February 16, 2023
5 mins Read
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There seems to be an unending expanse of sky and sea in Port Macquarie, so much so that it’s hard to distinguish where one stops and the other begins. The two seem interchangeable, the far-off horizon stretching forever, like a frayed blue ribbon. You’ll find locals and visitors enjoying all the location offers every which way they can. Dotting the water on paddleboards. Surfing empty point breaks. Fishing. Kayaking. Following a creek through subtropical jungle.
Slurping fresh-shucked oysters just metres from where they are farmed. It’s a slice of paradise. Where you can glimpse rare shorebirds, dolphins and whales hugging close to the coastline in winter.
When you’re not exploring the long, white arcs of sand, or taking advantage of the legendary photo opportunities from the lighthouse at dawn, you can rack up a few days sipping wine at cellar doors, enjoying lunch at much-lauded local eateries, or exploring unique boutiques and galleries. This is where to start.
If you want to fan your fascination with native flora and fauna, Port Macquarie is at the forefront of this scene. The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has been helping to rescue and rehabilitate koalas since 1973. It recently opened the first phase of its Cowarra State Forest tourism precinct called Guulabaa – Place of Koala, in consultation with local Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land Council, which also runs the Bunyah Cafe on site.
The new nature-based tourism precinct currently includes Wildnets adventure park, which features elevated boardwalks, ball pits, a 3D maze, hammocks, treehouses and has plans for the world’s first wild koala breeding facility, an educational amphitheatre for cultural awareness workshops as well as an Aboriginal-owned art centre all due to open in 2023.
A visit to the precinct actually contributes to the conservation of koalas, which also feature along the hugely successful Hello Koalas sculpture trail, which was established in 2014 as a way to celebrate public art while highlighting the plight of the local koala population. Want to tick off another Big Thing? You’ll find a 2.5-metre painted koala standing under a canopy of gum trees.
Your chances of seeing a koala in the wild will increase exponentially when you visit Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, which are surrounded by woodlands and home to a wild menagerie of bower birds, king parrots, echidnas, platypus and possums.
Spend the day exploring the nearby Biriwal Bulga National Park before retreating like a snail into your giant shell (read: fully self-contained geo-design nature home) and scouring the sky for constellations. Care to hike through breathtaking landscapes? You’re in position.
You can also take a breather closer to civilisation at Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges, a great launchpad for the Hastings River, which is an aquatic playground for those who want to take advantage of the complimentary paddleboards and kayaks.
Hastings River Horse Riding also offers visitors a picturesque plod along the river as it loops around picturesque Redbank and your equestrian efforts will be rewarded with views over countryside with fuzzy miniature sheep and cows that look fixed like felt art.
From little ideas, big things grow. Case in point, Little Turkey, which has blossomed into a beautiful place for breakfast, brunch or lunch filled with billowing curtains and comfy cushions. You will also appreciate the leisurely pace of lunch on offer at paddock-to-plate eatery Twotriplefour, followed by a wine tasting at Cassegrain Wines.
Back in town, as well as tootling around Port Macquarie’s many waterways, you can follow the Breakwall foreshore route on land, which most locals do on the daily, and scarf down a few sundowners at Little Shack, which will almost certainly lead to a few great local recommendations and the forming of new friendships.
One of those recommendations is likely to be lunch at Whalebone Wharf and The Stunned Mullet, followed by a scheduled visit to Wakulda, an ongoing 10-minute sound-and-light instalment about the Birpai people, the Traditional Owners, which is projected onto the Port Macquarie Historic Courthouse.
Fans of street artist Mulga will also be pleased to check out his new mural at Flynns Beach, which takes inspiration from regional attractions in Port Macquarie. Glasshouse Port Macquarie is also worth a visit for its roster of offerings that range from exhibitions and workshops to film, drama and dance.
Port Macquarie. It’s the new place to be, thanks to its social and environmental initiatives, and the fresh wind that seems to be bringing new ideas, entertainment and cultural offerings to the fore.
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