Category Archives: Port Macquarie

— Port Macquarie —

Port Macquarie – the 48-hour food-lovers’ road trip


  • Often overlooked by road-trippers making a beeline for Brisbane or Sydney, Port Macquarie has more than enough reasons to lure gourmands away from the hum of the highway. Sample the best on offer with this two-day food-lover’s itinerary (words: Carla Grosetti, photography: Daniel Hine)

    Port Macquarie has a certain air of modesty about it. It feels like an outpost, like you’re in a flashback to an earlier episode about living on the coast in Australia.

    Initially conceived as Australia’s third largest penal settlement, the town is liberated by a chain of beautiful beaches, stunning hinterland, waterfalls and views. It’s that ruggedly handsome landscape that has seen a wave of entrepreneurs, sea-changers, artisans, brewers, vintners, baristas and farmers stay smitten with the place, reshaping the identity of the town one vineyard, bar, farm cafe, restaurant, food truck and brewery at a time.

    Day One: Wauchope to Bago to Port Macquarie

    You say tomato, I say Ricardoes. Or, more specifically, Ricardoes Tomatoes. Just over a decade ago, Ricardoes Tomatoes consisted of one little green honesty box rusted onto a roadside stall piled high with plump red tomatoes. Fast-forward and what exists today is far from a tin-pot operation: the award-winning tourist attraction run by brothers Anthony and Richard Sarks now has 30,000 strawberry plants, and more than 1 million tomatoes are handpicked each year.

    “Eleven years ago, I was managing a tea tree farm up north and I put a two-line ad in the local paper to advertise my surplus home-grown tomatoes. I just wanted a bit of extra beer money, a bit of drinking silver, that’s all. What I found was that once the word got out, people were willing to drive from as far as Kempsey and Taree simply to get a bag of tomatoes and we thought, ‘We might be onto something here’,” says Anthony.

    On any given day, visitors to the farm can be found plucking their own tomatoes and strawberries in the polytunnels, stocking up on jams and chutneys or choosing ingredient-driven dishes from the Cafe Red menu. Ricardoes’s intensely flavoured fruit took out the Best Tomatoes gong at the 2014 Royal Easter Show for the fifth time in a row and Anthony’s free farm tour and tasting allows the produce to do the talking.

    Next stop is Bago Vineyards and Bago Maze, near Wauchope, which is surrounded by a tall eucalypt forest that caters to the East Coast’s largest koala population. The vineyard – one of five in the region – has a tenacious grip on the hillside, its healthy appearance belying the prodigal effort it takes to actually grow grapes in this region.

    “If you can grow grapes here, you can grow grapes anywhere. The humidity is the biggest challenge and as a result my wines are light and fresh, low in alcohol and 100 per cent indicative of the area,” says owner Jim Mobbs, who was born and bred in Port Macquarie and has been working the farm for 40 years.

    The 60-year-old is a second-generation farmer who planted a crop of chardonnay in 1985 and produced his first vintage in 1987. Bago is very much a family affair. Jim’s 91-year-old father Jim (‘Pop’) still works the land, his landscape architect son, Ian, 32, designed the maze, his designer daughter, Kellie, 30, dreamt up the label for the bottles, and son Steven, 28, works as a winemaker.

    Enjoy a glass of verdelho and a cheese platter while immersed in this idyllic scene, where children bounce happily around the maze’s pruned pathways, boardwalks and bridges in the gardens, which have been outfitted for a wedding.

    On the way back into town, quell your coffee cravings at The Living Room, a retro riot of polished concrete, low-lying lounges and crochet cushions housed in an old petrol station in Wauchope. With its weekly green market, cafe and yoga studio, the space is a haven for the local community and a home away from home for pierced, tattooed, dreadlocked and purple-haired people.

    Back in Port, The Grape & Petal also pumps up the boho vibe: it features Art Deco fixtures, kitsch object d’art and a load of bulls’ horns. It’s equal parts cafe, bar and restaurant, and is one of the best places in town to taste the Pacific Coast’s most seductive offerings of food and wine. Oh, and the coffee is incredible.

    Having access to Hastings River’s vegetable basket and fruit bowl hasn’t hurt the Grape & Petal, says manager Nick Diaz who recommends the salad of roast asparagus, bocconcini, cherry tomatoes, Spanish onion and rocket, and the twice-cooked pork belly with green apple purée, candied balsamic glaze and a fresh apple and parsley garnish.

    Chef Lindsey Schwab’s travels around the world have also informed the frequently changing menu at Fusion 7. As did his stint with the father of fusion cuisine Peter Gordon, says the keen surfer, who returned to his hometown nine years ago to be close to family. Dinner is divine: deep-fried, soft-shelled crab with green papaya salad, peanuts, Thai basil and tamarind is just one of many dishes inspired by Lindsey’s travels.

    Day Two: In and around Port Macquarie

    Port itself is a compact town to walk around. After a leisurely breakfast at The Corner, and killer coffee at Crema Espresso, it’s on to lunch at The Stunned Mullet. Located at the ‘Paris’ end of Port Macquarie, the town’s only hatted restaurant looks out over the arc of sea and sand that is Town Beach.

    Start here to explore the flavours of the region with rockstar chefs David Henry and Mitchell Brumfield. Their prowess is demonstrated with offerings such as parsnip purée with eggplant chutney, compressed apple and labneh, pappadum and watercress or Mandagery Creek venison marinated in black vinegar and white miso and served with taro crisp, beetroot relish, radish and marinated apple, charred to finish.

    After a post-prandial stroll, it’s onto the Black Duck Brewery for a cold one, where we meet Alistair and Kate Owen who have also realised the potential appeal of the city. Situated in the middle of a scattering of buildings in the town’s industrial estate is where you will find this boutique brewery.

    Being part of the town’s emerging scene is really exciting, says Alistair, a former civil engineer who relocated to the region in 2006 for a road project and never left. He poured his first pint in October 2012 and says he has been committed to safeguarding the quality of the craft operation ever since. His Phoenix Migration Stout won gold at the 2014 Sydney Royal Beer & Cider Show and the Irish Red took bronze in 2013.

    “The quality of our beers was good and now they are just getting better. We have 13 different varieties, which are all hugely popular and we try to keep the operation as local as possible,” says Alistair, who produces Summer Swallow, Beach House Blonde and Sunday Pils.

    RocKwiz geeks will appreciate the fact that the Sunday Pils mentioned in Grinspoon’s album Thrills Kills + Sunday Pils is a nod to the beer favoured by the band’s frontman and local Phil Jamieson, who can often be found enjoying a Sunday session at the brewery.

    A Sunday here includes live music, with brewing equipment forming the backdrop and a pop-up food truck doling out beef kebabs and hot dogs. There are certainly worse ways to wind up a weekend in the town that the CSIRO says has the best climate in Australia.

    Where to stay?

    Macquarie Waters Boutique Apartment Hotel – Ocean views from the heart of the town. Where: Corner Clarence St and Munster St, Port Macquarie; 02 6580 0290

    The Observatory – Luxury accommodation right on the beach. Where: Town Beach, 40 William St, Port Macquarie; 02 6586 8000

    Much, much more to eat and drink?

    14 places you should eat and drink in Port Macquarie


    Australian Traveller Issue 64

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    You can find it in Issue 64 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Port Macquarie —

    14 places to eat and drink in Port Macquarie


    For all you foodies or just hungry people heading to Port Macquarie, you have to try at least one of these restaurants and foodie delights on the Port Mac gourmet trail.

    1. The Stunned Mullet
    A hatted restaurant on beautiful Town Beach. 12 Williams St, Port Macquarie; 02 6584 7757

    2. Fusion 7
    Lindsey Schwab’s Asian-inspired cuisine. 124 Horton St, Port Macquarie; 02 6584 1171

    3. Grape & Petal
    Head here for tasty salads using local ingredients. 72 Clarence St, Port Macquarie; 02 6584 6880

    4. Ricardoes Tomatoes
    For incredibly flavoursome tomatoes worth travelling for. 221 Blackman’s Point Rd, Port Macquarie;02 6585 0663

    5. Crema Espresso Bar
    Some of the best coffee to be had in the Port. Corner of Horton and Clarence Sts, Port Macquarie;02 6583 9858

    6. The Block Coffee + Chocolate Shop
    The handcrafted chocolates are delicious. 28 Hayward St, Port Macquarie; 02 6584 4141

    7. Black Duck Brewery
    Enjoy the local brew with live music on Sundays.6B Acacia Ave, Port Macquarie; 0407 874 474

    8. Little Fish Cafe
    A must for a glass of wine in a stunning setting. Innes Lake Vineyards, The Ruins Way, Port Macquarie; 02 6581 1332

    9. The Big Oyster
    The freshest seafood served in a beautiful old boatshed. 315 Hastings River Dr, Port Macquarie; 02 6584 3803

    10. The Milkbar
    For great coffee overlooking Town Beach. 2/38 William St, Port Macquarie; 02 6583 2700

    11. The Corner
    Great for a leisurely breakfast in central Port Mac. 11 Clarence St, Port Macquarie; 02 6583 3300

    12. Bago Vineyards and Maze
    A tasty stop-off for cheese and wine. Milligans Rd, Wauchope; 02 6585 7099

    13. The Living Room
    Grab a coffee at this old petrol station cafe. 87 High St, Wauchope; 02 6586 0032

    14. Oasis by the River
    Head just south of the Port for an eclectic Aussie menu. Laurieton, 613 Ocean Dr, North Haven; 02 6559 6918


    Much, much more? Port Macquarie – the 48-hour food-lovers’ roadtrip


    Australian Traveller Issue 64

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 64 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Port Macquarie —

    100 Incredible Travel Secrets #47 Hat Head National Park, NSW


    Little-known pocket of paradise

    Hat Head National Park, NSW

    Beaches, sand dunes, rainforest and crystal lakes meet to create the picturesque Hat Head National Park.

    “It hasn’t been truly discovered yet so if you’re looking for a place without other people, this is a great part of the NSW north coast,” says Scott, scoring it 8.

    Australian Traveller April/May Issue

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    You can find it in Issue 50 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Port Macquarie —

    A Journey Along the Hastings River


    Lee Atkinson follows the Hastings River from its subalpine wilderness source to the sea at Port Macquarie Continue reading


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    You can find it in Issue 42 along with
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    — Port Macquarie —

    ‘Your Shot’ Winner and Runners Up – June/July ’11

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JUNE 23, 2011

     Not everyone can win the major prize each issue. Here is the winner, and just some of the incredible reader images that came close.

    Continue reading


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    You can find it in Issue 39 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Port Macquarie —

    The Glasshouse brings a touch of glass and culture to Port Macquarie


    The Glasshouse, a multi-million dollar arts, conference and entertainment centre in Port Macquarie, has already had more than 60,000 visitors since its opening in July 2009. Continue reading

    — Port Macquarie —

    Getting Adventurous In Port Macquarie


    AT’s Sol Walkling joins the crazy thrill-seeking set in the unpreposessing seaside town of Port Macquarie. She went for a relaxing weekend and got waaaaay more than she bargained for . . . Continue reading


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    You can find it in Issue 22 along with
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    — Port Macquarie —

    The Oyster Trail

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JULY 14, 2008

    In search of that slippery, suckery, erotic delicacy, Lee Atkinson gets well and truly shucked at Port Macquaire on the NSW mid-north coast. Continue reading


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    You can find it in Issue 22 along with
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    — Port Macquarie —

    Greater Port Macquarie adventure


    Greater Port Macquarie, NSW coast, long weekend ideas Continue reading


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    You can find it in Issue 21 along with
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    — Port Macquarie —

    Dive Right In


    Australian traveller looks at the Macquarie Waters Hotel and Apartments in Port Macquarie, which operates NSW’s first Dive In Cinema. Continue reading


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    You can find it in Issue 18 along with
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    — Port Macquarie —

    Norfolk Punch


    Head to the NSW North Coast for a dose of the holy spirit (non-alcoholic, of course). By Michelle Hespe

    Nestled amongst 40 acres of rainforest and wildlife refuge in the Batar Valley on the mid-north coast of New South Wales is a business that’s as romantic as the sun-dappled mountain roads that lead to its wooden doors. This is the kind of place that you could imagine being marked with a flourishing X on an ancient parchment map.

    A 40km drive from Port Macquarie or a four-hour drive from Sydney will take you to a beautifully bizarre herb farm called Norfolk Punch, named after the herbal elixir produced on the premises. Follow the humorous signs directing you to Norfolk Punch from either the Stewarts River direction (along Jerusalem Road) or from the quaint town of Kendall.

    Pulling into the driveway of Norfolk Punch, you’ll be surrounded by herb gardens, winding pebbled paths, buildings made from mud-brick and recycled materials, and the towering native bush-land. Welcoming you will be host and owner Blair Montague-Drake, his bubbly wife Rhonda and their very enthusiastic sheep dog.

    Both Blair and Rhonda will be dressed from head to toe in traditional folksy get-ups. They’ll usher you into the warmth of their store, and once you have a port glass of Norfolk Punch in hand, you’ll know what Alice must have felt like when she fell down a hole and found herself in a different world.

    Encircled by a jungle of herbs hanging above your head, fresh pot-pouri in every corner and shelves lined with concoctions like St George Dragon’s Breath Sauce and Brother Eric’s Heavenly Lemonly Sauce, you’ll be ready for the tales that your unusual hosts are bursting to tell. They’ll begin, of course, with the story of Norfolk Punch…

    The exotic concoction was first stirred to life by the Benedictine Monks from Welle Manor, Norfolk, England, in the 13th Century. The non-alcoholic drink was touted as “nature’s answer to tenseness, tiredness and lowness of spirits.”

    It was during the restoration of Welle Manor in 1980 that the formula for Original Norfolk Punch was rediscovered by Blair’s father after he bought the monastery. The recipe would not have been considered a work of religious significance, so when Henry VIII set out to bring down the Catholic Church and destroy all monks and their writings, it was overlooked. In fact, one of the extraordinary features of Norfolk Punch is that it may be the only drink of monastic origins that has survived down the centuries without alcohol being added at a later stage.

    Blair’s father became excited about recreating the elixir. The family loved it, and word spread far and wide. When Dame Barbara Cartland (romance novelist and Founder/President of the Association of Health in England) tasted the drink, she practically begged Blair’s parents to come out of retirement and make the punch for commercial consumption. Original Norfolk Punch became a hit and Blair decided to set up his own business in Australia.

    Today, Original Norfolk Punch contains about 30 herbs, berries and spices, with no alcohol, no preservatives, no artificial flavours and no artificial colouring. Although the elixir is said to have many and various health-giving properties, there’s just one thing that Blair will guarantee: a glass of hot Norfolk Punch before going to bed will ensure a more peaceful night’s sleep.

    Norfolk Punch is open Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm on the first and third weekend of each month (other weekends by appointment), and seven days during school holidays. Coaches and large tour groups are welcome by appointment.

    Norfold Punch Details
    Norfolk Punch (Australia)
    The Colonial Herbal Company
    Phone: 02 6559 4464
    Fax: 02 6559 4532
    Email Blair Montague-Drake:


    Enjoy this article?

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