Macleay Valley Coast

Try and keep the secret

There’s something old-school about the Macleay Valley and its coastline – in a very good way. Here you’ll pass through beachside hamlets that remain distinctly undeveloped, and largely undiscovered, along with spots of sublime natural beauty (that’s you, Hat Head National Park). Then, when you’ve picnicked at secret coves and surfed world-famous Crescent Head, explore the hinterland’s heritage towns, roadside stalls and the tranquil Macleay River.


The main town on the Macleay Valley Coast, Kempsey is the home of two Australian icons – the Akubra hat and country music legend Slim Dusty. Set on the banks of the Macleay River, the town is an important rural centre that’s close to both untouched hinterland and golden beaches.

Head straight for the $10.4 million Slim Dusty Centre to learn all about the man who shaped Australian country music. You can even time your visit to catch the annual Slim Dusty Kempsey Festival in September. Other highlights include the Wigay Aboriginal Cultural Park and the monthly Riverside Markets.

Mount Yarrahapinni Lookout in Kempsey

Mount Yarrahapinni Lookout, Kempsey - Credit: Tom Woods, Macleay Valley Coast

Crescent Head

Known as Creso to the locals, Crescent Head is one of just a handful of recognised National Surfing Reserves in NSW. It has one of the longest right hand breaks in Australia and has been a popular surfing spot for more than 70 years. The town still retains its retro vibe and is a great holiday destination for families.

A man surfing at Crescent Head Surfing Reserve, Kempsey

Crescent Head Surfing Reserve, Kempsey - Credit: Tom Woods, Macleay Valley Coast

South West Rocks

Sandy beaches, lush national parks and fascinating history await in South West Rocks. Get a spectacular view of the region from the top of Smoky Cape Lighthouse, one of the country’s oldest lighthouses which dates back to 1891. Discover more colonial heritage in the picturesque ruins of the 1886 Trial Bay Gaol.

Just offshore from South West Rocks is Fish Rock Cave, one of the world’s best cave dives and a great spot to see endangered grey nurse sharks. Follow winding walking trails through Hat Head and Arakoon national parks. The 2.2km Smoky Cape Walking Track offers both sweeping coastal views and dense littoral rainforest.

Family enjoying a visit to the historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol, South West Rocks, North Coast

Trial Bay Gaol, South West Rocks - Credit: Jay Black

Getting there

The Macleay Valley Coast is around 4hr 30min drive from Sydney and 5hr 30min from Brisbane. You can also catch a train direct from Sydney to Kempsey and the journey takes just over seven hours. Or fly into Port Macquarie Airport and hire a car to explore the region, which is less than an hour away.

North Coast Festival of Flavour
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