Port Macquarie was named by John Oxley after the governor of NSW, Lachlan Macquarie in 1818. The Hastings river was named after the governor general of India at around the same time. Although the area had been first noticed by Captain Cook on his voyage along the coast in 1770 and again later by Matthew Flinders in 1802, it was not explored in any detail until Oxley returned in 1819. Macquarie initiated Oxley's expedition as he was interested in the sites potential as a penal settlement.
The penal settlement would be established in 1821 under Captain Francis Allman who landed at the "town green" at the top of what is now Clarence Street. Captain Allman immediately began directing the 60 convicts sent to establish the settlement, to clear the area of trees and begin farming in order to become self-sufficient. Timber supplies further south near Newcastle where dwindling providing further impetus to the clearing.
Sugar Cane was first grown in Australia on the site by a prisoner from the West Indies and a sugar mill was established in 1824. The penal settlement endured into the early 1840's after the area was opened up to free settlers in 1830. After being hard hit by the depression in 1840 and the final relocation of the remaining convict labour in 1847, the settlement began declining. The town began to recover in the early 1860's upon the arrival of pastoralists and by the 1880's the town had a Catholic Church, a bank, a newspaper and local government was formed in 1887.
The North Coast Railway passed by Port Macquarie in 1910 changing the way goods were transported marking the end of the town's harbour traffic. Throughout the 1960's the town experienced rapid growth and its popularity as a holiday spot was beginning to manifest. Today the town has more than 40,000 residents and is a popular tourist destination and the old buildings that remain are a testament to the towns colourful history.