Discover Port Macquarie’s Museums
When many people hear the word “museum”, they think of a bland building housing dust-worthy relics. That’s certainly not the case with the museums in Port Macquarie.
Our local museums and art galleries showcase a rich history of the area, from the traditional Birpai people and the establishment of the area as an early penal settlement in Australia, through to its present-day celebration of art and culture.
A trail of discovery in Port Macquarie
It’s no surprise that many of the museums in Port Macquarie display remnants of early European settlement. The Port Macquarie-Hastings area was first inhabited by the people of the Birpai nation, who had been settled in the area for many thousands of years. The Birpai people not only benefitted from the prime position along the river, they also had the advantage of being positioned on a coastline with multiple vantage points to observe outsiders.
This prime location was attractive to the first Europeans. John Oxley was the first European to survey the region in 1818-19 and named the area Port Macquarie after Governor Lachlan Macquarie. In 1821, Port Macquarie was established as an early penal settlement.
Many of the museums in Port Macquarie showcase evidence of the early penal settlement as well as links to the region’s maritime history. There are also many art galleries in Port Macquarie which also present local and regional exhibits.
The Top 6 Museums and Galleries in Port Macquarie
We’ve put together a central hub of museums and art galleries in Port Macquarie and surrounds to keep you busy around town!
1. Port Macquarie Museum
22 Clarence Street, Port Macquarie NSW 2444.
Phone 02 6583 1108.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9.30am-4.30pm, first Sunday of each month 11.00am-3.00pm (free).
The award-winning Port Macquarie Museum on Clarence Street is a great place to learn about the history of the area, particularly the local Aboriginal culture, and the early days of the town as a penal settlement established in 1821.
The museum itself, which consists of 14 rooms, is housed in a convict-built structure circa 1830-1836, classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW). You can view a range of long-term and temporary exhibitions showcasing the history of Port Macquarie from its Aboriginal heritage through to the present day. The museum is located right in the centre of town, and is easily accessible on foot or by car.
2. Port Macquarie Historic Courthouse
Cnr Hay Street and Clarence Street, Port Macquarie NSW 2444.
Phone 02 6584 1818.
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 10.00am-3.00pm, Friday and Saturday 10.00am-12.30pm.
Directly across the road from the Port Macquarie Museum is the Historic Courthouse Port Macquarie which was a working courthouse for 117 years, right up until 1986 when the modern Courthouse was built and operations transferred.
Architecturally designed by James Barnet, and originally built in 1869, the Historic Courthouse consists of three main rooms – the Courtroom, Solicitor’s Room and the Judge’s Chambers. Visitors can experience how the Courts operated during the late 1800s and 1900s with the rooms set up as they would have been during their early operating days. The Historic Courthouse is a Heritage Listed Building and is managed by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council.
3. Mid North Coast Maritime Museum
6 William Street, Port Macquarie NSW 2444.
Phone 02 6583 1866.
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 10.00am-4.00pm.
Offers three in one! The Mid North Coast Maritime Museum showcases Port Macquarie and the Hastings region’s maritime history across three sites around Port Macquarie.
The primary site located at the top of William Street, overlooks Flagstaff Hill and consists of two cottages built in 1896, known as the Pilot Cottage precinct. For those interested in maritime history, you can view to-scale models of a range of ships and maritime vessels, as well as many maps and charts used by the early sailors. There’s also a great collection of historical photographs.
This main site is also the location of the monthly Artist Markets at the Maritime Museum, which occur on the 4th Sunday of every month. So, you can go and visit the museum, then wander around the grounds sampling the local artists’ wares.
The Maritime Museum has another two sites in Port Macquarie. There’s the Pilot Boat Shed on the river’s edge at the end of Clarence Street, and The Hibbard Boat Yard and Slipway near the Hibbard Ferry off Hastings River Drive. If you’re a maritime enthusiast, then these additional sites are well-worth the visit.
4. Hastings Fine Art Gallery
2 William Street, Port Macquarie NSW 2444.
Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10.00am-4.00pm.
Adjacent to the Maritime Museum site and the monthly Artist Market, is Hastings Fine Art Gallery, in prime position overlooking Flagstaff Hill and Oxley Beach.
The Fine Art Gallery displays a collection of works from local artists and members of the Hastings Valley Fine Arts Association, and entry is free! Why not make a day of it – combine your visit to the Gallery with a tour of the Maritime Museum and wander around the monthly Artist Market – a great way to spend a Sunday in Port Macquarie.
5. Port Macquarie Regional Gallery at The Glasshouse
Cnr Clarence Street and Hay Street, Port Macquarie NSW 2444.
Phone 02 6581 8888.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 10.00am-5.00pm, Weekends and Public Holidays 10.00am-4.00pm.
Head back into town and just across the square from the Port Macquarie Museum is the Port Macquarie Regional Gallery at the Glasshouse.
Not only does the Glasshouse act as one of the town’s main performance venues, the international-standard gallery carries many long-term and touring art exhibits. You’ll also be able to view heritage displays and visit the Port Macquarie Tourism Information Centre to gather all the information you need about the places to visit in Port Macquarie and the Hastings area.
6. Roto House at the Koala Hospital
Roto Place, Port Macquarie NSW 2444.
Phone 02 6588 5555.
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 10.00am-4.30pm.
John Flynn, built the 11-room Roto House in 1891 to house his wife and six children. He was a local surveyor, and the weatherboard home was occupied by John Flynn’s descendants until 1979. Their Flynn family name also lives on through the naming of Flynns Beach, a popular beach spot for locals and tourists.
Roto House is a great example of colonial residences of the era, with an enveloping verandah and internal features including cast iron lamps, and many of the family’s belongings preserved, on display.
While you’re there, you can also visit the Koala Hospital and see the furry locals and the incredible work all of the volunteers do.
Historic sites, museums and galleries in the Greater Port Macquarie Hastings
If you’re keen to wander further afield, there are plenty of great places to visit around the Hastings region that celebrate the area’s rich history including Douglasvale Historic Homestead and Vineyard, Innes Ruins overlooking Lake Innes, Timbertown Heritage Theme Park in Wauchope, and the Camden Haven Historical Society in Laurieton to name a few.
Start your day at The Westport Club
If you’re planning a visit to the museums and galleries around Port Macquarie, why not make a day of it! Start the day with a delicious breakfast at Hastings Coffee Co. before you set out exploring the riverfront and visiting the many museums in Port Macquarie.
Just outside The Westport Club, overlooking the Hastings River, is the Fish and Ships bench, a functional art installation designed and constructed by members of the Maritime Museum in Port Macquarie. There’s a similar installation in Mrs York’s Garden, overlooking the Port Macquarie Breakwall down to Town Beach. Follow our map below for a suggested scenic walking trail touching on a number of the above-mentioned locations.