Top nature & wildlife experiences in Port Macquarie

From its iconic wildlife – think koalas, whales and dolphins – to beautiful beaches and pockets of rainforest, nature plays a starring role in the Port Macquarie region. Here’s how to immerse yourself in outdoor adventures on the North Coast.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

May 2024 -
min read

Get up close to cuddly koalas 

Is there any Australian animal more cuddly than a koala? While these native marsupials are normally elusive, they thrive in the forests of Port Macquarie, and can be spotted in the wild in places like Queens Lake Nature Reserve at North Haven and in the parkland surrounding Roto House, where the world-famous Koala Hospital is located. This is the world's first hospital dedicated solely to the care and conservation of koalas, and it comes with a treatment room, intensive care units, a 24-hour rescue operation and multiple recovery yards. Tours of the facility, educational displays and koala yards are self-guided.  

Koala sitting in a gum tree at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, Port Macquarie

Koala Hospital, Port Macquarie

More koalas await atBillabong Zoo, where you can get close enough to pat one of these fuzzy little icons. In addition to koalas, the wildlife centre cares for more than 200 other animals, including 80 species of mammals, reptiles and birds.  

Have a whale of a time 

Marine mammals love the Port Macquarie region almost as much as its human visitors. Whales swing by (up to 30,000 of them) on their annual migration to and from Antarctica, with optimum viewing time between May and November. Great vantage points are along the Perpendicular Point Walking Track and Diamond Head Loop Walk in Crowdy Bay National Park. Meanwhile, dolphins are often spotted in the Hastings River along the NRMA Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park or accompanying tourist boats on dolphin watch cruises. 

Humpback Whale breaching off Point Plomer, Port Macquarie

Point Plomer, Port Macquarie

Step back in time in ancient rainforest 

Want to feel humbled by nature, in the best possible way? You’ve come to the right place. To immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the rainforest head to Sea Acres Rainforest boardwalk where a 1.3km boardwalk winds through a rare littoral rainforest where birds flit through the canopy and goannas and diamond pythons stalk the forest floor. Join a guided tour with an Aboriginal ranger to learn about bush tucker and medicinal plants found in the forest. 

Couple enjoying a visit to the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre, Port Macquarie

Sea Acres Rainforest Centre, Port Macquarie 

If you want more, you can discover natural attractions in the hinterland around Kendall and Wauchope. Visit the giant blackbutts Bird Tree and Benaroon to the south of Kendall and wind your way to Wauchope, the gateway to towering waterfalls and Willi Willi National Park, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. Or glimpse Old Bottlebut (the biggest recorded example of a red bloodwood tree in the world) while exploring Burrawan State Forest, covering some 2,400 hectares.  

For sweeping views of lakes, inlets and beyond, visit the North Brother lookout in Dooragan National Park. You can either drive to the scenic summit or hike on the challenging 3km Laurieton Track to the top. Take the Rainforest loop near the summit for a delightful walk to another lookout. 

Couple enjoying a walk through Burrawan State Forest at Herons Creek in Port Macquarie, North Coast

Burrawan State Forest, Herons Creek

Get out on the water

If you’re keen to try surfing, but don’t know where to start, Port Macquarie ticks all the boxes. Learn to surf at accredited schools such as Soul Surfing and Port Macquarie Surf School. Both are great for beginners, and also cater to those looking to polish their skills. Alternatively, head to the renowned kite-surfing spot Lighthouse Beach, which curls for 9km south of the heritage-listed Tacking Point Lighthouse, built in 1879. The point is also a great spot for whale watching during the migratory season. 

If you’re after more leisurely water activities, Jordan’s Boat Hire and Settlement Point Boat Shed both hire kayaks and SUPS. And if you fancy working on your core, Coastal Zen Yoga offers regular SUP yoga sessions, so you can salute the sun on the water.  

Aerial view of Tacking Point at Tacking Point Lighthouse, Port Macquarie

Tacking Point Lighthouse, Port Macquarie

Walk this way along the coast 

This part of the North Coast is not sort of stunning ocean vistas. For breathtaking views, the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk from the town centre to Tacking Point Lighthouse is a wonderful trail that winds past a number of postcard-perfect beaches, including Town, Flynns and Shelly, and through Sea Acres National Park. The walking track is 9km one-way and can be broken into four smaller sections. Picnic tables and barbecue facilities are located along your route at Flynns Beach, Shelly Beach, Lake Cathie Beach, Rainbow Beach, south of Duchess Creek, Grants Beach and Pilot Beach. Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit.  

Slightly shorter at 7km and just to the south of Port Macquarie proper, the Grants Beach Coastal Walk takes you through native forest and woodlands, as well as along dramatic cliffs. It begins at North Haven alongside the Camden River, passes by Grants Beach and ends at Grants Headland at Bonny Hills. 

Lace-up your shoes to tackle the 4.3km Diamond Head Loop Walk, which introduces you to the exceptional beauty of the Crowdy Bay National Park. The trail begins at Diamond Head campground and weaves through forest before landing you at vantages like Kylie’s Lookout – a great place for dolphin and whale spotting. 

Scenic coastal views across Diamond Head Beach, Crowdy Bay National Park

Diamond Head Beach, Crowdy Bay National Park

Ride the sand on a ‘ship of the desert’  

Riding a ‘ship of the desert’ along the rippled sand of Lighthouse Beach with Port Macquarie Camel Safaris is a fun and unique family activity, with safaris operating Sunday through Friday between 9.30am and 1pm (no bookings, just come on down – and cash only). The experience is at once peaceful and insightful, with your guides regaling you with stories about the long (and fascinating) history of camels in Australia.  

Visitors enjoying a camel experience with Port Macquarie Camel Safaris on Lighthouse Beach, Port Macquarie

Port Macquarie Camel Safaris, Port Macquarie - Credit: Destination North Coast

Explore on horseback

A great way to explore the region’s bountiful natural assets is on the back of a horse – and a number of companies offer experiences that take in Port Macquarie’s top sights. Port Macquarie Horse Riding Centre is based out of the picturesque Cassegrain Winery, which means that after your trail ride, pony ride or horse-riding lesson you can pop in to the cellar door and attached restaurant to enjoy a bite and a sip of the estate’s award-winning wines. Every level of experience is catered for, from beginners to experienced riders.  

Meanwhile, Hastings River Horse Riding leads guided treks through some of the most beautiful landscapes the Hastings Valley has to offer. Trot through the countryside, cross rivers, wander along deserted beaches. Or, sign up for the group’s famous pub ride, which ends at the Beechworth Hotel where you can download the day’s adventures over a cold drink and a meal.   

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