Macleay Valley Coast

Sitting just north of Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid North Coast, the Macleay Valley Coast is an appealing mix of beautiful coastline and charming country towns. Stretching from Crescent Head in the south to Grassy Head in the north, it includes holiday hotspots like Kempsey, South West Rocks and Hat Head.

The rocky headlands along the Little Bay to Smoky Cape track in Hat Head National Park

Kempsey

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.

Two bushwalkers exploring a headland, Hat Head National Park

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 National Surfing Reserve, Kempsey

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.

Getting there and where to stay

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.

There are plenty of places to stay in this pretty region. Choose a holiday park by the beach at Crescent Head, Hat Head or South West Rocks; spend the night in a classic country pub; choose a budget-friendly motel; or enjoy a taste of rural life at a cosy farm cottage.