New South Wales, Australia

Population: 8,137[1]
Postcode: 2440
Elevation: 1 m (3 ft)
Location: 450 km (280 mi) from Sydney
LGA: Kempsey Shire Council
State District: Oxley[2]
Federal Division: Lyne[3]
Mean Max Temp Mean Min Temp Annual Rainfall
25.0 °C
77 °F
12.1 °C
54 °F
1,211.7 mm
47.7 in

Kempsey is a town in the Mid North Coast region of New South Wales, Australia in Kempsey Shire Council. It is located 15 kilometres inland from the coast of the Pacific Ocean where the Pacific Highway and the North Coast railway line cross the Macleay River. It is roughly 450 kilometres north of Sydney.

Kempsey today

Despite a period of economic stagnation in past decades compared to nearby coastal centres of growth, Kempsey has a growing local economy based on tourism, farming and service industries. As a local centre it has many shops and services including three major supermarkets, a department store and fast food chain stores such as Subway. A large industrial estate is located in South Kempsey and is the site of the Akubra hat factory and former King Gee clothing company.

A Coles Supermarket development (which will be known as the Riverside Plaza) is currently being built in Kempsey and is situated where the Tattersals Hotel and various small businesses were in Little Belgrave Street. It will consist of a Coles supermarket, a Target Country (see Target (Australia)), 14 speciality stores, and a large cafe. This shopping centre will be opening in July or August.

Growing industries include wineries and nut production. Kempsey is a service centre for the coastal resorts of South West Rocks, Arakoon, Hat Head, and Crescent Head, which are popular places for retirement and holiday-makers alike.

Kempsey has a variety of schools both large and small, government and independent. The three high schools are Kempsey High School (government) located in West Kempsey largely servicing students living north of the Macleay, Melville High School (government) in South Kempsey servicing those south of the river and the beachside communities, and St Paul's College (Catholic). Lobby groups are currently campaigning for a high school to be built at South West Rocks, despite the demographic projections of an ageing population.

Government buildings such as the council chambers, library and several offices - are located west of the North Coast Railway line in West Kempsey. This area is not subject to the flooding that the CBD occasionally sees and is seen as a second business district with a variety of businesses and banking facilities.


The indigenous inhabitants of the Macleay Valley are the Dunghutti People.

Enoch William Rudder is credited with founding the settlement. He arrived from Birmingham in 1834 and bought land on the southern bank of the river in 1836, at what was then the limit of authorized settlement (the boundary of County Macquarie). He was initially attracted by redcedar cutting opportunities but planned also to profit by selling parts of his land. He had riverside blocks surveyed and established a private town, with the first blocks sold in November 1836. He called it Kempsey because the surrounding areas reminded him of the Kempsey Valley in Worcestershire. The collapse in redcedar prices in the early 1840s nearly led to the failure of the town.[4] [5]

The main (and most flood-prone) part of Kempsey was founded by John Verge, sub-dividing a grant on the flood-plain opposite Rudder's settlement. In 1854, a government town was surveyed at West Kempsey and government facilities moved there when it became clear that no town would form around the police station and courthouse at Belgrave Falls. Rudder's settlement was re-named East Kempsey.

Kempsey initially flourished as a centre for logging and sawmilling. Large reserves of Australian redcedar Toona australis, sold in Britain and the USA as 'Brazilian mahogany') were extracted down until the 1920s, and with greater difficulty until the 1960s, by which time the resource was effectively exhausted. Dairying was the major industry in the area until the 1960s, with a Nestlé Milo factory at nearby Smithtown, and several cheese and butter factories. The area now subsists on a declining beef industry and tourism.


Geographically, Kempsey stretches out around long loop of the Macleay River at the top of the flood-plain. It is famous for its floods. The 1949 flood was particularly destructive, having washed a large part of the town centre away when the railway viaduct which was acting as a dam-wall due a build-up of debris against the railway bridge gave way. The area most affected by this flood is now the site of playing fields. The shire council has a policy of buying up land in areas designated as flood plains and many houses have been transported to higher ground in recent years. Other major floods occurred in 1949, 1963 and 2001.

Famous People raised in Kempsey

Radio Stations

  • 2MC FM 106.7 (commercial)
  • Star FM 105.1 (commercial)
  • Easy Listening 531 AM (commercial)
  • ABC Mid North Coast 684 AM/92.3 FM
  • JJJ 91.5 FM/96.3 FM
  • Classic FM 97.9 FM/98.7 FM
  • Radio National 99.5 FM/97.1 FM
  • Racing Radio 101.5 FM
  • 2WET 103.1 FM (community)


External links

Coordinates: 31°04′55″S 152°50′06″E / -31.082, 152.835

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