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The Hastings River rises in the Great Dividing Range in the surrounding Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and Werrikimbe National Park and flows generally south, southeast and east, joined by seven tributaries including the Tobins, Forbes, Ellenborough, Pappinbarra and Thone rivers, before reaching its mouth at Port Macquarie.
The river descends 1,040 metres over its 180 kilometres course.
The upper course of the river flows adjacent to the settlements of Ellenborough, Long Flat, Beechwood, Wauchope but is its lower reaches that are best known indeed have been since the river was first charted by European explorers in 1818, after its discovery by John Oxley. His explorations also led to the establishment of Port Macquarie as a penal settlements in the 1820’s providing strong foundations for a major settlement from the 1840’s and free settlement.
The connection of the river as a port and to primary industry in its hinterland has also had the additional one element in the last hundred years or so of oyster farming. Today combined with a very strong tourism sector the place of the Hastings River remains central to the identity and future of the Port Macquarie Hastings region.