Port Stephens is the perfect holiday getaway! 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 or somewhere to spend a holiday away from Sydney, look no further.

You’ll find everything from dolphin watching to toboggan runs, spectacular beaches, incredible food and 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? 


Top things to do in Port Stephens

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Port Stephens 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 this backpackers with some friends which was a great, cheap option.

There is a lot of hotels to choose from in Port Stephens including the 5 Star beautiful Aqua Resort.

Booking an airbnb? Get $55 off your first booking right here!

Otherwise I’d suggest booking through the below to find a great deal!
Booking.com

 


1. Dolphin and whale watching

If you’re like me, and the thought of seeing dolphins in the water brings you a lot of happiness, then you’ve come to the right place.

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.


2. Hire Your Own Boat in Nelson Bay

Hire a tinnie from Nelson Bay Boat Hire

The best way to see the dolphins is by hiring your own boat or in proper Aussie slang, a tinnie 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. The Beaches

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

Related post: 10 best beaches in Newcastle within a 1 hour driveNEWCASTLE-BEACHES-NSW


5. Scuba Diving

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. Horse Riding or Camel Rides

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. Sand Dunes

Quad biking with Sand Dune Adventures

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! There are a few activities to be had here with Sand Dune Adventures such as quad biking or for the tamer crowd there’s sand dunes tours on a huge hummer.

Quad biking tours start from $65 for Children (7-13) and $110 for adults for 1hr and hummer tours start from $35 for kids and $55 per adult for 1.5 hour tour. Expect to do some sliding down on the dunes as well!

See below for some great tours to choose from!

 


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. Water Sports

Port Stephens Paddle Sports

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 aquriam 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.

Top things to do in Port Stephens

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So that’s my 13 top things to do in Port Stephens. Here’s to your next weekend away out of Sydney!

Is there anywhere I’ve missed off this list? Let me know in the comments below.

Check out more weekend inspiration away from Sydney below!

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13 Things to do in Port Stephens
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