddle along the mangroves or explore several kilometres upstream from the river mouth. Best to go during high tide in the morning.
There are lovely beaches that offer picnic facilities along the way, and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of dolphins in the Hastings River!
Tour The Dooragan National Park
Head to Dooragan National Park for some relaxation and outdoor fun.
Hike up to the North Brother Mountain summit, part of the Three Brothers, for stunning views over Laurieton, offering easy access and a quick escape from city life to the peaceful bush with lots of wildlife.
Visit Koala Hospital
If you stroll through Macquarie Nature Reserve, you’ll come across the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in the southwest corner. It’s the world’s first hospital just for koalas!
This not-for-profit organization rescues and cares for injured koalas in the area. You can get up close, learn more about these cuddly creatures, and even adopt one! The best part is that volunteers run it, so there’s no entry fee to visit.
Check Out The Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail
While strolling through Port Macquarie’s city centre, watch for cute koala sculptures on the streets. The Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail is a permanent art exhibit that started in 2014 to create a sense of community and highlight Australia’s endangered wildlife.
You’ll find over 83 colourful one-meter-tall koala sculpture designs by local artists around Port Macquarie, many right in the city centre, so keep an eye out for them!
Stroll by The Foreshore Market
Get ready for the Port Macquarie Foreshore Market, happening every second Saturday of the month at the beautiful Westport Park by the water.
Here, you can shop for fresh veggies, fruits, and local goodies like jams and bread, plus enjoy live music, unique crafts, and a fantastic atmosphere for all ages! It’s also a great way to help out local small businesses, so go ahead and shop to support them!
Hop on The River Cruises
Port Macquarie’s waterways are fantastic places to explore, especially if you love dolphins and want a memorable day. We suggest taking a cruise tour!
Hastings River Cruises
Take a cruise along the Hastings River to discover the beautiful canals, estuaries, and local oyster farms. You’ll also see lots of local birds and marine life, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot some dolphins enjoying the river.
Sunset River Cruises
As the day winds down, a sunset cruise is perfect for unwinding. You’ll get to see the stunning sunset over the Hastings River, with Pelican Island and the mountains creating a beautiful backdrop.
Dolphin Spotting Cruises
If you’re a fan of dolphins, these cruises are a fantastic way to watch them gracefully swim, dive, and play in the currents. You may even get a close-up view of these beautiful creatures in the surf or river.
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) Port Macquarie 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 up to the Lighthouse Beach.
We recommend you begin your journey at Town Beach and head south towards Tacking Point Lighthouse.
We only had one day to spend in Port Macquarie, so we chose to explore the Port Macquarie 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 coastal town attractions, but it didn’t make it any less memorable!
Get A Glimpse of History at Port Macquarie Museum
If it’s raining and you need indoor activities in Port Macquarie, Port Macquarie Museum is a good option. They switch up their exhibits often, so there’s always something fresh to see that’s all about the city’s history, from its early days as a British penal colony to its current status as a tourist hot spot.
This award-winning museum takes you through the stories and secrets of Port Macquarie’s past, including the people, places, and events that have shaped the town and district, home to the Birpai people.
It’s got fourteen galleries and display areas, so be sure to give yourself enough time to explore. It’s bigger than it seems, and the collections are some of the best in regional NSW.
Take A History Lesson With A Twist
Port Macquarie, Australia, has a dark history, having begun life as a convict settlement. Back in the 1800’s, this seaside town was where they sent the “worst of the worst” convicts.
If you are a history buff and looking for interesting things to do in Port Macquarie, you should check out the walking tours.
Here, you will take a stroll in Port Macquarie to get a feel for the town’s history. Walk the streets and listen to engaging stories that bring history to life. You’ll explore some historical sites and see firsthand how our past is interpreted.
If you’re up for something different, join the Grave Tales walking tour. This informative tour guides you through Port Macquarie’s historic cemetery, where nearly 1,500 soldiers and convicts rest. In the serene cemetery setting, you’ll hear intriguing tales about those laid to rest and their families. You’ll also learn about preserving the monuments.
Admire The Fascinating Art At The Breakwall
The colourful graffiti rocks that stretch along the breakwall next to the Port Macquarie Caravan Park are nothing short of amazing and serve as a true testament to the wonderful Port community.
What began as an art competition in 1995 has become 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 favourite things to do in Port Macquarie!
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 beaches and other attractions.
Where To Stay In Port Macquarie
Being a vacation town, Port Macquarie offers many accommodation options, from simple backpacker hostels to nicer resorts. Here are a few that we recommend.
Flynns on Surf Beach Villas
Flynns on Surf Beach Villas offers 19 luxury, family-friendly, four-star villas amid bushland. Choose from one, two, or three-bedroom options, all equipped with air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV, iPod docking station, a fully equipped kitchen, laundry, and a private garage. The property features outdoor barbecue facilities, swimming pool with sun loungers, and is a short stroll from Flynn’s Beach and Macquarie Nature Reserve. Enjoy nearby activities like whale watching, exploring Camden Haven River, and visiting Port Macquarie Museum for cultural fun!
Ana Mandara Luxury Retreat
Ana Mandara Luxury B&B in Port Macquarie offers 17 types of luxury rooms exclusively for adults. Each room is equipped with amenities like air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a coffee machine, a barbecue, and a hot tub. The property is just a short walk from Woregore Nature Reserve and not far from North Shore Beach and the Koala Hospital. This place offers free daily breakfast, self-parking, and even a free airport shuttle. Plus, they’re big on being eco-friendly and right next to a nature reserve!
Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers YHA
If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly affordable accommodation, go check out Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers YHA in Port Macquarie. It has 16 rooms and a total of 60 beds. Enjoy free parking, and an outdoor pool, better yet, you can cook up something in the communal kitchen, and the shared lounge offers free WiFi and a TV. There’s also free shuttle, housekeeping, and express check-out.
You can hit up nine beautiful beaches, see koalas at the Koala Hospital, go to Billabong Koala Park, try some local wines, go skydiving, and spot wild koalas just a 5-minute drive. Plus, they’ve got cool bars and nightclubs nearby.
Where To Eat In Port Macquarie
Milkbar Town Beach is a top spot for a beachside breakfast that opens every day in Port Macquarie. They’ve got great coffee and friendly staff. Check out their yummy acai bowls, and don’t miss their locally sourced Bircher muesli, bagels, and nourish bowls to kickstart your day with loads of energy.
The Stunned Mullet
The Stunned Mullet is a place for dining with amazing views, they open every day except Sunday and Monday. They’ve got a hat from the SMH Good Food Guide and an award for their wine list.
They use the freshest local ingredients and blend them with creative international flavours for a fantastic dining experience and even won plenty of eco awards for their efforts and make sure their ingredients are sourced responsibly.
Little Fish Cafe & Vineyard
Little Fish Cafe & Vineyard offers an upscale dining experience with a French twist. You can enjoy dishes like oven-baked snails and Provençal favourites while overlooking the vineyards of Innes Lake Estates.
Their menu changes with the seasons, and they have a great selection of local wines. It’s a perfect spot to dine on the verandah or in the garden with a view of the vineyard.
How Much Time Needed to Explore Port Macquarie?
The duration of your stay in Port Macquarie depends on the time you have available. You can enjoy a quick overnight visit or a weekend getaway. We recommend a more extended one- to two-week holiday.