Port Stephens is our “go-to” summer holiday spot. We have been visiting the area almost every year for the last 15 years or so. We first visited sometime back in the early 90’s then kept returning either on our own or with groups of friends or family members.
Having been back so many times, clearly we love coming here for so many reasons and there’s only so many hours in a day so here are our TOP 5 reasons to visit Port Stephens …
Only a 3 hour drive from Sydney
We don’t do a lot of ‘road trips’ as I don’t like sitting in the car for too long. I get restless and stir crazy and don’t like the constant “are we there yet?” questions. Good news is that Port Stephens is only 176kms or a 2.5 hour drive from Sydney. This means that it’s close enough that the drive isn’t unbearable but a far enough away that its towns are not completely overtaken by Sydney-siders looking for a beach break.
We often also stop at the half-way mark at the Caltex station on Pacific Highway, to stretch the legs or grab a snack at a couple of food outlets located on the same grounds. A pit stop here is a ritual on our drive to Port Stephens, like it is for a lot of other people driving north from Sydney.
The Port Stephens area is a beautiful peninsula of the Hunter region and is known for its wonderful beaches and beautiful sheltered bays. With it’s natural harbour and an area spanning approximately 134 square kilometres, Port Stephens is larger than Sydney harbour.
With 26 golden sandy beaches in the area, there is a beach for everybody. The many sheltered beaches and bays are perfect for families. Some of our favourite beaches are: Little beach, Shoal Bay beach, Dutchies beach and Fingal Bay, with the sand bar that disappears at high tide. But surfers don’t miss out. New & experienced surfers love Zenith beach, Box beach & One Mile beach.
We love to snorkel and will do it at every beach, especially when we’re in Port Stephens. Our favourite snorkelling spot in the area is Fly Point Marine Park. Make sure to go at high tide and take care of the rocky areas, particularly those with oyster shells.
With large protected marine parks and natural estuaries Port Stephens is the home to over 150 bottle nosed dolphins. These wild Pacific bottle nosed dolphins are a much loved resident of the area and makes it one of the most popular places in Australia for dolphin watching.
We will always remember the magical afternoon at Dutchies beach, when whilst playing around near the shore, we saw two dolphins gently swam past as all the people at the beach stopped to watch the graceful creatures.
Port Stephens is part of the traditional country of the Worimi Aboriginal people. Worimi people are spiritually connected to Dolphins or Guparr as they are called in the Gathang language. Traditionally elders would speak with dolphins about food resources and looking after each other. Some elders still speak with dolphins today. – Steve Brereton, Worimi Elder
Chilled out small town vibe
Over time, we have seen Port Stephens grow as resorts, serviced apartments, cafes & restaurants come into the area. Particularly Nelson Bay and it’s surrounding areas. And I must say it has done so gracefully. Although a part of me still long for the quiet sleepy coastal town, I do love the modern conveniences that has come along with it.
Perhaps it’s due to some careful consideration of the local government or perhaps it’s just simply how it happened, but despite the development of the area it still feels like a small beach town. It hasn’t changed from it’s relaxed atmosphere and casual friendliness of the people.
Lots of things to see & do
The warmer months of the year is our favourite time to visit, which in Australia is about 6-7 months of the year, but we also enjoy the area in the cooler months of May to August. All year round there is always something to see and do.
Apart from the beaches & dolphins, here are some of our favourite things to see and do, all year long:
- Stockton Beach Sand dunes – sand boarding, quad bike rides on the sand dunes & visit Tin City
- Hike to the top of Tomaree Heads
- Hikes & Walks all over the area
- Watch the Humpback and Southern right whales during their annual migration (from mid-May to early September
- Dine at The Point Restaurant
- Watch the sunrise and/or sunset
- Camel & Horse riding
- Explore the local wineries and breweries in the area
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For other Australian destinations to visit, why not read about