Port Macquarie is an idyllic seaside town that boasts many beautiful beaches, iconic lighthouses, and a robust local economy. All things told, Port Macquarie is in many ways the ideal community.
Along with being a bustling retirement community, our little slice of the world seems pretty great at first glance. But, there’s also a fascinating history—Port Macquarie was once a penal colony—and we have some world-renowned attractions that bring visitors from around the globe.
We decided to explore some of the more eccentric parts of Port Macquarie, from its history to the points of interest that make it in many ways part of the global framework. Did we miss anything? Leave a comment below!
1. Penal Colony History
Port Macquarie was founded in 1821 as a penal colony, in part because the prison population in Newcastle had stripped all the lumber in the area—one of the main sources of work for the men held captive at Newcastle.
Port Macquarie was an ideal location for a penal colony for many reasons. For one, it was still extremely isolated at the time, and allowed for easy ship access at the harbor.
Even more interesting—and perhaps this is the cruelest part of Port Macquarie’s history—was its legacy. The first commandant of the colony, Francis Allman, was known to be fond of flogging. Additionally, there were stringent rules against having letters and reading materials, most likely a measure to ensure what were called “irredeemable criminals” paid their due.
2. Country Star Hometown
Port Macquarie is the hometown of Aleyce Simmonds, one of Australia’s most prominent country music stars.
Simmonds began her musical career in the early 2000’s, with her first EP “Mighty, Mighty Love” released in 2005. This album, recorded in Nashville in the United States—the country music capital of the world—was met with wide-ranging critical success.
With over 24 releases to her name, Simmonds has become a staple of the Australian country music scene. She currently resides in Tamworth, writing new music during the day and touring over the weekend all over Australia.
3. Say Hello to Koalas!
People around the world identify Australia with the koala, for better or for worse. But last year, Port Macquarie became the stage for one of the largest events to celebrate Australia’s iconic fauna, the Hello Koalas Festival.
The purpose of the Hello Koalas Festival, which takes place in June, is to raise awareness of the koala, celebrate its place as an important part of Port Macquarie, and be a family-friendly event for all ages.
Events include a speaker series, tours of the local koala hospital and the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre, and more. People from all over Australia and the world travel here to learn more about the koala, an integral part of Port Macquarie’s culture.
4. A Peculiar Organ
One little known fact about Port Macquarie is that the organ in St. Thomas Church is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Built by convicts between 1824 and 1828, St. Thomas’ Church houses a massive, ornate pipe organ built by legendary organ company Walker.
Encased in a gothic-style wooden structure, the pipe produces a wide range of tones, from bottom-heavy bass to tinny, delicate high notes. Used for vocal accompaniment and for solo performances, this organ has made St. Thomas’ Anglican Church a great place to catch truly beautiful church music during your visit.
5. Beaches, Beaches, Beaches!
As is the case with most popular retirement communities, Port Macquarie is loaded with beaches. In total, visitors have 17 beaches to choose from, and with the town’s generally warm climate each location offers a special slice of a slower kind of life.
The beaches have played an important part in Port Macquarie’s history, helping it become an important stop on sailing roots, and a crucial export port. Nowadays, Port Macquarie’s beaches are an attraction for retirees, and people who want to capitalize on the town’s incredible natural seaside beauty.
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