Port Macquarie-Your Next Costal Holiday
“You’re going to Port Macquarie? The Retirement village?”
The questions my father asked in astonishment when I recently told him I was going to Port Macquarie for a weekend to check out the town and attend their annual foodie festival, Tastings on Hastings.
Like many, he hadn’t been to Port Macquarie for many years and was still under the impression this town had nothing to offer but an ageing population. And to be honest, I can see why people would want to retire here. The weather is warm and sunny all year round, they have great surf beaches, plenty of nice restaurants and the locals are super friendly. Not to mention it’s only a one hour flight or four hour drive from Sydney. And since the invention of internet shopping, who needs the stress of big city buying expeditions.
But this coastal NSW town is attracting more than retirees with plenty of young, ambitious couples choosing to swap their inner city apartments for a big house in the country. From farmers markets, to hatted restaurants, an international standard art gallery, live music and more Port Macquarie has so much to offer.
You might not be ready for a sea change just yet but read on, there are plenty of reasons Port Macquarie is a must-visit destination for your next costal holiday.
The Stunned Mullet restaurant is the region’s first hatted restaurant with some of the best Australian produce and over 300 wines on offer. It’s set in a beautiful beachside location opposite Town Beach and as the sun sets you can sit back and watch the local surfers catch wave after wave. Owners Lou Perri and David Henry have been wining and dining locals and tourists alike for almost a decade. One of my favourite dishes on the menu is the Glacier 51 tooth fish, a beautiful buttery fish that simply melts in your mouth. You’ll also spot local produce from Ricardoes Tomatoes, The Other Chef Fine Foods, Comboyne cheese, Armstrong Oysters and the ‘catch of the day’ from local fishermen on the menu.
24 William St, Port Macquarie NSW, 02 6584 7757
Fusion 7 is a relaxed local restaurant run by ex Bathers Pavillion chef and owner Lindsey Schwab and his wife. Inspired by his international travels Schwab marries classic European dishes with Asian flavours in an ever-changing menu of innovative and contemporary cuisines. Again, this restaurant aims to use as much local produce as possible, supporting local business. Need a second opinion? Check the Good Food Guide where they’ve got 14/20.
6/124 Horton Street, Port Macquarie, 02 65841171
Drury Lane café is in the forecourt of the Glasshouse and offers great food with a local focus. This popular dining destination is owned by Port Macquarie local Kate McCarron and her Canadian husband/chef Drury Woolnough. Together they’ve created a very cool and relaxed vibe perfect for breakfast, lunch or just a quick coffee. Take a seat around the communal table and order an organic Ovvio tea. Be sure to try some of their house-made preserves and pickles as well as the slow-cooked lamb and honey-roasted heirloom carrots.
Shop 5, The Garrison, 26 Clarence Street, Port Macquarie, 02 6583 6628
Nestled amongst the lush vineyards of the Innes Lake Estate, about 15 minutes out of the city centre is where you’ll find Little Fish Café. Framed by Jacaranda and Magnolia trees this cute little cafe is run by a husband and wife team and is the perfect spot to spend a sunny afternoon sipping rose on the deck. The menu changes seasonally with cheese boards and smaller dishes to share, plus larger main style dishes for lunch. They are open seven days a week for morning tea and lunch as well as wine tasting sessions. Cheers!
The Ruins Way, Innes Lake Estate, Port Macquarie, 02 6581 1332
Latin Loafer is a boutique tapas bar and restaurant overlooking the Hastings River in the centre of town. It’s a great place to go for a drink after dinner. Or start your night early and slowly graze on a fusion of Latin American and Spanish food, wine and cocktails. Every Sunday afternoon from 3pm they have live acoustic music, that’s popular with the locals. Meanwhile, the wine list will send you around the world. Try a Carmenere from Chile, Tempranillo from Spain or a Torrontes from Argentina. My pick is the Spanish Espresso Martini made with Pedro Ximenez Sherry, vanilla cognac and espresso. It tastes a little bit like a spiked Christmas cake – delicious!
74 Clarence St, Port Macquarie, (02) 6583 9481
See a live show day or night at the Glasshouse, Port Macquarie’s hub for art and entertainment. It is one of the best theatres for acoustics in Australia and has an international standard gallery inside. The purpose built conference, events and arts venue offers a range of theatre, music, comedy and cultural events. As its name suggests, the Glasshouse boasts striking architecture, which maximises natural light in a range of spaces.
Corner Clarence and Hay St, Port Macquarie, 02 6581 8888
Ricardoes Tomatoes & Strawberries is located just ten minutes north of Port Macquarie. Two brothers Anthony and Richard Sarks grow plump, luscious tomatoes and strawberries in acres of hydroponic greenhouses. They’ve grown the business to offer ‘pick-your-own’ from the vine or head inside and buy tomato relishes and condiments from the produce centre, and enjoy fresh scones and home-made strawberry jam at Café Red.
221 Blackmans Point Road, Port Macquarie, 02 6585 0663
Weekly, monthly or annually, Greater Port Macquarie has an extensive range of markets for you to discover and explore. Whether you wish to uncover the freshest local produce or the eclectic art and craft of our locals, there is a market to suit everyone’s need. For a full list of markets in the Greater Port Macquarie region click here.
The biggest day on Port Macquarie’s culinary calendar is the Tastings on Hastings festival. Thousands of people fill the riverside town centre lined with over 100 local producers, wineries, boutique breweries, chefs, restaurants and cafes selling their goods. The event features six main precinct areas including the Farmers Markets, The Restaurant Precinct, The Main Stage, The Beer and Wine Precinct, The Cooking Demonstrations and The Makers Market, with local artists and artisans. This year’s festival was in November with celebrity chef Matt Moran hosting a number of demonstrations and dinners.
For more event information go to www.tastingsonhastings.com.au
Sails Resort Port Macquarie by Rydges has almost finished their 15 million dollar makeover and is already an iconic hotel in the region. Previously untouched since it was built in the early 80s this coastal beauty is emerging from an extensive refurbishment to reveal 83 guest rooms and suites overlooking the marina and several event spaces. My favourite part of Sails is the pool and cabana bar area. It is very tropical and relaxing, perfect for sun baking and cocktail sipping. They also have a heated spa, vintage bicycles, a private jetty and paddle boards. The waterfront restaurant and bar are still being worked on as is the tennis court but there are still plenty of reasons to stay at this resort style hotel.
20 Park Street, Port Macquarie, 02 6589 2888