The Best Beaches in Port Macquarie, Australia

Lighthouse Beach is one of the top beaches near Port Macquarie
Lighthouse Beach is one of the top beaches near Port Macquarie | © Stephane Debove / Alamy Stock Photo
Tom Smith

Sitting a four-hour drive north of Sydney at the mouth of the Hastings River, Port Macquarie shimmers with some of Australia’s most pristine beaches. Whether you’re keen to swim, surf or spot the bottlenose dolphins frolicking off the coast, this sun-kissed corner of New South Wales’ East Coast is brimming with beautiful stretches of sand. Here are Culture Trip’s top five.

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For the most convenient, visit Town Beach

As the name suggests, Town Beach is walking distance from the middle of town — the natural first stop on any list of best beaches in Port Macquarie. This 600m (1,969ft) arc runs from the southern breakwall of the Hastings River mouth to the lofty Flagstaff Lookout, backed by a park populated by picnicking families, skateboarding teenagers and yoga enthusiasts taking free group classes every weekend morning. As well as supplying a popular canvas for graffiti art, the breakwall provides a great swell for surfers and bodyboarders. In fact, this laid-back country town claims the official title of Australia’s bodyboarding capital — an achievement enshrined in the marble boogie board statue at Town Beach’s northern end.

Approximately 7km (4mi) south of Port Macquarie lies a long, straight stretch of sand in the shadow of the historic lighthouse that gives this beach its name. The final stop on a rugged coastal walk winding through half a dozen other swim spots, Lighthouse Beach is a buffet of beachy activities. It’s a renowned kitesurfing haven and offers world-class swells for surfers, while camel safaris and four-wheel-drive tours conquer the sand, and dogs roam without leashes south of Watonga Rocks. And the heritage-listed Tacking Point Lighthouse built in 1879 is more than a slice of history — it also offers a peerless vantage point to see whales on their annual winter migration or dolphins playing off the coast.

For the best beach cafe, head down to Flynns Beach

A couple of kilometres (about a mile) south of Town Beach and just blocks from Port Macquarie’s much loved Koala Hospital lies 500m (16ft) of golden sand wedged between two craggy headlands that protect sunbathers from the wind. The sheltered waters of Flynns Beach are a favourite with rookie surfers, who refuel after lessons at the surf life saving club’s kiosk — the aptly named Sandbox cafe, serving breakfasts that are as great as the waterfront views. Around the southern headland sits the dog-friendly Nobby’s Beach, where Fido can have a splash in similarly serene waves.

For the best day trip, venture out to Grants Beach

The swell at Grants Beach is well and truly worth the half-hour drive south of Port Macquarie. The breakwall guarding the Camden Haven Inlet creates quality waves at this legendary surf beach, one of dozens of beaches within an hour of Port Macquarie. While the Camden Haven surf life saving club patrols Grants Beach, Pilot Beach on the other side of the inlet is friendlier for swimmers. Hikers should also tread through the gum trees, black cockatoos and winter wildflowers of the Grants Beach coastal walk to reach Rainbow Beach at Bonny Hills further north.

For the most peaceful, relax on Shelly Beach

Stroll south around Nobby Head to hit Shelly Beach, an even more tranquil chunk of coast — both on the sand and in the waves. Families flock to the gentle swimming conditions as well as the barbecue facilities and picnic tables, including handcrafted timber furniture dedicated to a local Port Macquarie legend. Harry Thompson lived at Shelly Beach in a caravan with his wife for decades, spending his days carving 254 steps into the cliff face to create a jaw-dropping lookout. The de facto mayor of Shelly Beach died of skin cancer in 2000 but is now memorialised in public art and those wooden creations on the sand.

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