Port Macquarie was founded as a convict settlement in 1821, and is the third-oldest settlement in Australia. Set at the mouth of the Hastings River, the town was chosen for its isolation to serve as an open jail for prisoners convicted of second offenses in New South Wales. By the 1830s the pace of settlement was so brisk that the town was no longer isolated, and its usefulness as a jail had ended. Today's Port Macquarie has few reminders of its convict past, and is flourishing as a vacation area. With its pristine rivers and lakes and 13 regional beaches, including beautiful Town Beach and Shelley Beach, which both have sheltered swimming, it's a great place to get into water sports, catch a fish for dinner, and watch migrating humpback whales in season, usually May to July and September to November.
Port Macquarie at a Glance
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- $1373* & up -- Fly to Australia from the West Coast, R/T Air New Zealand
- $1999 & up -- Australia 5-Night Escape w/Barrier Reef Trip Down Under Answers
- $2699 -- Australia & Asia: 2-Week Cruises w/Air, Save $1000 CruCon Cruise Outlet
- Amazing Australia IExplore
- $1999 & up -- Australia 5-Night Escape w/Barrier Reef Trip — $1,999 Air New Zealand Vacations