Port Macquarie, is one of the most beautiful country towns on the east coast of Australia. It’s a five hour drive north of Sydney and boasts the best climate in the country. But wait until to you see its stunning, pristine beaches and waterways, nature reserves and walking trails, excellent restaurants and accommodation options, and the list goes on. This gorgeous coastal gem is becoming a preferred escape destination for young, ‘well-heeled’ weekenders, so you won’t be the only gay in the village.
HERE ARE OUR EIGHT REASONS TO VISIT PORT MACQUARIE
1. Miners Beach
Miners Beach gets our top vote for things to do in Port Macquarie. Unspoilt, clean, a little isolated but safe, strikingly beautiful, nude beach with a sprinkling of gay men. The walk to the beach is half the fun. You will need to get yourself to Shelly Beach about four kilometres south of the town.
When you arrive at the carpark at the bottom of the rainforest drive, you’ll find the BBQ’s and dressing sheds. Take the well marked walking trail past a couple of breathtaking secluded bays until you reach the wooden steps. Standing above this spectacle of golden sands and rolling waves you have a panoramic vista of Miners Beach. Continue your walk down the stairs and to the end of the beach and over the small stony headland until you reach the southern end of Miners Beach. Here you will be sure to encounter fellow sun worshippers.
Don’t forget to take your own food, water and sun screen. This is not Europe with sun beds, umbrellas and a cafe. There is plenty of shade at the back of the beach and if you ask nicely, someone will help you with your sun lotion. The beach is not patrolled so, as with all Australian beaches, exercise caution and don’t go out too far. The beach is not officially nude but it has a long history of nude bathing and on this southern section people freely walk the beach without clothes.
2. Coastal Walks
Town Beach to Tacking Point Lighthouse walk is a ‘must do’ when in Port Macquarie. This world class 9 kilometre easy-grade walk soon helped us get back in tune with nature. Following the dramatic coastline we passed eight spectacular sandy beaches and also walked through some lush rainforest to reach the lighthouse perched high on Tacking Point.
Begin your walk by taking the path up the hill from the centre of Port Macquarie to Town Beach and from here it takes about three hours of steady walking to reach the lighthouse, if you don’t stop for too many coffees and cake.
Sea Acres National Park and Rainforest Centre (http://www.portmacquarieinfo.com.au/explore/location.aspx?id=32) is located at the entrance to Shelly Beach. This is definitely a place to stop for a coffee or for lunch. The rainforest walk and the cafe are outstanding. Miners Beach is the perfect point for a rest and a swim.
At the southern end of Miners Beach take the stairs and walk up along the trail through the bush. This is the steepest part of the walk and you need to keep an eye out for wildlife, especially in early summer. When you emerge onto the road take a few deep breaths, turn left and follow the signs to the lighthouse. From the lighthouse you might see pods of whales migrating up or down the coast and check out the fabulous views of Lighthouse Beach below. Getting back to town is either the big walk back or call a taxi (phone 131008).
3. Beaches and Waterways
Port Macquarie is surrounded by magnificent and dazzling beaches and waterways making it a splendid playground for either lazing on the beach or engaging in full action adventure. For the best surfing try Town, Flynns and Lighthouse beaches. For beginners in the surf there is a surf school to get you started (http://www.portmacquariesurfschool.com.au). Feeling a little less energetic, then there is beach yoga on Town Beach most mornings (see website for costs and times : http://www.theyogashala.com.au). For free and lazy gay days on the sand, then Miners Beach is always our first choice.
The waterways around Port Macquarie offer a host of exciting options. Our favourite is to hire a BBQ boat (http://www.portmacquarieinfo.com.au/explore/location.aspx?id=386) that we motor around the Hastings River and canals. These boats are ideal for a ‘boys’ day out’ as you can pull up at any beach and have a swim, lunch and then putter past the mansions lining the canals. There are plenty of other water playground adventures including jet ski hire, eco cruises, kayaking, deep sea fishing, whale watching and for a high adrenaline fix, jet boat rides.
We have been sampling restaurants in Port Macquarie for many years and like most places they change regularly. However, there is certainly something for everyone’s taste in this town. For a cheap and cheerful dinner, our favourite fish ‘n’ chip shop is Mike’s Seafood on Hay Street. Another local favourite is the Town Green or you can always get a great meal at the Beach House pub right on the waterfront. This is a popular choice on a Sunday afternoon for live music and laid back, casual fare.
One of our favourite places to eat in Port Macquarie, which is more middle of the road, is Mekong Thai-Lao restaurant (http://www.mekongrestaurant.com.au). This Asian eatery is right near the centre of town with stunning views over the Hastings River. It serves traditional recipes using local seafood which instantly transport us back to Asia with freshness, mouthwatering spices and aromas.
For top end dining there are several wonderful choices like The Stunned Mullet which boasts one chef’s hat (http://thestunnedmullet.com.au), multi-award winning The Corner Restaurant (http://www.portmacquarieinfo.com.au/explore/location.aspx?id=64) and the Little Fish Restaurant and Vineyard (http://littlefishcafe.com.au).
5. The Breakwall
We love taking a sunset stroll along the breakwall of Port Macquarie’s Hastings River. The sun setting over the mountains with beautiful pink and blue tones reflecting on the river is a spectacle in itself. We have very often seen pods of dolphins playing just off the rocks.
Of course the main reason people take the breakwall walk is to check out the patchwork pathway of individually decorated rocks. None of the artists are going to win any awards but since a competition back in 1995 the rock gallery has grown each year and people love this way of recording their visit to Port Macquarie. We didn’t see any rainbow painted rocks but next time we will be sure to pack our paints and brushes. A beer at the Beach House pub right near the town green is an absolute must as a reward at the end of the walk. There is no better place for a relaxing drink at sunset.
6. Great Accommodation
We always feel spoilt for accommodation choices in Port Macquarie. At the lower end we can recommend the Sundowner Breakwall Tourist Park (http://breakwall.sundownerholidays.com). Located right in the centre of Port Macquarie and on the mouth the river it is perfect for mobiles, camping, or self-contained cabins. A short walk to beaches, shops, restaurants and parks, you are really in the hub here.
For midrange accommodation there are plenty of motels and apartments. Our favourite place to stay is the more upmarket Macquarie Waters Hotel (http://macquariewaters.com.au). A two minute walk to restaurants and bars, it has huge studios or self contained apartments, most with ocean views. It also has the award winning The Corner Restaurant on the ground floor.
Rydges Hotel Port Macquarie (http://www.rydges.com/accommodation/port-macquarie-nsw/port-macquarie/welcome/) is the top range hotel with all the trimmings associated with a five star hotel, including the very popular Zebu bar and grill.
Port Macquarie now hosts a wide range of regular special events throughout the year so booking ahead is highly recommended. If you can, mid week is the best time to visit for a quiet, relaxing, perhaps romantic getaway.
7. Cassegrain Winery
Apart from the delicious wine, we think the most impressive aspect of Cassegrain Winery (http://www.cassegrainwines.com.au) would have to be the 2000 rose bushes in the garden at the entrance to the grounds. On our most recent visit the luxurious assortment of flowers happened to be in full bloom and the scent was intoxicating. However, the true heroes of the winery are the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Shiraz vines which produce full flavoured, yet soft and elegant table wines and of course there is free wine tasting at the cellar door.
Seasons Cafe located a few metres from the cellar door is perfect for an indulgent lunch looking over the hills and the magnificent rose garden. Each year in late October Cassegrain Winery hosts ‘oysters in the vineyards’ at which you can learn how to pair wines and oysters, which sounds absolutely perfect to us.
Cassegrain is open 10am to 5pm seven days a week and can be found just a few hundred metres off the Pacific Highway midway between the two turn-offs leading into Port Macquarie.
If you like koalas (and who doesn’t) then Billabong Koala and Wildlife Park (http://www.billabongkoala.com.au) is a great place to get up close and personal with these furry marsupials. Or better still, visit the Koala Hospital, the world’s first hospital dedicated to caring for up to 300 hundred sick or injured Koalas each year (http://www.koalahospital.org.au).
Recently fifty-one large scale koala sculptures, individually designed and hand painted by local artists, were placed strategically around the town centre to create the Hello Koalas Public Sculpture Trail (http://hellokoalas.com). Sitting on a koala sculpture for a pic or selfie is a bit of a ‘no no’, so remember always be kind to koalas, real or make believe.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to explore this beautiful part of Australia, you’re going to discover a small town with a huge personality. Make time to take a break in Port Macquarie.
Qantas and Virgin fly to Port Macquarie
The Glasshouse (http://www.glasshouse.org.au/) is the place to go for theatre bookings, local event information and exhibitions