The Port Macquarie Coastal Walk
There are few walking trails on the Mid North Coast that are as accessible – and beautiful – as Port Macquarie’s Coastal Walk. Listed as one of the city’s must-do’s, the nine-kilometre path follows the spectacular coastline from Lighthouse Beach to Westport Park, encompassing deserted beaches, rainforest and bushland.
I’m tackling the Coastal Walk on a quiet weekday with my Mum, who’s in training for the Camino de Santiago (a five-week walking adventure that follows an ancient European pilgrimage route). The Coastal Walk is a partnership between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the local council, resulting in well-marked tracks, stairs and paths constructed across rocky headlands. The walk can be broken up into four sections that are each just over two kilometres apart, linking from beach to beach. There are a few hills to tackle, so a moderate level of fitness is required.
We decide to begin at the Lighthouse Beach end of the track, descending stairs onto a rocky cove before heading up the hill and into Sea Acres Rainforest – one of the few preserved forests of its kind on the coast. It’s a steep start to the track and we’re soon puffing as we reach the top and round the bend, hit by an incredible view of turquoise ocean and rugged rocks. The path descends again to Miners Beach, where we encounter a view we hadn’t bargained on – nude sunbathers lounging on the sand. As Port Macquarie’s only nudist beach, Miners is an obvious choice because it can be accessed only on foot.
Salty Crew Kiosk at Town Beach where we concluded our walk. Image courtesy of Greater Port Macquarie Tourism
Surprises aside, the beach is pristine; bordered entirely by rainforest with crystal-clear rock pools just begging to be explored. The several hikers who pass us don’t even look sideways at the nudists, who likewise seem unbothered by the foot traffic on their beach.
After Miners, the track winds over the headland to Shelly Beach – a favourite with local families. We take a break to check out the statue of local legend Harry Thompson, who lived in a caravan on the reserve beside the beach for 25 years as its unofficial caretaker.
Walking to the end of the beach, we find a group of kookaburras sitting together on a piece of driftwood and concur that, despite its proximity to the heart of Port Macquarie, this place feels a world away.
The walk continues through a series of beaches and headlands, with plenty of challenging ascents followed by easy flat sections. We continue north over the headland to Flynns Beach, where we’re tempted to take a break by the smell of coffee wafting from the kiosk (which also does tasty burgers for those wanting lunch).
Forcing ourselves onward and upward, we trek over a short section of road before, thankfully, heading back into the bush. Each time we emerge from the scrub, we are hit by an ever-more incredible view, and our conversation revolves around how lucky we are to call this section of coastline home.
Coming to a pandanus-lined cove near Rocky Beach, I make a mental note to bring the kids to this unnamed beach on a flat day for a snorkel.
Just one of the gorgeous spots along the Coastal Walk. Image courtesy of Greater Port Macquarie Tourism
We walk over Windmill Hill to Nobbys Beach, where a sign tells us about the geological rarity of the stunning rock formations that characterise the Port Macquarie coastline. A headland path then takes us to Oxley Beach, toward an optional detour up Flagstaff Hill – which is well-worth it for its panoramic views and the possibility of a dolphin sighting.
Rounding the corner, we find ourselves back in civilization at the busy Town Beach, where our second car is parked and sit down for a much-needed chai and treat at the Salty Crew Kiosk – a fitting end to a beautiful morning.
The walk is one-way, so you’ll need two cars. Alternatively, catch a cab back to your car for around $20.
To complete the full nine-kilometre walk, begin or end at the Westport Park. The section from the park to Town Beach takes you along the river, past the Marina, through the Town Green and along the famous painted breakwall.
If the weather’s warm, pack your swimmers! Flynns Beach and Town Beach are both patrolled and are great for swimming.
A digital map of the walk can be downloaded at www.discoverportmacquarie.com.au or grab a printed copy from the Concierge Desk at Port Central Shopping Centre