Population 8139

Kempsey is an attractive town in the Macleay River Valley on the mid-north coast, with white sandy beaches and an unspoiled hinterland. It claims two quintessential Aussies as its own: singer Slim Dusty was born here in 1927 (while he died in 2003, he remains one of the country's best-loved country singers) and the Akubra hat has been made here since 1974.

Visitor Information

Val Melville Centre, South Kempsey Park, Lachlan St (Pacific Hwy), South Kempsey; (02) 6563 1555 or 1800 642 480

Nearby national parks

  • Werrikimbe National Park

    A wild and magnificent landscape of rainforests, pristine rivers, cascading waterfalls, rugged escarpment and deep gullies greets visitors to...more

  • Oxley Wild Rivers National Park

    Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, much of it World Heritage–listed, is a stunning environment of majestic gorges, deeply incised river...more

  • Crowdy Bay National Park

    Crowdy Bay National Park runs along the state’s mid-north coast, a ribbon of lowlands with rocky outcrops and sandy beaches just south...more

Nearby towns

  • Port Macquarie

    Port Macquarie, one of the oldest towns in the state, was established in 1821 as a self-sufficient penal settlement. Convicts chosen for...more

  • Macksville

    Macksville is a fishing and oyster-farming town on the banks of the Nambucca River. There is an abundance of water-based activities, with...more

  • Wauchope

    Wauchope (pronounced 'Waw-hope') is the centre of the local dairy and cattle industries, and the gateway to over 40 000 hectares of national...more

In Town

Wigay Aboriginal Cultural Park: Aboriginal cultural experience, including introduction to bush tucker, learning about the use of plants and throwing a boomerang; Sea St.

Cultural Centre: incorporates the Macleay River Historical Society Museum and visitor centre, a settlers cottage, displays on Akubra hats and Slim Dusty, and a working model of a timber mill; Pacific Hwy, South Kempsey.

Historical walks: carefully restored historic buildings include the courthouse, post office and West Kempsey Hotel; brochure from visitor centre.


Limeburners Creek Nature Reserve Showcases a beautiful coastline of heathlands, banksia and blackbutt forests. The rare rainforest of Big Hill is home to the threatened ground parrot. The beach is popular for swimming, surfing and fishing and there are camping areas with varying levels of facilities. 33 km SE.

South West Rocks Attractions include a pristine white beach, a maritime history display at the restored Boatmans Cottage and the opportunity to handfeed fish at the Everglades Aquarium. The area is excellent for watersports, diving, camping and boating. The nearby Trial Bay Gaol (1886) was a public works prison until 1903 and reopened to hold 'enemy aliens' in WW I. Smoky Cape has a lighthouse offering tours and accommodation and clear views up and down the coast. Fish Rock Cave, just off the cape, is well known for its excellent diving. 37 km NE.

Frederickton: 'Fredo' has beautiful views of river flats, and its award-winning pie shop boasts 148 varieties; 8 km NE.

Kundabung: tiny village with Australasian bullriding titles in Oct; 14 km S.

Gladstone: fishing, antiques and crafts; 15 km NE.

Crescent Head: this seaside holiday town has good surfing. There is an Aboriginal bora ring (ceremonial ground) just to the north. The Sky Show with kites, flying displays and fireworks is held each June and the Crescent Head Malibu Longboard Classic is in May (the largest longboard competition in Australia); 20 km SE.

Barnett's Rainbow Beach Oyster Barn: direct purchases and viewing of oyster processing; 31 km NE.

Hat Head National Park: magnificent dunes and unspoiled beaches, popular for birdwatching, snorkelling, swimming and walking. Korogoro Point is a fabulous spot for whale-watching May–July and Sept–Oct; 32 km E.

Bellbrook: classified by the National Trust as a significant example of a turn-of-the-century hamlet; 50 km NW.

Walks and self-guided drives: nature-reserve walks and historical and scenic drives; details from visitor centre.

Fishing spots near town

South-West Rocks 30 km

When it comes to popularity, there are two types of fishing destinations: those that are hot all the time and those that wax and wane depending on the season. South West Rocks is in the first category. For as long as I... Find out more

Eco-friendly activities around town

Sea Acres Nature Reserve 40 km

This cool coastal forest, 5 kilometres south of Port Macquarie, is great for a stop and a gentle stroll, with lush rainforest extending right down to the beach. There is a 1.5-kilometre wheelchair-accessible boardwalk,... Find out more

Bush-tucker tasting - Macksville 42 km

Sample some Australian bushfoods at Valley of the Mist near Macksville, a farm dedicated to sustainable methods. You will taste bush fruits, nuts, herbs and condiments and have a tour of the farm. You can also take a... Find out more

Golf courses around town

Bonville Golf Resort 82 km

Bonville is Australia’s most beautiful inland course. Carved from 250 hectares of flooded gums and blackbutt forest, with small pockets of subtropical rainforest, Bonville is often described as Australia’s... Find out more

Cafes & restaurants around town

Netherby River Cafe

Netherby River Cafe is a popular spot nestled beneath a towering tangle of trees on the banks of the Macleay River. Casual, tranquil and serving great food and coffee on their huge verandah, this is definitely the place... Find out more

Nearby breweries

The Little Brewing Company 42 km

Australia’s new breed of brewer can arrive at the craft by sometimes circuitous routes. For Warwick Little, that included 20 years as an ambulance officer, home brewing, a wine science course and a pair of... Find out more

Campsites around town

Hungry Gate camping area 20 km

Tucked in behind sand dunes and ringed with heath and woodland, Hungry Gate is an attractive camping area just a hop, skip and jump from the ocean. It’s 5 km south of Hat Head village – follow Hungry Rd off... Find out more

Racecourse camping area 23 km

This is an unpatrolled beach, so be vigilant when swimming. It’s 11 km south of Crescent Head via Point Plomer Rd, at Racecourse Headland. Bring drinking water.... Find out more

Delicate Beach camping area 24 km

This is a popular fishing spot, and a good place from which to head out for a spot of swimming, picnicking or wildlife-spotting. The beach isn’t patrolled, so take care in the ocean. The camping area is 12 km south... Find out more

Melaleuca camping area 26 km

There’s a short loop track through rainforest from the campground, which is on Point Plomer Rd about 12 km south of Crescent Head. It’s a spacious area with 100 sites; bring your own drinking water and... Find out more

Point Plomer camping area 29 km

This well-appointed, 100-site camping ground is 5 km south of Melaleuca camping area along Point Plomer Rd. There’s bore water here, but you’ll need to either treat or boil the water before drinking, or bring... Find out more

Smoky Cape camping area 30 km

To reach this small campground nestled in the rainforest at Smoky Cape, turn on to Arakoon Rd from South West Rocks Rd and head for Smoky Cape Lighthouse. Bring your own firewood and drinking water. There are plenty of... Find out more

Trial Bay Gaol camping area 32 km

This is a spectacular camping area on a sheltered surf beach, accessed via Cardwell St in South West Rocks. It’s well appointed, with coin-operated showers, powered and unpowered sites, electric BBQs, a kiosk and... Find out more

The Bluff camping area 34 km

Kick back in one of 6 shady sites at this camping site, 1.4 km north of Wild Bull camping area. Access is via Cobrabald Rd. Bring your drinking water and firewood.... Find out more

Wild Bull camping area 36 km

Throw a line in to see if you can snag a catfish, or cool off in a deep waterhole at Wild Bull camping area, 42 km north-west of Wauchope along Cobrabald Rd. You’ll have to park then carry your gear over bollards... Find out more

Brushy Mountain camping area 45 km

In the eastern section of the park, Brushy Mountain camping area is accessed via unsealed Cockerawombeeba Rd or Hastings Forest Way. The former is 4WD only; the latter only suitable for caravans and 2WD vehicles in dry... Find out more

Caravan parks around town

Crescent Head Holiday Park 19 km

This is a large beachside caravan park close to the town centre. Crescent Head is small, making it easy to walk to the shops, the bowling club or the golf club. Bookings are required in peak periods and a minimum-length... Find out more

Stoney Park 28 km

This is a newer, very tidy park built around a lakes where waterskiing is the main focus. Easily accessible from the highway and a great spot for a night or two, waterski enthusiasts in particular may well stay longer... Find out more

BIG4 Trial Bay Eco Tourist Park 31 km

This is a very pleasant park located close to the historic Trial Bay Gaol. The owner operators are keen to please and offer a range of quality facilities. Bookings are required in peak periods and a minimum-length stay... Find out more

Stuarts Point Holiday Park 32 km

This is a nicely located beachside park that is very popular during the holidays. It is a lovely quiet spot out of the peak periods. Bookings are required in peak periods and a minimum-length stay applies at Christmas... Find out more

Sundowner Breakwall Tourist Park 39 km

Only a few minutes walk from the centre of Port Macquarie, this is a large, quality park right on the waterfront. Bookings are required in peak periods and a minimum-length stay applies at Christmas and Easter.... Find out more

Nambucca River Tourist Park 43 km

About 6 km north of Macksville just off the Pacific Highway, this neat, family-owned park is adjacent to the Nambucca River. It is ideal for an overnight stop or a couple of days. Bookings are required in peak periods,... Find out more

Lighthouse Beach Holiday Village 46 km

This is a neat park on the southern beachside approach to Port Macquarie. It is ideal for a few days or longer and is good value. Bookings are required in peak periods and a minimum-length stay applies at Christmas.... Find out more

White Albatross Holiday Centre 51 km

This is a quality park in a prime position next to a lagoon and near the mouth of the Nambucca River. It boasts a very good restaurant as well as a range of other features. Bookings are required in peak periods and a... Find out more

Rainbow Beach Holiday Village 56 km

This well-maintained park, located in the main street, is just a few hundred metres from the beach and surf club, and ideal for a beachside holiday. It is a busy park during school holidays; bookings are required in peak... Find out more

Beachfront Caravan Park 62 km

This spacious and neat tourist park offers grassy areas with plenty of shade, adjacent to the beach. Bookings are required in peak periods and a minimum-length stay applies over Christmas and Easter. Pets are accepted... Find out more

Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town

Netherby House B&B

In the heart of Kempsey and resting on the banks of the Macleay River, Netherby House is a tranquil, casual retreat set on hectares of rambling grounds with views of the Great Dividing Range across the river. There are... Find out more

Grass Trees Escape

South West Rocks is the Macleay Valley’s largest coastal town, brimming with pristine beaches and tropical hinterland. Nestled on lush bushland overlooking Trial Bay, Grass Trees Escape offers two architecturally... Find out more

Eco-friendly places to stay around town

Lily Pily Country House, Bellingen 67 km

The owners of this stylish B&B have spent seven years revegetating and securing wildlife corridors along the riparian zone here, planting some 4000 trees and 2000 reeds, resulting in an increase in bandicoots,... Find out more

Rest areas around town

Bloodwood Ridge rest area 10 km

111km N of Taree (L)

Just off the highway. For northbound only.

Kundabung rest area 14 km

15km S of Kempsey (L)

Just off the highway. For southbound only.

Paddys rest area 30 km

39km N of Kempsey (L) or 45km S of Urunga (R)

Just off the highway among a few trees.

Macksville park area 42 km

At Macksville

Just off the highway on the north side of the river.

Motorway Park Area 43 km

73 km N of Taree (R) or 47 km S of Kempsey (L)

Highway Service Centre.

Gumma Reserve camping area 44 km

T/O at Macksville

Large campground located 7km (partly unsealed) east of the highway via Partridge St, Wills St and Gumma Rd.

Burrawan rest area 53 km

62km N of Taree (L)

Secluded area just off the highway. For northbound only.           

Ellenborough Reserve camping area 53 km

At Ellenborough

Among trees on a riverbank 1km north of the highway.

Stockyard Creek rest area 73 km

81km W of Wauchope (L) or 83km SE of Walcha (R)

Just off the highway surrounded by dense forest.

Tom Cat Creek rest area 78 km

33km N of Taree (L) or 87km S of Kempsey (R)

Just off the highway under shady trees.

Coopernook Forest camping area 81 km

T/O to Moorland South

Large grassed campground surrounded by forest located 4km west of the highway via Forest Rd (partly unsealed).

What's on around town

Markets: showground, 1st Sat each month; South West Rocks, 2nd Sat each month.

Gaol Break Swim: 2.7 km race along Trial Bay beach to South West Rocks; Easter.

Kempsey Cup: horserace; May.

Akubra Classic Motorcycle Championships: June.

Truck and Ute Show: Oct.

Kempsey Country Music Festival: Oct/Nov.

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