Kempsey is where iconic Akubra hats are made and is home to the Slim Dusty Centre, in honour of the Australian country music legend. You’ll discover marvellous cultural and heritage experiences in the riverside heart of the Macleay Valley Coast. Nearby are gorgeous beaches and national parks.

By the beautiful Macleay River, the town on the mid NSW North Coast is 4h 45min drive north of Sydney and less than six hours south of Brisbane. The surrounding towns and villages including Crescent Head, Gladstone, South West Rocks, Willawarrin and Bellbrook are all within easy reach.

Man fishing in the Macleay River in Bellbrook, Macleay Valley Coast

The Slim Dusty Centre celebrates the career of the cultural icon who grew up in nearby Nulla Nulla Creek. The singer-songwriter and guitarist sold over seven million records. You can find out more about his music and life in the centre and take a tour of the exhibitions and music memorabilia.

The Slim Dusty Festival is a country music festival for all ages held every October. Featuring performances by the stars of Australian country music, the week-long jamboree honours the memory of the musician who released more than 100 albums. His songs were odes to rural life.

In pretty South Kempsey Park is an architectural gem designed by Glenn Murcutt, a renowned architect who has won many prestigious awards. The Val Melville Centre houses a museum, an indigenous art gallery and the visitor information centre where you can pick up tips and maps.

The Macleay River winding through peaceful Macleay Valley Coast hinterland, Kempsey area

The Kempsey Museum is curated by the Macleay River Historical Society and features the history of the Macleay Valley, from Aboriginal heritage to European pioneers to present day. In the Dunghutti-Ngaku Aboriginal Art Gallery you can admire and buy impressive works by local indigenous artists.

For tasty heritage, the Wigay Aboriginal Cultural Park is a big bush tucker garden with hundreds of native plants. The local Aboriginal word for food is wigay. You can explore the garden at your own pace or take an interactive guided tour. You’ll learn about traditional foods and bush medicines.

Accommodation options in and around Kempsey suit various budgets, from campgrounds to motels to a health retreat. The town is a great base for exploring the natural wonders – the panoramic views from Collombatti Lookout are spectacular. Fishing and boating are popular along the river.