Heading Up The Coast
When we started our East Coast trip back in July 2016 our first stop was Port Macquarie. This stop, around 6 hours on the Greyhound from Sydney, is often missed by backpackers eager to get to Byron Bay. However, in our 3 days here we squeezed in a lot of what this small beach town has to offer and were sad to leave so soon.
Our 6 pm departure from Sydney saw us arriving in Port Macquarie at around midnight. Just a short walk from the bus station brought us to Ozzie Pozzie, the beach themed hostel we would be calling home for the next few nights. The reception was closed but a small envelope with our room key was in a prearranged hiding place for our arrival. Being the first and only people in the hostel room we quickly claimed the bottom bunks and went straight to sleep before a day of exploring this unknown town.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital
That morning we woke up early and headed to reception to introduce ourselves and see what there was to do in Port Macquarie. Luckily, there was plenty to keep us busy for the next three days so we quickly got ready and walked to the beach front. Although July is considered one of Australia’s coldest months and by no means peak season the 5 kilometres of beaches between the town centre and the popular lighthouse were still picturesque and inviting. After strolling along a few of the bays we decided to head inland to discover the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
This free sanctuary for rescued koalas is home to a range of furry tree huggers too injured to be released back into the wild as well as some in recovery who will be reunited with their koala friends. There are many cute koalas who are partially or completely blinded by Chlamydia which is a common disease that affects their eyes. As well as this, Koalas are commonly injured by bushfires and cars. Although this hospital helps save the lives of hundreds of koalas it also teaches of the damage humans are doing to koala populations which have massively depleted in the past few decades.
After meeting these real life teddy bears we headed back to the hostel to have a classic backpacker dinner of pasta and diced tomatoes. As the sun was setting we were told to head to the nearby forest where a huge colony of flying foxes would be starting their nightly migration. We walked amongst the trees when it was still light to see the branches filled with these impressive mammals before taking a seat in the graveyard on the edge of the forest making for an eery setting to watch this natural phenomenon.
As the light faded thousands of bats filled the skies, making it appear almost pitch black in places. After watching the last few bats make their evening journey we headed back to the hostel to see what the nightlife was like in this small, lesser known town. Unfortunately, the only people awake were a couple of guys playing chess so we retreated to our room for a chilled night.
The Bike Ride Gone Bad
The following morning we decided to make the most of the cheap bike hire in the hostel and go for a leisurely ride along the beach front. As we collected the bikes we realised this was going to be a bit harder than we initially thought. The bikes had no gears and the only way to slow down was to peddle backwards – I’m not the strongest rider at the best of times so was definitely not feeling too confident.
As we set off we also discovered that Port Macquarie is fairly hilly and I spent a lot of the time pushing my bike up hills and squealing as I sped down the other side. We arrived at the beach front with the expectation of an easy ride along the promenade. Instead, we had the option of riding on sand or along a thin, root covered path through the rainforest. We decided on the second path having been given strict instructions against riding on sand.
As we started we quickly realised that this bike ride was going to be more of a bike push. With the paths being single file and a steady stream of people walking in the opposite direction there wasn’t much opportunity to ride without having to stop to let pedestrians pass. After a solid 3 hours of riding uphills, pushing our bikes over sand, rocks, tree roots and up the stairs we eventually made it to the Port Macquarie Lighthouse, and the first stop since we set off where we could buy a drink. After putting on a brave face for some achievement photos we locked up the bikes and walked are shaky legs to the beach cafe for a burger and a drink.
Despite the treacherous journey to the lighthouse, it was definitely worth our efforts for the miles of beaches we got to see and the impressive lighthouse and panoramic views that came with it. I would recommend the bike hire if you’re staying at Ozzie Pozzie as it is so cheap and provides a unique way of getting around Port Macquarie, just stick to the roads!
Luckily, on the return journey, we learnt from our mistake and stayed on the roads, getting back in no more than half an hour!
A Sub-Tropical Adventure
For our final day in Port Macquarie, the rain made an appearance. This didn’t ruin our plans of seeing the sub-tropical rainforest but instead enhanced the experience. After another early start, we walked in the same direction we had cycled the day before until we reached the start of the Sea Acres Rainforest walk.
We paid a small entrance fee which allowed us to walk along a raised boardwalk and see the beautifully green canopy from a new perspective. With vines and palm trees at eye level and tree trunks reaching below us we really were in amongst the rainforest. Here the rain barely even touched us as the broad leaves acted as a natural shelter. After completing the walk and keeping an eye out for some interesting Aussie wildlife we headed in the direction of the hostel via the same paths we had previously walked our bikes through. This time we were able to truly appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounded us. The contrast between the blue sea, the white sand and the green rainforest definitely reminded me just how far away from home we really were.
On returning back to the hostel we found out that it was cheap pizza and goon night so we quickly signed up. Thanks to the promise of cheap food the social area of the hostel was a lot busier than the previous two nights and we got talking to some of the staff who work for accommodation.
By the end of the night, we were full up on pizza and had finished off a few litres of goon and half a bottle of rum while playing drinking games and getting progressively louder. We also learnt that our new drunk best friend would be the minibus driver taking us to the Greyhound pick-up point the next morning.