For many thousands of years prior to European occupation of the region, the Birpai were the traditional owners of the lands and waterways of the Hastings. The traditional country of the Birpai is bounded by the watersheds of the Manning River to the south, the Macleay River to the north and the Apsley River to the west.
On October 1818 John Oxley, after following the Hastings River from the mountains came across what was to be later named Port Macquarie. He was impressed with what he saw and returned in May 1819 on the ship the Lady Nelson to make an extensive survey of the port and the river. He returned again in December 1820 in the company of Captain Francis Allman.
Port Macquarie was occupied, by Europeans in 1821, as a place of secondary punishment, to receive convicts who had transgressed the law a second time after transportation to the Colony.
Port's convict population peaked in 1825 but was then progressively run down until 1830 when the Hastings Valley was opened up to free settlement. A government establishment remained until 1847, housing 'specials' in a newly built gaol, forming a centre for public works in the district. Specials were educated convicts, ones that could read and write and do bookwork.
In 1830 the town was opened to 'free settlers' and in 1831 was re-surveyed on a new and regular 'grid' alignment which survives today.
In 1832 Port Macquarie's function as a place of secondary punishment ended and the last Commandant departed, however, it remained a convict depot for 'specials', lunatics, invalids and the infirm until 1847 when it closed as a convict depot and the military detachment was withdrawn.
Some of Port Macquarie's more prominent historical sites that the public can view are:
- Port Macquarie Museum
- Original Courthouse
- Royal Hotel
- Westpac Bank
- Historic Cemetry
- Wesleyan Chapel
- Haywood House
- St Thomas' Church
- Maritime Museum
- Roto House
- Tacking Point Lighthouse
- Lake Innes Ruins
- Douglas Vale Homestead and Vineyard
For further information please contact Council's Administration Officer on (02) 6581 8111 or email Administration Officer