This is the ultimate guide to Port Macquarie.
We’re going to break down everything you need to know to experience an amazing holiday in one of New South Wales’ best holiday destinations – which restaurants to eat at, which activities to do, where to stay, and so much more.
Let’s get into it.
Overview of Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie is a coastal town positioned on the mouth of the Hastings River in Northern New South Wales. As one of the region’s most popular destinations, it’s loaded with tourist-friendly restaurants, activities, and accommodation, all beating to the same relaxed, beachside drum.
The big attractions here are natural – from the stunning seascapes of Tacking Point to the sweeping national parks located further inland, Port Macquarie is a melange of bush, beach, river and mountain.
It’s also a town famous for its fauna. Thanks to the Koala Hospital, koalas have become a kind of local icon, and the rugged headlands are great spots to watch whales migrate from May to November. If you need a holiday destination that combines urban comforts with a slightly secluded, nature-focused vibe, Port Macquarie is it.
Port Macquarie History
For tens of thousands of years, the land on which Port Macquarie sits has been the home of the Birpai people – a home which was permanently altered in 1818.
That year, surveyor John Oxley reached the Hasting Rivers after hiking from Australia’s interior. He noted the area’s stunning natural beauty and abundance of wildlife, and decided to name it after the New South Wales governor, Lachlan Macquarie. Three short years later, Port Macquarie became a penal settlement, which operated until the late 1930s.
The newly established town of Port Macquarie slowly grew in size and popularity over the next century. Its main exports were timber and wool, until it gained a reputation as a eco-friendly tourist destination in the late 1980s.
Now, it’s one of Northern New South Wales’ most popular holiday spots, attracting over 2.3% of the state’s total domestic visitor nights. Not bad for a little seaside town!
Places to Visit Around Port Macquarie
Staying in Port Macquarie? Don’t feel like you’re restricted to the main town. Hire a car and start exploring – Northern New South Wales is a beautiful region, and there are plenty of interesting places not too far from Port Macquarie.
Coorabakh National Park
Coorabakh is exactly what you’d expect from a Northern New South Wales national park – rugged mountains punctuated with weathered outcrops, deep valleys of rainforest and clear streams, and views that rival the best lookouts in Australia.
The highlights? The iconic Flat Rock lookout, the cave at Newbys Creek, and the boardwalk around Starrs Creek. The Big Nellie picnic area and lookout is also great for families. This imposing volcanic plug is accessible via a nearby carpark, but there are also climbing opportunities for the more adventurous.
Finally, the national park also features a number of great waterfalls and swimming holes – perfect when the temperature starts to rise in October.
VisitNSW.com says it best: “Wauchope […] may be tiny, but it packs a punch when it comes to rural charm and a surprisingly cool ambience.” Seriously, this little country town is well worth the trip, mostly because of a single, very unique attraction: Timbertown.
This outdoor museum is a blend of old-timey lumberjacking and steam-powered mechanics, featuring everything from bullock teams and whip-cracking to a steam-powered sawmill and steam train experience. It’s the kind of unforgettable experience that the whole family will love, and we can’t recommend it enough.
Other notable attractions include Old Buttlebutt (a monstrous 200-year-old bloodwood tree), Bago Maze and Wine (a sprawling hedge maze paired with an upscale vineyard), and the beautiful Waterfall Walk in Willi Willi National Park.
What to Do in Port Macquarie
Wondering what Port Macquarie’s top attractions are? Read on.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is both a functional wildlife rehab centre and a tourist attraction. With free admission and plenty of Australia’s cuddliest mammals on display, this is a great place to visit if you’re taking a family holiday. There are currently nine display koalas (injured animals undergoing rehab), plus an education display, a souvenir shop, a clinic viewing area, and the Koalaseum (a rundown of koala history).
Sea Acres Rainforest Centre
It’s a national park – but with a whole lot more interactivity than normal. Sea Acres takes the tried and tested formula of seaside bushwalks and marries it with eco-displays, boardwalks, and on-site cultural centres and cafés. If you want a bunch of easy hikes through gorgeous rainforest, this one is for you.
Tacking Point Lighthouse
Tacking Point Lighthouse is Port Macquarie’s most iconic attraction. Built in 1879, it’s the thirteenth-oldest lighthouse in Australia, and has hosted its fair share of photoshoots across the years. The lighthouse itself is interesting, but you’re mostly coming here for the sweeping ocean views.
Lake Innes is both a pristine natural lake and a site of rich history. Surrounded by bushland, it’s home to the Innes Ruins, which were originally the home of Major Archibald Clunes Innes – the man who founded the small town of Innes in the 1800s. There’s also a suite of great bushwalks on offer, which you can read more about here.
Billabong Zoo Koala & Wildlife Park
Kids keen to meet both Australian and exotic animals? Billabong Zoo Koala & Wildlife Park is the best place to do it (probably why it’s won so many awards). Although it started as a breeding centre for koalas in 1986, it quickly evolved to become a home for everything from cassowaries and wombats to snow leopards and red pandas. The zoo offers a bunch of interactive experiences, including self-guided walkthroughs, personal animal encounters, and up-close ‘Meet the Koalas’ moments.
Where to Eat in Port Macquarie
Finding great places to eat can be hard … especially when you’re not exploring the urban tangle of cities like Melbourne and Sydney.
That’s why we’ve made things easy for you by putting together a list of our top 10 favourite places to eat in Port Macquarie. Check them out and tell us how we did.
- Best Café: LV’s on Clarence
- Best Seafood: Whalebone Wharf Seafood Restaurant
- Best Fine Dining: The Stunned Mullet
- Best Thai: Mekong
- Best Pizza: Bel-Air Pizza
- Best Burgers: The Burger Rebellion
- Best Gelato/Ice Cream: Blue Cow Gelato
- Best Steak: Chop ’n’ Chill
- Best Views: Sandbox
- Most Family-friendly: Social Grounds Café
If you’ve been to Port Macquarie before, don’t be outraged that we left one of the local gems off our list. The Grill is iconic, and it definitely deserves its own special section.
Featuring a protein-packed menu that’s not exactly vegan-friendly, the spectacular food is complemented by equally impressive views. Tuck into sticky ribs, delicately grilled seafood or immaculate steak while gazing out over the Hastings River.
Take it from us: this one goes best with a glass of red and a gorgeous sunset.
When to Visit Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie is spectacular all year round, but that doesn’t mean some seasons aren’t better than others.
If possible, avoid the New South Wales school holiday dates. Here’s when they fall:
- Term 1/2 Break: 2 April – 18 April
- Term 2/3 Break: 26 June – 11 July
- Term 3/4 Break: 18 September – 4 October
- Term 4/1 Break: 18 December – 26 January
Because New South Wales families are likely to be travelling during these periods, there’ll be less availability and accommodation prices will be higher.
Port Macquarie’s weather is fairly stable throughout the year. The daytime average temperature ranges between 25.8 °C in January and 16.9 °C in July, with night-time lows of 20.7°C and 10.7°C in January and July respectively. The rainiest month of the year is March with an average of 178 mm of rainfall, and the driest month is September, which averages just 59.00 mm.
So what’s the best time of year to holiday in Port Macquarie? Based on school holidays and weather, our favourite time to visit is between August and 18 September, although March and April are better if you’re keen for water-based activities.
How Far From Port Macquarie to Sydney?
Port Macquarie is actually pretty close to Australia’s biggest city. The two places are just 391.5 kilometres apart, and it only takes about 4 hours and 7 minutes to drive directly from Port Macquarie to Sydney’s CBD.
Port Macquarie Accommodation
With 101 hotels and motels on offer, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation in Port Macquarie. Pick the place that suits your holiday needs – a motor inn, a five-star resort, or anything in between.
The reason you’re staying at Port Macquarie, though, is because you love nature. You love the solitude of a white-shored beach, the vibrancy of a remote bushwalk, the joy of exploring the world without other humans intruding.
So you need accommodation that reflects that.
Sitting opposite bushland along Wrights Creek, Club Wyndham Flynns Beach is just a stone’s throw from one of Port Macquarie’s most family-friendly beaches. It’s pleasantly secluded, but less than two minutes’ walk from restaurants like Blue Whale Asian Eatery and Margaret and Sons Pasta.
Getting to the beach is simple, too. Walk down to Flynns or Nobbys Beach, or hire bikes from the resort to access more distant locations like Miners Beach or Tacking Point Lighthouse.
Not that you need to leave the resort grounds to have a great time – a sprawling outdoor pool, a spa, a sauna, a children’s play area, and a dedicated games room make a day spent relaxing simple (even if the kids are in tow).
If you need a luxury resort that combines family-friendly amenities with an excellent location, Club Wyndham Flynns Beach is it.
Enjoy our guide to Port Macquarie?
The easiest way to learn more about this amazing destination is to get in touch with our friendly resort staff. They’ll be able to tell you about the best local attractions, recommend visiting times, and help you find the perfect accommodation for you and your loved ones.
It’s time to make your Port Macquarie holiday happen.