The fast-growing town of PORT MACQUARIE, at the mouth of the Hastings River, has a beautiful natural setting. Long, sandy beaches extend far along the coast, while the hinterland is dotted with forests, mountains and pretty towns. The town was established in 1821 as a place of secondary punishment for convicts who continued their criminal ways after arrival in New South Wales, though by the late 1820s the penal settlement was closed and the area opened up to free settlers. An increasing number of independent travellers call into “Port”, but it remains primarily a family-focused resort. The activities on offer are really the thing here, with wildlife and nature parks, cruises on the Hastings River, horseriding and, above all, watersports all vying for your attention.