Published by VisitNSW.com
214km – estimated travel time 3 hours
Pack your appetite for this unforgettable drive through NSW’s magnificent northern coastline. This foodie-focussed roadtrip takes you from the attractive hub of Port Macquarie through green-fringed farmland to laid-back South West Rocks to the brilliant beaches of Coffs Harbour. Feast on mouthwatering local seafood, pick berries straight from the vine, visit cellar doors, artisan producers, farmgates and discover an exciting mix of multicultural markets and Australian road trip icons. This road trip not only dishes up great food but offers a raft of outdoor activities, with the opportunity to explore stunning coastal walking tracks and make a splash on the water. Slow down, take a breath of fresh sea air, stop in picturesque towns and meet friendly locals on this coastal culinary adventure.
Launch your family foodie road trip adventure from the appealing beach town of Port Macquarie where the Hastings River meets the sea. A four-hour drive north of Sydney, with its colourful painted breakwall, panoramic Coastal Walk and whale watching experiences, Port Macquarie is perfectly placed for a beach escape. In recent years Port Macquarie has thrown off its sleepy retirement town mantle and evolved into a culinary coastal town with a new wave of sea changers, restaurateurs and organic farmers flocking to the region. Blessed with a mild maritime climate, abundant seafood and grape-growing terroir, there’s a slew of new restaurant, bar and café openings showcasing the region’s cuisine. Start your day like a local with breakfast by the water. If you’d like a sunrise view with your coffee, head to popular Salty Crew Kiosk at Town Beach. Other options are Drury Lane, where chef, Dru, creates an ever-changing menu; Little Shack, replete with funky Tiki style umbrellas or follow in-the-know locals to McInherney Park to sophisticated newcomer, Banks Café, with superb river views. After breakfast, Ricardoes Tomatoes & Strawberries, a 15-minute drive out of town, is an excellent family activity. Grab a bucket and have fun picking succulent greenhouse strawberries off the vine and afterwards you can purchase ice-cream to accompany your hand-picked bounty. Surrounding Port Macquarie, you’ll find picturesque wineries nestled in rolling farmland. At Bago Maze & Winery, get delightfully lost in the whimsical lilly pilly hedge maze followed by a decadent local wine and cheese tasting overlooking the vineyards edged by forest. Round out the day with a stop at Long Point Vineyard & Art Gallery. Explore the sculpture garden, admire the art collection or simply relax on the lovely wooden deck, their famous alcoholic ginger beer in hand.
Kempsey & Gladstone
It’s a cruisy drive up the coast to Kempsey on the Pacific Highway. Make sure you take the two-minute detour to Frederickton, which takes you to Fredo Pies & Café. This roadtrip institution, located in a jaunty wooden cottage with red doors, has been delighting families for over 25 years with its enormous range of fabulous pies. There are old favourites like chunky braised steak and onion but why not tempt your tastebuds with something new? Crocodile or kangaroo anyone? Afterwards palate cleanse with an ice-cream or milkshake. For a bigger bite head to The Garden Bar & Kitchen, also at Frederickton. Located on the banks of the tranquil Macleay River, this revamped venue is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with an emphasis on seafood. Take a seat at the inviting wide verandah and feast on fresh produce, while you unwind overlooking the river. It’s a short drive via Macleay Valley Way, following verdant countryside, to the ever-so-cute village of Gladstone. Set on the river, this charmer of a town would make a great movie set, with its lovingly-preserved timber heritage buildings now converted to boutiques, galleries and cafés. There is a plethora of places to relax and refuel. The Old Bank Gladstone, a recently renovated waterfront eatery, is as genteel as can be with its exquisite gardens dotted with statues and huge tea selection. Another popular spot is Steam & Cedar, which is part of a collection of artisan shops known as The Gladstone Hub. Steam & Cedar do scrumptious toasties in an outdoor garden setting and be sure to pick up a delectable Portuguese custard tart for the road.
South West Rocks/Nambucca Valley
Wend your way down South West Rocks Road, past swathes of farmland, before turning off to the relaxed holiday town of South West Rocks. This laid-back spot has a sheltered kid-friendly beach, a cluster of cafes and photogenic Trial Bay Gaol, which during WWI was used for internment of people of German descent. At Trial Bay Beach, kick off your shoes and settle in for a luxe pop-up picnic created by Fuller Food Company. Munch on a grazing platter of tasty bites (their green dip is legendary), lounging on cosy cushions while you savour the view. If you can tear yourself away from the serenity, it’s a 40-minute drive via the Macleay Valley Way through rolling hills to Eungai Creek Buffalo Farm & Café, at the pocket-sized hamlet of Tamban. Inspired by the fresh mozzarella on a trip to Italy, owners Ian and Kim Massingham set about producing ethically produced buffalo milk and meat products on the NSW North Coast including cheese, gelato and steak. Their café overlooks the working farm and features items such as buffalo burgers, arancini and thin-crust pizza with buffalo mozzarella. Afterwards try a creamy buffalo gelato, with lip-smacking flavours such as macadamia & lemon myrtle.
For a sweet interlude, cruise 40-minutes up the Pacific Highway, crossing the Nambucca River at Macksville, to arrive at The Honey Place at the friendly beach town of Urunga. See Australian native bees at work, taste their range of natural honey and chat with the beekeeper. Stock up on honeys flavoured with chilli or rosemary and pick up a refreshing Sparkling Honey and Ginger Soda. Before leaving town, feel the wind in your hair and soak up the views on the Urunga Boardwalk, a wheelchair accessible jetty that extends 1km out to the sea. Back in the car, more food and wine await at Raleigh Winery, a short 10-minute drive north on Giinagay Way. Raleigh Winery, by the beautiful Bellinger River, focusses on grapes suited to warm climates such as verdelho and chambourcin. Sample their award-winning wines then sit down to lunch on their all-weather deck overlooking the vines and river. Head Chef, Nicole Hatch, has created a tantalising share-plate menu specialising in locally-cured charcuterie and fresh local seafood. Save room for dessert: think Lemon Meringue Floral Tart and Peach & Passionfruit Cheesecake.
Time allowing, take a short detour inland along the verdant Waterfall Way to Bellingen, or Bello as the locals say, a graceful riverside town with a bohemian vibe.
Enjoy hip Japanese fusion and sake tasting paddles at Qudo Café & Sake, set in an atmospheric former Freemason building, or spice it up at Za’atar Middle Eastern Kitchen, for authentic Israeli style street food in the heart of bustling Bello.
Jump back in the car and head north to Coffs Harbour for the grand finale of your foodie adventure. As the region’s largest town, with a population of over 70,000, Coffs Harbour’s subtropical climate, bountiful seafood and multicultural mix has seen it develop a burgeoning food scene. Get a bird’s eye view of Coffs Harbour’s glittering coastline and hinterland at Forest Sky Pier at Sealy Lookout, then head to the Solitary Islands Aquarium to learn about the Coffs Coast’s intriguing sea life. Of course, no trip to Coffs Harbour is complete without a selfie in front of road trip icon, The Big Banana Fun Park, the largest theme park between Sydney and the Gold Coast. After a zip around the park, replenish with all things banana at the onsite café. Dusk is a lovely time to head to the Jetty Foreshore to promenade on the Coffs Harbour Marina Walkway towards Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, a bird spotter’s paradise. After working up an appetite, head back to the foreshore to the buzzing Coffs Harbour Jetty Precinct, a strip of trendy restaurants and bars. If you stay a few days, why not do a foodie tour with Bite Food Tours. They will take you to a growers market, speciality food stores (purple yam candy anyone?) and show you where to find the best coffee and gelato. If you time your visit for the first or fourth Saturday of the month, Woolgoola (or Woopi as the locals say) at the city’s northern beach suburb of Woolgoolga, celebrates its Punjabi heritage at the Bollywood Beach Markets. This flamboyant market of food, dancing and entertainment is a colourful end to your foodie adventure.