Port Macquarie, on the NSW’s North Coast, was once known as nirvana for the blue rinse set. It was a sunny haven of bowls, wrinkles and clubs. All that changed thanks to (I can’t believe I’m saying this) baby boomers. Many have seachanged to Port Macquarie, with their botox, flappy white sandals and fabulous hair. In so doing they’ve changed Port Macquarie, mostly for the better. Nowadays the milkbars have been replaced with trendy eateries called The Milkbar. Yes, gentrification has even come to Port.
The best thing about Port’s cafes, is that they are everywhere. So after a swim or a sweat-inducing 6km morning walk, it’s easy to pop in, sit outside and order a coffee and sourdough with saffron marmalade. The week before last I sampled around ten cafes in five days, and here are my best.
The Corner Café
My pick of the bunch. Located between Town Beach and Port Central, it is a sunny, relaxed place, with pleasant service. It offers indoor and outdoor seating and prices which are not stratospheric. Nice touches abound – including saffron marmalade.
The women who run this place have made the most of a boxy spot. With outdoor umbrellas and stools and indoor window seating, they’ve themed it up according to its origin – it used to be the ambulance service HQ. Cyclists love this spot for the outdoor vibe and good coffee and ambos still park outside and indulge in coffee and nostalgia.
The Bean Scene
Located on the outer edge of the main shopping drag, it’s in a spot where the shops are starting to get all a bit seconds warehouse. So, mostly locals flock here. There’s a small amount of indoor seating, but it’s fairly daggy inside. Outside is a large palm-sprigged paradise, which makes Port Macquarie look more rainforesty than it is. The coffee, food and service are all excellent, and doesn’t have a tourist surcharge.
Livs – down at the boaty wharf end of town, Livs is a bit of a foodie find. It’s been featured in some of the coastal foodie publications and is a relatively new kid on the block. It’s open all day, culminating in dinner, which is a little expensive. Coffee and cake is still on the ok side and the food is very good, though cakes are variable.
I’m not kidding, there really is a café called Milkbar. I don’t know for sure, but back in the day there would have probably been a milkbar close to the beach. Today this is oh-so-hip with muesli served in milk bottles and omelette served in a tiny griddle. Prices are not bad – especially when you consider you can have your fill overlooking the glorious Pacific.
The jury may be out on this. It used to be my top of the port picks, with beautiful food in a palm-fringed quiet courtyard. New owners have kept the menu, but with a different chef, and the décor is still lovely. However I thought my brekkie was ordinary, although huge. We will wait and see.
The Corner Co. Café
Again, this used to be a takeaway, then became a milkbar/café with sitdown dinners. Now it is just open during the day. The venue is great and there is a steady stream of locals and tourists and businesspeople from the courthouse nearby, but is just starting to get on the expensive side. I’m not a fan of their coffee either – a bit watery. But Zac, the cafe’s gentle giant labrador makes most things alright with the world.