Port Macquarie is a large town on the mid-North Coast of New South Wales, Australia, located about 390 km north of Sydney, and 570km south of Brisbane. The town is located on the coast, at the mouth of the Hastings River. The nearest railway town is Wauchope about 19 kilometres to the west.
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'. During 1821 the city was founded as a penal settlement for convicts sentenced for crimes committed in NSW. In 1823 the first sugar cane to be cultivated in Australia was planted there. The region was opened to settlers in 1830 after it was decided to abandon Port Macquarie as a penal settlement. It was soon being settled having the good pastoral land, timber resources and fisheries that it did. 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 due to presence of a notorious coastal bar across the mouth of the river.
St Thomas’ Anglican Church is a Georgian building designed by Lieutenant T Owen and was built by convicts under military supervision 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 it is also registered on the National Estate.
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).
Port Macquarie is a popular retirement location and popular tourist destination. It is known for its extensive beaches and waterways. The town is also known for its koala population, being the home the Billabong Koala Park, and the Koala Preservation Society's Koala Hospital, caring for koalas injured through bushfire, dog attacks and collisions with vehicles.
In recent times, real estate developments have led to clashes with residents, in particular the Rydges Hotel (formerly Four Points by Sheraton) built opposite the Town Green. The Post Office on the Town Green was demolished to make way for a new apartment block, a development that saw the controversial removal of several large fig trees and subsequent debate in the community about the value of public space.
The residential suburbs stretch to Lighthouse Beach in the south, Thrumster to the west and to the so-called "North Shore" on the north bank of the river. Settlement Point has a new canal development, being one of the most expensive real estate developments in the town. More recently, Sovereign Hills (Area 13) has begun development in the west. It will include new schools, shopping facilities and residential areas.
In the 2006 Census the wider area of the Hastings Valley had a total population of 68,429 up 9.5% from the 2001 Census.
In the last two years the Newcastle Jets have played one of their Pre-Season Cup matches at the Port Macquarie Regional Stadium.
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. Improvements to the Oxley and Pacific Highway has seen steady improvements in travel times between Sydney and the mid-north coast region from 6 hours to just 4 hours (from Wahroonga to the Oxley Highway interchange);
The four proposed or in-construction road projects that are underway:
The Bulahdelah bypass/upgrade will fill the only missing link between Hexham and Port Macquarie once the Karuah to Bulahdelah section(s) 2 and 3 and the Coopernook to Herons Creek upgrades are open in 2009.
These four projects are all from the AusLink funding on a 50/50 "joint basis" from the Commonwealth and the state of NSW (50% from Commonwealth Government and the other 50% from the NSW Government .
Rail access to Port Macquarie is via bus transfer from the North Coast Railway Line which stops at Wauchope (19 km inland).