Taste the flavours of the Mid North Coast on this four-day journey from Port Stephens to Port Macquarie. Wineries, breweries, hatted restaurants and fresh produce sit alongside heart-pumping adventure and adorable animal encounters.
Journey: Port to Port
Duration: 4-5 days
Sand dune quad biking in Port Stephens
Dine on seafood at Rick Stein
Glamp amongst the koalas
Tastings at six breweries
Explore a hedge maze in a winery
Day 1: Sydney to Newcastle & Port Stephens
From Sydney, start the two-hour drive to Newcastle early and spend the morning exploring this vibrant city, then have a dip in the Newcastle Ocean Baths.
Time for lunch – Signal Box is located in a heritage building of steel and concrete in the revamped 1930s railway precinct. Or visit FogHorn Brewhouse and get a tour of their 1800-litre custom-built brewery before a pub-style lunch that makes use of local and Hunter Valley produce. Nearby is Earp Distillery, making gin, vodka and absinthe in beautiful reusable ceramic bottles. Pop in for a tour and tasting experience.
On the way to Port Stephens, spend the afternoon traversing the rolling crests of the sand dunes in the Worimi Conservation area on a 4WD tour. Sand Dune Adventures, an Aboriginal-owned and -operated business, will give you hands-on insight into the culture and heritage of the Worimi people. Next is Murray’s Craft Brewing, which is at the forefront of the local craft beer scene. Drop in to the tap house for a guided tasting.
End the day with locally caught seafood at Rick Stein at Bannisters Port Stephens – you might even see a pod of dolphins swimming by the restaurant. Stay the night at The Anchorage, a boutique hotel by the water that offers a world-class spa, adults-only pool and champagne breakfast. Alternatively, wake up in glamping tents with the koalas at Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary.
Drive to Port Macquarie along the Legendary Pacific Coast Drive, one of NSW’s most beautiful routes.
On the way, stop in for a beer tasting experience at Coastal Brewing Company, a family owned microbrewery in the stunning coastal town of Forster. Lunch today is at Cassegrain Winery’s restaurant, Twotriplefour, which offers a farm-to-table menu championing local produce. Afterwards you can explore the gorgeous estate on foot or by horseback.
Sleepy koalas, spider monkeys and an albino wallaroo will be your playmates for the afternoon at Billabong Zoo. Bill’s Fishhouse (sister restaurant to Twotriplefour) has a reputation for simple, elegant dishes – try the local oysters and prawns. Check into Sails Port Macquarie, a 4.5-star resort perched on the edge of the water with a private jetty and poolside cabanas.
The Hastings River has shaped the way the local people have lived for thousands of years.
Take a morning cruise with Port Jet Cruise Adventures for your chance to see dolphins, turtles and sea eagles, and learn more about the river’s history. Experience more of Port Macquarie’s pristine natural world in the Sea Acres National Park. A boardwalk rises seven metres through this coastal rainforest, one of the largest in Australia, and you can follow the 1.3km loop through the canopy. There’s The Rainforest Cafe and also a cute coffee truck for hot drinks and snacks.
For lunch, try LV’s on Clarence, a family-run farm and cafe open until 2.30pm Monday to Friday. Order their own pasture-raised pork in a pho or a sausage sandwich. Dinner will be a memorable occasion at The Stunned Mullet, a hatted restaurant with a focus on seafood with Asian flavours and a particularly well thought-out wine list.
Spend a wholesome morning picking (and eating) five different types of strawberries at Ricardoes.
There’s quite a craft beer scene on the Mid North Coast – pick up a takeaway watermelon sour at Wicked Elf, have a meal and a Platypus Pale Ale at Black Duck Brewery, and try a smoked burger and Big Poppa IPA from Moorebeer. For the best view in town, lunch has to be at Whalebone Wharf, serving seafood on the edge of Hastings River.
Get lost in the maze at Bago Maze and Wine, one of the world’s largest hedge mazes, and reward yourself for finding your way through with a cheese platter and glass of wine (bookings essential). They grow chardonnay and chambourcin grapes, amongst others.
Spend the evening at Telegraph Retreat, a series of isolated Australia Federation-style cottages on a sprawling property of native bushland. Food can be delivered to your doorstep from a local restaurant or pick up some local produce to cook yourself.