Saturday, December 13, 2008

Port Macquarie

Back in Minnesota, my friend Paula recently inquired about Port Macquarie, the coastal town in Australia where I’m currently staying with my parents who relocated here from the inland farming community of Gunnedah in 2002. My younger brother and his family also live in the Port Macquarie area.

The opening two images of Port Macquarie are from the Internet but the following photographs are ones that I took earlier this week. They’re accompanied by some facts about the town that readers of The Wild Reed may find of interest.

First, some basics: Port Macquarie (pop. 60,000) is located approximately 390 km north of Sydney, and 570km south of Brisbane. The town is located at the mouth of the Hastings River, with the nearest railway town being Wauchope, about 19 kilometres to the west.

Above: Horton Street, part of the commercial centre of Port Macquarie.

The site of Port Macquarie was first visited by Europeans in 1818 when John Oxley reached the Pacific Ocean from the interior, after his journey to explore inland New South Wales. He named the location after the Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie.

Oxley noted that “the port abounds with fish, the sharks were larger and more numerous than I have ever before observed. The forest hills and rising grounds abounded with large kangaroos and the marshes afford shelter and support to innumerable wild fowl. Independent of the Hastings River, the area is generally well watered, there is a fine spring at the very entrance to the Port.”

Above: The Port Macquarie Cultural Centre. Still under construction, the centre has been nicknamed "the glass house" by locals.

Above: One of the oldest buildings in Port Macquarie, the former Court House built in 1869.

In 1821 Port Macquarie was founded as a penal settlement for convicts sentenced for crimes committed in New South Wales. Two years later the first sugar cane to be cultivated in Australia was planted at the settlement. The region was opened to free settlers in 1830 after it was decided to abandon Port Macquarie as a penal settlement. Because of its good pastoral land, timber resources and fisheries, the area was quickly settled. During the 1840s the “Wool Road” from the Northern Tablelands was constructed to enable wool and other produce to be shipped from the port.

Port Macquarie was declared a municipality in 1887, but the town never progressed as an actual port due to presence of a notorious coastal bar across the mouth of the river.

Above: A statue of Sir Edmund Barton (1849-1920), Australia's first prime minister and a founding justice of the High Court of Australia.

Port Macquarie's historic Royal Hotel is pictured in the background.

Above: Another view of Horton Street.

Above: St Thomas’ Anglican Church, a Georgian building designed by Lieutenant T. Owen and built by convicts under military supervision during 1824-1828.

The church is among the oldest in Australia and one of the few remaining convict built churches. Inside are red cedar box pews, distinct to that period in church architecture. The church’s Walker Pipe Organ is the only one of its type in the southern hemisphere, and I’ve been told that the views of the coastline, town and river from the church’s tower are spectacular. I hope to soon check these views out for myself!

St. Thomas’ is classified by the National Trust of Australia and is also registered on the National Estate.

Above: St. Agnes Catholic Church. Standing at the front of the church, one gets a sweeping view of the commercial centre of town (see below).

Above: The Alma Doepel, permanently docked at Lady Nelson Wharf on the Hastings River in Port Macquarie.

The Alma Doepel is the only surviving Australian built commercial square rigged sailing vessel, and is the most significant historic sailing ship still in service. For more information about the Alma Doepel, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About - November 2008
Advent: Renewing Our Connection to the Sacred (for some photos of the beaches of Port Macquarie)
The Empty Beach

For images of the beautiful terrain of and around Port Macquarie taken during my 2006 visit, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Solitary Ramble
Coastal Views
Bago Bluff
Rocky Beach
Pacific Skies
Flynns Beach
A Summer Afternoon
Ellenborough Falls
Billabong Koala Park
Last Days in Australia

Recommended Off-site Link:
Port Macquarie Visitor Centre


Paula Ruddy said...

Thanks, Michael. The view from the air is beautiful. So is the town. Didn't see a lot of people. But now I won't be thinking of you wandering lonely beaches all the time. Paula

Tc said...

Lucky. It's always Summer for you!