Why you should travel to Port Macquarie on the NSW North Coast

Shelley Beach Port Macquarie
Shelley Beach

I LOVE Port Macquarie.

This post could start and finish with that sentence.

But, I know that you need more. Port Macquarie has snuck its way into my list of places I could live around the world.

It’s surprising.

It’s not bright city lights. It’s not South East Asian beaches or southern hospitality.

But there’s an energy here that I get and aligns with my spirit.

Freedom. Fun. Nature.

What surprised me was how I haven’t often really heard of Port as being a great big surfer town. Pumping surf was at every beach that appeared around the coastal walk bend. Nice, clean breaks of at least 3-4 feet and busy with surfers sharing the waves.

At least in Port there wouldn’t be the hustle for waves as you would see in the busy Sydney beaches, or at Byron Bay or Alexander Headland on the Sunshine Coast, where we once lived.

Along the boardwalk, bordered by brightly painted rocks from people like Adam and Sue who just got married or the tribe of friends visiting from Umina was a boogie board statue claiming Port as the boogie board capital of Australia.

surfing at Port Macquarie breakwall
The surfing breakwall

We noticed this at sunset when tribes of boogie boarders paddled across the channel that we were convinced harboured sharks. Obviously the locals did not feel the same and we were just not made of the surfers’ spirit who never thinks of such things–only how they can get to that beach on the opposite side of the river to the wicked surf without having to drive along the land for a good half an hour.

The surf wasn’t the only surprise we discovered along the 8km coastal walk from Town Beach to Tacking Point Lighthouse. Small inlets bordered by rocky headlands lead you to the flatter and wider expanse of Shelley Beach, through the protected Sea Nature reserve and down to the wild and rough pounding waves of Lighthouse Beach.

The walk is spectacular and peaceful and almost empty, the odd local passing you buy with a smile and a friendly yelp of their collared puppy. The winter warmth was warming all our spirits.

Port Macquarie coastal walk
Our start of the walk at Nobby’s Beach

Port Macquarie Coastal Walk

 

Port Macquarie coastal walk
Loving the coastal walk with Daddy

With two small children walking the entire length was not the smartest thing for us to do so we chose a small section. The area that included the Sea Acres Rainforest where we stopped for a coffee and some macadamia and coconut bread.

Coconut and Macadamia bread

We hesitated between continuing on the walk or heading back to town. The rocky path was a little tricky to navigate with our stroller. The friendly lady at the centre suggested we leave the stroller with her and walk just a small section through the coastal reserve to the look out, a place she said was quite spectacular.

Surprises yet again were in store for us. Kalyra and I chased each other up the rocky path, stopping to admire the views and catch our breath. We reached the looking point and were almost pushed back from the blustery gale.

As we were preparing for our photos a couple sitting admiring the view shouted for us to look at the dolphins in front of us. Pods of them. And I mean pods. There were scores of dolphins diving below the water for food and playing in the surf, riding the odd wave and jumping out of the water for a show. (We saw more the next evening playing in front of the boat in the river close to shore.)

Port Macquarie dolphin watching

 

Port Macquarie coastal walk

Oh yes I love Port.

 

And then there were the sunsets.

Sunset from Nobbys Beach Port Macquarie
From Nobbys beach

Who would have thought sunsets on the East Coast could hold such magic? Most of them slip by unnoticed beyond the mountains or the city skyscrapers.

Port Macquarie sunset

 

Port Macquarie sunset

Sunsets here set the sky alight as it dipped below the mountain on the banks of the river. People of all shapes and sizes sat on the coloured rocks with glasses of wine, or in the beer garden of the Royal Hotel enjoying a jug of $10 beer to wash it down with.

Port Macquarie Royal Hotel
Enjoying those cheap sundowner beers

Yes. $10 jugs of beer. Surprising fact no 29 about Port Macquarie and even more reason to love it. You’d be lucky to buy two beers for this price in Australia and here in they were in the best spot in Port, where live acoustic guitarists sing to you, or DJ’s spin their chilled out Sunday session tunes, with the sun blazing up the sky in front of you and lighting the earth in a final goodnight.

Royal Hotel Port Macquarie
The Royal
Royal hotel live music
Live acoustic at the Royal

From the end of the break wall, to the garden of restaurants, to the quieter grassy knoll, and viewing points on the small inlet beaches the sun setting will add magic to your stay in Port Macquarie.

Enjoying a magical sunset
Enjoying a magical sunset

On the outskirts of Port lie many things waiting for you to explore. Vineyards, breweries and Ricardoe’s Tomatoes, a place where you can have a fresh and tasty lunch followed by a strawberry picking expedition in their hydroponic strawberry farms. The tomatoes are obviously fresh and good.

Ricardoes tomatoes lunch

 

Strawberry picking Ricardoes Tomatoes

There are more beaches to explore and a hinterland with waterfalls and rainforest hiking trails and horse riding adventures.

If you’re a family you’ll love it. There are plenty of parks and activities you can do to keep the kids happy and have that memorable family holiday you crave. If you’re a backpacker, you’ll find the perfect local Australian experience at much cheaper prices, without the crowds. If you are surfer then don’t forget your flippers to swim across that channel, this place is your haven.  I couldn’t recommend it highly enough for any type of traveller.

I usually reach the end of a holiday and feel sadness at having to leave. That feeling has intensified having to leave Port. I’m already thinking of property prices and the fact that its only 5 hours from Sydney which is not too far should we have to come back for important work appointments or to see family.

I think Port and I understand each other really well.

Have you made Port Macquarie a place to visit on your Australia travel list?

Caz
Caz Makepeace is the co-founder of y Travel Blog and has been traveling the world since 1997, first solo, then with her husband, and now with her two daughters. Get her free email series on the 4 best ways to reduce travel costs. Follow her on Google+

27 Comments on “Why you should travel to Port Macquarie on the NSW North Coast”

  1. Thanks for the tip – we will definitely plan on stopping in Port Macquarie on our way up the coast from Sydney to Brisbane. Our family is renting a campervan for the trip – any suggestions on good places to spend the night?
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  2. Now that I know about Port Macquarie, I’ll definitely put in on my list. What a great place with something for everyone. I’ll bet your daughter was absolutely thrilled seeing the dolphins. I’m really taken by the sunset pics — beautiful!
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    • She really was. It’s so great to be able to show your children animals in the wild like that

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  3. Caz we loved Port Macquarie too! We were only there for one night in our campervan on our east coast road trip last month but we really liked that pub you went too on the water front too; we did a bit of travel planning at the pub while we were there because it was just such a cool place to hang out :-)
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    • It’s so relaxed. If we didn’t have the little ones we would have sat there all day too, especially with $10 jugs

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  4. I love Port too! Had the good fortune to have to go there for work once a month! Talk about scoring big time! Love the dolphins in the channel. Used to watch them frolick in the water over breakfast in the morning. Perfect way to start the day. Did my first parasailing while there – what am awesome rush! So much to do! Love your photos – brings back so many memories. Can’t wait to visit again! Have moved to Canada – it has been a while since I have been to Port!
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    • You know any place that has dolphins frolicking in the water while you eat breakfast is something pretty special. I’m really keen to live there for a little while.

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  5. Cheap beer, pods of dolphins and the boogie boarding capital of Australia just five hours from Sydney. Why have I never heard of Port MacQuarie (even when I lived in Australia)?
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    • It’s quietly tucked away. It’s a popular local holiday destination but international visitors rarely hear of it which is a shame as it is the perfect destination to experience Australia

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  6. You guys, I love every single thing about this post! Laid back surfing vibe, cheap beer and deliciously rustic/simple food? We’re in for sure! ;)
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  7. $10 jugs! I didn’t find those when I was there! I loved the breakwall though, really lovely idea and so nice to read all the funky things people leave behind :)
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    • A good way to pass a few hours reading what’s on the rocks. We could not get over the price of the jugs- only on a Sunday- the best day for a session

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  8. I’ve never heard of this place but it looks beautiful. I could imagine spending time here, walking along the beaches, enjoying a little peace and quiet during the afternoon or evenings, and just enjoying the walks. Like you, I am not excited about the surfing or boogie boarding but your description of Port Macquarie makes this place worth a visit.
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  9. Interesting in a lot of ways the landscape looks like my home province of Nova Scotia in Canada.
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  10. Loreena

    Oh I wish you guys had let us know you were in town! Amazing seeing our home through the eyes of a visitor :) glad you enjoyed it! Just a heads up that “The Royal” is actually “The Beach House”. It used to be The Royal Hotel (hence the name on the building) but closed down pub operations years ago, agreed, it’s an awesome spot and super yummy food too! If you are back here again, please give us a shout and we’ll meet up :)
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    • Oh I was wondering about the two names. I though the Beach House was just the name of the beer garden section. we’ll definitely be back. Thinking maybe in the summer

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  11. Looks like the sort of laid-back beach town our family really loves (esp. the sunset and dolphins!). Now, if only some AMAZING Aussie Tourism rep would fly us there!
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    • Keep knocking on the doors they will answer and then we can meet up and watch some sunsets with you!

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  12. Kayann Smith

    To steal a phase from Queensland tourism it’s just beautiful on day and “PERFECT” the next “Tropical North Coast” where else would you be, Port Macquarie the place to be, why else would you go there “SHEER PLEASURE OF LIFE”

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  13. Always keen for some cheap beer! Surf looks really good too.

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  14. You’ve captured the place so well. Such a wonderful area of NSW to relax. And so family friendly!!

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  15. Sue Lambert

    We travelled to this beautiful place for the first time Easter 2012, fell in love with it, 2 months later bought a rental investment property with the deam of moving down there in 4 years (we Live 3 hours west of Brisbane. We have been down there 3 times since each time we discover more great things about the place. The walks are just magic along with the sunsets and the friendly people. So glad we discovered this town. Its a place for all ages

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    • Wow! What a great story. We did the same thing 10 years ago with Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast–sadly we don’t have that property anymore. I hope you get to move down there soon, it is a beautiful place

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  16. I grew up holidaying in Port Macquarie because my grand parents lived there. I have such fond memories of going to Fantasy Glades (which I believe is going to reopen) and the water slide park (unfortunately long gone). I didn’t go there for years and then the last two summers we took the kids with a group of friends and had a ball. I love the camels on Lighthouse beach, the coast walk, Shelly Beach and the rainforest surrounding it. The Koala hospital is also interesting and educational for kids. I’ve fallen in love with Port Macquarie all over again.
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  17. […] facebook fan recommended we eat at The Pancake Place in Port Macquarie and judging by the lines we saw snaking out of the door way we knew it would be the perfect way to […]

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