An idyllic climate, long stretches of sand, koalas, swathes of native bush – Port Macquarie has all the ingredients for a quintessential Aussie beach getaway. Then there are the wineries and pulse-setting restaurants…
Meet the famous Port Macquarie Koalas
Indulge in local produce
You can arrange catering, but there are plenty of local Port Mac purveyors to stock up on provisions. Like Cassegrain Wines, where I find myself propped up at the cellar door sipping a sparkling wine made using méthode champenoise, the traditional method for producing bubbly in the Champagne region of France. It proves the perfect accompaniment to lunch at on-site restaurant Twotriplefour, where anything that’s not cured, pickled or baked on-site is sourced from local suppliers – think Burrawong Gaian duck, Near River Produce pork and blue swimmer crabs from local fisherfolk. Picnic hampers can be arranged to enjoy on the grounds, where grapevines tumble into gardens landscaped with lakes and groves of native trees and flowers. Once again, I’m reminded to look up – koalas are not shy in this part of the country.
Back on the banks of the Hastings at the Port Mac marina, Hello Sailor lists half a dozen margaritas on its menu, one with spiced pineapple, another with coconut. There’s live music and a food truck where I order fish tacos and essential beer-battered pickles with a pale ale-cheese dipping sauce. Just along the water is Little Turkey, where I sit cross-legged at a low-slung table festooned with floaty curtains; platters come piled high with gozleme, fried cheese and dips. And then there’s the Luigi Brothers Delicatessen, stocked with every North Coast (and imported) jam, chutney, cheese and charcuterie imaginable – plus Black Market’s New York-style bagels, made around the corner.
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Embrace the laidback coastal lifestyle
Throw a pin on any Port Macquarie map and you’ll hit a powdery stretch of sand. Today, my target is Grants Beach, where the glossy creatures of Hastings River Horses await for an amble along the shore. There’s something instantly calming about being in the presence of these lovingly cared-for animals, the experience amplified by the rhythmic slough of hooves in the sand and waves lapping the shore. Thirsty riders can jump in the saddle for a ‘Pub Ride’, which sees you trot right up to the doors of the legendary Beechwood Hotel for a cold craft beer. But I intend to work for my sundowners, strolling along the Hastings River Breakwall path to see the kaleidoscopic breakwall rocks. Individually painted by locals since the outdoor art gallery began in 1995, the rocks are as colourful and quirky as Port Macquarie itself.
Other things to do in Port Macquarie
Whale Watching with a thrill
Port Macquarie is known for its whale-watching experiences. Offering some of the best vantage points along Australia’s East coast to see the yearly Humpback whale migration. Join the locals at one of the many lookouts along the coast such as Tacking Point Lighthouse and keep your eyes peeled. Or embark on an invigorating boat trip with PortJet on its Waverider to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures. Oh, and did we mention this whale-watching tour is on one of the fastest commercial boats in New South Wales? The staff love to demonstrate as such and seatbelts are included for this very reason…
Explore Sea Acres, where the rainforest meets the ocean
Sea Acres Rainforest is located between the centre of Port Macquarie and Lighthouse Beach. A dense rainforest that lines the coast, rich in birdlife and Aboriginal history. Enjoy lunch or a coffee at the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre before wandering along the 1.3km boardwalk through the rainforest canopy. If you listen carefully, you will hear the sound of the waves crashing not too far away.
Breath in the sea air on a coastal walk
The Port Macquarie Coastal Walk is a one-way 9km trek from Town Green in the centre of the town to the Tacking Point Lighthouse at Lighthouse Beach. Winding along the coastline and taking in all of the main beaches including Town, Flynn’s, Shelly and Lighthouse Beach, as well as a number of lookouts. Keep your eyes peeled for whales splashing in the distance or even koalas sleeping in the trees (particularly around Shelly Beach). If 9km is a bit far, the walk can be broken up into shorter sections to be tackled across multiple days.
Enjoy a drink or two whilst spotting dolphins
Port Macquaries dolphins love to frolic in the opening of the Hastings River and along the breakwall, playing in the wake of boats and chasing fish. Luckily for keen spotters, along the break wall, there are a number of places to stop and enjoy the view whilst keeping your eye out for these friendly locals, with a drink in hand of course. Located next to the caravan park and boasting waterfront views, Little Shack is open from early morning to evening serving coffee, meals and cocktails. It’s beachy-vibes will have you feeling like you are on a tropical holiday without a care in the world.