Port Macquarie’s short history as a penal settlement lasted from 1821 to 1832. A small number of ‘specials’ were retained in the colony until 1847.
Surveyor-General John Oxley’s expedition of 1818 to find an inland sea eventually led him to a river he named the Hastings River. His subsequent report to Governor Lachlan Macquarie recommended the district as being suitable for a penal settlement. Macquarie ordered a further expedition to survey and explore the new lands around the Hastings River.
In 1819, the explorer-botanist Allan Cunningham reported favourably on the agricultural potential of the lower Hastings. Macquarie notified the Home Secretary of the expedition results and was subsequently instructed to establish a penal settlement in Port Macquarie in 1820.
Surveyor James Meehan originally laid out the settlement in 1821. By 1825, Port’s convict population had peaked and, to anticipate the arrival of free settlers in 1831, the town was re-surveyed on a new and regular alignment, which survives intact today.
Port Macquarie Convict Register 1821 – 1837
Convicts Transported to Port Macquarie under Colonial sentence 1825 to 1829: