What’s to love about Port Macquarie?
Port what? Port where? If you’re like any of my friends or colleagues you might remember Port Macquarie from a childhood trip, but it hasn’t been on your radar of late. I’m here to tell you, it should be!
Now, I’m the first to admit I was a bit of a sceptic when we decided for a bit of time away in “Port” as anyone from the mid-north coast refers to it. In fact, when my partner said my idea of three nights might be too short, I think my reply was “but what if we get bored?”. (We ended up booking four nights and definitely worth it). So why Port in the first place? Well, we wanted to get away somewhere easily drivable (Port is an easy 4.5hrs drive north of Sydney), we wanted somewhere with beautiful, uncrowded beaches (Port has 17 of them) and lastly, Jervis Bay was booked out over the dates we were looking at! Another selling point was we had some friends that were going to be there over the same dates and that meant a Champagne drinking buddy for me!
Where to Stay
We stayed at Sails by Rydges, which recently went through a renovation and it was great! It’s located adjacent to the marina on the Hastings River. You can kayak or standup paddleboard right from the hotel’s jetty (free to rent from the reception desk). Walking into town along the Coastal Track (a great running route too) takes about 20min…or a it’s two-minute drive. In fact, one of the things we loved about Port was how easy it was to get around!
Rooms at Sails were modern and the bed was so comfy. I was a bit worried when our ‘superior’ room overlooked the car park, but noise wasn’t an issue at all. In fact, I think I preferred this to facing over the pool, as we were there during school holidays and the pool was pretty busy. It’s also a really busy hotel for weddings and given we checked in on a Saturday, I was prepared to be up all night with party noise, but it wasn’t an issue at all.
We signed up for their member program, Priority Guest Rewards (PRG) and managed to get a rate 10% cheaper than anything online plus added benefits like 20% off food & beverage. To be honest, I only book direct about half of the time because (annoyingly) hotels aren’t great at making sure their book direct rate is the best value – but this time it was. My background is in online travel and hotel price comparison sites, so if there is a better rate somewhere, I can find it! (Check my Travel Tips page for finding the value when booking a hotel).
Our friends stayed at The Observatory by Mantra and I would definitely suggest this if you want more of a serviced apartment stay. They booked a two-bedroom apartment and then added on an adjoining hotel room. It had a full kitchen and massive balcony overlooking Town Beach. A few other things they loved about it was the indoor pool for rainy days and a private BBQ area for hotel guests out the back.
We came to Port primarily for a beach holiday and were definitely not disappointed. We didn’t get to all of them, but here are a few we liked:
- Town Beach – The Observatory hotel is just across the street/hill from the most popular beach in Port. It’s not the quietest beach, but still quite pretty and easily accessible. Plus, Salty Crew Kiosk was super handy for good coffee and yummy açai bowls.
- Oxley Beach – I couldn’t believe this beach was virtually empty. Sydneysiders get overly excited about unpopulated beaches!
- Lighthouse Beach – nine kilometres of white sand and blue, blue waters. Part of the beach allows 4WDs and dogs. This beach is a good choice if the others closer to town if they have seaweed coming in.
- Flynns Beach – a nice, protected beach between headlands.
What else to do
If the weather isn’t great or you managed to get sunburnt on day one, here are a few other things to keep you occupied:
- The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, Lord St (in town). Everyone should make a stop by here as it’s super close and everyone loves koalas, right? Be sure to bring some spare cash for the donation box as entry is free. This is exactly what it says it is – they rehabilitate koalas that have been injured in the wild or have fallen sick. I adopted my mum a koala from here for Christmas and thought I’d pop into see her koala, but she was already released! Lucky girl. Our friends have also taken their kids to the Billabong Zoo and said it was great.
- Wine tastings & breweries – a few wineries and breweries are located around Port. Cassegrain is a good choice for wine and Moorebeer Brewing Co. for beer (and food). Check the hours though as currently only open Fri-Sat.
- Get out into nature – being honest here, this was on our list but we were so busy relaxing we just didn’t get around to any hiking. But you should always save something for your next visit, right? There are plenty of national parks and state forests around Port Macquarie or you could even just walk the Coastal Track from in town (this I did!). It starts at the Sails hotel and takes you around the breakwall to Town Beach. From here it gets a bit more hilly, but the views of the beaches are worth it. All up it is 9km one-way to the lighthouse. But even if you just do a couple kilometres, it’s worth it.
- If you’re up for a drive, Ellenborough Falls are about 100km inland and stunning!
Where to eat
There are a lot of good spots considering the size of the town.
- Saltwater Wine Cafe, 107 Horton St (in town) – grab a coffee here and then get all your surf/beach gear at the same time
- Salty Crew Kiosk, Town Beach – if you look at an Instagram posts of Port Macquarie, chances are you’ll see an açai bowl in all its glory from Salty Crew. Grab a coffee and bowl for brekkie and then hit the beach. They have a few other things as well, but don’t expect a massive menu. But what they have is excellent.
- LV’s on Clarence, 1/74 Clarence St (in town) – open for breakfast and lunch, they have a farm that supplies some of the menu. Relaxed spot and great food.
- Burger Rebellion, 9/6-14 Clarence St (in town, closer to Town Beach) – great burgers and beer, and super friendly staff.
- Bills Fishhouse + Bar, 2/18-20 Clarence St (in town) – run by the same owners as Salty Crew, this is the spot if you’re looking craving seafood. The vibe is modern but casual and the food was amazing. If they have the Champagne bugs as a special, GET THEM! Don’t make the same mistake we did and think you don’t really need to book in a small town. Definitely book in advance or you might have to sit on the sidewalk and not get the full vibe.
- The Stunned Mullet, 24 William St (opposite Town Beach) – a guest recommendation from our friends. The Stunned Mullet has won an array of awards and is the most upscale restaurant in Port, with prices to match. Our friends recommend it highly for a special night out. Definitely book.
Really was good enough for a photo!
If you can’t tell, we really enjoyed our break to Port Macquarie and will definitely be headed back to explore the area more. Let me know if you have any questions and hope you put it on your list soon!