The largest urban centre in the rural Macleay Valley, Kempsey is a town divided by both the Pacific Highway and the Macleay River. The town is attracting businesses and tourists and is growing as a retirement centre. Kempsey is also the home of Australia's famous Akubra hats (the factory is not open to the public but hats can be purchased from local retailers).
One of Kempsey's main advantages is its proximity to the coastal resorts of South West Rocks, Crescent Head, Hat Head, Stuarts Point and Grassy Head, all of which offer unspoilt coastal scenery and clean uncrowded beaches. Scenic drives to the west of Kempsey reveal forest, mountains, grazing country and charming country pubs in small historic townships such as Willawarrin and Bellbrook.