Port Macquarie  is a large Australian town on the New South Wales Mid North Coast, approximately 400 km north of Sydney.
Tacking Point Lighthouse, Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie is a coastal town located on the New South Wales Mid North Coast, about 390km north of Sydney and 570km south of Brisbane. The traditional aboriginal custodians of the land are the Bripai people who inhabited the region for thousands of years prior to European colonisation. The first European arrival was John Oxley, who named the location after the Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie. In 1821 Port Macquarie became a penal settlement, replacing Newcastle as the destination for convicts who had committed secondary crimes in New South Wales.
Today Port Macquarie has become a popular retirement and tourist destination, with extensive beaches and waterways, and numerous fine cafes and restaurants to dine in.
QANTAS provides up to three flights per day from Kingsford Smith International Airport, on Dash 8 (or similar Turboprop driven) aircraft. The flight to or from Sydney takes about an hour.
Virgin Blue operates a low cost service, several flights daily, to and from both Sydney and Brisbane.
Bookings for both can be handled online or at most Qantas offices. During the middle of the year and in holiday times, flights into and out of Port Macquarie are quite easy to get seats on, however, early bookings are highly recommended for flights in school holidays, especially the summer break.
Flights to other regional or capital cities are not currently available directly from Port Macquarie, but connecting flights are very easy to get in Sydney.
Both Greyhound and Premier Motor Service run multiple daily bus services to and from Port Macquarie to and from Sydney and Brisbane.
Sydney buses arrive and depart Central Railway Station in Central Sydney and take approximately 8 h to travel between Port Macquarie and Sydney. Brisbane buses depart and arrive at the Roma St Transit Centre in Central Brisbane and take approximately 10 h to cover the distance.
In Port Macquarie, all buses drop off at the Port Macquarie Coach Station on the southern side of the Central Business District (CBD). The main shopping area is located withing easy walking distance from this station, and some hostels, hotels and a caravan park are located within a distance that you could walk if have not too much luggage. Otherwise, the coach station has a public phone to call a taxi, or hotel for pick up, but most hotel owners and taxi drivers know when the buses arrive and will be waiting for you anyway.
Port Macquarie does not have a railway station, but approximately 20 min west of Port Macquarie is Wauchope, which is serviced by the North Coast Railway Line.
Services to Wauchope originate at Central Station in Sydney and take around 7 h. Wauchope is serviced by three trains a day from Sydney. One train terminates at Grafton, another terminates at Casino, and a third continues to Brisbane.
CountryLink Rail Services arriving or departing during the day and the early afternoon are connected to Port Macqaurie by bus, which must be booked at the same time as booking your rail ticket. (This bus drops off at Port Macquarie Coach Station). Services departing or arriving early in the morning or late at night are more of a challenge, as this connection is not availble, and no public transport services Wauchope at this time.
Then, you have to stay in Wauchope (some cheap hotels are located west of the station, and some motor inns are located some way farther west as well) or get a taxi back to Port Macqaurie, which can be extremely expensive. For this reason, arrival by rail at these times is not recommended.
Port Macquarie is the eastern start point for the Oxley Highway which runs from there westwards through Wauchope to join up with the New England highway miles inland
When travelling from the south (Sydney)via the Pacific Highway you need to take the exit ramp for Wauchope/Walcha/Port Macquarie on the left hand side of the road. Take this exit, turn RIGHT at the large roundabout (called "The Doughnut" by locals), and follow this road (Oxley HWY) into all the way into central Port Macquarie where it terminates. At the doughnut there is a new bypass road direct into the city and some GPS systems will still try to take you on the old road (to the left just past McDonalds). Dont be confused, just go straight thrugh all roundabouts and you will get to the city.
When travelling from the north you will enter an 80 km/h zone and cross the Hastings River over a bridge signposted as Dennis Bridge. After crossing the bridge, the exit is located immediately to the left. Follow this road (Hastings River Drive) all the way into town.
Note that an alternative route from the south is available which is quite scenic. When travelling from Sydney, take the highway exit ramp on the left to the small town just off the highway called Kew. In the center of Kew turn right at the roundabout and follow this road for about 10 minutes until you are near Laurieton. You will see a sign pointing left saying "Port Macquarie". Follow this road through North haven and on through Bonny Hills and Lake Cathie into Port Macquarie.
This route takes aboute 45 min to get to Port Macquarie, but it is worth it for the scenery including North Brother Mountain (well worth a 5km detour for the view) , Middle Rock Beach and The Christmas Bell Plains.
Unfortunately, Port Macquarie does not have a reliable or useful public transport system which can make getting around difficult. While buses may run to most places, they often run at odd times, and terminate early in the day. The most useful bus route is the Shelly Beach - Town Centre route, which seems to run quite regularly, and is the best way of those without a car getting to the beaches and lighthouse. Other than this, don't bother with the public transport, it isn't worth the aggravation.
Fortunately, Port Macquarie has a great many places to walk to from the Town Centre. From here you can quite easily walk to many beaches and some attractions. Because it has such a compact CBD, you won't have to walk far to get to restaurants, shops and pubs if you stay in town, or nearby.
Port Macquarie has an interesting history. Being the first English convict settlement outside of Sydney and the Hunter it has a few historical sites and museums.
- Billabong Koala And Wildlife Park,61 Billabong Drive. This park is quite small and you'll only need a few hours for it but it's worth a visit. The enclosures are of reasonable size and all the animals look happy, you can actually pat and cuddle Koalas and assist and even take part to various feedings to penguins, kangaroos etc. wide variety of Australian and exotic animals, reptiles and birds including: koalas, monkeys, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, cassowaries, quolls, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, birds and the very endangered snow leopards. Pack a picnic and enjoy it in the grounds of the park or dine alfresco in the cafe.
- Mid North Coast Maritime Museum, corner of Hayward St & Ocean Drive, old Pilot's Building on just below Flagstaff Hill. It is run by a dedicated group of volunteers, and has a small collection of artifacts, documents and displays showcasing Port Macquarie's maritime history. The steps up to the top of Flagstaff hill are located in the park directly across the road, and this hill is a former naval lookout station. It affords great ocean views.
- Old Courthouse, built in 1869 and in use until 1986. Today it is furnished as it was in the 19th century and features historical items. 10AM to 3.30PM monday to friday, to 1PM saturday. Cnr Hay/Clarence Streets.
- Port Macquarie Historic Grave Yard, Gordon St almost behind the bus station (and across the road). This grave site was the major burial ground for early settlers. It is quite shaded by Lilli Pilli trees and is a pleasant place to wander around for an hour or so. It backs onto Koolonbung Nature Reserve, a native mangrove swamp area, with several kilometres of elevated boardwalks (so you don't have to walk in the mud!) and notice boards informing you about the ecosystem, this is a great, central spot for birdwatching or exploring nature in a close up environment. Remember to stay on the boardwalks at all times. Note: While Port Macquarie is an extremely safe town, some robberies have happened in Koolonbung Creek Reserve, and while it is very unlikely to happen, do not enter alone or at night.
- Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, taking care of 200 to 250 koalas per year. Some parts are open to the public and you can walk around the enclosures. 8AM - 4PM daily, feeding times 8AM and 3PM. Lord Street.
- Roto House, a National Trust property built in 1890, restored and furnished as it would have been originally. 10AM to 4PM monday to friday, 9AM to 1PM saturday. Roto Place (off Lord Street). Very close to the Koala Hospital.
- Sea Acres Rainforest Centre Located at Shelly Beach, this national park is home to a native flying fox colony, scrub turkeys, wallabies, kangaroos etc. The rainforest is criss-crossed with several kilometres of elevated boardwalks, and forest floor trails, and rangers often give guided tours. During school holidays, night tours are a must, for those interested in wildlife as it's your best time to see Australia's nocturnal animals in the wild.
- St Thomas Anglican Church, one of the oldest churches in Australia, built in 1824 by convicts and featuring original box pews.
- Town Green Central Port Macquarie's showpiece. A large park located right on the river in the CBD. It is surrounded by cafe's and hotels, and is a pleasant spot to have a cup of coffee, or picnic. A public wharf is located there, and the Alma Dopel - a former merchant sailing ship - is moored there most of the year. Tours are available. Markets are also held in summertime on the Town Green.
- Whalewatching Whales migrate past Port Macquarie during early winter and summer, and there a lots of headlands which overlook the sea to spot them from. The Lighthouse, which is located at the end of Lighthouse Road in the south, is an excellent place to spot them (and generally a great place to see views down the southern coast to Laurieton). Also, located just west of the Town Green (see above) are the commercial charter boat docks. Whalewatching (or any other water activity) can be booked here.
- Koala Hospital, Cnr Roto Place & Lord St Port Macquarie NSW 2444 Australia, ☎ 02 65841522, . 0800-1600. The Koala Hospital is a licenced Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility for injured koalas. The Koala Hospital consists of a treatment room, 8 Intensive Care Units, 6 outdoor intensive care units and 33 rehabilitation yards, many of which have trees for koalas to learn to climb as part of the rehabilitation process. Visitors are welcomed at the Koala Hospital every day of the year between 8:00am and 4:30pm. You will be able to walk around the grounds and see the koalas in our care. Guided Tours are conducted at 3:00pm every day when the koalas are fed and a volunteer will explain the issues that brought the koalas into our care. Free.
Port Macquarie is a popular tourist and retirement destination, with many spectacular beaches and holiday activities. Outside of the beaches and historic attractions Port Macquarie has many high quality restaurants and cafes well worth checking out.
- Flynns Beach: Located in the resort precinct of Flynns Beach, this is a great tourist beach. With good waves for surfing, commonly patrolled areas (all summer long), lots of shady spots under the Norfolk Pines and a cafe, Flynns is an excellent family beach. Parking can be a major hassle during summer, so either arrive early (very early) or be prepared for a walk. Surf lessons can be arranged through a variety of surf schools such as Port Macquarie Surf School and Soul Surfing. Lessons vary in price but are usually around $30-40, almost everyone ends up standing in their first lesson!
- Shelly Beach: Located right next to Sea Acres (see above) this beach has good waves on the northern end, and a semi-protected rock pool for snorkeling and children to the south. This is an unpatrolled beach - while the rock pool is excellent for kids and families, the northern end of the beach is best for surfing. There are unstable sand bars and difficult currents/rips at the northern end - swimming is not recommended at the northern end of the beach. Barbeque areas are available, but no food stores are on the beach. Parking here is available at the beach, however can sometimes can fill up in busy periods requiring parking at the top of Shelly Beach Road (near the service station) and walk down. It's an easy 800 m or so walk.
- Town Beach: The most central beach in Port Macquarie. The southern end is the family end, and patrolled by life savers. It also has a great beach front cafe. The northern end is the surf end, and is not recommended for poor swimmers or families as it commonly has strong currents, and submerged rocks. Parking is not as bad a the other beaches, but if you're staying in town, simply follow the footpath from Town Green along the breakwater. A small skate-park is located nearby. A cafeteria is located on the southern end of the beach serving coffee and snacks.
- Lighthouse Beach: Primarily a surfing beach, with a weekend patrol at the northern end over holidays, Lighthouse Beach features a fantastic lookout from the historic lighthouse and is well worth the drive. The Tacking Point Surf Club opens the bar on Fridays and Sundays (check the website for opening times) and is a popular spot amongst locals for afternoon drinks by the beach.
- The Coastal Walk: A primary attraction in Port Macquarie is the ~10km Coastal Walk from the Lighthouse at Lighthouse Beach in to Town Beach. The walk crosses all of Port Macquarie major beaches, with much time spent on the sand, using stairs to traverse each headland. The cafe at Flynns beach provides a good spot for lunch and a half way break before continuing into town. Locals often leave a car at each end of the walk so they don't have to do it twice, but this could be easily achieved with a taxi trip to the start of the walk.
- Kooloonbung Nature Park:
This is an interesting walk around a body of water rich in aquatic life. The walk takes you through mangroves, paperbark and eucalyptus forest as well as sedge land and wet land. There is a wide variety of bird life and while you are looking up keep your eyes open for a koala. There are a lot of flying foxes roosting in the trees during the day so while looking up be careful you don't get something dropping in your eye. You'll know when you are in the flying fox area as you hear them squealing and squabbling all day long. Keep your eyes peeled for a water dragon, they are common near the water.
A Walk Around Port Macquarie Nature Park
The best place to start the walk is on the south side of Gordon St just west of the bridge. Walk along the path between the creek and the car yard and on your right you will see a sign board mounted on a post with a map of the walk. There are several more of these maps on display
round the walk so you have no fear of getting lost. There are also numerous signs along the trail giving information about the park and
Walk down the stairs and onto the boardwalk. You notice how quiet it is now with all the traffic noise out of hearing. You are walking
through mangroves, and as you go up the hill you enter schlerophyll forest. Shortly you see stairs on the right which lead up to Table St
and the Girl Guides and Scout halls. Carry on a bit further and a path leads off to the left to a bird hide. It's a bit overgrown now and you
can't see much of the water.
Continue on to the next track on the left which leads over a floating foot bridge which will take you across the sedge land and back to your starting place. This is the short version of the walk. For now, ignore this turn off and carry on and you soon emerge into the eucalyptus
grove. This is a nice well cared for park with many large eucalyptus trees, mainly blackbutt and scribbly gum. You are now on a concrete path
and walking in the shade of these trees.
At the end of the path turn left over another floating bridge and onto the boardwalk which leads you through a paper bark grove. At the
end of this path you can turn right to the Wyandra Cresc exit but it's best to turn left now and head back towards town.
You soon see a path entering from the left. This is the end of the path that started at the first floating bridge. On your left you can see
the sedge land. Carry on a bit further and you see another exit to Wyandra Cresc. Now you are walking through wetland, thank heavens for
the boardwalk which is keeping your feet dry. Go up the hill and down the stairs and you are in wetland again.
The next exit on the right follows the creek and doubles back to enter the historical cemetery, but it's best if you carry on over the
bridge. As you loop round to the left you can see the historical cemetery up the hill on your right. Go on a bit further and you see set
of stairs on your right which lead up to the historical cemetery. If you keep going you soon see the Mangrove Walk on the left. Take this turn
and go along to the second bird hide on the left. This gives a very good view of the water.
Continue on the walk now and emerge in the arboretum. This is a park containing many native trees and all are labelled. You will notice you
can now hear the traffic again. Over in the north east corner of the arboretum is a toilet block and behind that is a large display showing a map of the park and giving details of the flora and fauna therein. You can go on up to the historical cemetery from here. This is a nice peaceful little park containing the remains of the early settlers. You also get a good view of the main business area of the town.
There isn't really anything you can get in Port Macquarie that you can't get anywhere else.
- Hamburger Heaven Located just up the hill from the CBD, in the Port Pacific Resort Building (the big white building) Hamburger Heaven makes reasonably priced breakfasts, but the real reason to go there is for the hamburgers. Made with premium grade, home made patties, they are the best in town. (AUS$5 - AUS$ 15)
- Macquarie Seafoods A popular fish & chip shop in central Port Macqaurie. Serving sizes are very generous for the price, and the lemon & pepper squid rings are great. (AUS$2 - AUS$ 25)
- Pizza Capers Right in the main street at Horton St (at the corner shop along Coles). Pizza Caper makes reasonable cheap, juicy and big pizza. They open daily and on some days till late. It is noticed that their pizza are made with whole vegetable and meat. Delivery, take away and dine in are available. Online menu is available as well. (AUS$5 - AUS$21)
Central Port Macquarie has plenty of high quality mid range cafes and most days you can just turn up and get a table. Here are some of the best:
- Abundance Lifestyle and Garden Cafe and garden centre just 15 min from central Port Macquarie. Set on a beautiful waterfront with delicious cafe-style menu in a funky warehouse cafe. Afterwards have a tour of the wholesale plant nursery it's very interesting. Definitely worth the short drive.
- Beau Thai Restaurant (Thai) Ignoring the terrible pun name for a second, this place is good value, and makes delicious Thai food. Located at the traffic lights in the CBD, it doesn't have any outdoor seating, and is a good place to go if the weather is bad, or in the evening.
- Chulas Thai Restaurant (Thai) Another restaurant providing delicious thai food that has been operating in Port Macquarie for many years. Located next to Rivers and MacDonalds which is opposite Settlement City Shopping Centre. It is BYO and the owners provide good service. Afterwards you can stroll over to Port Macquarie Panthers RSL Club.
- Finnians Irish Tavern Bistro, behind the bus station downtown. This bistro doesn't really serve anything all that Irish except for the fantastic Irish Guiness Pie. It does however serve good pasta, steaks and seafood, and often runs beer and meal deals during the middle of the week.
- Port Macquarie City Bowling Club Restaurant, Owen St., Port Macquarie NSW 2444. Telephone: (02 6583 1133; Facsimile: (02) 6583 1461. Good range of meals with some pleasant views.
- Tacking Point Tavern Bistro, within the Tacking Point Tavern (see drinking). This place serves standard bistro fare, or pasta, burgers, steak, and seafood. The food is quite good, and it's a popular place with local families. $10 all you can eat pasta nights happen quite often during the week. Serves 2 For 1 Meals 7 Days A Week Lunch and Dinner.
- Cafe 66 Italian food lovers - Owner Phil has carried on his Italian heritage and has been sharing it with the locals for many many years now. The famous Tuesday nights 2 for 1 pasta deal, has the 2 story establishment nearly fully booked every time (not available in Peak Holiday time) This well known establishment to the locals is open for Breakfast lunch 7 days and Dinner 6 days a week (closed Monday night) - Try the famous Marinara with your choice of pasta full of tender calamari, baby octupus, prawns and mussels on a tomato based sauce with slight hint of chilly. Pesto bread to die for. For those that love sweets, you cannot go past the Tiramasu cake (family recipe) coffee, masala, mascopone.....mmmmm I can still taste it. Licenced premises - 66 Clarence Street 02 6583 2484
There are so many mid range places in Port Macquarie that serve food of a high range standard, that it's almost not worth the extra effort. If you must eat at a high range place, here are a couple:
- Scampis Seafood, The Observatory, William Street. This seafood restaurant has great views. It serves a selection of fresh seafood dishes, however, as of recent times, the quality of meals has dropped slightly.
By far the regions premier seafood restaurant, placed over the Hastings River. Has live crabs and lobsters along with fresh local produce. Fish feeding is possible from their balcony seats and private jetty.
The hidden restaurant, that food lovers should not miss. Owner and Chef Lindsay Schwab has one many awards and travelled to many countries and taken a small piece of everyone and combined them into his culinary skills. Using the freshest local produce when he can he creates flavours, textures and dining delights to die for. Licenced premises, consistent quality food and service.
Port Macquarie is a great place for beachside relaxation, or a family holiday, but a haven for nightlife, it is not. Compared to most other towns of similar size along the east coast of Australia, the pubs and clubs in Port Macquarie are quite substandard. Below are some of the better ones.
- Tacking Point Tavern: Located on the southern outskirts of Port Macquarie, just off Pacific Drive, this tavern is a good family pub, with a childrens play area, and a decent bistro. (See above). Standard tap beer is available, as well as spirits and wine. Live covers bands play often on weekends, and this is the best place in town for a spot of mid-week pub trivia. A free courtesy bus picks up and drops off in town, which is the best way to get there. It is too far to walk from the CBD.
- Beach House Bar & Grill: Once this place stops serving food (see Eating), it becomes the most up to date and fashionable bar in Port Macquarie. Playing a good mix of up to the minute electronic music, serving great German beers and with its night views of the Hastings River, you can't go past this place in the CBD. Frequently visited by young professional workers, and a more mature clientele than the other bars nearby, it is the place to see and be seen. Drinks can be very expensive.
- Finnians Irish Pub: Located behind the bus terminal downtown, this place is the place to get pints of Guiness or Kilkenny, as well as other Australian brews. Home to an older crowd than the rest of the pubs downtown, it provides live covers bands on weekends. Has a great bistro as well. (See Eating)
- Hotel Macquarie: The most popular pub with teenagers and young adults in Port Macquarie, and for no good reason. Every Friday and Saturday this place fills with just legal teenagers and young adults, and becomes very smoky and hot. It has 2 separate bars, one showing live sports, with a pool table and juke box. The other bar is a disco bar, playing terribly dated top 40 pop music.
- Altitude Nightclub: Located upstairs in the Galleria Arcade, and with a panoramic view of the street directly below it, this place used to be called Roxy's Nightspot in a former life. During that time it was a damp, smoky club, playing techno music from 5 years ago, through speakers that distorted due to the bass. It has since been renamed Altitude, and the door charge is $5 After 10:30. The place has been revamped with quality sound and entertainment with the best local and some big name national Dj's, and it is very popular with the Hotel Macquarie crowd.Altitude offers live music every thursday night with free pizza and a pool comp.check out www.Altitudenightclub.com.au
- Down Under Nightclub: Located towards coles if walking past Altitude in the basement of the Galleria Building, this nightclub is a very run down venue (20 years at least) with the patrons being somewhat the same. On a Wednesday night it is the most popular for majority young people aged 18-25 with the odd here and there older patron, you can excpect very expensive drinks, karaoke singers and very dated top 40s music. On the plus side there is no entry fee on wednesday nights, and only a stone's throw from Coles.
On Friday and Saturday nights, avoid the main street as there are often brawls. Mostly this occurs as people are making their way from the Macquarie Hotel to Roxy's. You'll often see large groups of 18-25 year-olds being hostile towards random passers-by. Other places to avoid late at night are the Town Green, and the area surrounding the McDonald's carpark (near Settlement City.)
Port Macquarie has an excellent choice of motels, hotels, resorts, guest houses, traditional B&Bs, backpacker hostels and apartments.
- Rydges Port Macquarie, 1 Hay Street, ph 1300 857 922. Rydges Hotel and Resorts is an Australian owned and operated company.
- Aston Hill Motor Lodge in Port Macquarie, ☎ +61 2-6583-3266 (fax: +61 2-6584-9003), . | Location: 15 Mort Street, Port Macquarie NSW 2444 | Phone Toll Free 1800 235 232 | 4 star rated accommodation with 16 spacious motel rooms and an adjoining apartment building including 3 dual key family suites & jet swimming pool. Centrally located and 100 metres off Hastings River Drive in a quiet residential setting.
- Macquarie Waters Boutique Apartment Hotel, 11 Clarence Street, Port Macquarie, NSW 2444, ☎ 02 6584 5755, . An award winning 4.5 star boutique hotel. Featuring contemporary hotel rooms & self-contained apartments. Very close in to the centre of Port Macquarie. $150-$350.
- Port Macquarie Backpackers, 2 Hastings River Dr (5 min walk from bus station, west of town centre), ☎ 02 6583 1791, . Offering private rooms and dorms, starting at $24. Great atmosphere at the oldest home in Port Macquarie. Enjoy Free Internet, Free Greyhound Pickup Service, a swimming pool, beach & koala hospital shuttle, pool table, coffee tea & sugar, body boards, snorkel gear, fishing rods AND kangaroo sunset tour. Join the fun at our weekly movie night, trivia night and the Saturday pub crawl.
- Beachside Backpacker, 40 Church Street (2 mins walk from beach and next to the main street), ☎ 02 65 33 18 30, . Good location, close to the beach, Koala Hospital, bars and Supermarket. Since June 2013 it is managed by a young group of friends with loads of good travel experience. Nick, the owner is quite a character. In the evening the staff offer wine to the guests. Good Vibe. Free Internet, Free Breakfast, Free Bicycle, Free Pickup Service and Late checkout. $24 for bed dorm, $30 for double.
- Ozzie Pozzie YHA Backpackers, 36 Waugh Street (West of the town centre), ☎ 1800 620 020, . Small hostel, doors of rooms open to a courtyard, free pickup from Greyhound stop and airport if you call before. Dorms, single, double and twin rooms.
- Hinterland 20 minutes west of Port Macquarie, Wauchope is the official start of Port Macquarie's hinterland. Home to a good number of farms, and small hamlets, the hinterland is well worth taking a drive through (tours are available, see the local tourist information centre) Cassegrain Vineyard is the largest winery in the area, and is located just off the Pacific Highway between both aforementioned exits (Look for signs). Other wineries include Bago Mountain Wines (located near Wauchope) and Long Point Vineyard (located south of Port Macquarie, ask for directions before leaving, as it's tricky to find). Also, head for Blue Poles cafe and art gallery in the idyllic little village of Byabarra, some 20 kilometres southwest of Wauchope, along the Oxley Highway.
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