Top 10 Things to do in Port Stephens, NSW
Port Stephens is an adventurers playground, a short 50-minute drive north from Newcastle along the hunter coastline. Known for its pristine beaches, water-based activities and laidback back feel, Port Stephens has something for just about everyone!
1. Climb a Mountain
At the entrance to Nelson Bay lies Tomaree Head and Yacaaba Head. Often referred to as Mount Tomaree, the headland is a giant 161 metres above the Port Stephens entrance, boasting 360-degree views of the bay, islands and surrounding beaches. It is a well-established track to the summit which features some steps and steep sections.
Looking east from the summit, you will be able to see all of the local islands including Cabbage Tree, Boondelbah, Broughton and Little island, as well as Fingal Island and Lighthouse. From the top, you may even be able to spot some of Port Stephen’s 150 resident bottlenose dolphins. To take a virtual tour of Tomaree Head Summit, click here.
2. Get Sandy
Located on the Worimi Conservation Lands, the Stockton Sand Dunes happen to be the largest moving coastal dunes in the southern hemisphere. Start your trip at Bruibi Beach, where the activities range from 4WD tours to sandboarding, quad biking, and even camel rides. Visit Tin City of which the establishment of the settlement is very contentious, ranging from a place where shipwreck survivors lived, to where homeless men lived during the depression. Either way, the 11 building “city” was constructed on Worimi land, and is a photographers paradise!
3. Dive into the Bay
The bay has some terrific snorkeling and scuba diving options all year round. The marine reserve at Fly Point has previously been rated as one of the best shore dive sites in Australia, with schooling fish, octopus, turtles, sponges, and underwater rock shelves Fly Point is teeming with marine life. Other popular places to snorkel and dive include Seahorse Gardens, Halifax Point, Pipeline and areas of Shoal Bay.
4. Ride along the Bay
Many areas of the bay are perfect for bike riding, particularly around Shoal Bay and Fingal Bay. These areas have well-established scenic cycle-routes, flat pavement and are surrounded by trees. There is also plenty of places to stop along the way for a quick swim, coffee or ice cream. Enjoy all that Port Stephens has to offer, on a bike!
5. Explore Nelson Head Heritage Lighthouse and Reserve
Without a doubt, one of the best views in Port Stephens has to be located at Nelson Head Heritage Lighthouse and Reserve. At 53m above sea level, in 1875 the site was chosen as the lighthouse site as it boasted some of the best water views inside the bay. The site now operates as a museum of local history and is home to Marine Rescue Port Stephens, which are a fully equipped Search and Rescue Co-ordination Centre (SARCC).
6. Paddle in Nelson Bay
In the calm and clear waters of Nelson Bay is an idyllic spot to paddle a kayak or stand up paddleboard. It is a relaxing and active way to enjoy the Port Stephens — Great Lakes Marine Park. The marine park features a diverse range of habitats, including beaches, seagrass beds, mangroves, saltmarsh and open waters, which all support distinct groups of plants and animals. As you enjoy paddling your way around the bay, you may even come across some of Port Stephens resident bottlenose dolphins!
7. Catch a Wave
Port Stephens is a fantastic spot to begin your surfing journey. In particular, One Mile Beach is a great spot for all surfing levels. The southern end is often sheltered and has a long rolling wave from the headland into the beach. For those wanting a bigger wave, the further north you travel along One Mile Beach the more exposed the swell becomes. If the waves are too big for your liking, Fingal Bay is a great spot to learn to surf in Port Stephens.
8. Taste the Local Seafood
Being surrounded by pristine waterways, it is no surprise Port Stephens has a large amount of quality seafood on offer. From local oysters to fish, prawns, lobsters and other shellfish, Port Stephens is known for its delectable seafood. Seafood is celebrated in Port Stephens each winter, with the Love Seafood Tastes Port Stephens Festival. This month-long festival celebrates the coastal seafood cuisine with a gala dinner, seafood specials, cooking demonstrations, and a weekend celebrating all things food, wine, and jazz.
9. Photograph the Amazing Views
There are plenty of choices when it comes to photogenic viewpoints surrounding Port Stephens. As one of the highest points in the area, Gan Gan Hill Lookout is a terrific spot to overlook the bay and surrounding waterside suburbs. The lookout itself is accessible to everyone and has scenic panoramic views of Hawks Nest to the north to Stockon Beach to the south.
10. Go on a Trip
Travel to Tea Gardens on a 1-hour scenic ferry ride from Nelson Bay. As you cross the blue waters of the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park, listen to informative commentary as you spot plenty of local marine life from dolphins to sea birds, fish, and even turtles. The trip takes you up the Myall River on route to Tea Gardens. Once you arrive, activities involve visiting the local art gallery, stopping in for lunch at many of the local cafes or restaurants, or paddling along the river on a kayak.