Looking for things to do in Port Macquarie? As one of the most popular holiday destinations in NSW, Port Macquarie has been a family favourite holiday location for Aussies for years. So what brings people here? Luckily for us (and for you), Port Macquarie local, Laura Marshall is sharing the very best things to see, do and eat in the area!
Laura is a traveller at heart, having spent three year travelling around Australia and four years in Canada. So, let’s get into it and discover the best things to do in Port Macquarie so you can plan your future holidays here.
Table of Contents
What makes Port Macquarie special
Port Macquarie is so special because it is action-packed full of outdoor beauty! Port is an ideal size – it has everything you could want while not being too small nor too big of a destination located on the beautiful Hastings River.
It takes a maximum of 15 minutes to drive from one side of town to the other (perfect) and only 20 minutes to an hour or so (down or up the road) to a backyard full of more adventures to explore if you have a little extra time on your hands.
I grew up in Port Macquarie and know it like the back of my hand! The summer months around town is the typical busy tourism season. But hey, it’s understandable! Fellow holidaymakers and locals like sharing their love for the summer coastal lifestyle. Off-season periods tend to be a bit quieter, no matter what season you will find plenty of Port Macquarie activities to enjoy!
Time spent in Port Macquarie will depend how much time you have! You could easily enjoy a nightly stop over, weekend getaway or one to two weeks holiday. Or you could become like me and live here a life time and still be enjoying discovering all of the best things to see in Port Macquarie! The more time you have to discover this awesome region the better.
How to get to Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie is located on the Lower Mid North Coast of New South Wales, approximately in the middle of Sydney and Brisbane.
If you’re arriving from Sydney, about four and half hours by car will get you into Port Macquarie. Having a car around town will be ideal (although not totally necessary if travelling solo and/or on a budget).
You can also catch a flight into Port which only takes a convenient hour. Alternatively, bus or train can be an economic option that takes six to seven hours (the train scenery is awesome passing through the bush).
If you’re travelling from Brisbane, Port is approximately a five and a half drive and Newcastle is a three hour drive.
Once you have arrived to Port Macquarie, there are many other towns close by if you’re staying a little longer to explore!
Things to do in Port Macquarie
Let’s get started as I share my favourite things to do in Port Macquarie with you!
1. Lace up your walking shoes for the coastal walk
You can wander as little or far as you like, but I defiantly recommend tackling the entire Port Macquarie coastal walk! Start at Town Beach and mosey out to Lighthouse Beach to the famous Tacking Point Lighthouse (or vice versa). The walk consists of foot paths and at times along the beach.
You will pass so many beaches inlcuding:
Nobbys Beach (dog beach, if you’re not a doggy lover you can detour along the road)
Shelly Beach (my favourite
Miners Beach (FYI this is an unofficial nude beach in Port Macquarie, but there has been a crack down)
Little Bay (my second favourite)
Phew! That’s a lot to uncover!
How long the coastal walk will take depends on your walking pace and how many stops for photos, sticky beaking, swims, and maybe even a coffee or snack at one of the kiosks. I tackle this walk usually each weekend and takes two hours one way with minimal stops – great weekend exercise and I save my dip until the end at Little Bay to refresh and relax.
You have now earned yourself an uber, taxi or bus ride back into town! If travelling in a group having more than one car, a car drop off at each end is a good idea. Alternatively, if you’re lucky like me and know someone in Port who can give you a lift back is a bonus too!
2. Take a scenic helicopter flight
If you’re celebrating a special occasion, take a 15 minute scenic helicopter flight over the best views of Port Macquarie. You’ll see Flynns, Shelley, Oxley and Town Beaches, Tacking Point Lighthouse, Lake Innes, and Hasting River and will learn loads about the areas from the local pilot. Find out more about this bucket list opportunity here.
3. Visit the famous Port Macquarie Koala Hospital
The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie is a must visit! It’s a rehabilitation facility that assists local wildlife from disease, loss of habitat, car accidents, and dog attacks. The team here is doing a wonderful job getting these little cuties back into the wild! Check them out, it’s also one of the best free activities in Port Macquarie!
4. Walk along the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail
You can’t come to Port Macquarie without doing the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail, which has become a must-visit for anyone visiting Port Macquarie. The award-winning Koalas Sculpture Trail has an impressive 81 sculptures dotted all over Port Macquarie. Each one has it’s own character, personality and name to discover! You can download the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail Map here!
5. Catch the Settlement Point ferry to the North Shore
About a 5-minute ferry ride will take you to the Port Macquarie North Shore of town. You will be amongst the locals here!
Top Tip – keep an eye out for dolphins. There is a small subdivision and a couple of quieter beaches. If you are a 4WD enthusiast, you will enjoy driving or fishing up the beach or even taking the dirt track to Point Plommer.
I would save my beach swims for when you’re back in town (bit safer) – just walk and enjoy here. This side also hosts the other side of the break wall which is rustic and quieter. If you feel like a river swim, Coal Wharf is a beautiful spot!
There is a couple of fire pits by the river to enjoy if you’re continuing on into the evening. Come prepared with wood supplies, matches and marshmallows! You can pick up a bag of firewood from Shelly Beach petrol station to get you started for the evening.
A car will cost you $5 each way or if you’re on foot/bicycle, it is free. The ferry usually runs about every 15 minutes/24 hours.
6. Discover the best Port Macquarie beaches
Port Macquarie is fortunate to have so many beaches to pick from.
If you are visiting in the Summer months – Town Beach, Lighthouse Beach and Flynn’s Beach are Port’s patrolled beaches. In the off season, Town Beach is the only patrolled beach.
Surfers favourites will likely be Town or Lighthouse. Doggy owners will enjoy Nobbys or the South end of Lighthouse. If you are keen on a learn to surf lesson, hit the guys up at Flynn’s to be standing on the waves!
If you are looking for a coffee or bite to eat, you will find some awesome kiosks in town. In Town Beach you’ll discover Salty Crew Kiosk – delicious acai bowls and the best owners run this place! In Flynn’s Beach check out Sandbox for the views and at Lighthouse Beach check out Alessandra Papazzo Flowers for the fantastic menu.
For the BBQ/picnic lover my favourite would be Shelly Beach. Equipped with picnic tables (there’s even one in the shape of a caravan) and electric BBQS, Shelly Beach has a good local and low-key vibe. If you are after some local wildlife, you might see a bush turkey or a goanna. There is a fantastic bay to swim in down here and if you bring your snorkel, you might see some stingrays out the back of the bay!
I would recommend checking out all of our amazing beaches and gauge what is the best beach for you. Or if you’re like me -that is ALL OF THEM!
7. Take a camel safari on the beach
YES, you can go on a camel ride in Port Macquarie! For something different and fun to do, I recommend this. We had some good laughs along the way!
8. Wander along the break wall
Start at Town Beach and wander along the Port Macquarie break wall. You can wander as little or far as Town Green Wharf, Westport Park or even Settlement Point if you’re up to it (again, you’ve deserved a lift home if you’ve made it this far, but so worth it).
There is lots of action along this area – the local skatepark, boats coming and going, fisherman catching dinner, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and the creative artworks painted on the rocks. Perhaps even bring your own paints and paintbrush to create your own master piece on a blank rock!
9. Check out the Surfing Museum
Port Macquarie has a rich surfing history! Check out the Surfing Museum to see some memorabilia from the fifties, sixties and seventies!
10. Get yourself a drink at the local cellar door
For the beer drinkers – Moorebeer Brewery is the local favourite. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from lunchtime. Their ‘Big Poppa NEIPA’ is the signature, although I quite fancy their sours and porter also! There is a pretty mean food truck on site if you get peckish.
For the wine drinkers – top favourites would be Cassegrain Winery and Bago Winery. Cassegrain’s cellar door uses traditional French techniques with modern Australian technology. Cassegrain is the elegant Port Macquarie winery to check out.
Bago Winery is located about 30 minutes out of town and is the fun winery pick! Home to a hedge MAZE, chocolate shop, live music (sometimes), quirky wine labels, local produce and beautiful picnic areas to relax, with perhaps of course a cheeky glass of wine. BYO picnic rug and make a day of it.
11. Visit Sea Acres Rainforest Centre
Sea Acres National Park is a small gorgeous rainforest located practically on the beach. It’s an accessible 1.3 km rainforest boardwalk from the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre which you will see rainforest birds and animals. You can take a self-guided tour at your own pace or a Ranger-guided Aboriginal cultural tour which discovers busher tucker, medicine plants and shelter resources. I would recommend doing both! It is currently $9 entry which helps maintain the boardwalk.
12. Hire A SUP
You can hire a SUP in Port Macquarie at Settlement Point on the Hastings River for some fun or relaxation. Rentals are located at the boat shed out there. Keep your eyes peeled in the river for dolphin watching too! It’s also a great spot to have a picnic lunch or throw out a fishing line after your action.
13. Hire A Boat
Why not hire a boat and zip around the Hastings River? The rental shop will give you the rundown on how to drive and river rules, there are various rentals around town. It is fun to get out on the river, drive the boat, check out the local scenery from a different perspective and enjoy a nice lunch on the river.
If you would prefer somebody else to drive the boat, there are also some excellent tour options in town including a jet boat ride, lunchtime sailing or sunset cruise!
14. Take a scenic drive to Dunbogan
Take a scenic drive down to Dunbogan, about a 40 minute drive South of Port Macquarie. You will see the wonderful seaside villages of Lake Cathie (pronounced cat-eye), Bonny Hills, Laurieton and Dunbogan. Feel free to stop in and check out any of these small towns; there are plenty of walking tracks along town/beach/river to explore.
Drive all the way out to Pilot Beach; there is a superb bay to swim in and a break wall to stroll along. Take an easy 3.7km return walk out to Perpendicular Point if you feel like stretching your legs. Depending on the time of year, you may be lucky enough to see whales, dolphins or blooming wildflowers.
If you are feeling peckish for lunch, Laurieton Fish Co-Op has some of the best fish and chips – make sure you try their calamari, it is so soft and flavoursome! I just love this drive and day trip out, screams Sunday to me!
15. Spend the day at South West Rocks
Looking for one of the best day trips from Port Macquarie? Make sure you check out South West Rocks, a beautiful slice of paradise located a 1 hour drive north of Port Macquarie. The water is crystal clear turquoise, and there are not many places in Australia that have a special quality to them as South West Rocks does.
Come and camp here for a couple of days and enjoy the beautiful beaches and quietness of serenity here. There are some fantastic walks in the area to consider and make sure you head up to Smokey Cape Lighthouse too!
Old Bar might not be on a lot of people’s radar but located 1 hour drive south of Port Macquarie, you’ll find a quiet beach town which is home to the Old Bar Beach Festival which is a kombi festival and loads of fun. Come to Old Bar and stop off at Crowdy Bay National Park and have lunch at the beautiful Flow Bar, a hidden gem with live music on weekends and a beautiful cafe to enjoy.
Looking to discover the third largest single drop waterfall in Australia? Located under 2 hour drive from Port Macquarie, you’ll find Ellenborough Falls in the Manning Valley. It’s a beautiful waterfall that is easy to get to the bottom of and is definitely worth visiting.
OK, so let’s move onto the best places to eat in Port Macquarie. If you’re trying to find the best restaurants in Port Macquarie, look no further!
18. Bandwagon for breakfast
Bandwagon Cafe is my favourite place to go for breakfast in Port Macquarie. The cafe has been restored from a beautiful old home, they have banging tunes pumping and some quirky seating arrangements (my favourite is out on the back veranda).
The menu changes often, offering modern and creative breakfast/ brunch and lunch. Some yummy treats I have tied include buckwheat waffles, panna cotta granola bowls , eggs benny (drool) and pea hash.
Maybe I also really like Bandwagon cafe because after 10am you can order a cheeky cocktail/wine/beer. Yes, I do love me an espresso martini with my brunch! Or if that’s a bit early for you, they make spot on coffee.
If you’re an Asian cuisine lover like me, good luck deciding what to order at the popular Blue Whale Asian Eatery. These guys focus on modern authentic Asian fusion and lots of fresh veggies! They make an excellent san choy bow, Korean pancake, nasai goreng, and char kuey teow noodles to name a few, but I could go on.
21. Bels Bakery (snack, breakfast, lunch or all of the above)
Bels Bakery has been awarded ‘home of Australia’s best pies’. Big call I know. When I moved back home I was very excited to visit again. You can’t go wrong in my opinion.
Where to stay in Port Macquarie
Here are the best places to stay in Port Macquarie!