21 family-friendly things to do in Port Macquarie
1. Swim or surf at Town Beach
Town beach is the main beach in the heart of Port Maquarie, right at the end of the Hastings River. It is patrolled fom September to April. Behind the beach is an open grassed picnic area, skate park, payground and NRMA Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park.
2. Stoney Aqua Park
Jump, splash and blast your way through one of the world’s largest aqua parks. Stoney Aqua Park opened at Telegraph Point at the end of 2017 and features a floating ninja-style course to get the smallest ninja warriors in your campsite excited. Expect adrenaline-pumping fun for children aged six and above, with water slides, “blast bags” and “wobble pads”, trampolines and beams.
Once you’re tuckered out, recuperate in the chill-out zones while formulating your next plan of attack. The course is set on a clean man-made lake just 15 minutes from the hub of Port Macquarie. Make sure you allow plenty of time to try the other water sports available, including tube rides, waterskiing and wakeboarding. And don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch. The park is expected to be a huge hit with families in the warmer months with the cost of entry starting from $20 per person.
The park is suitable for a wide range of ages. For children aged between three and six, there is a splash zone with toys outside the aqua park’s perimeter. This age group must be accompanied by a parent at all times. Infants under three years of age are not permitted.
3. Billabong Zoo
Billabong Zoo is open daily from 9am to 5pm. The zoo’s entrance, shop, amenities, party room and cafe underwent a major renovation in 2017. Discover animals such as snow leopards, red pandas and koalas, along with meerkats, penguins and a monstrous five-metre crocodile called Shrek. There are animal shows that run on the hour all day and you can book an up-close encounter to meet and feed some of your favourites.
4. Bago Maze
A maze built from lilly pilly hedges inside a winery! There’s over 2,000m of pathways, bridges and hedges to entertain the kids while you enjoy wine and fresh produce from the Mid North Coast of NSW
5. 4WD on the beach
Get a beach driving permit and head onto car and dog-friendly stretches on designated beaches in the Nambucca, Kempsey and Port Macquarie-Hastings area. Check the tide times before you head out to avoid getting stuck on some of the narrower strips and remember to drive at 50km/h or 25km/h when within 100 metres of people.
6. Take a Camel ride on Lighthouse Beach
The kids will love the feel of riding atop a lumbering camel on Lighthouse Beach. Port Macquarie Camels will teach the kids all about the history of camels in Australia in a fun way. Camel rides are available Sunday-Friday on Lighthouse Beach – just turn up and enjoy the ride.
7. Pop into Glasshouse Regional Gallery for an art fix
They gallery has a new program or show every few months showcasing contemporary, indigenous, historical, traditional, design and sculptural artworks as well as a 588-seat theatre.
9. Eat a seafood feast at Whalebone Wharf
Port Macquarie’s iconic seafood restaurant Whalebone Wharf has been given a huge overhaul, with stunning new interiors, furnishings and a refreshed menu costing close to one million dollars. Established in 1971 with a fabulous riverside location, this restaurant is perfect for a long lunch where children can feed the fish while parents enjoy lobsters from the tank or a seafood platter. It sure beats another sausage on the barbie.
10. Sea Acres Rainforest Centre
Managed by NSW National Parks, Sea Acres Rainforest Centre is the second largest coastal rainforest reserve in the state and is a lush pocket of wilderness in middle of Port Macquarie. Join a guided tour of the 1.3-kilometre pram-friendly boardwalk that winds through the pretty forest or enjoy an Aboriginal bush tucker tour.
11. Enjoy protected beaches
Of Port Macquarie’s 17 beaches, Shelly Beach, Dunbogan’s Pilot Beach and a beach inlet at Lake Cathie are more protected and ideal for young children. Settlement Point is also great, with a river frontage, play area and barbecues.
12. Learn to surf
With some of the most beautiful beaches of the NSW coast, there’s no better place to learn to surf than Port Macquarie. Learn to surf lessons by father and son team, “the Huddos”, are held daily at beaches throughout Port Macquarie, with all equipment provided and free transport to the surf break. All ages are welcome, from beginners through to advanced.
Step behind the wheel of a go-kart and blast around the track for a real adrenaline rush. With an eight-metre wide circuit, Port Macquarie Kart Racing Club has one of New South Wales’ best tracks and is sure to be on your child’s wish list – daredevils or not. Drivers must wear closed-in footwear, as well as long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
14. Get an adrenaline rush on a jet-boat ride
PortJet offers one of New South Wales’ fastest, most luxurious jet-boat rides to Lighthouse Beach. They also offer a cruise along the Hastings River where you may be lucky enough to spot dolphins, or out to sea on an Ocean Beaches or Whale Watching ride (May-November).
16. The Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail
Take the kids on a treasure hunt along the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail. There are over 70 brightly painted, quirky koala sculptures scattered throughout the city, celebrating the region and the outstanding work of the Koala Hospital. The sculptures are designed by different artists and have names like Dame Koala (resembling Dame Edna Everage), Mack the Surf Lifesaver and Frankie Firefighter who pays homage to the incredible work of NSW’s Fire Services. The open-air artwork is free to view and a great way to teach little ones about conservation.
17. Burn off energy at Centre of Gravity
Centre of Gravity is an indoor climb centre that is the place to be. Fog machines, music and lasers light up the walls and create a high energy atmostphere. There’s an area upstairs for little climbers and more extreme climbs below. There’s also Darkzone laser skirmish and the Leap of Faith, a seven-metre-high jump to a swinging trapeze.
18. Spend a rainy day at the Port Macquarie Museum
The award-winning Port Macquarie Museum has 14 rooms of displays and artefacts, where the kids are suitably fascinated to learn the story of Port Macquarie’s past, from its Indigenous beginnings as the home of the Birpai people to its settlement as a British penal colony.
19. Spot dolphins
Spot dolphins on the Hastings and Camden Haven rivers or whale watch at sea on a whale watching boat.
20. Get flexi at Town Beach Yoga
Kick start your day with morning yoga hosted by The Yoga Shala, Port Macquarie’s premier yoga studio. The one-hour classes are held at 8am every day over summer on the reserve adjoining Town Beach. Encourage the kids to slow down with gentle stretches, breathing exercises and relaxation. Afterwards, take a moment to soak up the views before shouting your tiny tots açaí bowls for breakfast at Salty Crew Kiosk. A yoga session costs $15 for adults and $7 for children.
21. Go strawberry picking at Ricardoes Tomatoes & Strawberries
All these activities will have you working up quite a hunger, so head to Ricardoes Tomatoes & Strawberries to refuel. After you eat fluffy warm scones with homemade strawberry jam at Red Restaurant, collect your buckets to go strawberry picking.
21. Paint your own rock and become part of the break wall gallery
Take a stroll along the break wall from the Town Green to Town Beach to admire the modern-day rock art, tourists and locals have use bright paints to paint the rocks that make the break wall. Bring paints to leave your own work of art.
Port Macquarie is a four-hour drive north of Sydney.
This article originally appeared in Caravan & Camping with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
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