Hopes of finding two missing European tourists in waters off NSW are fading as police scale back their search for the pair three days after their personal items were found on a beach near Port Macquarie.
Hugo Palmer, 20, and Erwan Ferrieux, 21, haven't been seen since passers-by discovered their belongings at Shelly Beach on Monday morning.
Their rental car was found in a nearby car park with a number of other belongings - including travel documents - still inside.
One local claims to have seen towels and gear belonging to Mr Palmer and Mr Ferrieux on the sand late on Sunday afternoon, raising questions about when the pair arrived at the beach.
A ground and water search involving police divers, Marine Rescue, SES and others resumed on Wednesday morning but was scaled back in the afternoon.
A smaller search will resume on Thursday.
Police Inspector Peter Neville said a family member of one of the men had arrived in Australia and was being "realistic" about the chances of finding the pair alive.
"She's had a fair bit to absorb," Insp Neville told reporters at the scene.
"It's a very difficult conversation to have sometimes but we have been very honest with the friends and the family here and have told them what has occurred."
Two female friends of Mr Palmer and Mr Ferrieux had planned to travel from Sydney to meet the two men.
Instead, they arrived in Port Macquarie on Wednesday to watch as the search continued.
"They travelled here today not only to support the operation but also their friends," Insp Neville said.
Insp Neville said police did hold out some hope the men were alive.
"We have not completely discounted the chance that these men may have survived or something else has happened to them," he said.
Surf Life Saving NSW dispatched jet skis and inflatable rescue boats to search the rocky coastline and beaches closer to shore.
Mr Palmer, an Englishman, and Mr Ferrieux, a Frenchman, have been close friends for years, according to their Facebook pages.
They both appear to have attended Sackville School, south of London.
NSW Police have been communicating with both the British and French consulates.
Australian Associated Press