Port Macquarie may not be as famous as Cairns or other beach towns on the east coast of Australia, but it has so much to offer, it perhaps should be.
From camel rides on the beach at sunset, to koalas in hospital, many of the activities are things you won’t find anywhere else either.
So, dip your toes in the waters and discover what the best things to do in Port Macquarie really are!
If you like beaches then Port Macquarie will definitely no disappoint. The town runs for miles along the coast and has boatloads of beaches from huge to small. You can go and take a walk and not come back for hours, or enjoy the water and head out for a swim. Just be sure you go to the right beach for each, as some are not great for swimming (look for patrolled beaches with lifeguards as people have drowned here each year).
Some of the best beaches in Port Macquarie include:
And you can even do an epic walk between them…
Not many people are aware, but you can actually walk from beach to beach in Port Macquarie which creates quite a long walk. I have done this a few times and it’s a great way to see all the beaches in a single walk, and take in some of the great viewpoints and small forests along the way.
You can either start in town or at Lighthouse beach and walk in either direction. It takes between 2-4 hours, depending on how leisurely you decide to take it (and there are many reasons to stop and enjoy the beaches, views and relax on the beaches).
If you want a complete map you can check out the National Parks website, but it’s honestly quite easy to follow. Just be sure you know how to get to the Lighthouse or back if you don’t have someone to pick you up.
There are also signposts are various points where you can start the walk from the road. Just be aware that the signage along the way is sometimes not great, so try to stay along the beaches and not the road. We went wrong at one point and ended up walking on the road for 10 minutes to Flynn’s beach.
While I am on the topic of the Port Macquarie Lighthouse, you really should pop in here for a number of reasons. The lighthouse itself is a bit of a quick history lesson in and of itself. It was built back in 1879, which is quite old for Australia, and has a Keeper’s Cottage on site as well.
It’s also right next to the absolutely jaw-droppingly long and stunning Lighthouse beach, which I recommend for sunset, or just a stroll on a sunny day.
And of course, if the whales are around, it’s also a top spot for whale watching (more on that below) if you don’t want to head out on a boat.
No visit to Port Macquarie is complete without a visit, and a little donation to the cute and helpful Koala Hospital. You may wonder why there is such a thing at all, but when you realise that the town of Port Macquarie is built right in the middle of a densely populated (or used to be) Koala area, then it’s no surprise.
Sick and injured Koalas are brought in for care at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. Some are released again, but the majority never leave. So, the hospital has quite a bit of work to do.
Just be aware that although you can walk around for and see them, it is not a zoo and they are sick animals. Not that they are not cute and you won’t see any, because it’s rare that you won’t. Just wait for specific tour times and you will definitely be in for a treat. Koalas sleep a lot, so they are not always awake either!
And if you enjoyed the tour, why not adopt one and help take care of it. They can always do with some extra financing!
Update October 2019: The Port Macquarie area has recently been the victim of bushfires and it has affected a densely populated Koala conservation area south of town called Lake Innes (as well as Lake Cathie area). Now more than ever the Hospital needs help and donations. And be aware when you visit that many of the incoming Koalas may have been severely burnt!
This one is a little quirky, but definitely worth a look. The locals and holiday makers of Port Macquarie, at least until recently, were allowed to paint the rocks along the break wall with whatever the want. This ranges between the truly artistic to the somewhat ordinary, but perhaps more wholesome. From families, and loved ones, to artists and Port Macquarie lovers, it’s always fun to see what people have put on these intriguing works of art.
They have also recently revamped this area of Port Macquarie and the break wall rocks and walkway now connect directly to Town Beach. These rocks have also become part of the painted rocks at the break wall as you can see in the picture below.
Another great animal encounter to have in Port Macquarie is with whales. Each year over 10,000 whales migrate right past the town between the months of May and November. The peaks are in the middle somewhere, and you are more likely to see them then. However, they do swim along the coast in both directions between these months.
You can see them a number of different ways:
Another absolutely unique experience in Port Macquarie is to ride a camel on Lighthouse Beach. Strange as it may seem, a guy there has been offering these for years and it’s a great way to experience a camel ride and see the beach from another view point.
It is hard to book this, so just turn up to the beach and see if he is there. Usually during summer, when the town gets busy, he is definitely available, otherwise I am not 100% sure.
One year I was in Port Macquarie I decided to do a little thrill-seeking. I am not a huge water person, or boat-lover for that matter, but sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind!
Port Jet takes you out over the waves and gives you a jet boat experience of a lifetime. I highly recommend it if you have not been somewhere like the Shotover River in New Zealand already, as that is hard to beat!
The NSW coastline and some of the areas around Port Macquarie are the perfect spot to try your hand at fishing. You can rent some gear at Settlement point, where you also get kayaks and SUPs. But you can also get some fishing gear there too.
Another way to take it a step further is to go on a local fishing boat and get some professional help.
There is no better way to see an area like Port Macquarie than to take to the skies and see it by air. Whether it is a short jaunt up the coast or a little whale watching during the winter season, there are a range of options for you to take. And the best part is, you take off in a seaplane, which is not something you will get to do every day!
Ana is a little obsessed with Stand Up Paddling so we absolutely had to find a way to do it in Port Macquarie. And lucky for us all there is a great place to rent one and go SUP paddling in Port Macquarie. It is right on Settlement Point, which is kind of outside town, but it is walkable from downtown if you don’t have wheels.
The rental place is called Settlement Point Boat Hire (they rent fishing boats and gear too) and it’s right next to the ferry that crosses the Hastings River. The boards are not as top-notch as we are used to back home, but they are great for rentals and you can take them out for as little or long as you like. They also have kayaks, which we also took out once, which is great for those who are not as keen to test their balance on a stand up paddle board.
There is a convenient and easy to paddle river right outside the rental shop as well, so even if you are a beginner, it’s a great spot to learn. Just don’t head into the main/big river as that gets a little more dangerous!
Another lesser known, but totally unique activity you can do in Port Macquarie is to rent a BBQ Boat for a day. Yes, it’s an easy to use boat with a BBQ on board. All you have to do is bring the food and drinks (and rent the boat of course).
It makes for a great day out for a few friends or family as you can have fun driving the boat, stop to go fishing if you like, or just sit back and enjoy the BBQ you brought along!
Here are a few options for renting a BBQ Boat in Port Macquarie:
This is a place I have had many a coffee and brunch, so can whole-heartedly recommend the cafe at the Rainforest Centre. But, on top of this, Sea Acres also has a beautiful forest you can take a stroll along the boardwalk as well.
Another great place to bring the family, Billabong Zoo has all the quintessential Australian animals, plus a few you would not expect. Sure, they have koalas, kangaroos, wombats, and emus, but they also have very hard to see animals like cassowaries, wallaroos and quolls. And, just to make things a little more random, they also have more standard zoo animals like monkeys, lions and a few others.
All you wine-lovers out there will enjoy a day out at Cassegrain Wines on the outskirts of Port Macquarie. They came to Australia with generations of French winemaking expertise, so are sure not to disappoint. They have an open Cellar Door each day, where you can taste their yummy creations. They also have a beautiful garden you can check out, where there are also often events. And you can take them up on a little horse riding too, if that’s your thing!
There are also a few further afield that are worth visiting like Bagos, which is inland (south-west) of Port Macquarie. They have some great wines, free tastings and a fun maze that will take you 30-60 minutes to complete. We were there for a quick lunch of cold cuts and cheese, and along with a glass of their homegrown wine, it is definitely worth the visit. And unlike Cassegrain, it is not set next to a highway, so is quite a peaceful setting to spend your lunchtime in.
If you have a car you can easily reach Ricardoes, which is just 10 minutes outside Port Macquarie near Cassegrain (so you can easily combine the two in half a day).
Ricardoes is famous in the area for producing some of the tastiest strawberries and tomatoes, all of which are grown on a series of plumbing pipes using hydroponics. You can pick your own strawberries there, just as you would on any other farm, only this way you likely won’t have to bend over as much to reach them! A huge bonus if you ask me.
They also have a store full of their own and local treats, as well as a spot for coffee after your arduous morning picking berries!
Another fun activity, especially for kids, is to take a look at the night skies through a decent telescope. Port Macquarie Astronomical Observatory have both a presentation and a viewing, so you can take a little time out on your holiday and learn about the heaven’s above. Something that we are all become a little more fascinated with of late – what with Elon Musk and all his shenanigans!
For me, Port Macquarie is not the place to come for museums or galleries, but they have a few history buffs may want to check out.
With over 100 years of shipping history, the Maritime Museum has lots to offer the visitor. And it’s only 10 minutes walk from downtown.
Right in the center of town, you might want to drop in and learn all about the history of this booming tourist destination at the Port Macquarie Museum.
Located right in the center of town in Port Macquaries million dollar Glasshouse, this regional gallery has many and varied exhibitions across three levels throughout the year.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!