While on our Australian East Coast road trip we’ve passed through a lot of beautiful coastal towns but none quite like Port Macquarie. Known for its wildlife, beaches (17 in total for this small town!) and colonial history Port Macquarie is a popular destination for holidayers and overseas tourists.
We stayed for a couple of days in Port Macquarie to take advantage of what it has to offer and with it being just on the edge of winter here, we were lucky enough to experience it without the summer crowds. So how did we spend a weekend at Port Macquarie? Well, amongst the wildlife encounters, we found out that Port Macquarie has a lot of history, making it a great place to head, if only for a few days.
Not sure how to pronounce this town? It’s Mc-Quarry. Not Mac-Q-Airy… because we totally wasn’t saying it wrong…
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How to spend a weekend at Port Macquarie:
Things to do in Port Macquarie, Day 1:
Tacking Point Lighthouse
Quick guide: Great views, a bit of history, whale watching.
Our first introduction to Port Macquarie was arriving at Tacking Point Lighthouse.
The East Coast has so many of these beautiful little lighthouses yet each one offers a slightly different viewpoint over the Pacific ocean. Built-in 1879 Tacking Point Lighthouse ranks as Australia’s 13th oldest lighthouse; which kinda made me want to tick them all off right down to #1!
To the right of Tacking Point Lighthouse is a huge beach, so if you fancy a bit of a relax after your long drive to Port Macquarie there’s plenty of space to find your own little corner do so.
We stayed here a few hours taking in the views and making the most of the glorious weather after a few days of rain. As August is prime time in the humpback whale migration we managed to spot a couple as well as a few dolphins in the distance, I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to seeing them casually swimming along in front of the busy beaches.
For more on whale spotting and what to look out for, check out our guide for seeing Whales from Sydney
Sea Acres Rainforest Centre
Quick guide: Aboriginal history, rainforest views, fun for everyone
Price: Free entry to Centre
If you’re spending a weekend in Port Macquarie, definitely head over to the Sea Areas Rainforest Centre!
Located by the Sea Acres national park the Centre is an awesome place to start if you plan on adventuring through another of New South Wales’ fantastic park ranges.
An informative centre with a wealth of displays about the local aboriginal culture as well as the environment surrounding the rainforest. Entry into the centre itself is completely free so it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you have youngsters.
The Sea Acres Rainforest Centre isn’t just your everyday information centre though, right next to the cafe is the rainforest boardwalk reaching out 1.3 km into the rainforest canopy. So once you’ve had your fill of education you can stretch your legs amongst the treetops and enjoy the views.
Confession! We actually missed out on Sea Acres Rainforest Centre, only realising it was there once we’d already left Port Macquarie and it’s safe to say we regret not going!
It looks like a much more height phobia friendly version of the UK’s ‘go ape’ forest activities haha (if you’re not familiar with GoApe, they’re a high wire assault course you complete while attached to a zip line. No solid platforms, just you hanging high in the trees… fun, if you’re not scared of heights)
Prices for the boardwalk are $9 per adult and $35 for children over 5.
Quick guide: Scenic views, mini walking track, relaxation, dolphin spotting.
After we’d taken in the sights at Tacking Point Lighthouse we headed over to Nobbys Beach to do the walk at Nobby Head.
While not an ‘official’ walking track, there is a path leading from Nobbys car park up to a lookout point at the top of Nobby Head. I wouldn’t recommend it for families with young children as it’s a bit steep in places and very close to the cliff edge at times too.
It’s only about a 5-minute walk if that, but the views from the top are incredible. There’s also an interesting monument at the top, dedicated to a teacher who drowned trying to save the life of a colleague who’d fallen off the cliff. It’s a bit of a sun trap at the top and very peaceful so we stayed for a bit to just watch the ocean.
TIP: the path forks half way up, take the path on the right to avoid a bit of a scramble to the top.
Once back at the carpark, still enjoying the amazing weather we were being treated too we took a stroll along Nobbys Beach. It has an interesting history behind it, if you’re into how the earth has evolved and became what it is today.
The boulders on the beach are remanence of an old cliff face and hidden amongst the crack are fossilised teeth of ancient eel-like creatures. Get your geek on and see if you can find them before the tide comes in. We also came across this huge Monitor Lizard lurking on the ledge sunning himself, so be careful where you poke your hands.
How to spend a weekend at Port Macquarie
Quick guide: Koala encounters (obviously), tugs on your heartstrings, learn how to help.
Day two was by far my favourite while at Port Macquarie. If there’s anything I love more than a wildlife encounter, it’s coming across a group who do their absolute best to look after it. If you only have time to do one activity during your weekend in Port Macquarie, then you must visit the Koala Hospital.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is run solely by volunteers and while it’s free to enter, they can’t stay open without the donations and support of visitors.
We’ve been in Australia over a year now, and we’ve seen just a handful of wild Koala. None of those have been in New South Wales. A lot of people assume that’s because they’re just really hard to spot but the reality is, Koalas are in trouble and without places like the Koala Hospital, their numbers would be even lower.
The volunteers at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital go out of their way to help rescue, nurse back to health and release every injured koala that is reported to them. Its estimated they get between 200-300 injured koalas through their door each year… mainly through traffic accidents.
So what can you expect from a visit to the Koala Hospital?
They are open every day from 8 am – 4:30 pm and do one guided tour, at no cost, at 3 pm every day.
No matter when you visit you’ll be able to see the handful of Koala that have made the hospital their fur-ever home due to illness/injury so severe that they wouldn’t survive in the wild, as well as those on the road to recovery. If you’re there when a new patient has been bought in, the window into the surgery means you get to see every step taken to help the new arrival.
Joining a tour gives you a extra information into the history of the hospital, how the general public can help wild koalas and you’ll also get to see their full-time occupants being fed.
For more on the Port Macuarie Koala Hospital, visit our dedicated post HERE.
Quick guide: History, Koala spotting.
Right next door to the Koala Hospital is Rotto House, another free exhibit open to the public 8 am – 4:30 pm, however, it is also run by volunteers so occasionally it’s closed due to having no staff available; this was the case when we were there so we didn’t get chance to go inside, but from the outside Rotto House looks really interesting.
Rotto House was built in 1890 so it really is a mini time machine, stepping through its picket gate will transport you to another era entirely. Inside are 11 rooms complete with the Flynn family’s belongings like newspapers and trinkets, all perfectly preserved to give visitors a glimpse to life back then. Learn about the life of the Flynn family who occupied this home right up to the 1980’s and then why not take in the serenity of the surrounding grounds; you might even spot a wild Koala or two.
There aren’t many homes like this left in the area so while spending a weekend in Port Macquarie it really is a must see.
Other things to do for a weekend at Port Macquarie:
Innes Ruins – Booking essential
Port Macquarie Museum – $7 adults, $3 child. FREE 1st Sunday
Billabong Zoo – $32 adults $17 children
Walk the break wall – Fee
Spending a weekend at Port Macquarie has been a highlight of our East Coast road trip, I’m sure it’s even more beautiful in the summer too! I’ll be writing about the Koala Hospital in more depth as I really love what the guys there are doing towards saving these beautiful animals. Have you been to any of these places? Let us know in the comments!
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