The bustling centre of the Macleay Valley Coast, Kempsey is set on the banks of the wide Macleay River. Surrounded by farmland and national parks, and just a short drive from beautiful beaches, this historic country town is home to colonial architecture, tasty restaurants and interesting boutiques.
Legendary Australian country music star Slim Dusty was born in Kempsey and the town inspired many of his most famous songs. Visit the $10.4 million Slim Dusty Centre and take a journey through his life and music. The annual Slim Dusty Kempsey Festival held each September is a celebration of Australian culture and music.
Slim is not the only Australian icon to have roots in Kempsey. The famous Akubra hat has been produced here for almost 50 years and you can pick one up at the showroom. Famed author Thomas Kenneally spent his childhood in Kempsey and his book A River Town is set there in the early 1900s.
Things to do
The Val Melville Centre in South Kempsey Park was designed by award-winning architect Glenn Murcutt. Inside you’ll find the Kempsey Museum, dedicated to the history of the Macleay Valley from Aboriginal heritage to European pioneers to present day.
The Dunghutti-Ngaku Aboriginal Art Gallery is also inside the centre, and you can admire and purchase works by local indigenous artists. For some tasty heritage, the Wigay Aboriginal Cultural Park is a large bush tucker garden with hundreds of native plants. Explore on your own or take a tour.
Gladstone and Smithtown
About 15min north of Kempsey are the twin towns of Gladstone and Smithtown. Gladstone is known for its beautifully preserved historic buildings. There are 19 dotted throughout the village, housing art galleries, boutiques and cafes. Don’t miss The Hub, a collaborative creative space shared by a dozen small businesses.
Getting there and where to stay
Kempsey is a 4hr 40min drive from Sydney and 5hr 20min from Brisbane. You can also catch the train direct from Sydney and the journey takes just over seven hours. Or fly into Port Macquarie Airport and hire a car for the 40min drive. Places to stay include motels, holiday parks, historic pubs and country cottages.