Local's guide: Port Macquarie

Casegrain Wines Port Macquarie my nrma local guides
Casegrain Wines Port Macquarie my nrma local guides

Look beyond Port Macquarie’s apparent natural charms – the beaches, rainforest and koalas – and you’ll find a foodie paradise.

Highlights
  • Sea Acres National Park
  • Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail
  • Savour Bago Vineyard
  • Koala Hospital

Four hours’ drive north of Sydney, on the NSW Mid North Coast, Port Macquarie has long been known for its beaches, wooded mountains and resident koala and dolphin populations. To that you can now add that it has become a food lover’s heaven, as adventurous international chefs, passionate growers, devoted winemakers and committed craft brewers bring a sense of fun and exploration to the area’s tables. So clear a place, pull up a seat and enjoy your ultimate degustation menu.

Where to eat

Born in a small French village in the heart of Provence and trained at a Michelin starred restaurant, chef Steve Delandemare is the inspiration behind Little Fish Café, bringing the cuisine of his homeland to a new audience. Overlooking the vineyards of Innes Lake Estates, Little Fish Café invites guests to try oven baked snails, before treating their palates to Provençal favourites such as slow cooked chicken breast with butter and cream basil sauce.

At Ricardoes Tomatoes & Strawberries, 10 minutes’ north of Port Macquarie, visitors are invited to pick their own produce. Select your own is also the order of the day at Rockin’ Oysters at Camden Haven, where you can pluck Sydney rock oysters straight from the pristine waters and discover for yourself why these oysters recently won a Brisbane brewer’s Green Beacon Perfect Beer Match award.

Back in Port Macquarie itself, the owners of Bar Florian recreate the Venetian fare of their ancestry amid a 1960s Italian decor recalling la dolce vita. Or for French-style fare, pop in to Michel's Patisserie where the range of gateaux, tortes, fruit flans, quiches, pies, cookies, croissants and Danish pastries will leave you spoil for choice. Better yet, Members, purchase any hot beverage and receive a complimentary up-size at Michel's Patisserie

If it’s chilling out you’re after, head to The Rainforest Cafe tucked away in the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre, for American style pancakes or a lunch of twice cooked pork belly, spiced pear and crispy chats.

What to see

The Sea Acres National Park is an obligatory stop for anyone visiting Port Macquarie. You can admire “a beach wrapped in a rainforest” from the park’s 1.3km elevated boardwalk. Make time, too, for its Aboriginal Discovery activities, including a bush tucker tasting.

Koalas are the unofficial mascot of Port Macquarie. Visit the Koala Hospital in the grounds of the lovingly maintained historic Roto House, built in 1891, or follow the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail. Unique, handpainted, 1m high fibreglass koala sculptures – 60 and counting – dot the landscape “from the mountains to the sea”. Get a free Trail Guide map from the website or Glasshouse Visitor Centre and see where the koalas lead you. The kids will love it, too.

Another creature sharing the spotlight in these parts is the dolphin, often sighted venturing upstream on the Hastings or Camden Haven rivers. Book a seat with Port Venture Cruises on River Princess to try your luck spotting one on the Hastings River, or head to the Dunbogan Boatshed and hire a kayak before paddling beside the reeds that line Camden Haven River, prime feeding territory for dolphins.

Keen to stretch your legs? Tackle the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk, a 9km link between Westport to Tacking Point that takes in many of the coast’s most alluring beaches and headlands.

Where to play

Port Macquarie region’s resurgent wine industry has sprouted a number of wineries paired with other attractions – a kind of two for one deal. One of the more unusual is the Douglas Vale Historic Homestead and Vineyard where volunteers help run the restored colonial era museum and produce six wines, including the popular Portabella Port.

At Long Point Vineyard & Art Gallery at Lake Cathie, you can wander glass in hand through an outdoor sculpture park. Depending on your mood, what’s in the glass could be anything from the vineyard’s signature Agent Orange liqueur to an alcoholic ginger beer.

If you’re looking for something to keep the kids busy, Rose’s Vineyard & Petting Farm is just the ticket. What child doesn’t want to pet or feed a piglet or baby alpaca? This will leave you free to sample the region’s famous chambourcin variety.

The kids will also be well occupied at the Bago Vineyard and Maze near Wauchope, home to the state’s largest hedge maze. Located at the foot of Broken Bago Mountain, the family run business adds a bit of musical accompaniment every second Sunday of the month with “Jazz in the Vineyards”. A small fee also covers cellar door tastings and entry to the maze.

Cassegrain Winery is the perfect adult destination where celebrated wines take their place beside the vineyard’s equally celebrated Seasons Café Restaurant. Inspired by the Cassegrain family lineage and embracing a paddock to plate philosophy, Seasons offers French classics and modern interpretations of bistro and café favourites that shine the spotlight on grass fed Hastings Valley beef, award winning Comboyne cheese and Hastings River oysters.

Where to stay

Say it quietly, but the manicured NRMA Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park might just occupy the best bit of real estate in town. With facilities to match and a recent $4m upgrade nearly completed, you’d be advised to secure a place ahead of arrival. Centrally located at the mouth of the Hastings River and right next to the patrolled Town Beach, the pet friendly holiday park offers tent and caravan sites as well as Bayside, Ocean View and Riverside cabins, a resort grade pool and a kids’ club during school holidays.

Located directly opposite Town Beach, Ibis Styles Port Macquarie offers unique, unrestricted beachfront views and is a stone's throw away from the buzz of cafes, restaurants, bars and family friendly attractions and wineries. Choose from a range of rooms, terraces and suites, unwind in one of two top floor lounges with 180 degree views, and outdoor swimming pool. Members can save up to 20% on the best available room rate with late check out, as well as 10% off food and beverage. Simply use the promo code: NRMA when booking at any of these hotels. *T&C's apply.

Image credit: Destination NSW

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