A winter’s weekend in Port Macquarie
1pm: Knock off early and make the most of one of the country's most hospitable climates. Located on the New South Wales mid-north coast, Port Macquarie winters rarely dip into single digits. The fine weather calls for an afternoon stroll on one of the many pristine beaches that hug the region's coastline. With 17 to pick from, you're spoilt for choice, but Town, Flynns and Lighthouse Beach all get the locals' vote, the latter being the place to head if you want to avoid the crowds. Overlooked by the majestic Perpendicular Point lookout is Wash House Beach. Perfect for an afternoon of exploring, the beach boasts spectacular bird life (keep watch for soaring sea eagles) and collection of rock pools.
Albacore tuna sashimi at The Stunned Mullet
6pm: Pay a visit to Port Macquarie's quintessential dining hotspot The Stunned Mullet. Situated on Town Beach, with spectacular views of Point Plomer, the upscale eatery offers a concise, well-executed menu of imaginative modern Australian fare utilising only the freshest local produce. Kick things off with freshly-shucked oysters served with white miso and shiitake pearls, followed with the Glacier 51 toothfish or gnocchi teamed with puffed grains and asparagus - just a couple of the dishes making a name for themselves at this one-hatted coastal eatery.
9pm: Hankering for a little after-dinner buzz? Slip into seaside hotspot Zebu Bar to sample the signature eclectic cocktails. Tommy's Spiced Margarita will knock your socks off, while Cherry Ripe is a tipple that will satisfy your sweet tooth ten times over. The master mixologists aren't averse to whipping up a classic Old-Fashioned, either. Once drinks are served, pull up a stool, kick back and soak up that relaxed Port Macquarie charm with the live band and the rest of the vibrant weekend crowd.
11pm: Wander back to Mantra The Observatory when it's time to hit the hay. It's easy to see why this is the north coast's most-awarded hotel; the prime location and spectacular ocean view make it an ideal base for a luxurious weekend away.
6:30am: Forgo the smashed avocado sourdough in an inner city hipster hangout and start the day with a toasted coconut chia pudding from the team at Salty Crew Kiosk while taking in sunrise over the beach. It doesn't get much better.
11am: Explore a little further afield with lunch in the grounds of the 18th-century Innes Lake Estate at Little Fish Café. Dine on French head chef Steve Delandemare's signature dish: slow-cooked veal medallions, served with poached fig and a creamy red wine mushroom sauce. Teamed with Innes Lake cabernet sauvignon and never-ending views of the property, dotted with jacaranda, poinciana and magnolia trees, it'll be a meal to remember.
Dooragan National Park
2pm: Heading south, a 30-minute drive will bring you to Dooragan National Park for a dose of wholesome tranquility after lunch. Take the rainforest loop track for a relaxed walk to the North Brother summit (around 15-30 minutes) and watch on as hang gliders launch themselves from the mountaintop. With few surprisingly using this track, it's a serene way to enjoy your afternoon.
5pm: Guilt-free afternoon cocktails are a privilege of those on a weekend break, so why not enjoy? Sink into sunset with Negronis over ice at Bar Florian's and stay on for wood-fired pizze. The Calabrese pizza, dressed with Kalamata olives, Spanish onion and basil, is a highlight.
10pm: If you're in the mood to sample as much of the local area as possible in your short time away, consider a change of digs for your second night. Ana Mandara Luxury Bed & Breakfast is a boutique B&B offering a quiet haven to unwind. Built on a tranquil bend of the Hastings River, this adults-only guesthouse is ideal for those truly wanting to escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
8am: Sunday morning calls for a hearty feed and it doesn't get much heartier than Drury Lane Eatery. Loved by the locals, this go-to brunch spot is famous for its locally-sourced ingredients from Near River Produce and Bellingen smokehouse, as well as its melt-in-the-mouth house-baked bread.
12pm: The last activity before you head back should always be a memorable one. Experience the thrill of taking off in a Cessna 182 from Port Macquarie Seaplanes and see the region's spectacular coastline and waterways for one last time - from the air. Don't forget to look west to catch a magnificent view of the Great Dividing Range if you're up there on a clear day.
This article is presented by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council