Kempsey will soon be a by-pass town, and when that occurs the lifestyle qualities of Kempsey will improve dramatically. At present all Pacific Highway traffic passes through the main street. The traffic count is massive. Kempsey though is used to the ‘mayhem’ and adjusted. Kempsey is a major centre that is encounted when traveling north (or south) to Coffs Harbour and beyond. Kempsey is a two part town that makes for an interesting visit. There is down town (retail and commercial) and west town (services).
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. He was initially attracted by red cedar 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 red cedar prices in the early 1840s nearly led to the failure of the town.
Dairying was the major industry in the area until the 1960s, with a Nestle Milo factory at nearby Smithtown, and several cheese and butter factories. The area now subsists on a declining beef industry and tourism
A large industrial estate is located in South Kempsey and is the site of the Akubra hat factory. But again there is no reference within the town.