Where the rainforest meets the sea, you’ll find one of the most scenic walks in NSW. Taking in seven beaches, the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk is an outdoor experience not to miss if you find yourself in town.
Weaving its way along the coastline from Tacking Point Lighthouse to the Hastings River and the city centre, the 9km Port Macquarie Coastal Walk is a series of scenic lookouts, rocky headlands and lush seaside rainforest. Most of the walk see your toes in the sand and salty air in your mane. The rest is boardwalks, small bridges and staircases blended into the landscape.
Normally, there are three things to consider before you tackle a hike: How long will it take, can I bring snacks, and will my legs make it to the end without collapsing? If you’re tackling the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk, the easy answer to all three is yes.
Pack a picnic and towel for a swim break at every beach you pass along the way. Mix a little fitness and fun by turning the walk into a leisurely beach-hopping trip rather than a race to the finish. That’s seven swims and snack stops — sounds like a decent day out, right?[related_articles]57309[/related_articles]
Kicking off the walk at Tacking Point Lighthouse, you’ll be treated to southerly views along Lighthouse Beach, with the mountains surrounding Laurieton in the distance and pods of dolphins and playing in the waves below.
Built in 1879, the lighthouse is a popular photo spot for visitors and doesn’t disappoint with a striking blue-and-white colour scheme. From here, your first challenge is a sheltered rocky cove before the path ventures deep into the Sea Acres National Park.
This 76-hectare park forms about a quarter of the coastal walk and is where palms meet the Pacific. One of the prettiest places in the park is Miners Beach, about 30 minutes into the walk. Known as Port Macquarie’s only nudist beach, Miners is a hidden piece of paradise that dazzles with natural beauty.
Sure, you might see the odd bare butt, but don’t let that deter you from taking a dip in the beach’s clear, shallow bays.
Further north, at Shelly Beach, a local legend will command your attention. Once named the unofficial Mayor of Shelly Beach, Harry Thompson lived in a caravan by the beach from 1961 until his death in January of 2000.
Alongside his wife, Jean, Harry became the caretaker of this special spot, hand-carving the 254 steps up to what’s now known as Harry’s Lookout. Along the walk, you can visit a “thong tree” and carved artworks where his caravan and garden once were, before taking the path he walked everyday up the hill for one of the best views in Port Macquarie.
From Shelly Beach, it’s onto Nobby’s, which, is the perfect place to hang out with other people’s dogs. Afterwards, you’ll arrive at Flynns Beach, the most popular beach for families, before the path heads up and around to Oxley Beach.
Rugged rocky scenery and a winding staircase leading down the side of the cliff greets you at Oxley Beach. It’s a spectacular little pit stop.
A great place to finish the walk with a swim is at Town Beach. Typically calmer with a café and patrolled swimming area, it’s ideal for resting tired legs and taking a well-earned break.
After a dip, continue down along the breakwall, where pine trees and painted rocks line the entrance to the Hastings River, forming an artistic parade of creative attempts. As the waves roll into the river, you can see fishing boats returning from sea, dolphins and even stingrays jumping out of the water, welcoming you to the finish line.
To start the coastal walk at Tacking Point Lighthouse, take a taxi from the city centre (roughly $20) and leave your car in town so you can drive back to your accommodation when you’re done. Alternatively, take the #322 or #324 bus services to the Lighthouse Beach SLSC and walk up the stairs to commence the walk back into town.
(All images: Lisa Michele Burns)
Lisa Michele Burns is a travel and underwater photojournalist. She publishes a guide to the world's most photogenic locations and outdoor experiences at The Wandering Lens and regularly hosts photo tours in destinations like Iceland, Japan and a little closer to home in Australia.