Port Stephens is the perfect weekend getaways from Sydney! It has something for everyone, especially if you have kids as you won’t be stuck for ideas.
If you’re looking for a weekend away from Sydney look no further. It also makes for a fantastic luxury escape in NSW.
You’ll find everything from dolphin watching to toboggan runs, spectacular beaches, incredible food and much more in this post.
How to get to Port Stephens
Driving to Port Stephens: If you’re driving it’s just a 3 hour drive north of Sydney.
Public Transport to Port Stephens: You’ll need to catch the train from Central Station in Sydney to Hamilton (2.5hr), then a bus from Hamilton to Shoal Bay Road in Nelson Bay (1.5hr) here.
Did you know Port Stephens is more than 2 times bigger than Sydney harbour?
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1. Go Dolphin and whale watching in Port Stephens
You’re pretty much guaranteed to see dolphins in the harbour, and every single time I’ve been to Port Stephens, I’ve seen some as there’s around 165 that live there permanently.
Or find a tour below!
2. Hire Your Own Boat in Nelson Bay
Hire a boat from Nelson Bay Boat Hire
The best way to see the dolphins is by hiring your own boat or in proper Aussie slang, a boat from Nelson Bay Boat Hire. I’ve done this on three separate occasions that I’ve been in the area and absolutely loved it.
How much is the boat hire in Nelson Bay?
Best of all, it’s really cheap to hire the boat. You don’t need a boat licence and it’s only $85 for 2 hours or $100 for 3 hours. I would say 3 hours is more than enough time to hire it out and it will take up to 6 people. Take some drinks, and some nibbles and you’re sorted.
If hiring your own boat isn’t your thing, there are plenty of boat cruises to choose from below.
3. Hiking up to Mount Tomaree
At the top of Mount Tomaree
The view of all views is located at the top of Mount Tomaree in Shoal Bay. When you drive around the corner from Nelson Bay into Shoal Bay, it’s like you’ve literally time travelled to Thailand. The water is completely flat and you’ll see the beautiful islands out in the distance. This place has serious holiday vibes written all over it.
To hike up to the top of the mountain is actually quite easy although it looks like a complete monster to tackle. As a hiker myself, I didn’t even wear hiking boots or activewear and just walked up in my skirt and sandals.
I timed the short hike as well on my Garmin 235 watch, and it took me 15 minutes as it’s around 1KM. It’s very easy to navigate and it’s a good path. I even saw small children walking up. It’s a steady path until you reach the stair cases. Obviously not advisable for the elderly or toddlers but should be OK for everyone else.
Here’s a video I made of our day hiking up to the mountain!
The view up the top is breathtaking. You’ll be able to see loads of beautiful beaches and you’ll feel like you’ve made it to an utter paradise of a place. It was a stunning day when I went up and all I could think was, “This is only 3 hours from Sydney??? Wow!”
4. Find the best beaches in Port Stephens
The first beach next to the Mount Tomaree is Zenith beach which is easy to get to and it’s stunning.
A few years ago on Zenith Beach
This time we went up to the mountain, I noticed a sandbar out in the distance so naturally I made a beeline for it. It’s located at Fingal Bay (a 4 minute drive from Mount Tomaree), over at Fingal Spit and wow, what a beach it is.
Because we arrived late in the afternoon, the light was absolutely beautiful and completely romantic. Best of all, there was hardly anyone else around.
This is what an Australian beach dream is made of!!
I wouldn’t recommend walking over the sandbar though as it’s not safe at all. Just go to Fingal Bay to enjoy the beautiful beach!
Fingal Bay, Port Stephens
There are so many beaches in the area, like 26 to explore, it’s crazy! I’ve also been to One Mile Beach which is a busy one for the holiday park next door and also Kingsley Beach as well which was stunning.
One thing I learnt about Port Stephens is; you can watch the sunset over the ocean! This is a complete novelty as you’ll never see it anywhere in NSW. When I was there last weekend, I pulled over and managed to get a quick shot of the sun setting over the water, it was magical!
Watch the sunset over the water in Port Stephens
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Scuba diving with Let’s Go Adventures
If you’ve ever wanted to try scuba diving or do a course then Let’s Go Adventures offers it all. Also, there’s so many shipwrecks just off the beaches so I can imagine it’s a total haven for the divers out there.
6. Go horse riding or on a camel ride
Horse riding with Sahara Trails
Ever wanted to ride a horse on the beach? Well Sahara Trails do exactly that, as well as bush trails and sand dune trails starting at a friendly $55pp.
Camel rides with Oakfield Ranch
Always thought riding a camel would never be possible in NSW? Think again. At Oakfield Ranch, they offer camel rides for around 20 minutes along the sand dunes and a nice 1 hour sunset ride as well. You’ll think you could be in the desert on this fun activity!
7. Have fun on the sand dunes
With the mention of sand dunes, yes that’s right – there are sand dunes in Port Stephens and they are the largest sand dunes on the coast in Australia!
8. See the Koalas
See the koalas with Tilligerry Habitat Association Inc
With the Tilligerry Habitat Association Inc, you can go on a guided tour to spot the koalas in the wild right in the middle of Port Stephens for just $16.50 per person!
9. Go paddle boarding
If you’re up for an adventure, there are loads of water sports to try out. Port Stephens Paddle Sports have a guided kayak tour and a new paddle board (SUP) tour as well.
At rates starting at just $30 for kids for 1.5 tour, you can go for a sunset kayak, day time kayak or a stand up paddle board (SUP) session. Just note that they are closed in winter and open up again from September onwards.
10. Hire a bike
Hire a bike from Nelson Bay Bike Hire
Did you know there’s over 50KM of cycleways in Port Stephens? If you’re like me and love the freedom cycling gives you, then from just $20 for 2 hours for an adults mountain bike, this is surely one of the best cheap activities in the area! Head over to Nelson Bay Bike Hire for more details.
11. Toboggan Hill Park
Fun for all at Toboggan Hill Park
Did you know there’s a Toboggan Hill Park right in the middle of Nelson Bay? Prices start from just $5 and it would be a great place for kids birthday parties. I found this video below you can check out.
12. Where To Eat
The Little Nel Cafe, Nelson Bay
Expect loads of holiday makers food in the area like fish & chips but the main cafe that stood out for me was The Little Nel Cafe in Nelson Bay. They serve local produce that’s healthy and rivals any decent healthy cafe in Sydney. See their breakfast and lunch menu.
I had planned to take Stevo’s mum to the Inner Light Tearooms for Mother’s Day this year but it unfortunately rained so we didn’t go in the end. Imagine having Afternoon Tea with some of the best views of Port Stephens? This is where it’s at!The Inner Light Tearooms, Nelson Bay
Another place I’ve found out about whilst researching for this post is the Little Beach Boathouse. Located again in Nelson Bay right on the water is a magical looking restaurant. This would be the perfect spot for lunch or a romantic dinner. Expect to pay $30+ for an evening meal here.
Little Beach Boathouse, Nelson Bay
13. Swim With Sharks and Stingrays
Swim with stingrays and sharks at Irukandji Shark and Ray Centre
Ever wanted to swim with sharks and rays? Here at the Irukandji Shark and Ray Centre, at Bob’s Farm in Port Stephens, you’ll find a unique and interactive aquarium that allows visitors to interact with ocean life in the water.
It’s really affordable too starting at just $19.50 for kids. This is another great activity for a family or for anyone interested in marine life.
Port Stephens accommodation
There are loads of options for Port Stephens accommodation. Here’s some of the best rated hotels in Port Stephens to choose from including a great option below if you’ve not joined up to airbnb yet.
Port Stephens budget accommodation
I’ve been up to Port Stephens a few times before for the day and once for a long weekend. That weekend I stayed over at the YHA Samurai Beach Bungalows with some friends which was a great, cheap option.
Expect to pay around $100 for a double room and $41 for a dormitory.
Port Stephens mid range accommodation
Ramada Resort by Wyndham Shoal Bay is a beautiful resort complete with a pool and a great stay for couples or families which is situated right on the beach.
A studio costs around $130, whilst a two bed room costs from $280
Port Stephens high end accommodation
If you’re looking to stay in one of the best hotels in Port Stephens, we recommend splashing out and staying at Mantra Aqua Resort. Complete with a heated pool, this is a great accommodation option for all year round which also offers up apartments with a kitchen so it will feel like a home away from home.
Mantra Aqua Resort costs around $280 for a one bedroom apartment.
Prefer to stay in an Airbnb?
More places to visit nearby
Check out more weekend inspiration away from Sydney below!
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Top things to do in Port Stephens
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- DSLR Camera: Canon 6D – for images and video stills
- Portrait Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
- Wide Angle Lens: Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L is USMLens,Black(EF16-35LIS) – amazing for EVERYTHING!
- GoPro: GoPro Hero 5 – for filming walking video clips
- GoPro Stabiliser: GoPro Karma Grip – provides smooth walking video clips
- iPhone: iPhone X – for images, video and social media
- Drone: DJI Mavic Pro (fly more combo) – for images and video
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