PORT Macquarie is not a destination at the top of most people's lists when it comes to travelling in Australia.
But it should be.
In fact you could, and maybe should, visit Port Macquarie for the food alone.
After spending a few days and nights in Port Macquarie last month my husband and I quickly discovered that there was a lot more to this coastal town than meets the eye.
Some of the restaurants are five-star quality, there are activities to suit the old, the young, singles and couples, and Port Macquarie's stretch of coastline is stunning.
Although we just missed out on the town's annual food fest, Tastings on Hastings where the region's best chefs, winemakers, farmers and producers come together for a three-week festival, we decided to still get our fix by visiting some of the businesses involved.
First stop, after we checked in at the Quality Inn HW Boutique which has arguably some of the best views in Port Macquarie, was Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries.
Ten minutes north of Port Macquarie, Ricardoes features just under one hectare of greenhouses producing hydroponically grown tomatoes and strawberries.
After our tour of the property, we taste-tested a few of the products including jams and relishes (my favourite being an old tomato and passionfruit jam recipe) then had lunch at Cafe Red where the main ingredient in each dish was the delicious tomatoes picked fresh that morning.
That night we visited a cosy L-shaped, and aptly named restaurant in the heart of Port Macquarie called The Corner.
The Corner has friendly staff, a warm atmosphere and amazing food.
Perhaps amazing doesn't even begin to describe the perfectly cooked steak I ate or the moist spatchcock my husband Pablo ordered.
The following morning we meandered into town.
The Glasshouse, a multi-million dollar hub for arts, conferences and entertainment in the centre of town is the cultural heart of Port Macquarie.
And it is one impressive piece of architecture that you just can't walk by without stopping in for a look.
Unfortunately there were no shows on during our visit. After spending a good hour or so in The Glasshouse we boarded the luxurious Port Venture for an Eco History Cruise along the Hastings River.
The fresh air and yummy morning tea treats welcomed us on board and the two-hour cruise past old and new oyster fishing grounds, fancy holiday homes and gorgeous coastline was a real treat in itself.
We had a bit of downtime before dinner on our second night in Port at Zebu Bar and Grill, a stunningly designed restaurant and night spot on the foreshore and part of the Rydges hotel.
Zebu is stylish. In fact it is probably the type of establishment you would expect to visit in the middle of Melbourne or Sydney, and everything from the decor (including local hardwoods, stone, marble and glass) to the staff, food and beverages are top quality.
On our third day we drove out to Lighthouse Beach where John Hardy runs his camel safari daily.
His friendly camels take visitors for half hour walks along the shore of Lighthouse Beach while John, a quirky, funny and typically Aussie guide educates riders about the camels.
Dinner on day three in Port Macquarie was at a quaint restaurant in the heart of town, Fusion 7 where the head chef and owner Lindsey served up some of the most unique dishes of the trip.
Port Macquarie I will see you again soon.
Tastings on Hastings
Tastings on Hastings will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year with an event from October 6-27.
For more information visit portmacquarieinfo.com.au.
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