The seaside town of Port Macquarie is located at the mouth of the Hastings River on the NSW mid-north coast.
Here, dreamy beaches dotted with rugged headlands give way to a rare patch of coastal rainforest to explore on the boardwalk.
The shores of Port Macquarie are surrounded by a 9km path, so you can explore by bike or on foot, stopping occasionally to see dolphins and humpback whales in the Pacific Ocean.
On land, the Port Macquarie region has the largest koala population in Australia, a major koala hospital open to the public, and a zoo where you can get up close and personal with koalas.
1. Koala Hospital
Sadly, huge numbers of Australia’s iconic marsupials are injured each year by bushfires, road crashes and dog attacks.
That was before we got to the bushfires of 2019-2020 that destroyed most of the habitat.
Established in 1973, this nationally accredited treatment and rehabilitation centre in Port Macquarie has 4 permanent paid staff and offers 14 intensive care units and 33 specialised rehabilitation facilities.
The Koala Hospital is open 24/7 for self-guided tours, allowing you to move freely around the yard to see koalas recovering.
There is a leaflet and map with a lot of information, but if that’s not enough, you can take a guided tour every day at 15:00. Admission is free, but of course we encourage you to donate, adopt or buy something in the hospital store.
2. Coastal Walk
In Port Macquarie, you can walk 9km by the Pacific Ocean with little to no road traffic.
The Coastal Walk is set on gentle slopes with occasional light climbs over the scenic headland, divided into four manageable sections of no more than 2.7km in length.
You’ll stroll along the picturesque breakwaters of the Hastings Estuary, beside stunning beaches, green parks and vantage points for vistas.
From May to November, you are likely to spot humpback whales in the sea and be asked to document your sightings at wildaboutwhales.com.au.
Heading south, the final stop will take you through Sea Acres National Park, one of the last places in NSW where rainforest meets the Pacific coast.
3. Deadpool Zoo: Koala and Wildlife Park
This attraction started more than 30 years ago as a famous koala breeding facility.
These adorable marsupials are still the stars of Billabong Zoo, but are joined by animals from over 80 other species, including wombats, fennec foxes, quolls, cheetahs, red pandas, African lions, snow leopards , spider monkeys, etc.
Billabong Zoo encourages interaction, allowing you to feed and pet wallabies, and have one-on-one encounters with koalas, cheetahs, snakes, red pandas and more.
Every half hour, you can also watch an educational administrator presentation, which is included in the admission fee.
4. Locate Point Lighthouse
The southern start of the coastal walk is a dramatic promontory topped by a whitewashed lighthouse.
Tacking Point Lighthouse has been here since 1879, outside the top ten oldest lighthouses in Australia.
Tacking Point is a terrain named by the famous navigator and cartographer Matthew Flinders during his 1802-03 voyage around the world in Australia.
The lighthouse is a photo hotspot, with information boards detailing Tacking Point and its lighthouse history, and you can gaze out to sea for the possibility of spotting dolphins or humpback whales (May-November). Then just to the west, you can continue your stroll along the breathtaking Lighthouse Beach, dotted with huge Paleozoic outcrops marked by Watunga Rock.
5. Roto House
Built in 1890 for land surveyor John Flynn, this 11-bedroom weatherboard house in the Macquarie Nature Reserve is one of the few small buildings still standing in Port Macquarie from the 19th century.
Surrounded by fences and balconies, Roto House is a veritable time capsule, constructed from local red mahogany and fitted with fixtures and finishes of the time.
Along the way, you’ll see documents, photos, and household items, giving the impression that the Flynns were just out for a walk until 1979.
6. Sea Acre Rainforest Center
One of the largest remaining rainforest reserves in NSW is just over 5km from Port Macquarie’s CBD.
The main attraction here is a 1.3km raised boardwalk that takes you through spectacular, unspoiled subtropical rainforest.
Inside you can find all the information about the delicate ecology of the rainforest and its importance in the local indigenous culture.
To deepen your knowledge, you can choose to visit with an expert guide, while the small theatre in the centre always hosts some kind of demonstration or event.
Rainforest Meditations are held monthly at the center, and the Rainforest Cafe serves afternoon tea under the beautiful palm groves of Bangalore.
7. Town Beach
The closest beach to Port Macquarie’s central business district is also the town’s most frequented beach.
Town Beach has soft white sand that curves 600 meters from the southern wall of the Hastings Estuary to the 15-meter headland at Flagstaff Lookout.
The beach is patrolled from September to April and has surfers for its sandbar and southerly protection.
When the tides and bars line up, the beach can experience some serious southeast swell.
For families to relax here, there is an open grassy space with picnic facilities and plenty of shade, all overlooking the beach.
A little further, you’ll come to a creative children’s playground, outdoor gym and skate park, all close to a scenic breakwater.
8. North Central Coast Maritime Museum
Navigation and seaborne trade are an integral part of Port Macquarie’s story, and this pair of well-preserved pilot cabins encapsulates more than a century of sailing history.
These buildings have been standing since 1896 and house an extensive collection of marine object counting maps, numerous intricate scale models, paintings, maps, navigational instruments, diving gear, buoys, diagrams and an extensive display of maritime photographs.
Also part of the museum is the pilot boat shed by the river, and the Hibbert Dock and Slide along Hastings River Drive.
9. Port Macquarie Museum
In Port Macquarie’s central business district, you’ll be able to learn about the town’s complex past in this award-winning museum.
The Port Macquarie Museum’s galleries detail topics such as the Aboriginal Bilpas, European settlements in 1821, the era of penal colonies, and more, all the way to the town’s modern development as a tourist destination.
Exhibits add fascinating artefacts such as a Rafael Clint sundial from a penal settlement, imported Wedgwood toilets from an abandoned colonial house, a complete manual sugar crush factory and a watercolour from a turn-of-the-century settlement by artist Lay Onnell Lindsay.
10. Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries
A high-tech hydroponic greenhouse allows the farm on the northern outskirts of Port Macquarie to grow strawberries and tomatoes all year round.
Inside, plump crimson tomatoes grow on vines that climb to the ceiling, among the avenues of strawberry plants on the lattice A-frame.
More than 30,000 plants are grown on the farm, including 8 tomato varieties and 5 hydroponic strawberries.
You can come and pick your own any time of year and call in the shops and cafes, all packed with delicious food grown and made here, or at a range of local farms.
11. Frings Beach
If you’re willing to travel, there are kilometers of fine sandy beaches up and down the mid-north coast.
One of our picks just 5 minutes from the CBD is Flynns Beach, a 500-meter bay surrounded by rocky headlands.
The beach is largely protected from westerly and southerly winds, leaving behind light waves perfect for novice surfers all year round.
There’s a surf club with a kiosk serving snacks, drinks and light meals, while families enjoy exploring around the rock pools to see marine life up close.
Of course, Frings Beach is right on the coastal walk, so you can easily get to neighboring beaches.
12. Wineries and Vineyards
Winemaking on the rolling banks of the Hastings River dates back to the 1830s.
The industry was in recession at the turn of the 20th century, but has been recovering since the 1980s and continues to this day.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot make up the bulk of the production in this hot region, and they are often blended together to make wines that are rich in flavor but surprisingly soft, earthy, and berry flavored.
Just minutes from Port Macquarie, there are several well-known wineries that combine tours and tastings with local culture and history.
These include Cassegrain Wines, Douglas Vale Historic Homestead & Vineyard, Long Point Vineyard + Art Gallery and Bago Vineyards, which features a two-metre hedge maze next to its winery.
13. Whale Watching
From May to November each year, humpback whales leave their feeding grounds in Antarctica and migrate long distances along Australia’s east coast to subtropical waters to mate.
After giving birth to the whales and their calves, they make the long journey south again, during which time they can be seen off the coast of Port Macquarie.
You can gaze land at vantage points such as Harry’s Lookout, Tacking Point and Flagstaff Lookout, but there are also plenty of operators in Port Macquarie waiting for you.
14. Hello Koala Sculpture Trail
You don’t have to open your eyes to notice the dozens of oversized koalas sitting around Port Macquarie.
As part of an award-winning tour programme, these one-metre fibreglass sculptures appear on scenic lookouts, surrounded by the park’s flower beds and hidden in a variety of unexpected places.
More than 70 koalas in Port Macquarie feature original hand-painted designs by the artist with important conservation messages.
If you want to catch a glimpse of them, you can download a free roadmap from the Hello Koalas website, which will also let you know about newcomers and old favorites.
15. Lake Innis Nature Reserve
Southwest of Port Macquarie is a conservation area that combines natural beauty, recreation and remnants of early settlement on the NSW North Coast.
In Lake Innis you can kayak, canoe, swim, fish, bike and bird watch.
The two-kilometre Googik trail starts from the foreshore and traverses gently rolling hills to take you to the wetlands on the boardwalk.
By the water, you can relax at the Perch Hole picnic area and keep an eye out for birds like black swans, wood ducks and ospreys.
Finally, the Innes Ruins are remnants of extended houses and stables from the 1830s and 1840s, when Port Macquarie was a penal settlement.
Remains of a servant’s hut, a lakeside boathouse, a brick yard and a vegetable garden can also be identified.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Port Macquarie, Australia
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