How To Spend 48 Hours In Port Stephens
Just an hour north of Newcastle lies a town full of beaches, sunshine and dolphins. Port Stephens in New South Wales is full of outdoor adventure, but also quiet relaxation — it’s an ideal escape from reality.
On one side of town, you’ll find a lively harbour full of boats and shops. A 15-minute drive to the other side of town, and you’ll be standing in the middle of the largest sand dunes in the southern hemisphere. Port Stephens inhabits 4,200 hectares of Worimi Conservation Lands and 26 beaches!
It’s a geographical playground. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in it.
As you drive towards Port Stephens from Newcastle Airport, don’t be alarmed if you hear low flying fighter jets overhead. It’s just Australia’s operational Air Force base, RAAF Williamtown. Pop into Fighter World where you can have a hands-on experience behind the controls of a WWII fighter jet. No, you can’t fly it — rather, learn about Australia’s military aviation heritage. The exhibit is open from 10am-4pm daily and admission is $15 for adults.
Continue driving until you reach Tomaree National Park. Lace up your sneakers and follow the easy 2.2 kilometres round trail up the mountain for an early morning hike before the sun gets too strong. Once you’re at the top, you’ll find incredible 360-degree views of Port Stephens, teal blue water and offshore islands.
After your morning hike, refuel at Longboat Cafe in Fingal Bay and order the pesto eggs. The dish is made up of poached eggs served with polenta cake and avocado salsa. Yum. They also serve juicy burgers and big salads for lunch if that’s more your style.
With a full belly, hop in the car and drive 15-minutes toward Anna Bay, where you’ll stumble upon massive, white sand dunes. No, you’re not in the desert — you’re at the home of the largest sand dune formation in the southern hemisphere, the Stockton White Sand Dunes.
The area has a number of adventure tours on offer so don’t be surprised if you see a group of camels leisurely strolling across the dunes or a horse running along the shoreline.
Check out Oakfield Ranch camel tours (available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends for $30), or Sahara Trails for horse riding (prices depend on what kind of horse riding adventure you’re after) for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Serious adrenalin junkies can grab a sandboard with Port Stephens 4WD tours ($28), or jump behind the wheels of an ATV for an hour-long quad tour with Sand Dune Adventures ($110 per adult). Both are open seven days per week and it’s not every day you get to zoom through 30- 40-metre high sand dunes on the east coast of Australia so what’re you waiting for?
After an adventurous day, lodge at one of Port Stephens’ many resorts, hotels or camping grounds. If you’re looking for a glamping-style, luxury treehouse experience, check out Wanderers Retreat. Settle into bed and gear up for another day of exploring.
Wake up rested and pack a bag with a towel, togs and sunscreen. It’s going to be a big day on the water. But first, grab brekky at The Little Nel Cafe and dig into a heaping stack of pancakes topped with passionfruit curd. It’s tricky to find, but walk into The Nelson Resort and reception will guide you to the cafe.
Order your coffee to-go and take a stroll around the marina. Port Stephens is a great place for whale watching as Humpback whales migrate north from mid-May to September, then migrate south from September through to November. If you’re in the area during those months, be sure to hop on a whale watching cruise, like Moonshadow cruises or Imagine cruises, to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures. The common price for a three-hour cruise around the harbour is about $65.
If you’re not in town during those months, don’t be discouraged – Port Stephens has plenty more aquatic adventures on offer. Did you know the town is also known as ‘Australia’s Dolphin Capital’? It’s home to over 140 Bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins chill out in the harbour, so you can rent a boat for a day with Nelson Bay Boat Hire, if you want to see them at your own leisure (you don’t need a boat license and it’s $85 for two hours).
For a more up-close-and personal experience with these gentle creatures, Dolphin Swim Australia is New South Wales’ only permitted dolphin swim experience. It will set you back $329, but swimming with wild dolphins is definitely something to tick off the bucket list.
Cool off from a day in the sun by grabbing a feed at Rock Lobster Restaurant, just a five-minute walk from where the boats drop you off at the marina. It serves some out-of-this-world seafood. If you’re having trouble deciding what to order, go for the seafood basket. It won’t disappoint.
Port Stephens is a total gem full of wildlife, boating and beaches. It’s the perfect weekend getaway from Sydney or Newcastle that you can easily enjoy in 48 hours.
How To Get There
(Lead image: Port Stephens Tourism / Facebook)