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17 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Port Macquarie, Australia

Written by Karen Hastings
Updated Mar 22, 2022

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Port Macquarie is one of New South Wales' best-loved holiday destinations and a favorite sea-change escape. Surrounded by sparkling-clean beaches with soft, squeaky sand, it sits on the southernmost edge of the subtropics on the state's mid north coast.

Aerial view of Port Macquarie and the Hastings River
Aerial view of Port Macquarie and the Hastings River

Sun, sea, sand, and stunning scenery are the town's top assets. Lush rainforests fringe the coast, and the Hastings River flows right through its heart, providing a picturesque playground for outdoor adventures. Surfing, fishing, swimming, boating, and kayaking are all popular things to do in Port Macquarie ((called "Port" by the locals), and you can soak up the stunning sea vistas on a scenic 9.1-kilometer coastal hiking trail.

Wildlife lovers are also in luck. Port Macquarie is famous for its population of koalas, and you can see these cuddly characters and many other native species at local animal sanctuaries and in the region's national parks. Kids can also keep a lookout for the colorful hand-painted koala sculptures peppered around the region on the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail.

Culture buffs will also find plenty to keep them busy. Buzzing cafés and restaurants, a top-notch performing arts venue, and a fantastic little museum round out the tourist attractions. You can even sign up for a camel safari on the beach.

Wondering where to stay? Port Macquarie accommodation caters to every budget, from affordable caravan parks to serviced apartments and good-value hotels. With all these places to visit, it's no wonder this friendly town is one of the top getaways from Sydney.

Find out why generations of Aussie vacationers have frolicked on these powdery shores, with our list of top things to do in Port Macquarie.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Port Macquarie Beaches

Lighthouse Beach
Lighthouse Beach | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Playing in the surf at one of Port Macquarie's beautiful beaches is among the top things to do in this friendly town. Whether you love to surf the breaks, cast a fishing line, bodysurf, stroll along the shore, or sunbathe on flour-soft white sand, you'll find the perfect stretch of sand and sea.

Family-friendly Flynns Beach is one of Port Macquarie's most popular beaches – perfect for picnics, swimming, and sunbathing.

Town Beach, steps from the main street, is fantastic for surfing when the winds are favorable. It's also wonderful for families, with showers, picnic facilities, and easy access to downtown shops and restaurants. If you have toddlers and young children in tow, calmer estuary waters lap Lake Cathie Beach.

South-facing Lighthouse Beach is always a favorite – especially in the summer – thanks to its protection from the predominant north-easterly winds. Its swells attract intermediate and advanced surfers, and tourists love the camel safaris along its squeaky-white sands. The picturesque Tacking Point Lighthouse presides over the beach.

Beach in Sea Acres National Park below Tacking Point Lighthouse
Beach in Sea Acres National Park below Tacking Point Lighthouse | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Backed by rainforests, pretty Shelly Beach is a great pick for nature lovers, with a tidal lagoon and lush backdrop. You can access it along the coastal walking trail. Looking for things to do in Port Macquarie with dogs? You can take your four-legged friend to Nobbys Beach for an off-leash romp.

For beach fishing, South Lighthouse beach and the breakwall are top spots, and if you don't mind heading further afield, Dumbogan and Wash House offer good opportunities to catch your dinner.

2. Koala Hospital

A long-time resident at the Koala Hospital
A long-time resident at the Koala Hospital | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Seeing a koala up close is a quintessential Aussie experience, but helping this threatened species is even more rewarding. At the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, you can do both.

Staffed almost entirely by volunteers, the koala hospital rehabilitates sick and injured koalas and conducts important research into saving koala populations in the wild. The hospital's goal is to release the residents back into the wild, although some are too badly injured and will live out their lives under the care of these dedicated volunteers.

Stop by the whiteboard when you arrive to learn about the current residents and their stories. Dog attacks, car accidents, bushfire burns, and disease are some of the most common ailments, and you can watch staff caring for the koalas through a window in the treatment room. Wandering around the rehabilitation yards is a great way to see the koalas up close.

Entry to the koala hospital is free, but a donation is appreciated and goes directly back into helping the koalas. Adopting a koala also makes a great gift to an animal-loving family member or friend.

Address: Corner of Roto Place and Lord Street, Port Macquarie, New South Wales

Official site: https://www.koalahospital.org.au/

3. Billabong Zoo Koala & Wildlife Park

Lion exhibit at the Billabong Zoo Koala & Wildlife Park
Lion exhibit at the Billabong Zoo Koala & Wildlife Park | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

At the fun-filled family-run Billabong Zoo, you can pat a koala or dingo, stroke a baby croc, or hand-feed a kangaroo. If you're an animal lover, this favorite Port Macquarie attraction puts you up close to the species you love.

Free keeper talks are usually held every 30 minutes. Most include close-up animal encounters, making your day here educational and interactive. Feed red pandas and cheetahs, learn about spider monkeys, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the meerkat enclosure, see a saltwater croc launch out of the water, hold a non-venomous snake, and watch the lions interact with their dedicated keeper. Reptile shows round out the activities on weekends and during school holidays.

Wombats, wallaroos, and wallabies add to the impressive collection of 80-plus species here from Australia and around the world. After a rewarding day of critter encounters, you can relax at the café, which serves food from around the world.

Animal lovers will also be happy to know that the zoo's conservation efforts include an important koala breeding program – visitors can contribute by adopting a koala.

Address: 61 Billabong Drive, Port Macquarie, New South Wales

Official site: https://www.billabongzoo.com.au/

4. Hike along the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk

Port Macquarie Coastal Walk
Port Macquarie Coastal Walk | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Wondering what to do when you first arrive? Take a hike along the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk. It's a great way to get a feel for the area, do some sightseeing, and stay fit at the same time.

The scenery is spectacular. Squeaky-clean beaches, subtropical rainforest, rocky bays, and some of the region's top tourist attractions are among the sights along the way.

The 9.1-kilometer, one-way trail follows the coast between Westport Park, near the town center, and Tacking Point Lighthouse, but if you don't have time to hike the entire trail, you can break it up into sections.

Port Macquarie Coastal Walk
Port Macquarie Coastal Walk | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

If mobility is an issue or you have young kids in tow, the easy first stage is ideal. Flat, paved paths lead from Westport Park to Town Beach kiosk. Highlights include colorful Instagram-worthy public art along the Breakwall Walking Path, kids' playgrounds, and possible sightings of dolphins and whales.

Stage two ends at Flynns Beach surf club, one of Port Macquarie's best beaches. Stage three travels along the shores of Nobbys Beach to Shelly Beach, and stage four is the longest and most challenging stretch. It threads along the coastline, past the soft-sand of Miners Beach, through the beautiful subtropical rainforest of Sea Acres Nature Reserve, and up to Tacking Point Lighthouse.

Ocean-view trail on the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk
Ocean-view trail on the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife: Brush turkeys, wallabies, goannas, dolphins, and migrating humpback whales are just some of the animals you might spot along the way. You'll also find plenty of scenic rest stops and lookouts, as well as water bottle filling stations and restrooms along the route.

5. Tacking Point Lighthouse

Tacking Point Lighthouse
Tacking Point Lighthouse | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Perched high atop a rocky point, picturesque Tacking Point Lighthouse, presides over Lighthouse Beach with spectacular views along the coast. In the early 19th century, the explorer Matthew Flinders tacked off the coast here, giving the point its name. The lighthouse was built in 1879 to the design of the New South Wales colonial architect, James Barnet, and is still in use today.

You can't enter the lighthouse, but it makes a perfect postcard picture. You can also see the foundations of the lighthouse keepers' cottage and read stories about the keepers' lonely life. But what really steals the show are the panoramic views of the wild and rocky coast. You might even spot whales here during the migration season.

Backed by lush rainforest, this scenic spot is also a site of cultural significance for the Birpai tribe, the region's Indigenous people. It was an important observation point, where they could see fish runs, and they also gathered bush tucker (food) from the surrounding forests.

To access the lighthouse, you can either walk up the stairs from Lighthouse Beach or drive right up to the top of the lighthouse, although parking is limited.

Insider's tip: This is also a great spot to start the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk.

Address: Lighthouse Road, Port Macquarie, New South Wales

6. Explore Sea Acres Rainforest Centre

Rainforest Boardwalk in Sea Acres National Park
Rainforest Boardwalk in Sea Acres National Park | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Ever heard of a land mullet? It's Australia's largest skink, and this chubby black reptile is frequently spotted from the Rainforest Boardwalk in Sea Acres National Park, along with many other rainforest residents.

Take a stroll along the easy 1.3-kilometer loop, which winds throughout the reserve. You'll see beautiful bangalow palms, elkhorn ferns, ironwood trees, snake-like strangler figs, lianas, native orchids, and more. You'll also learn about the Birpai aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of this land, and their bush tucker (traditional foods) sourced from rainforest plants.

While you walk, listen out for the "whip crack" call of the eastern whipbird. Look for swamp wallabies and brush turkeys feeding on the forest floor, and keep your eyes peeled for powerful owls in the treetops, Australia's largest species of owl. Peer among the twisty branches for pythons and possums, and soak up the magical ambience of the forest's dappled light.

The best way to explore the forest is on a guided tour, offered about four times a day, but you can also take a self-guided tour if you'd rather travel at your own pace.

Afterwards, you can stock up on Aussie souvenirs in the gift shop at the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre or relax with a fresh-squeezed juice and snack at the little café.

Address: 159 Pacific Drive, Port Macquarie New South Wales

Official site: https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/visitor-centres/sea-acres-rainforest-centre

7. Cruise along the Hastings River

Boats cruising on the Hastings River
Boats cruising on the Hastings River | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Gliding along the Hastings River into Limeburners Creek National Park offers a unique perspective of this laid-back coastal town. Not only can you see the town from the water, you also have an excellent chance to spot some of the resident wildlife in the national park. See ospreys diving into the glassy waters, watch turtles and dolphins swimming by the boat, and soak up the silence of the natural bushland lining the river banks – you might even see some kangaroos.

Sunset over the Hastings River
Sunset over the Hastings River

Port Jet Cruise Adventures run eco-river cruises with dolphin spotting, Devonshire morning tea cruises, and sunset cruises, as well as other custom cruises. Cruise Port Macquarie also offers sunset and dolphin spotting cruises. Afternoon tea and snacks are included.

Prefer a more peaceful experience? You can also rent a kayak and paddle along these glistening waterways on a solo excursion or with the family.

8. Roto House

Roto House
Roto House | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Right next door to the Koala Hospital, Roto House sits in a picturesque bushland setting and provides a snapshot of affluent early life in the area.

This beautifully restored late Victorian Georgian home was once the home of John Flynn, a land surveyor and one of Port Macquarie's earliest residents. Built of local red mahogany, it's one of the few remaining 19th-century timber homes left in the area. The Flynn's had six children, two of whom were born at Roto House, and three of them lived here right up until 1979.

Wandering through this lovingly restored home, it's easy to imagine life here in the late 19th and early 20th century. All the rooms are set up as they would have been during the era, and the Flynn's original possessions and photographs tell the family's story.

Friendly volunteers are happy to answer questions as you wander from room to room. Entry is free, but a gold coin donation is appreciated.

Address: 2 Roto Place, Port Macquarie, New South Wales

Official site: https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/historic-buildings-places/roto-house

9. Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail

Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail
Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Koalas are revered in Port Macquarie, and the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail celebrates the locals' love for this cute and cuddly critter.

Keep an eye out for these colorful one-meter-high sculptures all around town. You'll find them at popular tourist attractions, outside shops, and along waterfront paths. Local artists created these 80-plus sculptures, and regional businesses funded the project.

Traveling with a gaggle of kids? Challenge them to spot as many of the 80 sculptures as they can, and click a photo of each one. At the end of the trip, see who spotted the most. It's a great way to keep the kids entertained and celebrate this much-loved Aussie icon at the same time. Best of all, it's free!

10. See a Show at The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse
The Glasshouse | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Resembling a glassy wave, this striking performing arts venue and conference center is the perfect place to visit for a dose of culture. It also makes a great first stop before you head out to tour the town.

Wander into the light-filled lobby, and you'll find the Glasshouse Visitor Information Centre, with details on all the things to see and do in Port Macquarie, as well as heritage displays. You can also buy gifts and souvenirs here.

In addition to all the information on Port Macquarie tourist attractions, you can admire rotating art exhibitions in the Glasshouse Regional Art Gallery, from Indigenous and contemporary art to sculptures and touring exhibitions. The gallery also offers artist-led workshops and evening art talks.

And of course, this is Port Macquarie's main performing arts venue. The venue hosts nationally acclaimed performances, from pop concerts to classical ballet, in its 588-seat theater and performance studio. Keep this on the radar if you're looking for things to do in Port Macquarie at night, and check the website for upcoming events.

Address: 30-42 Clarence Street &, Hay Street, Port Macquarie, New South Wales

Official site: https://www.glasshouse.org.au/Home

11. Port Macquarie Museum

Port Macquarie Museum
Port Macquarie Museum | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

How did Port Macquarie transform itself from a British penal colony to a popular holiday destination? You can find out at the Port Macquarie Museum. Housed in a cheery red-brick building, this worthwhile little museum unveils the town's history, including its first inhabitants, the Birpai people; its convict past; the lucrative timber industry; and its rich river and maritime history. It's a great place to visit when you first arrive to learn about what makes the town tick.

The exhibits here are fun and informative. Highlights include the Arcade of Shops, with objects used by early settlers, and the costume gallery, where you can see what early settlers wore and even dress up in vintage clothes. Interactive activities engage the kids, and the friendly volunteers are happy to chat with visitors.

The museum is open every day except Sunday, and you'll need at least an hour to get the most out of your visit. It's a great place to visit on a rainy day, when you're looking for indoor activities in Port Macquarie. Exhibits are refreshed regularly, so you'll always see something new here.

If you're looking for things to do in Port Macquarie when it's raining, this is a great option for the whole family.

Address: 22 Clarence Street, Port Macquarie, New South Wales

Official site: https://portmuseum.org.au/

12. Whale Watching Cruises

Breaching humpback whales off Port Macquarie
Breaching humpback whales off Port Macquarie

Witnessing a whale launching out of the water is an unforgettable experience. At Port Macquarie you have the chance to glimpse this incredible sight - from land or sea. From May through November, tens of thousands of whales migrate along the coast.

Humpback whales are the most common and entertaining species - they often breach out of the water. But you might also see southern right whales, which have been known to enter shallow bays. Bottlenose dolphins are often spotted cavorting in the estuary of the Hastings River and along the shoreline.

The best way to get up close to these gentle cruises is aboard a whale watching and dolphin spotting cruise. Port Jet Cruise Adventures whisks you out on 90-minute cruises during the season in a choice of two different boats, one with underwater viewing windows.

If you prefer to stay on land, you still have a chance to see these loveable marine mammals. Vantage points pepper the coast, including the lookout at Tacking Point Lighthouse and along the Port Macquarie coastal walk.

13. Ride a Camel on the Beach

Guide leading camels along Lighthouse Beach in Port Macquarie
Guide leading camels along Lighthouse Beach in Port Macquarie

Looking for a unique way to do some sightseeing in Port Macquarie? How about a camel safari. These comical animals plod along the soft-sand shores of Lighthouse Beach on fine days, taking tourists for 30-minute jaunts (20-minutes during New South Wales school holidays). It's a fun way to soak up the coastal vistas of this sweeping nine-kilometer beach.

To sign up, just head down to Lighthouse Beach and chat to the owner. You'll find him about a kilometer south of the Tacking Point Surf Club. Rides operate every day of the year, except Saturdays and Christmas Day, weather permitting. Make sure you bring cash!

Official site: https://www.portmacquariecamels.com.au/

14. Catch the Big One on a Fishing Trip

Beach fishing in Port Macquarie
Beach fishing in Port Macquarie | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

With the Hastings River running right through its heart, the Camden Haven River system, offshore reefs, and miles of pristine beaches, Port Macquarie is a top spot for anglers.

If you're into deep-sea fishing, Ocean Star whisks you out on the blue waters on a 40-foot custom fishing boat. Snapper, kingfish, jewfish, and pearl perch are among the many species you can catch offshore, and big game anglers can hook marlin, tuna, wahoo, mackerel, and dolphin fish.

Is river fishing your preference? Castaway Estuary Fishing Charters specializes in calm-water fishing with lures. Target species include bass, flathead, whiting, bream, jewfish, and mudcrabs, and you can choose from half-day, full-day, and hobie kayak fishing adventures. The Camden Haven River is also known for its blue swimmer crab and prawns.

Prefer to keep it simple and fish from land with the kids? Head to the Town Wharf, the Southern Breakwall, or the Settlement Point Picnic Area. But make sure you purchase a New South Wales fishing license.

Spring and summer are the most popular fishing seasons, but if you're hoping to fish from one of the rocky points or beaches, autumn and winter are excellent times of year to target bream, mulloway, and tailor.

15. Shop Downtown at Port Central

Port Central shopping mall
Port Central shopping mall | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Next door to The Glasshouse in the heart of town is the popular Port Central shopping mall. Here, and in the surrounding streets, you'll find a range of specialty stores and boutiques selling everything from books and baked goods to shoes, jewelry, surfwear, and fashion.

When you're ready to refuel, you'll find plenty of options for a bite to eat in the mall and beyond. Beantree Café is a local favorite, serving up everything from scrumptious fried chicken burgers to jackfruit tacos, and Noshtalgia is a great spot for traditional favorites.

Looking for farm-fresh produce? You can stock up at the farmers markets in the Port Central Forecourt every Tuesday afternoon from 12 to 6pm.

If you still haven't satisfied your shopping urge, Settlement City has even more chain stores, including Cotton On, Big W, and Bed Bath N Table.

Official site: https://portcentralshopping.com.au/

16. Pick Fresh Strawberries at Ricardoes

Freshly picked strawberries
Freshly picked strawberries

It's hard to resist the taste of a luscious, sweet strawberry. At Ricardoes, you can pluck them fresh from the vines, pile them high in a bucket, and take them home to enjoy. This U-pick farm grows five varieties of hydroponic strawberries, as well as eight varieties of tomatoes.

Free guided tours take place weekdays at 11am. This a great thing to do with the kids.

Ricardoes
Ricardoes | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

After you've stocked up on strawberries, stop by the café for a steaming hot bowl of tomato soup, or scones served with fresh-whipped cream and strawberries. You can also purchase preserves, pasta sauces, and chutneys, among other gastronomic goodies, at the gift shop.

Best of all, entry to the farm is free - you only pay for what you pick.

Address: 221 Blackmans Point Road, Port Macquarie, New South Wales

Official site: http://www.ricardoes.com/

17. See the Views from Laurieton Lookout

View from Laurieton Lookout
View from Laurieton Lookout | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Trying to get your bearings in this beautiful region? Take the windy five-kilometer road up North Brother Mountain to Laurieton Lookout in Dooragan National Park. It's about a 35-minute drive from Port Macquarie, but it's worth it for the breathtaking views. The road is sealed, but the twists and turns will test the nerve of motion sickness sufferers.

Once you're at the top, you can gaze out across the entire Camden Haven region. See the sapphire Camden Haven River snaking between two lakes: Queens and Watson Taylors Lakes. To the south, you can see all the way to Crowdy Head. Gaze north, and you'll spot Mount Yarrahappini on a clear day.

Feel like a hike? Take one of the shady trails through the blackbutt and eucalyptus forests. The three-kilometer one-way Laurieton Track is the most challenging, and if you're looking for a quick taste of the wilderness, take the easy 0.6-kilometer Rainforest Loop. It navigates through forests of strangler figs, orchids, and birds nest ferns to another lookout, with views towards Diamond Head. The northern end of this loop track is also wheelchair-accessible.

When the conditions are favorable, paragliders and hang gliders also like to launch from the summit. Picnic tables, grassy areas, and restrooms make it easy to spend a few hours hiking the trails and soaking up the scenery.

Insider's Tip: Try to pick a clear day for the best views.

Where to Stay in Port Macquarie for Sightseeing

Most of Port Macquarie's hotels are mid-range apartment-style properties clustered around the spectacular coastline and the shops and restaurants in town. Others lie on the Hastings River. No matter where you stay, you're only a short drive away from Port Macquarie's top attractions.

Luxury Hotels:

  • If you're looking for things to do in Port Macquarie for couples, book a stay at the boutique Ana Mandara Luxury Bed & Breakfast. On an elbow of the beautiful Hastings River, it's a peaceful sanctuary for a romantic getaway – the resort is adults only. Accommodations comprise just four capacious suites, ensuring an intimate experience for all guests. Three rooms come with balconies, water views, and jetted soaking tubs. Gourmet breakfasts change daily and are included in the rates.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • The 4-star Sandcastle Apartments is perfect for families. Enjoy 180-degree views of Town Beach across the street. Spread out in the spacious sunny one-, two-, and three bedroom apartments, and cook meals in your fully-equipped kitchen.
  • Between Town Beach and downtown Port Macquarie, Ki-ea Apartments is also great for families and groups. Choose from studios and one- to four-bedroom apartments with full kitchens and large balconies. Take a dip in the heated rooftop pool and hot tub, relax in the sauna, or cook up a meal in the barbecue areas.
  • In the town center, the boutique Macquarie Waters Hotel & Apartments offers rooms to suit every traveler. Singles and couples like the hotel rooms; families and groups prefer the apartments, with up to three bedrooms available. Ocean view and hot tub apartments are the pick of the bunch. In your spare time, you can stroll to the beach, swim in the outdoor pool, or soak in the rooftop hot tub with ocean views.
  • Overlooking the Hastings River, near the Port Macquarie Marina, Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges is a special-occasion resort with a beachy "Hamptons" feel. It's a favorite wedding spot. The recently refurbished guest rooms are bright and modern, with pops of sea blue. A highlight is the lovely pool, and if you're up for some shopping, the popular Settlement City shopping mall is just across the street.

Budget Hotels:

  • A few minutes from town, East Port Motor Inn offers excellent value. Rooms are clean and comfortable. If you have time, you can play pool and board games in the lounge, swim in the pool, and cook up a barbecue using the free facilities.
  • Set beside lush parkland, Aston Hill Motor Lodge offers motel-style rooms and apartments. Spacious rooms, friendly staff, and comfy pillow-top beds are highlights. You can enjoy a picnic in the adjacent parklands, and town is just a few minutes' drive away.
  • Good-value rates make Port O'Call Motel a great place to stay if you're passing through the area. It's located near the Port Macquarie indoor Sports Stadium, a few minutes' drive from the Settlement City shopping mall. Rooms are spacious and clean, with tea and coffee making facilities and large TVs.
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