Port Stephens—great for long stays and weekend getaways, with everything from fishing, diving, gourmet restaurants, boutique shopping, and whale and dolphin watching to keep you rested as well as exhilarated
Port Stephens, the dolphin capital of Australia, is just 2.5 hours north of Sydney. If you are coming from any other regions of Australia then your best bet is to take a short direct flight from Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Gold Coast to Newcastle airport, which is just 25 minutes from Port Stephens. It’s not a town in its own, but rather a region that is divided into different areas—Tomaree Peninsula, Tilligerry Peninsula and the Golden Bight.
Port Stephens is home to more than 150 dolphins in Australia, so much so that there are dolphin watch cruises which operate all year with Moonshadow Cruises and Tamboi Queen Cruises.
Anyone who is looking for a short break from their busy day to day life, Port Stephens can be at your rescue. There are plenty of things to do such as fishing, diving, swimming and water sports for the whole family to enjoy. Also it’s a great place for relaxation with 26 beautiful beaches crystal clear water, gourmet restaurants, boutique shopping, whale and dolphin watching, pristine nature reserves, well managed National parks and stunning scenery.
The most popular destinations in Port Stephens region:
Originally known as False Bay back in the 19th century, Fingal was sometimes mistaken for the entrance to Port Stephens. This bay is very popular for fishing off the beach. There are excellent opportunities for bushwalking, swimming, snorkeling, surfing, fishing and picnicking.
This beach is very popular with surfers and is quite protected by the headland in the southern corner. The other side to Fingal Bay is Tomaree National Park which conserves coastal bush land, sand dunes, heathland, forest areas and over 20 kmsof rocky coastline and beaches.
Nelson Bay is the main resort area of Port Stephens and is a great holiday destination to enjoy a wide range of water activities. Relax on beautiful stretches of beach, go diving or snorkeling or swim with the area’s friendly dolphins.
Visit the Inner Lighthouse located on the Nelson Head point. This lighthouse was built in 1872. Today there is a small museum at the lighthouse showcasing the history of the place and all that it has seen
Nelson Bay is located on the southern shores of Port Stephens as a large natural harbour. This area is home to about 5000 people living there mostly retires. Nelson Bay, the largest town of the Port Stephens area, Today Nelson Bay has everything the visitor could want as far as facilities and aquatic recreation goes. The diving and snorkeling here is exceptional. It has pretty little boutique stores, souvenir shops, café, restaurants, gourmet meals etc.
You can visit the Inner Lighthouse located on the Nelson Head point. This lighthouse was built in 1872. Today there is a small museum at the lighthouse showcasing the history of the place and all that it has seen. It also has a Tea Room and a gift shop. The view from the tea room is spectacular and is ideal to go for morning breakfast or afternoon tea.
Named after the numerous sand shoals around the area, Shoal Bay is a haven for activities such as bushwalking, fishing, boating and more. Explore the rocky coastline of Tomaree National Park and take in the area’s beauty by hiking the Tomaree Head Summit walk.
Shoal Bay has one of Australia’s best beaches. There is a holiday park and you can hire catamarans, paddleboats, surf skis, sailboards, canoes and water scooters on the beach (in season).
At the easternmost edge of Shoal Bay is Tomaree Head (168 m). Fort Tomaree was established on the head during World War II. There are many hiking tours to go to the Fort. The view from this fort is breathtaking. It’s the highest point.
Port Stephens activities
- 4WD Passenger Tours—Exclusive bush, beach, and sand dune tours.
- Blue Water Sailing—offer a range of unique sailing experiences including harbor sailing, lunch cruises, sunset sails and learn to sail charters.
- Fishing tours—starts from Port Stephens on the NSW mid north coast and along the Great Barrier Reef in far north Queensland.
- Dolphin Swim Australia—remains the only permitted wild dolphin swim in NSW, licensed by the Marine Park Authority to operate in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park.
- Whale Watching—With several fantastic vantage points, Port Stephens is a top destination to see humpbacks and southern right whales during their annual migration between May and October.
- Trekking Adventures—An outdoor recreation such as bushwalking tours.
- Beach fishing Safaris—Port Stephens Beach Fishing Safaris offer half day tours.
- Mountain Bike Adventures—What better way to explore the beautiful local surroundings than on a mountain bike exploring miles of beautiful beaches and national parks.
- Parasailing—Provides the most spectacular viewsof the marine wonderland below.
- Learn Surfing—You can learn to surf at Port Stephens surf school.
- Horse Riding—Experiences for people of all riding abilities, from the beginner to the most experienced rider.
- NatureFest—is an exciting program of nature based activities held throughout June. Celebrate the diverse wonder of the area through cruises, photography competitions, whale watching and much more.
Port Stephens has a wide range of accommodation from backpacker, motels, guesthouses, 4-star hotels to Luxury Apartments with water views. My personal preference is Shoal Bay Ramada Resort & Spa. It gets booked out fast so do remember to book in advance.
Food & Wine
With unlimited access to high quality, local produce and fresher-than-fresh seafood, Port Stephens enjoys a range of delicious cuisines. The area is filled with some fabulous restaurants, cafés, wineries and breweries. Enjoy an evening of fine dining or spend your time over brunch, or just have a cuppa at the local cafés.
Did you know?
The port was named by Captain Cook when he came here, honouring Sir Philip Stephens, who was Secretary to the Admiralty. Stephens was a personal friend of Cook and had recommended him for command of the voyage.