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Port Macquarie
New South Wales
Clockwise from top: Lighthouse Beach; Tacking Point Lighthouse; intersection of Clarence & Horton Streets, featuring Majestic Cinemas in the Ritz Centre
Port Macquarie is located in New South Wales
Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie
Location in New South Wales
Population 47,973 (2018)
Postcode(s) 2444
Elevation 5 m (16 ft)
LGA(s) Port Macquarie-Hastings Council
County Macquarie
Parish Macquarie
State electorate(s) Port Macquarie
Federal Division(s) Cowper
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
23.6 °C
74 °F
12.7 °C
55 °F
1,436.2 mm
56.5 in

Port Macquarie is a coastal town in the local government area of Port Macquarie-Hastings. It is located on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia, about 390 km (242 mi) north of Sydney, and 570 km (354 mi) south of Brisbane. The town is located on the Tasman Sea coast, at the mouth of the Hastings River, and at the eastern end of the Oxley Highway (B56). The town with its suburbs had a population of 47,973 in June 2018.


The site of Port Macquarie was first visited by Europeans in 1818 when John Oxley reached the Pacific Ocean from the interior, after his journey to explore inland New South Wales. He named the location after the Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie.

Oxley noted that 'the port abounds with fish, the sharks were larger and more numerous than I have ever before observed. The forest hills and rising grounds abounded with large kangaroos and the marshes afford shelter and support to innumerable wild fowl. Independent of the Hastings River, the area is generally well watered, there is a fine spring at the very entrance to the Port'.

In 1821, Port Macquarie was founded as a penal settlement, replacing Newcastle as the destination for convicts who had committed secondary crimes in New South Wales. Newcastle, which had fulfilled this role for the previous two decades, had lost the features required for a place for dumping irredeemable criminals, that being isolation, which was lost as the Hunter Region was opened up to farmers, and large amounts of hard labour, which had diminished as the cedar in the area ran out and the settlement grew in size. Port Macquarie, however, with its thick bush, tough terrain and local aborigines that were keen to return escaping prisoners in return for tobacco and blankets, provided large amounts of both isolation and hard labour to keep the criminals in control. Under its first commandant, Francis Allman, who was fond of flogging, the settlement became a hell, where the convicts had limited liberties, especially in regard to being in possession of letters and writing papers, which could get a convict up to 100 lashes.

The Penal settlement lasted from April 1820 to c. 15 August 1830. The settlement peaked with 1500 convicts by 1825 but by 1828 this had fallen to 530. The commanders of the settlement were:

  • Francis Allman March 1821 – 1824
  • Captain Rolland succeeded Allman in April 1824
  • Lieutenant Carmac, 1824
  • Henry Gillman in January 1824–
  • Archibald Clunes Innes 1826–1827

Because of the lack of liberties of the settlement, Governor Ralph Darling quickly sent there many 'specials' or literate convicts with a decent education who had voiced negative views about him. Later on in the settlement's history, in the 1830s, disabled convicts started to arrive. One-armed men would be grouped together and required to break stones, men with wooden legs would become delivery men, and the blind would often be given tasks during the night which they performed more skilfully than those with sight.

Prt Macquarie 18
St Thomas' Anglican Church
St. Thomas' Church, Port Macquarie, 1832-1842 Joseph Backler a7469002h
St Thomas' Church, painted by Joseph Backler in the 1830s

In 1823 the first sugar cane to be cultivated in Australia was planted there. The region was first opened to settlers in 1830 and later on in the decade the penal settlement was closed in favour of a new penal settlement at Moreton Bay. Settlers quickly took advantage of the area's good pastoral land, timber resources and fisheries.

St Thomas's Anglican Church is a Georgian building designed by Francis Greenway and built, under the supervision of military engineer Lieutenant T. Owen, by convicts during 1824-1828. This church is among the oldest in Australia and one of the few remaining convict-built churches. Inside there are red cedar box pews that were peculiar to that period in church architecture. The Walker pipe organ is the only one of its type in the southern hemisphere. The castellated tower permits excellent views of the coastline, town and river. This church is now classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and has been registered on the National Estate heritage list.

Port Macquarie
Tacking Point Lighthouse

In 1830 Major Archibald Clunes Innes built Lake Innes House which grew over the next decade into a luxurious establishment and attracted many notable visitors. It is now a ruin and is managed by the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service.

In 1840 the "Wool Road" from the Northern Tablelands was under construction to enable wool and other produce to be shipped from the port. Port Macquarie was declared a municipality in 1887, but the town never progressed as a port owing to a notorious coastal bar across the mouth of the river.

Over 20 shipwrecks occurred in the Tacking Point area before a lighthouse was designed by James Barnet and erected there in 1879 by Shepard and Mortley. Tacking Point Lighthouse is classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW).


The estimated urban population of Port Macquarie was 45,341 as at June 2015, having grown 1.1% on prior year and from 39,783 over the prior decade. Port Macquarie is expected to be the fastest growing place in New South Wales. The town is expected to grow from an estimated 43,655 people in 2009 to 58,888 in 2027.


Port Macquarie is a retirement destination, known for its extensive beaches and waterways. The town is also known for its koala population, being the home to the Billabong Zoo (a wildlife park and koala breeding center) and the Koala Preservation Society's Koala Hospital, caring for koalas injured through bushfire, dog attacks and collisions with vehicles.

In 2016 the war memorial was relocated from Town Green to its original location at the intersection of Clarence and Horton Streets.

The residential suburbs stretch to Lighthouse Beach in the south, Thrumster to the west and to North Shore, on the northern bank of the river. In July 2010, Sovereign Hills began development in the west.

Port Macquarie was found to be the least affordable smaller city in Australia by Demographia's 2013 International Housing Affordability Survey.

Suburbs and localities


Port Macquarie's central business district contains two shopping centres, a marina, the beginnings of a coastal walk, and many specialty stores. A centrally located arts, conference and entertainment centre includes a visitor-information facility. Bus services link the town with Laurieton, Wauchope, Kempsey, Lake Cathie and Bonny Hills.

Transit Hill

Transit Hill to the south is crowned by telecommunication towers. The district is the site of two arterial roads which provide a direct link between Lighthouse Beach and Port Macquarie CBD. The main intersection of Pacific and Kennedy Drive is situated midway up Transit Hill.

It is an area of high-priced real estate owing to ocean and city views. Transit Hill borders Lighthouse Beach, Dahlsford, Shelly Beach and Waniora.

Beaches and attractions

Beaches (in order from north to south) are: North Shore, Town Beach, Oxley Beach, Rocky Beach, Flynns Beach, Nobbys Beach, Shelly Beach, Miners Beach (unofficial clothing-optional) and Lighthouse Beach. Only Town, Flynns and Lighthouse Beaches are manned by Surf Life Saving Clubs. Lighthouse Beach is patrolled at only the northern end. Dogs can be walked off-leash at Lighthouse Beach, south of Watonga Rocks, excluding sections at the northern end and Nobbys Beach.

Sea Acres National Park is adjacent to Shelly Beach and contains a Visitor Centre with access controlled rainforest boardwalk.


Port Macquarie has a humid subtropical climate, and is widely regarded as one of the most liveable towns in Australia.

Climate data for Port Macquarie (Port Macquarie Airport AWS, 1995–2013)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 40.2
Average high °C (°F) 27.6
Average low °C (°F) 18.3
Record low °C (°F) 9.5
Rainfall mm (inches) 149.1
Humidity 65 66 65 64 61 60 55 52 56 59 65 64 61
Avg. precipitation days 11.9 13.6 15.1 13.7 13.2 11.2 10.8 8.7 9.2 10.5 14.4 12.7 145.0
Source: Bureau of Meteorology
Prt Macquarie 1
Nobby Head, Port Macquarie

Transport links

Port Macquarie Airport
Port Macquarie Airport

Port Macquarie Airport (4 km [2.5 mi] west of town) has regular flights to Sydney with QantasLink (5 times daily) and Virgin Australia (twice daily), and to Lord Howe Island with QantasLink and Brisbane with Virgin Australia.

There is no railway station in Port Macquarie. However, the Port Macquarie CBD and northern suburbs are served by the nearby Wauchope railway station (17 km west of town), and the southern suburbs including satellite towns of Lake Cathie and Laurieton are served by Kendall railway station (30 km [19 mi] southwest). Both stations are on the North Coast Line operated by NSW TrainLink with 3 services daily in each direction towards either Newcastle and Sydney or northwards to Grafton, with travel time to Sydney of approximately 6 hours. There is a railway-operated connecting bus service available from Wauchope railway station to the Port Macquarie CBD.

Road access is via the Pacific and Oxley Highways. The Pacific Highway lies between Port Macquarie and Wauchope, and is the main road for tourists travelling from coastal areas.

Four significant nearby road projects have been completed in recent years to help with road traffic issues in the area:

  • Pacific Highway – Karuah to Bulahdelah section 2 and 3 (Karuah to Bulahdelah section 1 – Completed December 2006).
  • Pacific Highway – Bulahdelah Bypass The Bulahdelah bypass/upgrade fills the only missing Pacific Highway link between Hexham and Port Macquarie after the opening of the Karuah to Bulahdelah section(s) 2 and 3 and the Coopernook to Herons Creek upgrade.
  • Pacific Highway – Coopernook to Herons Creek.
  • The Oxley Highway upgrade, from a 2 lane undivided road to a 4-lane divided carriageway, from Wrights Road to the Pacific Highway.

These four projects are all from the AusLink funding on a joint basis from the Commonwealth and the state of NSW making equal financial contributions.

Annual events

Notable events held in the Port Macquarie area include:

  • Pacific Coast Slam (January)
  • Big Band Blast
  • Mountain Bike Festival of Australia – Port Macquarie (first weekend of June)
  • Tasting on Hastings – month-long food festival (October)
  • Sundowner BREAM Classic (November)
  • Festival of the Sun (December)
  • Ironman
  • ORARC's Annual Field Day Weekend
  • Port Macquarie Kart Racing Club's Pacific Coast Titles

Educational facilities

Prt Macquarie 1
Nobby Head, Port Macquarie

Preschools/Child Care

  • Bangalay Child Care Centre Port Macquarie
  • Blooming Kids Early Learning and Long Day Care Centre
  • Columba Cottage Early Learning Centre
  • Fernhill Road Preschool and Long Day Care Centre
  • Goodstart Early Learning Port Macquarie
  • Hastings Preschool and Long Day Care Centre
  • Joey's House Early Education Centre
  • Lighthouse Child Care Centre
  • Moruya Drive Child Care Centre
  • Port Macquarie Community Preschool
  • Port Macquarie Early Learning Centre
  • Portside Preschool and Long Day Care Centre
  • St Agnes Early Education Centre
  • St.Joseph's Family Services
  • St.Joseph's Preschool and Long Day Care Centre

Primary schools

Public schools

  • Port Macquarie Public School
  • Hastings Public School
  • Tacking Point Public School
  • Westport Public School

Catholic schools

  • St. Joseph's Primary School
  • St. Peter's Primary School
  • St. Agnes' Primary School

Other private schools

  • Port Macquarie Adventist School
  • Heritage Christian School (Kindergarten to Year 12)
  • St Columba Anglican School (Kindergarten to Year 12)

High schools

Public schools

  • Hasting Secondary College
    • Port Macquarie Campus (formerly Port Macquarie High School)
    • Westport Campus (formerly Westport High School)

Catholic schools

  • St. Joseph's Regional College
  • MacKillop College (formerly St. Paul's High School & MacKillop Senior College)
  • Newman Senior Technical College (Year 11 & 12)

Private schools

  • Heritage Christian School (Kindergarten to Year 12)
  • St Columba Anglican School (Kindergarten to Year 12)

Tertiary educational facilities

Charles Sturt University Port Macquarie campus
Charles Sturt University, Port Macquarie campus

Three universities and TAFE offer a range of courses in Port Macquarie, as well as other vocational institutions. Charles Sturt University opened a new campus in 2016, and offers courses in Creative Industries, Psychology, Medical Imaging and Medical Radiation Science, Environmental Sciences, Paramedicine, Social Work, Business Studies and Accounting, Criminal Justice Studies, Exercise Sports Science and Physiotherapy, among others. Nursing will be offered from 2020. There is a TAFE campus for further qualifications and pathway options into higher education. Courses are also offered by the University of Newcastle through the TAFE campus. The University of New South Wales has run a clinical school from Port Macquarie since 2007, and now runs the complete six-year medical degree from this Campus. The growth in tertiary educational options in the region has been in response to significant research designed to retain young people in the area and contribute to the growth of the educational standards for the Hastings region.

Notable people

  • Nabil Elderkin (born 1982) attended Port Macquarie High School. Film and music video director and photographer having worked with Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, John Legend, Jay Z and Nikki Minaj. First photographer to shoot Kanye West and works with him and Kim Kardashian to this day.
  • George Louis Becke (1855–1913) author
  • Nancy Wake (1912–2011) lived here from c. 1985 until c. 2001
  • Nick Cummins (born 1987), rugby union player
  • James Magnussen (born 1991), Olympic swimming medallist
  • Aleyce Simmonds (born 1986), country music singer-songwriter
  • Ryley Batt, OAM (born 1989), wheelchair rugby player
  • Lachlan Morton (born 1992), road cyclist for EF Education First Pro Cycling
  • Michael Eppelstun, first Australian to be world bodyboarding champion (1993)
  • Damian King, world bodyboarding champion (2003, 2004)

Images for kids

See also

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