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Woman enjoying a relaxing morning on Shelly Beach, Port Macquarie on the North Coast.
Photograph: Kate Nutt/Destination NSW

Your ultimate guide to Port Macquarie

Outdoorsy? Kids in tow? Here for the wildlife? A firm foodie? No matter what getaway you're looking for, this town has you covered

Maxim Boon
Edited by
Maxim Boon
Written by
Tracey Cheung
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Port Macquarie, or “The Port” as locals fondly call it, boasts no less than 17 beaches, it’s a top spot for whale watching and has one of the world’s largest hedge mazes, as well as a vast range of wildlife experiences and other outdoor adventures within striking distance. Just a four-hour drive or one-hour flight from Sydney, it makes for an easy, low-fuss, relaxing escape to the sleepy charms of a quintessential coastal town and its lush hinterlands, all without leaving the state.

The Port is jam packed with experiences, whether you like adventure, relaxation, nature, art, animal experiences or family fun. Hop in the car (or hire one) and you'll find attractions are within an easy hour of the town centre

There's also a surprisingly vibrant food scene across a broad spectrum of tastes from fine dining restaurants to casual fish and chip joints by the beach. While by no means exhaustive, this handy guide is a great place to start when planning your visit.

Getting there

Recent upgrades to the highway now make it an easy four-hour drive from Sydney’s northern suburbs.

QantasLink and Virgin Australia fly daily between Sydney and Port Macquarie with a flight time of just one hour.

There’s also the option to get there by rail, from Sydney via NSW Trainlink, arriving at Wauchope station, 20 minutes inland from Port Macquarie, with a coach connection to Port Macquarie.

Get even more short getaway inspo with our pick of the best short holiday destination in NSW.

Where to stay, eat and have a great time in the Port

Do
Photograph: Lindsay Moller

Do

Animal encounters

Port Macquarie offers one of the best vantage points to see whales during the yearly migration season which typically runs from May to November. Get up close and be in awe when they perform their signature somersault moves for you. Port Jet also provides great dolphin spotting opportunities.

The Port is home to the world’s first Koala Hospital and now the world’s first wild koala breeding program, to help bring back the koala numbers after the devastating bushfires. See the koalas climbing their trees in their rehabilitation yards, learn how the hospital saves and conserves koalas, and what you can do to help if you see one injured. Entry is free and they also run free tours.

At the multiple-award-winning Billabong Zoo, get up close with and pat over 80 species of Australian mammals, reptiles and birds. They run zoo talks and personal encounters with animals such as snow leopards and cheetahs.

Take to the sands on a camel safari on the beautiful Lighthouse Beach where you may even catch the sight of dolphins and whales while riding.

Horse rides for all ages and abilities are available at Port Macquarie Horseriding Centre and afterward, enjoy cheese platters and wine at the nearby Cassegrain Winery, brought to you by 2021 Winemaker of the Year, Alex Cassegrain.

Coastal and nature adventures

The Coastal Walk which hugs the coastline, is a must-do activity. With 9km of easy-grade walking, there are fantastic views, opportunities to spot dolphins along the way and it can be broken up into four sections to enjoy. Go from beach to rainforest, by taking the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk into the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre. Have your forest bathing experience, walking along the Rainforest Boardwalk and dine among the lush green surroundings of the Rainforest café.

At Bago Winery and Maze, you have a trio of attractions to enjoy. Firstly, at Baba Lila, a chocolate shop and kitchen, chocolate lovers can indulge in a chocolate art workshop, making artworks out of a delicious melted Russian recipe chocolate to keep and eat. Then stepping into the Bago Winery, enjoy a cheese board and wine tasting in the outdoor patio, while marvelling at one of the world’s largest hedge mazes, the stunning, architect-designed native Lilly Pilly hedge. It just won the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) Architecture Award in the Tourism Category, with over 2000m of pathways, bridges and hedges.

The Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail, free and fun for all ages, is a multi-award winning art project, of 83 hand-painted koalas located across the Port Macquarie-Hastings region. Grab a map from the Hello Koala Gift Shop, so you can hunt for one or all of these.

For a venture out of the main town centre, visit the tiny village of Comboyne, and nearby Boorganna Nature Reserve, the second oldest nature reserve in NSW, where you can stroll through and visit the magnificent Rawson Waterfalls.

Eat and drink
Photograph: Kate Nutt/Destination NSW

Eat and drink

Waterfront dining

When you are in town, enjoy the range of dining options, including alfresco, in the vibrant area of Town Green and Town Square along the waterfront.

Experience favourites including Chef Hat awarded Stunned Mullet for exemplary food and wine and Little Shack bar which takes you to the beach bars on Bali. Otherwise, for a fun and casual meal, grab some fish and chips from Off the Hook to enjoy right on the beach.

For a fusion experience, Chop and Chill showcase the culinary styles of the East and West, with street styles of South East Asia and smoked meat flavours of the West. Come in any time of the day to unwind in their venue with waterfront views and relaxed beach vibes.

For the ultimate Turkish dining experience, Little Turkey offers an authentic breakfast menu. For lunch and dinner, their Mixed Grill is one of the most popular main dishes on our menu. With a selection of sides to choose from, you'll get mixed skewers of Kuzu Shish, Tavuk Shish and Tavuk Kanat, all served with Turkish bread and Jajik Dip. Enjoy an evening there with live music on Saturdays.

Cafés

For café brunch options, Drury Lane Eatery Café, is located right next to the Port Shopping centre. They source their produce from local farmers, provedores and keen backyard gardeners, making everything in house daily and from scratch, including the house sourdough, cakes and baked treats.

After your walk along the coast or whale watching experience, just about five minute's walk up the road is Frankie’s café, which just opened in February, bringing a fresh new vibe with its coastal and clean themes. It’s often seen buzzing with crowds on weekend mornings so it’s best to arrive early. They serve a variety of dishes including burgers and big breakfasts, with the menu changing according to seasonal ingredients. You can expect to try popular dishes such as corn fritters with house-made tomato relish, rocket, avocado, fetta and zesty salsa verde or their ‘Ribwich’, beef rib sandwich.

Seafood

Port Macquarie’s premier seafood restaurant, Whalebone Wharf established for over 40 years, is an iconic landmark where you can enjoy the finest and freshest seafood experience on the waterfront, including live lobsters from the tank and mouth-watering oyster platters.

Bills Fishhouse and Bar is a favourite with their sea-to-plate menu sourced from nearby local suppliers, including delicious seafood platters, and if you’re a fan of chargrilled dishes you’re in for a treat.

After dinner cocktails

For amazing cocktails, Stick Bar is a cocktail bar tucked away in a laneway, specialising in Craft Cocktails and Japanese-inspired tapas cooked over charcoal. Across the road why not wrap up your night by indulging your senses in a free and stunning digital art light projection show of ‘Connecting the Dots’ and ‘Wakulda’ illuminated on the CBD’s Historic Courthouse.

Dessert

Hugely popular is Blue Cow Gelato, where you can order artisan ice cream with flavours including cherry ripe, baklava, white choc Twixx and lemon blueberry custard. For the ultimate dessert experience, they also have other treats like cookie sandwiches, Caramello koala bubble waffles or unicorn-flavoured sundaes. They are close enough to take your treats down to enjoy in front of the beach.

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Stay
Photograph: Supplied

Stay

The Mid Pacific hotel

This is a boutique hotel with coastal vibes, right by the beach. A highlight is a hot tub facing the relaxing, picturesque view of the beach.

The Nature Domes

The Nature Domes has been a very recent addition this year to take advantage of. Outback and off grid, these are located in Tom's Creek, secluded in a private valley. Here you can enjoy a glamping experience, a chance to truly relax and unwind in the peace and tranquillity of a rural Hinterlands landscape, in one of their geo-design self-catering nature domes. Onsite there are also plenty of animals to interact with like alpacas, miniature horses, miniature goats, dairy goats and chickens. Here, you can also indulge in a hot tub under the stunning vast starry night sky.

Diamond Waters Caravan Park

For a caravan experience, Diamond Waters Caravan Park is a peaceful, leafy park on the shores of the beautiful Camden Haven River. They have ensuite cabins, powered and non-powered sites available. It is nestled on eight acres of natural bushland with river access via their on-site boat ramp. Sit back and relax whilst you enjoy the local wildlife and tranquil river views. The caravan park is also a short walk to a beach.

Flynns Beach Resort

Stay in a beach further out of town, one with the allure of a distant tropical paradise at Flynns Beach Resort, right next to the pristine sands of the Port’s famed Flynn’s Beach. It offers spacious and modern, two-bedroom fully self-contained apartments, sleeping up to four persons. All the apartments are self-catering. The resort is surrounded by beautifully maintained gardens and a nature corridor, with a natural creek running through the centre. It also features barbecue areas, two heated swimming pools and a gym.

Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges

For a luxury stay, Sails Port Macquarie is a stunning 4.5-star waterfront hotel with 92 stunning guestrooms and suites decorated in amazing art and décor, and its own restaurant and bar.

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