I’ve just gotten home from spending a few days in Port Macquarie with my beautiful daughter. It was a quick trip but a good one. Time spent catching up and just being together along with exploring more of the town she has been living in and is about to move away from.
My daughter is 21, independent, strong and determined. She is a free spirit living life on her terms and I love that. Our relationship has not always been good (those teenage years got in the way!) but now I couldn’t ask for it to be more. Except for not seeing her. So this time was important. She has lived in Port Macquarie for nearly 18 months and is now heading to the Central Coast which is awesome as it will only be a 2-hour drive instead of 5 to 6 hours depending on Sydney traffic!
So when the opportunity arose to go and visit I did! It’s been years since I have jumped in the car and taken off by myself. Woohoo, a Road Trip! Is there anything else that makes you feel as free as a Road Trip? I had food, I had music and I had my own company.
I covered a lot in a few days:
Koala Hospital (from my friend Theresa)
Tacking Point Lighthouse (from my previous visit)
I left early from Wollongong and hit the road. Once I got past the nightmare that Sydney traffic is things seemed to go really fast. I only stopped once at the service centre 45 minutes north of Sydney for a quick break at Oliver’s.
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If you want healthy food fast, Oliver’s is the way to go. After an almond latte and toilet stop, I was good to go again. The only regret about this sort of trip is not having the time to veer off the freeway and go exploring in the towns you pass. But I took a lot of mental notes of places I want to go back and explore. On the last visit to Port Macquarie in October, we were stopped from coming home by bush fires and had to backtrack and stay in Forster for a night. It turned out to be a wonderfully unexpected break and we thought then that we really need to add a bigger Road Trip to our holiday bucket list. I really want to hire Campervan, but convincing Dan may be another story!
Port Macquarie is on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia. It is a popular destination with holiday makers and can get extremely busy in summer.
It is a great place for Whale Watching and is home to Billabong Zoo which is famous for it Koala Breeding program. Port Macquarie has stunning coastal walks, beautiful beaches and an abundance of wildlife.
In fact, on one of our previous visits I thought I saw a strange looking dog walking on the side of the road. It turned out to be a Koala!
First stop Coffee!
I arrived around lunchtime on my first day. After a bit of a rest, we headed out for a coffee. On Maddy’s recommendation, we went to the Beantree Café on Horton Street. I loved it so much there it was the only place we visited for coffee during my entire stay. On a previous visit to Port Macquarie, we tried three different cafes in the main street, which were OK, but this was way better!
Coincidentally a friend of mine and her daughter were also visiting Port Macquarie so we arranged to meet for breakfast at the Beantree Café as well. Yum! Yum! Yum! The breakfast menu was great. A good variety to choose from and more importantly for me, a good selection of Gluten Free food. I had the Breakkie Melt on gluten free Bread and loved it.
From what I tried here - coffee, cake and breakfast - everything was wonderful, but I also really liked their outdoor area which is like a small oasis. It was so pleasant sitting there and even on a cold morning was warm in the sun.
And to top it all off the service from the friendly staff was fantastic. If we find ourselves in Port Macquarie again I won’t even bother trying other cafes because this one ticked all the boxes and it was away from the busy main centre which I preferred. But not that far that it was an issue getting there. There is ample parking in the surrounding streets.
We spent the rest of the afternoon doing some shopping and walking around Port Macquarie. Only being here for a couple of nights I wanted to enjoy cooking a meal for my girl. I like to cook and so does she so I wanted us to have that experience. As much as I love going out for dinner, this night was for us. We cooked up some Salmon fillets, pan fried asparagus, drizzled it with some lemon oil, added a sprinkling of mint leaves and pistachio nuts and crumbled some goats cheese on the top. It was delicious.
Exploring in and around Port Macquarie
Ricardoes Tomatoes & Strawberries
Ricardo’s Tomatoes & Strawberries is located at 221 Blackmans Point Road, Blackmans Point and is a 15 minute drive from Port Macquarie centre.
This was my second visit here and I love it. I haven’t eaten in the café but I love picking the strawberries. The first time we went crazy and we filled two buckets of strawberries. We brought a heap home in our esky and froze them. We later made jam out of some of them and used the others in an apple / strawberry crisp.
There is no entry fee here so when you arrive you head inside and grab a pair of scissors (no pulling the strawberries off) and a bucket. They tell you which greenhouse you can pick from and off you go. There is row upon row of strawberries hanging on an intriguing hydroponic set up.
Once you have picked your fill, take them inside where they will weigh them, you pay for them and you are good to go. The hardest thing will be not to eat them as you are picking them. And don’t forget to pick up some chocolate dipping sauce. My daughter didn’t like it much as it had an orange flavour but I thought it was delicious. More for me!
You can attend a tour and see how the tomatoes are grown, but these you need to buy inside. They also have lettuce that you can pick.
What’s not to love about this experience? Quality time spent with family, picking your own produce which is environmentally friendly, delicious and fresh and then stocking up on other food goodies from in store. Win win in my book.
You can find out more information about Ricardoes here.
Wauchope is a lovely little town only 20 minutes by car from Port Macquarie and nestled on the Hastings River.
I was so surprised at the range and quality of the stores there and I have added it to my Road Trip list of places to revisit.
We had coffee at the Dark Alley Café (which really is down a dark alley!) The coffee was great and the service was friendly.
We decided to visit purely so we could go Op Shopping. I get that this is not everyone’s cup of tea but we love it. Maddy is the Op Shop Queen, but on this particular occasion, I think I stole her crown. I am not a seasoned Op Shopper but under Maddy’s expert guidance I came away with an absolute haul and had a ball doing it.
For a small town, Wauchope has an abundance of Op Shops. They are well organised, the ladies are so friendly and the whole experience was so much fun. The items they have are good quality and I would highly recommend any of you seasoned op shoppers out there to visit if you are ever in the area.
The other store that caught my eye was Three Little Birds. OMG! I went in and I had to run out before I decided to blow my whole entire budget in there. This store has clothing, shoes, jewellery and homewares. I could have bought 90% of the items in that store. It was like the whole place was designed for me.
My birthday is next month, so I dropped subtle hints to my daughter that she should come back here before she moves. Oh ok, they weren’t subtle hints. I told her she could buy my gift from here. I am about as subtle as a sledgehammer!
Maddy are you reading this?
We decided to head out and take a look at some of my daughter’s favourite beaches, Nobby Beach and Shelly Beach.
Shelly Beach has special sculptural tributes to Harry Thompson, an artist and unofficial caretaker of Harry’s Lookout who lived at Shelly Beach until his death in 2000.
You can find out more about Harry here.
Sea Acres National Park Rainforest Walk
The Rainforest walk takes you through the rainforest canopy on a boardwalk suspended above the rainforest floor. We were disappointed not to spot the Diamond Python and Lace Monitor but we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
We were alone for most of the walk so it was nice to stop along the way and listen to the various bird calls and watch different birds flit through the canopy. And I particularly liked the signs pointing out the different species of trees, outlining their unique uses whether it be medicinal or for food. The rainforest is a diverse and intriguing ecosystem that I find fascinating and highly recommend visitors to the area take the time to explore.
The Rainforest Boardwalk can be seen on a guided tour or you can explore on your own with information from the Rainforest Centre like we did. It is an easy 1.3 km walk which can take between 30 min to and 1 hr 15 min.
The Sea Acres Rainforest Centre is open 9 am – 4.30 pm daily (closed on Christmas Day).
Tickets: $9 per adult, $5 for school aged children or $20 per family and the guided tours are included in the ticket price.
You can find more information on the Sea Acres National Park Rainforest Centre here.
My Friend Theresa’s Recommendations
Theresa and her daughter Vanessa had been Road Tripping for a week venturing as far as Byron Bay and Murwillumbah and happened to be in Port Macquarie at the same time as I was. We caught up for breakfast before they headed home after a couple of days exploring.
Theresa is fantastic to travel with. She is well planned and researched. She hunts out all the best things to do in a place and then takes it all on with gusto.
Theresa and her daughter had the amazing experience of seeing a Diamond Python devouring a possum when they went on the Rainforest Walk!
Yes, you heard correctly, Devouring!! They both described it as being gross to watch, but fascinating at the same time. We, unfortunately (or not depending on your point of view) did not see any as intriguing as this, but thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Rainforest Walk all the same.
Established in 1973 the Koala Hospital is a Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility as well as a study and research centre.
Theresa and Vanessa loved the Koala Hospital and attended one of their talks and found it to be very informative.
The Koala Hospital is open daily between 8 am and 4.30 pm. You can walk around the grounds and see the koalas in care.
Guided tours and talk tours are held at 3 pm daily (except for Christmas Day)
You can find out more about Port Macquarie’s Koala Hospital here.
Our Previous Visit
Tacking Point Lighthouse
The last time we were in Port Macquarie Dan and I headed up to the lighthouse and spent time enjoying the view and relaxing. We were kept company by a friendly magpie. It is a beautiful spot and we recommend you spend a little bit of time there exploring.
Whale Watching Cruise
Whale Watching is popular in Port Macquarie between May and November. There are numerous companies who run the cruises and will explore the ocean in search of Humpbacks and Southern Right Whales as well as dolphins.
To see dolphins though you may be lucky like we were and see them frolicking in the waves when we went for a walk along the breakwater.
On my second night, neither one of use could be bothered cooking. We were exhausted. It had been a huge day.
On Maddy’s recommendation, we ate at the Maharaja Indian Restaurant. It was the perfect way to end the day. The food was so tasty. It was getting busy as the night went on and I could tell that a lot of people were return diners and the service was friendly and fast.
On our previous visit to Port Macquarie, we ate at the Mekong Thai-Lao Restaurant located on the waterfront at 75 Clarence Street.
It was sensational. Our group thoroughly enjoyed their meals and they also had gluten free options available for most of their dishes.
This one would be my recommendation.
A Wonderful Time
I had a great time with my daughter.
I finished up with another coffee at the Beantree Café before leaving and heading home. The time was short but it had been worthwhile.
I’m not sure when I will be in Port Macquarie again. Maybe on that road trip I dream of taking in that Campervan I am trying to convince Dan about, but secretly I will keep planning and adding to the bucket list. I will keep you posted.
Cindy Reid is the founder of Travel Charm. Cindy has travelled extensively both personally and with her groups. She has now combined her love of art, food and travel and hosts Painting Trips to Europe and continues to explore and roam in Australia.