Northern NSW is a beautiful spot to explore year around. With stunning beaches, sunny days and slightly less humidity than Queensland, Port Macquarie is a great place to park the van and spend a few weeks exploring.
A Brief History
Located at the mouth of the Hastings River in New South Wales, Port Macquarie was founded in 1818. Originally, convicts were sent to the Port Macquarie penal settlement to serve time for secondary offences, because of this much of the original town was built by these convicts. Nowadays, Port Macquarie is a beautiful beachside town with a population of approximately 49,000 people.
When To Go
Port Macquarie has a warm and temperate climate with beautiful sunny days in summer, perfect for exploring the 17 beaches around the region. The most ideal time to visit is before the peak season of September-November, flights and accommodation are usually cheaper during this time too. During winter, it can get down to as low as 10℃ at night though days generally stay at about 20℃.
For How Long
To get the most out of your trip, having one to two weeks up your sleeve means you won’t be rushing through the region. If you’re wanting to venture slightly further, an extra week means you’ll be able to explore more outside the main township, checking out Bago Bluff National Park and the surrounding area.
NMRA Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park: Centrally located alongside the Hastings River, Town Beach and the city centre, with waterfront views and landscaped gardens, NMRA Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park features plenty of car space on shady grass sites. As well as a water, kitchen and an amenities block.
Lighthouse Beach Holiday Village: Located at Lighthouse Beach on the southern fringe of Port Macquarie, sites at Lighthouse Beach Holiday Village are both grass and slab. Linen and blankets are available for hire if you need them, but slab sites can be perfect for parking caravans or camper trailers.
Edgewater Holiday Park: The holiday park sits on 8.5 acres with a beautiful view of the Hastings River. Amenities include a fish cleaning table, riverside fishing spots, boat ramp, cabanas for relaxing in the sun, a camp kitchen and fire and anchorage kitchen. On site activities include a swimming pool, basketball hoop, and a mini golf course, perfect for the kids.
Ingenia Holidays Bonny Hills: With access to a fully equipped camp kitchen, guest lounge, and outdoor barbecue area, Ingenia Holidays Bonny Hills is another great park for staying with kids. The onsite water park, pool and slides make it perfect for cooling off in the warmer summer months.
Bonny Hills Holiday Park: Bonny Hills provides spectacular ocean views from almost every site in the park. At just a short walk to the beach, hotel and general store nearby and with dogs permitted on sites during the off-peak season, it’s a great spot to set up the van and just relax.
If you’re wanting to explore Port Macquarie in the warmer months and enjoy a relaxing beach getaway, having a capable power system in your van is a must. While traveling with the esky is fine, when the weather starts to warm up and the ice starts to melt quicker, frequent trips to and from the local general store can definitely become a hassle. Not only do you have to carry the ice back in the heat, but you’re often left with soggy food floating in all that water. This is where a 12v fridge comes in handy. Able to be powered by a simple secondary battery and DC to DC charger setup, you don’t need the biggest power system on the block to keep your fridge running and food fresh. With plenty of sun in Port Macquarie year-round, adding solar to this system means you’ll never be without power no matter how long you’re travelling for. Having a power system in your van can also mean you’re capable of running other 12v accessories to make your travels a little more comfortable including lights, fans and keeping your devices charged.
What To See
Mrs. York’s Garden
This beautiful garden is perfect to enjoy a nice stroll and find a spot to have a picnic, just relax listening to the sounds of the waterfall and local fauna. Located behind Town Beach, the garden was first established on the headland by Mrs York in the late 1960’s and has been re-established by volunteers who have recently planted a range of native rainforest and coastal headland species.
Town Beach Break Wall
A walk along this iconic break wall provides you with stunning views of the Hastings River towards Town Beach. The colourful rocks are a collage of messages, tributes and memories from visitors and locals. Sunrises and sunsets are magical from the wall with dolphins being a common occurrence along the river.
Port Macquarie Coastal Walk
The walk can be divided into four sections: Westport to Town Beach (2km), Town Beach to Flynns Beach (2.2km), Flynns Beach to Shelly Beach (2.2km), Shelly Beach to Tacking Point (2.7km). It’s perfect for getting your morning run in or taking the day to soak up the area’s natural beauty.
The south end of Port Macquarie coastal walk is one of the few places on the NSW coast where the forest meets the ocean. Spot historical sites along the way and enjoy the stunning seaside scenery. You might even spot a whale or two on their annual migration between May and November. Harry’s lookout and Tacking Point Lighthouse are also major attractions that provide spectacular views.
Sea Acres Rainforest Centre and Rainforest café
The Sea Acres Rainforest boardwalk can be experienced on a guided tour or a self-guided walk. It’s an easy 1.3km walk through the rainforest canopy that only takes about 20 minutes if you’re on a time crunch. Northern NSW is renowned for its rainforests, and with a café onsite it’s the perfect place to have a stroll before grabbing a coffee.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is managed by the not-for-profit organisation Koala Conservation Australia (KCA). The hospital was established in 1973 and is a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility for scientific research, training and education. Admission is free, but donations are highly appreciated to keep the centre running and assisting in the release of rescued koalas.
Kooloonbung Creek Nature Park
This nature reserve covers an area of over 52 hectares of bushland with two alternate walking tracks and multiple boardwalks. Along the way, stop and take a moment to look at the graves from the historic cemetery, with notable early settlers of the Hastings area buried. Picnic tables, toilet facilities and a large sculpture of a Water Dragon can be found in the area, perfect for stopping and having some lunch.
What To Bring
As far as safety is concerned, it is essential that you plan for altered weather patterns and other emergencies, as this area can be prone to unpredictable weather. A first aid kit is a necessity for everyone as well as a fire extinguisher in your van, just in case. Having an emergency plan and keeping an eye on the weather during your stay is an easy way to make sure you don’t get caught out.
Learn more about Port Macquarie and the surrounding area on their website. If you’re looking for other destinations to check out around NSW, see our guide to travelling local in NSW and best 4WDing in NSW and QLD. If you’re wanting another great spot for van travel around the country, check out our van life in Port Lincoln blog.