Kempsey is a large and important rural centre which is a popular stopping point for people making the journey north along the Pacific Highway. Its location - approximately halfway between Sydney and the Queensland border and on a pleasant river - ensures that weary travellers use it for a necessary break.
Kempsey was named after Kempsey in the Severn Valley, Worcestershire, England. It was first settled by Europeans, as was common through most of the New South Wales north coast, by cedar cutters who moved into the area in the late 1820s.
The first recorded European settler was Captain A.C. Innes, who at the time was the commandant at Port Macquarie. He sent a cedar cutting party to the Macleay River in 1827.