Much of the land used to build the town's shopping centres and other structures in recent years was originally owned by the Roman Catholic Church who are in large part responsible for the town's growth and development.
Port Macquarie is a popular retirement location and popular tourist destination. It is known for its extensive beaches and waterways. The town is also known for its koala population, being the home the Billabong Koala Park, and the Koala Preservation Society's Koala Hospital, caring for koalas injured through bushfire, dog attacks and collisions with vehicles.
In recent times, real estate developments have led to clashes with residents, in particular the Rydges Hotel (formerly Four Points by Sheraton) built opposite the Town Green. The Post Office on the Town Green was demolished to make way for a new apartment block, a development that saw the controversial removal of several large fig trees and subsequent debate in the community about the value of public space.
The residential suburbs stretch to Lighthouse Beach in the south, Thrumster to the west and to the so-called "North Shore" on the north bank of the river. Settlement Point has a new canal development, being one of the most expensive real estate developments in the town. More recently, Sovereign Hills (Area 13) has begun development in the west. It will include new schools, shopping facilities and residential areas.