I grew up holidaying in Port Macquarie and have fond childhood memories of camping at the Breakwall Caravan Park, visiting Fantasy Glades and riding the water slides at Peppermint Park.
We loved those trips to Port Macquarie. It was a great getaway from our home near Sydney and I remember it well as a place all members of my family enjoyed visiting time and time again.
But we only ever stuck to activities close to town so it was exciting to revisit Port Macquarie recently with my own kids and explore more of the Greater Port Macquarie region.
I’ve since discovered there’s so many new things to do in Port Macquarie, up in the hinterland, and around the Camden Haven region and our three day visit wasn’t nearly long enough, which can be a good thing as we must now return for more!
The best way to appreciate the beauty of this region is by getting out and enjoying the diverse range of activities, and we did our best to cover the highlights.
Below is what we got up to. Plus a few extra suggestions from helpful readers of our blog.
Things to do in Port Macquarie
1. Sunrise at Town Beach
It’s worth getting out of bed early for sunrise in Port Macquarie. Several people suggested the Tacking Point Lighthouse is awesome at sunrise, and I’m sure it is.
But I opted for Town Beach and the breakwall as I could walk there from our apartment, and it meant getting up just a wee bit later.
The first sunrise shot I took was from the beach using a lifeguards tower for some foreground interest, then from the end of the iconic breakwall as a local fisherman went about catching his lunch.
As I was shooting away many people were pulling into the car park and heading off by foot. My guess is they were starting the popular Coastal Walk.
2. Billabong Koala Wildlife Park
We arrived at the Billabong Koala Wildlife Park just in time to see “Shrek” the monster croc get fed. At 4.6 metres long, he’s an intimidating fella when hungry and this is as close as I ever want to get to a croc.
After spending months travelling around North Queensland and the Top End of Australia I’m all for tourists learning about the behaviour of these dinosaurs and the respect we need to show them in order to keep ourselves safe, and them from becoming extinct.
There’s also the cuter version of Shrek that Kalyra and Savannah were happy to touch.
This park is a world-renowned breeding centre for koalas and offers the chance to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s favourite wildlife.
You can never pet too many koalas, just ask my kids who just want to cuddle them and bring them home. Especially a baby koala who was snuggling with mum up the gum tree.
Feeding the kangaroos and wallabies is always a highlight for the girls, their wet mouths nibbling away at the food in the palm of your hand. And a few if them had little joeys in their pouches!!
Love the photo bomb in this one!
Not only is there Aussie wildlife on display here, but we enjoyed checking out the Snow Leopards and Red Pandas, who by the way were extremely active playing peek-a-boo with me as I tried to snap a pic. I finally got him in the tree.
Whilst there, grab a bite to eat at the Billabong Cafe which comes with every parent’s dream – a play area for the kids to keep them entertained whilst you enjoy some down time.
Billabong Koala Park is open every day except Christmas Day.
- Adults $26.50
- Kids (3-15yrs) $15
- Family $77
To learn all about what’s on offer visit their website.
3. Wander along the Breakwall
I used to ride my bike and fish off the iconic breakwall as a kid, and it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Port.
This time, it was nice to see my own kids enjoying a stroll from Town Green to Town Beach checking out all the brightly painted rocks. There’s some cool artwork from locals and visitors alike and if you’re lucky you might see dolphins playing in the Hastings River during your walk.
At the Town Beach end, there’s a boogie board statue claiming Port as the boogie board capital of Australia, plus a skate park and playground.
4. Watch the Sunset
We took in sunset during our walk along the breakwall before heading to dinner in town. Other great viewing spots are Town Green near Lady Nelson Wharf, or how about enjoying sunset with a cold drink at The Beach House pub which has uninterrupted views of the Hastings River.
Sunsets here can set the sky alight as they dip below the mountain on the banks of the river.
5. Town Green & Lady Nelson Wharf
Lady Nelson Wharf is named after one of the three ships that arrived at this point in 1821 to establish the penal settlement of Port Macquarie. This wharf is a popular fishing spot by day, as is the Town Green area, but we enjoyed the twilight scene just after sunset as the lights came on.
There’s a playground at Town Green and plenty of grass area to run around or have a picnic.
6. The Beach House
The before mentioned Beach House is my kinda pub. Prime position on the waterfront, an outdoor beer garden style area with a stage for live music, good selection of beer on tap, kid friendly and a new menu consisting of American style grub.
After chatting with manager Brent and Canadian chef George, I opted for the Philly Cheese Steak – that classic sandwich from Philadelphia in the US. And what a feast it was. Tasty and BIG, and I washed it down with a Blonde Ale made locally by the folks at Black Duck Brewery.
Caz enjoyed her Blackened Silver Dory Salad and the kids were kept happy with their cheeseburger and nuggets.
No wonder this is a popular spot for the locals to hang out. It would be my local too.
7. Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail
This is cool. Dotted around the Port Macquarie landscape are 50 one-metre tall hand-painted koala sculptures made of fibreglass. From the mountains to the sea, they create the Hello Koalas Public Sculpture Trail.
I snapped this cool looking dude in Town Green.
8. The Coastal Walk
We didn’t have time to do the 9km Coastal Walk on this trip, but we’ve done a section of it previously and if you’re in town with enough time, I highly recommend it as a thing to do in Port Macquarie.
Start from Town Beach and head south to Tacking Point Lighthouse. You’ll come across family friendly Flynns Beach and small inlets bordered by rocky headlands that lead you to the flatter and wider expanse of Shelley Beach, then 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 compared to say, the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, almost empty.
9. Livvi’s Place
Looking for a playground your younger kids can burn off some energy for half an hour? Livvi’s Place is a new water playground at Westport Park with a carousel, water play, tree house, nature play and swings, right on the Hastings River.
10. Wauchope Farmers Market
Every fourth Saturday of each month is the local Wauchope Farmers Market. Wherever we live or places we visit we always try and grab our fresh produce from the farmers market and support the local growers.
We stopped in here on our way out to our Farm Stay to stock up on supplies for dinner and breakfast by grabbing some eggs, fruit and veg, and wherever there’s a punnet of strawberries on offer you’ll be sure to find Savannah!
11. Watermans Cafe
Whilst in Wauchope we hit up the popular Watermans Cafe which overlooks the park and kids playground and has a nice seating area outside in the sun.
The kids entertained themselves at the park whilst I downed a chai latte, one of the best I’ve ever had! Win – win.
12. Wauchope Riverwalk
There’s a lovely boardwalk along the riverfront in Wauchope, just a five-minute drive out of town. We took advantage of this peaceful setting to stretch our legs and walk off our lunch and coffees from Watermans.
13. Visit Old Bottlebutt in Burrawan State Forest
We’re always up for a nature trail and a walk in the forest so the easy 600-metre track in the Burrawan State Forest near Wauchope was on our to do list.
There we laid eyes on the largest Red Bloodwood tree in the southern hemisphere, a staggering 52-metres high and 16-metres wide at its base. It’s an impressive looking tree at 200 years old. Try wrapping your arms around this old fella!
The ‘Old Bottle butt’ is one of Port Macquarie’s best kept secrets and if you’re in the area come say hi.
14. Bago Maze
The Bago Maze in Port Macquarie is awesome! The owner of Bogo Vineyards, Jim is a genius for combining a maze with a winery.
Splitting up into pairs, we had a lot of fun getting lost among the lilly-pilly hedge and taking on the challenge of finding our way to the two towers cleverly placed in the maze so that you could see them, but reaching them was another matter.
We crossed over bridges, discovered hidden gnomes, and played musical instruments. Team Caz and Savannah came out winners, and I must say Kalyra kept us in the hunt as my navigation skills had us walking around in circles haha.
Bago Maze is the largest hedge maze in NSW with 2,000 metres of pathways covering 10,000 square metres. Once you’ve solved it, kick back with a cheese plate and a glass of wine under the pergola overlooking the jacaranda trees and valley below.
15. Ewetopia Farm Stay
As much as we love living on the coast, escaping to the country and spending some time on a working farm is something we all enjoy as a family.
We met Ian and Jill, the owners of Ewetopia Farm in Ellenborough earlier in the day at the Wauchope Farmers market, they’re the region’s newest cheese makers and sell milk, yoghurt, labne and are renowned for their halloumi.
We checked in just in time for sunset and sat on our expansive deck perched on the hill overlooking the farm entrance and valley below with our new neighbours close by, sheep and jersey cows.
Just prior to our visit seven little lambs entered the world which our kids just adored (lambs are born every year during spring) and they came up for pats and followed them around the farm like long lost friends – is there anything cuter than this?!
We cooked a nice meal in our self-contained 3 bedroom cottage and enjoyed waking up to the crisp fresh air of country living, the sounds of farm animals and the mist lifting to start a new day.
The saltwater pool with gazebo and BBQ area attached looks inviting for the warmer months, and the summer is when they also milk their flock of dairy sheep that produce feta and halloumi.
The 130-acre farmstay is less than an hours drive west of Port Macquarie and you can do as much, or as little, as you please.
And don’t ya just love the name, Ewetopia?
16. Drive to Camden Haven (via Lorne and Kendall)
Leaving Ellenborough we drove across the spectacular hinterland ranges via the towns of Lorne and Kendall before ending up back on the coast in Camden Haven.
Depending on how much time you have, this scenic drive offers the opportunity to go bushwalking, birding, and hiking to waterfalls, with Ellenborough Falls and Rawson Falls being the stars of the show when flowing.
We were pushed for time but enjoyed the drive to the top of the hinterland ranges of Comboyne before descending to the village of Kendall, and here we suggest stopping in for morning tea at Miss Nellies Cafe.
Drive to the top of North Brother Mountain
It wasn’t the best weather and time of day for photos when we stopped here, but the drive up to Laurieton Lookout on North Brother Mountain provided stunning views over Queens Lake and the seaside towns of Laurieton, North Haven and Dunbogan.
Easily one of the most scenic views we’ve seen in NSW. Would be spectacular on a clear day!
17. Eat at Oasis by the River
When you visit the Camden Haven region you must stop in and eat at Oasis by the River for a delicious meal with a view.
Friendly and passionate, Brendon the owner has done a great job with his new cafe and restaurant and I now know why this has become a popular spot for Camden Haven locals and day-trippers from Port Macquarie.
Off the menu, we chose locally produced Armstrong oysters, soft-shell crab, smoked chicken fettuccini with chorizo, and a strawberry cheesecake which tasted just as good as it looks!
And I love the space Brendon has created out the back for seasonal and special events, a relaxed outdoor area that feels more like your sitting in someone’s backyard. Drop in and say g’day to Brendon, I’m sure your taste buds will leave satisfied.
18. Camden Haven River Cruise
For a much slower pace we hopped on the Camden Haven River Cruise for a leisurely Sunday afternoon cruise down the river.
Some local pelicans were on hand to send us off on our two-hour cruise with the Three Brother Mountains providing a nice backdrop.
The scenery was a mixture of mangroves, sandbanks and oyster leases, and the kids were excited about playing skipper and took control of the wheel whilst we chatted with Fiona about the local region and why she calls it home.
But the highlight of the trip was witnessing a swooping Sea Eagle zoom down and catch its dinner for the night, they’re not easy to photograph but I did manage to produce this shot as proof.
19. Pilots Beach
Again we weren’t visiting at the best time of year for a day at the beach, but Pilots Beach is one to remember for when we return again in the warmer months.
It sits at the mouth of the Camden Haven River and is known as the most protected and safest beach in the region, especially good for families with the gentle waves.
It had just stopped raining when we arrived and the colours that came out were striking.
20. Dunbogan Boatshed
On the cruise, the locals suggested we stop in at the Dunbogan Boatshed for a good cup of coffee. It’s a peaceful setting on the river and here your kids can feed the friendly fish who hang out down below.
Ours girls got a kick out of it but since it had been raining visibility in the water was quite low.
21. Laurieton United Services Club
We timed our visit right to take advantage of Sunday roast night at the Laurieton United Services Club, and at $8 a plate, who’s not up for that?!
We were impressed with the size of this club and the friendliness of the people, and if you’re there in the daytime the views of Camden River would be an added bonus.
Oh, and they’ve thought of the children too, with two kiddie play areas in the bistro and main entertainment area. Winning again!
22. Ocean & Pacific Drive
Heading back to Port Macquarie from Camden Haven, take the Ocean Drive and Pacific Drive route along the coast and check out the region’s best beaches via Bonnie Hills and Lake Cathie.
For our weekend getaway in Port Mazquarie, we had fun cruising around in a new Jeep supplied by the guys at Miedecke Motors. I’ve never driven a Jeep before and would have loved to have taken the doors and roof off. Next time!
We always love asking our blog readers and social media followers for their own tips when visiting an area. This is what they said:
- Renee Simmons – The Milkbar on William Street. Soooo gooood!
- Kylie Peden – Camel rides on Lighthouse Beach , koala hospital and town square.
- Karen Walsh – Artist Markets at Cassegrain Winery Sunday. Relax with a glass of wine and listen to some groovy tunes after you stroll through the eclectic range of stalls. Lots of beautiful handmade things.
- Have Wheelchair Will Travel – I’ve holidayed in Port since I was a child too. Love taking the kids. My list is as follows: Fat Fish Cafe at Rainbow Beach for great food and views. Blue Poles Cafe at Byabarra (only open Thurs-Sun) fab food and country views. Ricardoes tomatoes for strawberry picking. Flynns Beach for family swimming. Lake Cathie for kids. I’m very passionate about that area of Australia as they have also adopted the beach wheelchairs on many of their beaches. Enjoy!
- Rennae Wallace – Koala Hospital was a great experience for the kids. We ended up adopting one. Have a look through Roto House, it was an amazingly preserved house from the Victorian era….fascinating!
- Rebecca Crozier – Swim at Town beach and if you head right you can get a shady spot under the casuarina trees and explore the rock pools with the girls. Rainforest centre & treetops walk at Shelley Beach, Koala hospital, Riccardos strawberry picking and best tomatoes going. Glasshouse for live entertainment, sundowners at the beach house. Walk/fish on the break walk.
- Wendy Jenner – Take the doctors walk from Town Beach heading north. Beautiful.
- Shane Stelzer – Coastal walk at sunrise around lighthouse to Shelly’s, watch a few whales and breathe in the air and beauty.
- Michelle Parcell – Just moved to Port from Brisbane. Sunset cruise on the Chinese Junk, and lighthouse at Lighthouse beach for whale and dolphin spotting.
- Michelle Brown Morrissey – If your here the 3rd Sunday of the month the river walk markets at Laurieton are great.
- Diane Williams – Definitely Ricardo’s. Have Roma tomatoes on toast in the cafe then pick your own strawberries then back to Port to buy some cream then home to eat the fruits of your labour!
Where we stayed
In Port Macquarie, we stayed at the centrally located Ki-ea Apartments, which were an easy stroll to Town Beach, the Breakwall and the Town Centre.
We had a self-contained 2 bedroom apartment and on site was a heated pool and spa, BBQ area, theatre room and complimentary parking. And the rooftop BBQ area has this awesome view over Port:
In Camden Haven, we stayed at the Pelican H2O Apartments in a 2-bed apartment right on the waterfront of Camden Haven river with manicured gardens and an abundance of wildlife. Perfect for families or a romantic escape.
If you’re a family you’ll love Port Macquarie. If not, you’ll love it too!
There’s plenty to do for all ages whether you’re looking for that memorable family holiday you crave, a romantic couples getaway or you’re travelling solo.
After road tripping around the country for 18 months, I can confidently say that Port Macquarie is up there with the best beach-side towns in Australia. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough for any type of traveller.
Be warned, though. People have been known to visit for a weekend, and stayed for a while!
Thanks to Port Macquarie Tourism for hosting our stay. For a complete list of everything on offer in the Greater Port Macquarie region, check out their website.
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Tours in Port Macquarie
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