Within four hours’ drive north from Sydney, on the Mid North Coast of NSW, the region of Port Macquarie covers more than 3,500sq km of spectacular coastline and hinterland, with the CBD located on the water between the Pacific Ocean and the Hastings River. Port Macquarie’s accommodation capacity is amongst the largest in regional NSW, offering a range of quality accommodation to suit every taste and budget: from boutique B&Bs to farmstays, small motels, 4.5-star resorts, and luxury apartments.
There are myriad ways to fill your time on a family holiday in the area, starting with a visit to The Koala Hospital – the world’s first hospital dedicated solely to the care and preservation of koalas, and the only one of its kind in Australia. Join the Feed, Walk and Talk tour, held every day at 3pm, and find out about the adopt-a-koala scheme which helps to save the lives of around 300 furry friends every year. The hospital also has a viewing area for the operating theatre.
Billabong Zoo Koala & Wildlife Park is another great option for animal lovers. The recently renovated attraction provides the chance to see rare and endangered animals including snow leopards, red pandas, and koalas along with a 5m-long crocodile called Shrek, meerkats, and penguins. Shows run on the hour all day and you can book an up-close encounter to feed and meet the animals.
At heritage theme park Timbertown in Wauchope, around a 20-minute drive from Port Macquarie, there are also farmyard animals, Clydesdale horses and bullock demonstrations.
In winter, Port Macquarie is also a great place to spot humpback whales as they make their way along the coast during their annual migration. PortJet’s whale-watching Ocean Blast cruise offers some of the best up-close sightings in NSW, just metres from the coast.
Bago Maze is a magical escape where children and adults alike can get lost in the largest hedge maze in NSW. With 2000m of pathways covering 10,000sq m, the maze features lookout towers, bridges, boardwalks, and musical instruments. Located at Bago Vineyards, the design of the maze takes inspiration from the surrounding vineyard, bushland and the influences of earth, air and water, represented in two interlaced spirals. If mixing mountain bike riding, cafés and maze challenges is more your style then the 7km loop track around the Bago Vineyard and Bago Maze is for you. It has tabletops, step downs and berms all set in a unique country paddock and rainforest feel.
Other must-do family attractions include camel rides on Lighthouse Beach, picking your own strawberries at Ricardoes Tomatoes, horse riding at Bellrowan Valley, Sea Acres Rainforest Centre and surf lessons.
When it comes to food, Port Macquarie’s iconic seafood restaurant, Whalebone Wharf, is hard to beat. It recently completed a $1 million renovation, with new interiors, furnishings and a refreshed menu. Established in 1971, Whalebone Wharf is perfect for a long lunch, and children can feed the fish while parents enjoy lobsters from the tank and a seafood platter.
The family-friendly 4.5-star Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges has also recently had a multi-million dollar refurbishment, capitalising on its riverside location with Hamptons-style architecture. It has 92 guest rooms and suites, a pool with an entertainment terrace, private jetty, The Boathouse Bar & Restaurant, The Cape Ballroom, waterfront wedding chapel, and event pavilion and tennis court. A standout feature is its impressive three-storey atrium, which has glass elevators the kids will love and an atrium bar for parents.