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Port Macquarie

Rediscover this hidden jewel of the east coast

Photograph: Destination NSW; Kent Matthews

Port Macquarie gets unfairly overlooked as a holiday destination, but things have changed in the Port since your parents dragged you there on a family holiday: a combination of seachange-type entrepreneurs and the realisation that having a location equidistant from Sydney and Brisbane may provide certain advantages for corporate and conference types has given the old girl a new lease on life.

Things to do in Port Macquarie

Sea Acres Rainforest Centre

While the town centre is impressively charming (and it’s well worth seeing what’s on at the fully-refurbished Glasshouse, the theatre and arts complex in the centre of town) we recommend you pop out of the Port to the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre and take a stroll through the unique wetland. It’s on a raised walkway, so you needn’t worry about disturbing the flora or fauna (or muddying your shoes), and if you time it right for a guided tour, it’s well worth it: the volunteers know every plant and animal in there (and there are plenty, as we discovered), and they’re not shy about explaining why this rare coastal rainforest is so important, and so valuable. The Rainforest Café is also excellent and well worth getting along to in itself. 

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Ricardoes Tomatoes & Strawberries

If you fancy some fresh produce, Ricardoes Tomatoes & Strawberries has a fine diner in the Café Red, but the greatest joy is picking your own fruit. They’re open all year round thanks to their hydroponic system, and they also have markets a couple of times a month.

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Zebu Bar + Grill

For dinner, might we recommend the Zebu Bar+Grill, the centrepiece of the newly-refurbished Rydges Port Macquarie with gorgeous beachfront views. As you’d imagine the steaks are particularly good, as are their cocktails. 

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Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

Our favourite stop was the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital: an entirely volunteer-run clinic dedicated to rescuing sick and injured koalas. There’s no cuddling of cute animals here, as the ambition is always to return the koalas to the wild, but the work they do is downright amazing. They receive no funding outside of donations, and because the premises are on government land, they’re not permitted to advertise. So let us do it for them: swing by, see the amazing work they do, buy some of their awesome retro shirts at the giftshop and sponsor a koala (and we’d like to give a shout-out to our boy Links VTR).

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The Observatory Hotel

The Observatory Hotel has taken full advantage of the new-look port, boasting 4 ½ star accommodation with gorgeous views over Town Beach. Offering luxury penthouses and 1-3 bedroom apartments, packed with appliances you might expect (dishwasher) and possibly not (a Nintendo Wii), the Observatory also boasts a lap pool, sauna, spa and BBQ area, as well as an excellent café on the ground floor in the form of the Milk Bar Town Beach.

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