Where the hinterland meets the sea
Port Macquarie is nestled between beautiful coastlines and stunning mountain ranges.
Along the New South Wales coast sits Australia’s fastest growing regional centre in the state. Bordered by mountainous National Park on one side and idyllic sandy beaches on the other, “Port” as it’s known by locals, is far more than just a quiet town.
Meet the Makers
Port Macquarie has an amazing array of local makers from farmers to coffee roasters, making it Australia’s sustainability haven.
Ricardoes' Anthony Sarks.
One of the area’s most well-known producers is Ricardoes’ Anthony Sarks, who grows strawberries and tomatoes year round. With farming practices that are both eco-friendly and innovative, Anthony provides much of the region with fruit and offers strawberry picking in his orchards.
At the end of a season, Ricardoes’ leftover strawberries are sent to Eric and Monica Robinson at The Other Chef, where they are turned into the famous Ricardoes strawberry jam. This and other jams, relishes and sauces made from local produce, including The Other Chef’s one-of-a-kind black garlic, can be tasted and purchased from the cellar door.
Peak Coffee head roaster, Ainsley Harrison.
A short walk down the road is Peak Coffee Brew Lab and Roasters, where instant coffee is banned and latte art runs wild. Peak serve beans which are roasted onsite using a vintage machine originally built during the 1920s Melbourne espresso fad.
Half an hour drive from Port Macquarie is the family run Bago Vineyards. Like Ricardoes, Bago is a well-known regional favourite. The cellar door and entertainment area overlook rows of grape vines and the famous Bago maze. The 2.3 metre-high lilly pilly maze is child-friendly. With a viewing platform above, parents can enjoy a wine while watching their children navigate 2000 metres of maze pathway.
The Bago maze.
For the foodies
TripAdvisor will tell you that The Stunned Mullet is Port Macquarie’s best restaurant – a claim hard to refute.
Owned by Lou Perri and located opposite Town Beach, it is the only restaurant in the city to be awarded the prestigious Good Food Guide Chef Hat. The Stunned Mullet is not only famous for its exclusive licence to fish the Glacier 51 Toothfish – a must-try dish – but also its impressive wine list.
Along the main strip are several local gourmet favourites – Bill’s Fishhouse and Bar, LV’s on Clarence and Drury Lane. Both LV’s and Drury Lane are open for breakfast and lunch and take pride in serving high quality, hearty farm to table dishes. Bill’s is a great dinner option for seafood lovers with fresh ingredients caught daily and a range of Cassegrain Vineyard wines available.
Koalas of Port Macquarie
Koalas, or guula in the local Kattang Indigenous language, are an important symbol of Port Macquarie. The Hello Koalas Sculpture trail was created in 2014 and celebrates the region’s marsupials with 68 hand-painted koalas positioned at important landmarks around Port Macquarie. With koala populations declining, the trail’s objective is to raise awareness about the issues these unique native animals face such as dog attacks, road strikes and habitat loss.
Koala at the Koala Hospital.
The sculpture trail raises awareness of the local Koala Hospital, which is the first port of call for sick and injured koalas, some of which will be rehabilitated and some that will live out their days in the hospital. More than 200 koalas are treated every year and people can tour its outdoor intensive care units and see the work the hospital does to stabilise koala populations in New South Wales.
Hello Koala sculpture.
Explore the surrounds
Sea Acres, not far from the city centre of Port Macquarie, is a stunning rainforest escape that begins at the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre. From the centre, visitors can take a tour along the Sea Acres Rainforest boardwalk with a local expert on the area.
Morgan the camel.
Towards Port Macquarie’s Lighthouse Beach, locals are used to seeing John Hardy and Michael Doust wandering down the beach with a group of camels and riders in tow. The trip along the beach takes about half an hour with the camels providing surprisingly comfortable rides. Their height also allows riders to see passing whales and dolphins in the surf.
North Brother Mountain lookout view.
For a real height advantage, Three Brothers provide breathtaking views of Port Macquarie and the surrounding regions. Three Brothers are three mountains – North, Middle and South, all with their own charm. North Brother mountain is also home to the Beach to Brother marathon that ends at the top of the of what is colloquially know as “the hill from hell”.
The lookout, which is accessible by road, has an amazing view that is well worth the trip.
The writer travelled courtesy of Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and Gate7.
Photos by Getty Images and Remy Brand.