You can drive from Sydney to Port Macquarie in four hours but if you allow a full day there are lots of rewards in taking time to explore along the way.
The first area you pass through is the Central Coast… it’s a lovely, laidback part of the world. Perhaps ponder the question posed by Spike Milligan when he once visited his mother there – “Which Woy mean deep and which Woy means water?”
Newcastle is a place many people bypass but it is very interesting place. It’s a compact city with a country community feel as well as being on the coast. The Art Gallery is smart and contemporary and Fort Scratchley sits sombre and strong above the harbour and Nobby’s Beach.
Newcastle is Australia’s second oldest city and was founded as a penal colony in 1804 after coal was discovered the Hunter Valley. Apart from convict labour to mine Australia’s first export they were enlisted to cut a swimming hole in a rock platform for the ‘Commandant’s Baths’. In 1863 it was enlarged to become swimming baths with men and women having different designated days so no one had to avert their sinful eyes! It is still a nice, safe spot for a swim and these days is non-gender specific.
You then pass through the coastal region of Port Stephens with its blue, calm waters, sandy beaches and resident dolphins and you can hang a right to Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest. There’s something about Hawks Nest that gives a snapshot of the 1950’s. On the safe little beach you might see pushbikes against trees, frisbees being thrown and chased, dogs fetching balls, the Mums organising a picnic while the Dads wetting the line, people reading books under umbrellas and kids mucking about in boats. Ahhhh yes, I wondered why that Frisbee appeared to be getting bigger and bigger… and then it hit me!
Bulahdelah is a friendly country town and may be an Aboriginal word for ‘meeting of the waters’ – using the Milligan musing, surely ‘meeting of the deep waters’ would be Bulahdelah Bulahdelah, which sounds more like a war cry. This is an excellent base for bushwalkers wanting to explore the Myall Lakes or State forests.
Forster-Tuncurry, in the Great Lakes district, is one place but actually two separate towns joined at the hip by a bridge over Wallis Lake. There is excellent fishing here and the local oysters are famous).
Near Wauchope is Timbertown, a re-creation of a typical timber town in the 1880s… and before the kiddies can say “are we there yet?” you’re there!
Once a convict settlement, Port Macquarie is now the major holiday resort on the coast. There are excellent beaches, lakes, estuaries, restaurants, nightlife, golf, fishing, boating and coastal walks. You will need to book ahead in peak periods and for all your accommodation needs there’s Rydges Port Macquarie (city) and Sails Resort Port Macquarie by Rydges (marina).