Located along Australia’s beautiful east coast, Port Macquarie is a mesmerising coastal town about midway between Sydney and Brisbane. As the third convict settlement in Australia, Port Macquarie was colonised in 1821 to replace Newcastle. With a pristine coastline, world-class beaches, and charming colonial buildings, Port Macquarie has since become a thriving surfing town, attracting holidaymakers worldwide.
With almost year-round sunny days, Port Macquarie is an ideal holiday destination throughout the year. With its peaceful Hastings River, stunning coastline, idyllic beaches, charming heritage-listed buildings, abundant wildlife, and outstanding local produce, Port Macquarie is suited for all ages to visit.
Located only a 4-hour drive or a 1-hour flight from its capital city, Sydney, Port Macquarie is also a convenient and popular coastal getaway for Sydneysiders. Hence, it does get very busy on weekends and school holidays. So make sure you plan ahead and visit on a weekday, if possible.
Although there are many attractions and activities in Port Macquarie, it only takes as little as one day to visit the essential attractions and get a taste of life in Port Macquarie. If time permits, I do suggest spending at least two days in Port Macquarie to make your trip more relaxed and enjoyable.
In this article, I have put together a detailed 1-day itinerary on visiting Port Macquarie, based on my recent road trip along Australia’s east coast. It is a well-packed itinerary, well-suited for people who wish to see it all in only 1-day. If you have more time, I do suggest visiting these attractions over two days.
Where to Stay in Port Macquarie
With a decent local population and a large number of tourists throughout the year, Port Macquarie is equipped with a good selection of holiday accommodations for every budget and need.
- For budget-conscious backpackers, check out either Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers or Beachside Backpackers.
- For budget-friendly studios or cabins at a waterfront location, check out NRMA Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park.
- For well-priced motels, check out Ocean Breeze Motel or El Paso Motor Inn.
- For a boutique motel at Port Macquarie’s beautiful waterfront, check out The Mid Pacific.
- For a 4-star hotel stay with an ocean-front view, check out Macquarie Waters Boutique Apartment Hotel or Ki-ea Apartments.
Port Macquarie 1-Day Itinerary
Port Macquarie offers a breathtaking coastline with numerous soft sandy beaches to explore. Hence, a coastal walk along Port Macquarie’s picturesque waterfront is undoubtedly the number one activity in Port Macquarie.
After taking in the fantastic views of Port Macquarie’s beautiful coastline, you can also check out Port Macquarie’s famous Koala Hospital, followed by a stroll through its charming city centre.
Port Macquarie Coastal Walk
Port Macquarie Coastal Walk is a 9-kilometre coastal walk between Westport Park and Tacking Point Lighthouse. It hugs along the waterfront by following Hastings River towards Town Beach and eventually finishes at Lighthouse Beach. The walk itself will take about 2.5-3 hours one way, but you can also opt only to walk part of it.
Instead of starting your walk from Westport Park, you can begin this coastal walk towards Tacking Point Lighthouse from Port Macquarie Breakwall, where most of the sceneries and activities start. Between Rocky Beach and Tacking Point Lighthouse, you also can catch Bus 322 or 323 to save some walking time. The same bus routes can also take you back to Port Macquarie’s city centre once you have visited Tacking Point Lighthouse.
If you are visiting Port Macquarie by car, there are plenty of free car parks along Port Macquarie Coastal Walk. However, it can take a lot of driving around to find one near popular beaches and attractions when visiting on a busy day.
Port Macquarie Breakwall
Port Macquarie Breakwall is built along the mouth of Hastings River, providing a calm water environment for boats coming in and out of Hastings River Mouth. With colourfully painted rocks, a popular skate park, well-equipped kids’ playgrounds, and cute cafes and food vans along the breakwall, a stroll on Port Macquarie Breakwall is the perfect place to start your Port Macquarie Coastal Walk & is well-suited for all ages.
At the tip of Port Macquarie Breakwall, you can also find an incredible lookout, Town Beach Lookout, overlooking the peaceful Hastings River and the wild Pacific Ocean. As the name suggests, you can also get a great view of the beautiful Town Beach.
Since Port Macquarie Breakwall and its surrounding area are very popular among locals and visitors alike, it does get a bit busy on weekends and school holidays. However, the coastal walk gets less busy and populated once you have passed Town Beach. So please don’t get turned away by the people.
Tips: If you need some breakfast to start the day, grab a quick bite and a coffee at Little Shack Cafe, located at the base of Port Macquarie Breakwall or try out the doughnut van near Town Beach.
With only a short walk from Port Macquarie’s city centre, Town Beach is one of the most popular and accessible beaches in Port Macquarie. It is equipped with public toilets, showers, picnic facilities, food vans, playgrounds, and a skate park. Free parking is also available around Town Beach for easy access.
Since Port Macquarie is named the Bodyboarding Capital of Australia, bodyboarding is undoubtedly the most sought-after activity at Town Beach. Here, you can find people of all ages braving the water and enjoying a nice surf. Even if you don’t wish to get into the water, take a seat along its soft sandy beach; you can still have plenty of fun watching others balancing in the surfs.
Tips: After visiting Town Beach, head up to the little hilltop just behind it (Gaol Point Lookout) for a stunning bird’s eye view of the Hastings River and Town Beach.
Further south along Port Macquarie Coastal Walk, you will come to an idyllic lookout, the Flagstaff Lookout.
Nestled on a small headland between Town Beach and Oxley Beach, Flagstaff Lookout is a beautiful spot with a breathtaking view of the wild Pacific Ocean and the mesmerising Port Macquarie coastline.
On the northern end of Flagstaff Lookout, you can also find a small sandy patch at Flagstaff Cove. There is no direct beach access, but you could follow a dirt track from Oxley Beach to reach it. With crystal clear water, beautiful rock formations, and almost no visitors, it felt like a hidden paradise when I visited.
On the southern end of Flagstaff Lookout, you can find another sandy beach, Oxley Beach.
Although equally beautiful, Oxley Beach is smaller and less populated than the nearby Town Beach. Makes it an excellent spot for a quiet picnic along the beach.
Oxley Beach is also dog-friendly. So you can enjoy a relaxing stroll along the beach with your beloved pooch (leash required).
The only thing to note is that there are a few large rock formations along Oxley Beach, so as great as the waves might look, Oxley Beach will not make a good surfing beach. However, swimming or sunbathing would still be a good option at Oxley Beach. (not patrolled when I visited)
Macquarie Nature Reserve
After a long walk along the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk, we will now break this walk up with a quick visit to Macquarie Nature Reserve.
Macquarie Nature Reserve is only a few hundred metres from the beach, providing a lush shaded spot for everyone to enjoy. Within Macquarie Nature Reserve, you can find short walking tracks among its tall eucalypts and enjoy a picnic under its large magnolia tree. It is also home to the historic Roto House and Port Macquarie’s famous Koala Hospital.
Roto House is an 11-room cottage built by surveyor John Flynn in 1891. It has been housing the Flynn family up until 1979. Nowadays, Roto House has been restored and used as a small house museum for visitors to admire this typical 19th-century craftsmanship and to learn a piece of Port Macquarie’s history.
Outside Roto House, you can also find a coffee van (Round & Round) selling hot drinks and baked goods. It can be a good place to grab a bite if you are hungry. However, when I visited in late 2022, the food was average & the service was really slow as well. Even a coffee took them around 10 minutes to make (I visited on a Sunday). If you are visiting on a busy day and are not super hungry, I suggest checking out other cafes instead, e.g. Sandbox cafe on nearby Flynns Beach (mentioned below).
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital
After a stroll within Macquarie Nature Reserve, you will find the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, nestled at the southwestern corner of this peaceful reserve.
Established in 1973, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is a not-for-profit koala rehabilitation centre dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating injured koalas from the region. As a volunteer-run facility, there are no entry fees for visiting the Koala Hospital. However, since this facility does not receive government funding, donations are highly encouraged to help keep this facility running.
Within Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, visitors can guide themselves through the koala enclosures, check out the koala museum, and marvel at the activities within the koala clinic (through a glass window). Guided group tours of the Koala Hospital are also available during weekdays & you can book them here.
A gift shop is available near the entrance of the Koala Hospital if you wish to grab a souvenir for your visit. Alternatively (& what I highly suggest), you can adopt a koala! This can be done either on-site or online & it is much more meaningful than buying a souvenir.
After visiting the Koala Hospital, we will head back to the beach to enjoy a cool swim at Flynns Beach.
Flynns Beach is about midway along the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk and only a short walk from Macquarie Nature Reserve. It is a wide sandy beach, great for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing. With an excellent beach cafe, Sandbox, Flynns Beach is also the perfect spot for brunch with a fantastic view.
Various off-street parking is available near Flynns Beach. Since it is a popular beach for locals and visitors, do expect the parking spots to be hard to come by on weekends and school holidays.
Sea Acres Rainforest Boardwalk
Sea Acres Rainforest Boardwalk is a 1.3-kilometre elevated boardwalk through a coastal rainforest along the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk.
Feels deep into a rainforest, Sea Acres Rainforest Boardwalk is a tranquil place to spend at least half an hour in. With numerous information signage along the walk, you can also easily spend hours learning fascinating facts about the diverse plantations and wildlife in this rainforest.
Tickets to Sea Acres Rainforest Boardwalk is currently AUD 9 per adult (February 2023). Discounted kid’s tickets and family tickets are available as well.
Tacking Point Lighthouse
Constructed in 1879, Tacking Point Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses in Australia. Standing firm on a small headland between Little Bay and Tacking Bay, Tacking Point Lighthouse is still navigating ships along the coast of Port Macquarie after over 140 years.
Nowadays, Tacking Point Lighthouse is better known as a landmark to mark the southern end of the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk. This picturesque lighthouse is also a highly Instagrammable Port Macquarie icon with its pure white tower body and contrasting sea blue trims.
With its elevated location, visitors can obtain a magnificent panoramic view of the wild Pacific Ocean waves crashing onto the rocky cliffs & the pristine Lighthouse Beach nearby. It is also a prime spot for whale watching during their annual migrations (between March and September).
Free off-street parking is available around Tacking Point Lighthouse, but only a limited number of parking spots are available right next to the lighthouse. Most parking spots will involve a short walk to the lighthouse.
Lighthouse Beach is a long stretch of soft sandy beach south of the charming Tacking Point Lighthouse. It is a prime spot for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing.
Being the longest beach stretch in Port Macquarie, Lighthouse Beach is also home to Port Macquarie’s own Camel Ride experience. It takes about 20 minutes for a ride & costs AUD 40 per adult (back in late 2022). Discounted prices are available to kids.
Since camels are not native to and rare to come by in Australia, a camel ride along Lighthouse Beach can be a unique Port Macquarie experience for all ages to enjoy. If you plan on taking a camel ride, make sure you bring some cash along, as it was still cash only when I visited.
In addition to being home to the Camel Ride, Lighthouse Beach is also where the Watonga Rocks are located. Watonga Rocks is a group of giant rock formations on Lighthouse Beach. It is also very Instagrammable, especially around sunset.
South of the beautiful Watonga Rocks, dog owners can also exercise their pooches off-leash, giving it yet another reason for people to visit the stunning Lighthouse Beach.
Port Macquarie City
After a long walk along Port Macquarie’s mesmerising coastline, we will be heading back to Port Macquarie’s city centre to explore its collection of heritage-listed buildings. Along your walk through Port Macquarie city centre, make sure you also pay attention to the numerous koala sculptures along the streets of Port Macquarie. This is the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail.
Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail is a permanent public art exhibit that started in 2014 to help foster a sense of community and raise awareness of Australia’s endangered fauna and flora. It currently has over 80 colourful koala sculptures across Port Macquarie, with many easily located along the streets of Port Macquarie city centre. So make sure you keep an eye out for these cuties.
Since Port Macquarie’s city centre is relatively small, you can easily locate many historic buildings along Clarence Street. Out of the buildings along Clarence Street, I highly suggest you check out the heritage-listed Port Macquarie Museum and Historic Courthouse.
If time permits, make sure you also check out the historic Royal Hotel adjacent to Port Macquarie’s Town Green. Front facing the peaceful Hastings River, this charming 1800s hotel still welcomes customers today. Instead of only appreciating its beauty from the outside, you can also head inside to enjoy a nice pub meal with a waterfront view for dinner.
Along your walk in Port Macquarie city, you will likely also notice the St Agnes Parish Port Macquarie on Horton Street. St Agnes Parish is a beautiful parish on a small hilltop. Its location also provides a great bird’s eye view of Port Macquarie City, making it a lovely spot to finish your walk through the city.
Kooloonbung Creek Nature Park
If the day is still young and you still have some energy left, you can head to Kooloonbung Creek Nature Park to explore the area along Kooloonbung Creek.
Kooloonbung Creek Nature Park is only a short 10 minutes walk from Port Macquarie’s buzzing city centre, yet it feels like a world away. Through its elevated boardwalks within Kooloonbung Creek Nature Park, visitors can explore the diverse ecosystem and mangrove forests along Kooloonbung Creek. Wildlife is also plenty, with flying foxes, various birds, blue tongue lizards, and water dragons regularly seen along the creek.
Although you are only metres away from nearby busy streets, it will feel like you are in the middle of nowhere when walking along the boardwalks and walking tracks within Kooloonbung Creek Nature Park. With various walking tracks, you can spend as little as ten minutes or up to almost one hour walking along the creek.
Tips: There are quite a bit of mosquitoes along Kooloonbung Creek. Make sure you bring insect repellents when visiting.