32 Best Things To Do In Port Stephens NSW 2023 Guide
Looking for the best things to do in Port Stephens near Sydney? This Sydney getaway is popular for a reason!
In my experience, Port Stephens has it all! Home to beautiful beaches, the famous Stockton sand dunes, one of the best places to see humpback whales in NSW, as well as the beautiful Salamander Bay and Shoal Bay. This list goes on! You’ll be coming back here time and time again as one of the best holiday destinations on the East Coast.
Here’s just a taster of what to expect in my Port Stephens activities guide:
Go swimming with dolphins in the only place in NSW
Explore the largest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere where Mad Max was filmed at the famous Tin City
Eat at legendary British chef Rick Stein’s restaurant
If you’re looking for a weekend away from Sydney look no further. Port Stephens is one of the best luxury escapes in NSW. You’ll find loads of activities in Port Stephens from dolphin watching to tobogganing at Toboggan Hill Park, incredible food and much more in this guide.
Table of Contents
Port Stephens Map
Did you know Port Stephens Harbour is more than twice the size of Sydney Harbour? The Port Stephens area is quite big and there’s loads of little places to discover.
If you want to know where to base yourself, I recommend either Nelson Bay or Shoal Bay. Personally I prefer Shoal Bay because when you first see it, the beauty will simply take your breath away!
Best Things To Do In Port Stephens
There are so many things to do in Port Stephens, so make the most of your Sydney getaway with some of our personal favourite activities.
1. Go sand boarding in Stockton Sand Dunes
Port Stephens sand dunes is one of the major Port Stephens attractions, because it’s the largest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. The Stockton Bight Sand Dunes in Worimi Conservation Lands Port Stephens stretches from Anna Bay, nearly all the way back to Newcastle in NSW.
Pre-book your sand boarding tour as it’s one of the most popular activities in Port Stephens. The good news is, it’s super affordable for families which is no surprise as being one of the most popular things to do in Port Stephens, located at Stockton sand dunes next to Birubi beach.
2. Go quad biking on the sand dunes in Port Stephens
Looking for more adventurous things to do in Port Stephens? Make sure you go on a Port Stephens sand dunes quad biking tour. This one hour guided tour will have you riding up and down the sand dunes whilst you learn more about the local Aboriginal history.
Pre-book your Sand Dunes Quad Biking tour as this one gets booked up fast to tour the famous Stockton sand dunes which might take you out to Tin City – a unique collection of housing used in the Mad max movies within the vast sand dunes.
3. Swim with sharks and stingrays in Port Stephens
Ever wanted to swim with sharks and rays? Here at the Irukandji Shark & Ray Centre in Port Stephens, you’ll find a unique and interactive aquarium which allows visitors to interact with ocean life in the water.
4. Go swimming with wild dolphins in the only place in NSW
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.
Did you know Port Stephens is the ONLY place in New South Wales where you can swim with wild dolphins? How cool is that?!
Make sure you jump on the one of a kind eco friendly tour with Dolphin Swim Australia. And if you don’t fancy going in the water, just stay on board for the dolphin watching cruise. We definitely recommend pre-booking this unique Swimming With Dolphins tour before you go to swim with wild dolphins!
5. Go on a whale watching cruise
Known as one of THE best places to go whale watching in New South Wales, put this on your best things to do in Port Stephens list. This whale watching cruise gives you the opportunity to get up close with humpback whales. If you’ve never been on a whale watching tour here, make sure you do – there is nothing quite like it.
6. Explore the sand dunes in a 4WD tour
Make the most of the largest dunes in the Southern Hemisphere and experience beach driving at its best along the Stockton Beach and Port Stephens dunes where you’ll be able to go and see the famous Tin City!
Unless you’ve been before, we recommend jumping on one of these two tours to explore the sand dunes.
Don’t Own a 4WD? No problem. In this 3.5hr 4WD tour, you’ll be able to sit back in a comfy 7 seater air-con 4WD whilst you’re driven around the sand dunes to some of the most secluded places in NSW. Expect to visit a number of hidden beaches and if you’re lucky, you might see some koalas and whales along the way!
Own a 4WD? In this tag along 4wd sand dune tour, you’ll follow your guide through various meadows within Tomaree National Park and explore the hidden beaches and areas of the famous sand dunes in Port Stephens.
7. Port Stephens camel ride
Port Stephens camel rides are really popular activity and it’s no wonder why. How many places around Australia can you ride a camel along sand dunes and the beach?
Oakfield Ranch offer camel rides for around 20 minutes along the sand dunes and a nice one hour sunset ride as well. You’ll think you could be in the desert on this fun family activity. Find out more about Camel Rides at Oakfield Ranch.
8. Horse riding in Port Stephens
If you’d love to go horse riding on the beach in Australia, here’s an opportunity to do it in Port Stephens! Sahara Trails will take you on a gorgeous adventure through bush trails and sand dunes. Find out more about Horse Riding with Sahara Trails.
9. Go on the Tomaree Mountain walk
You can’t visit the area and miss one of the best things to do in Port Stephens! The view of all views is located at the top of Tomaree Mountain National Park 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 Broughton Island out in the distance as well the Hawks Nest peninsula and Tea Gardens as well.
Being one of the best things to do in Port Stephens, Tomaree Head summit walk is actually quite easy although it looks like a complete monster to tackle.
I timed it 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.
The view up the top is breathtaking. You’ll be able to see the four beautiful beaches ahead of you all located in Tomaree National Park which I have to say are easily some of the best beaches in NSW: Zenith Beach, Wreck Beach, Box Beach and Fingal Beach.
10. Check Out Fighter World
30 minutes outside of Nelson Bay and a 20 minute drive from Newcastle will bring you to Fighter World, an aviation museum. Discover many incredible planes operated by the Royal Australian Air Force, in one of the largest Port Stephens indoor activities.
11. Go snorkelling to Outer Island
Love snorkelling? Book this snorkelling trip to Outer Island and learn all about the area while getting up close to rays, wobbegongs, corals, sponges and loads of fish!
12. Find the best beaches in Port Stephens
There are 26 beaches in the area to explore! Head over to the stunning Salamander Bay next to the Port Stephens Harbour or Shoal Bay for calm waters. Or head to Anna Bay to see the sun set over the water – a total novelty!
The first beach next to the Mount Tomaree in Tomaree National Park is Zenith beach which is easy to get to and it’s stunning with super soft sand. Just park at the Mount Tomaree car park and relax after your climb up to the Tomaree Mountain Summit! Wreck Beach and Box Beach next door are also a must visit!
The sandbar is known as Fingal Spit and it’s absolutely gorgeous! Because we arrived late in the afternoon, the light was so beautiful and completely romantic. Best of all, there was hardly anyone else around.
I wouldn’t recommend walking over the sandbar though as it’s not safe at all if you got caught with the tide. Just go to Fingal Bay to enjoy the beautiful beach!
One Mile Beach is a busy one because of the people staying at the holiday park next door and also Kingsley Beach as well which was stunning. Kingsley Beach feels a bit more off the beaten path and has a bit of a hidden beach vibe going on.
13. Hire your own boat in Nelson Bay
We loved hiring a little tinny from Nelson Bay Boat Hire – one of the best things to do in Port Stephens that we always recommend this to everyone we know coming here. You don’t need a boat licence and it comes with safety gear as well. I’ve done this on three separate occasions that I’ve been in the area and absolutely loved it.
Best of all, it’s really cheap to hire the boat. You don’t need a boat licence and it’s only$120 for two hours or $160 for three hours! I would say three 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.
14. Go scuba diving in Port Stephens
If you’ve ever wanted to try scuba diving or do a scuba diving course in Australia 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 looking to see a lot of marine life under the water.
15. Visit koalas in the wild or at the Koala Sanctuary
Tilligerry Habitat offers an opportunity to see koalas in the wild as well. This is an awesome little gem complete with boardwalks and a garden nursery. Plus it’s free to get into so make sure you go and keep an eye out to spot koalas in the wild in Port Stephens!
16. Go paddle boarding or kayaking in Port Stephens
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. Opt for a sunset kayak, day time kayak or a stand up paddle board (SUP) session which is one of the best things to do in Port Stephens. Just note that they are closed in winter and open up again from September onwards.
17. Hire a bike in Port Stephens
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 you’re in luck! Hire a bike from Nelson Bay Bike hire and enjoy cruising around while doing all of the best things to do in Port Stephens.
18. Have fun at the Toboggan Hill Park
Did you know there’s a Toboggan Hill Park right in the middle of Nelson Bay? This is a great would spot for kids birthday parties and families looking to enjoy one of the fun things to do in the Port Stephens area.
19. Play Mini Golf or Soccer Golf In Port Stephens
David Grahams Golf Complex might have the word Golf in its name but there’s much more to this complex than you think. Apart from the awesome mini golf course and a driving range, there’s also frisbee golf, soccer golf, laser clay shooting, laser tag and even a baseball batting range! David Grahams Golf Complex would make one of the best family activities in Port Stephens.
20. Feed the animals at Oakvale Wildlife Park
Oakvale Wildlife Park in Port Stephens is an awesome interactive experience with Australia animals. Get up close to koalas, snakes, meerkats, lemurs, and various Australian birds. There’s also a splash park at Oakvale Wildlife Park as well, so you could easily spend a whole day here with the family.
21. Go Karts Go Nelson Bay
Go Karts Go in Bobs Farm, is home to the biggest 4-stroke outdoor go kart track in Nelson Bay! This is a fab family day out as they have small go karts specifically for kids from 5+ years and upwards. If you’d prefer to be a passenger, you’re in luck as there are also twin seater go karts to choose from as well.
22. Gan Gan Lookout in Port Stephens
Check out the beautiful Gan Gan Lookout, one of the best things to do in Port Stephens. This is one of the best things to do in Port Stephens for when you first arrive. You’ll be able to get your bearings straight away as you’ll be able to see right across the bay.
Fear not, you can drive up to the lookout so you don’t need to worry about hiking up to the top. When you get to the carpark, it’s just 100 metres or so to the top. At the top of the lookout, you’ll find expansive views overlooking Nelson Bay on the one side, and out to the Stockton Sand Dunes on the other side.
There may well be many hidden gems to discover, but one of the best things to do in Port Stephens is to visit the amazing Champagne Spa in Boat Harbour. This hidden rock pool has crystal clear water and is screaming for influencers to come and take their best photos.
Wondering how to get to Champagne Spa in Port Stephens? Turn left at the whale watching platform on Blanch Street in Boat Harbour and climb down the rocks to find the Champagne Spa. I wouldn’t take young children down here but it’s a great place to explore, especially if you’re staying in the nearby One Mile Beach Holiday Park.
Warning: The Champagne Spa is located on a dangerous rock shelf. Unexpected large waves can cause serious injury, which can result in drowning. Be very careful if visiting this pool.
24. Tomaree Markets
If you love to check out the local markets in Port Stephens, head over to Tomaree Markets which takes place on Sundays at Neil Carrol Park, Fly Point in Nelson Bay. Make sure you check the Facebook page first to find out if they are on during the weekend you are visiting.
Where to Eat In Port Stephens
We’re going to share some of the best Port Stephens restaurants and cafes you need to know about.
25. The Little Nel in Nelson Bay
One of the best places to eat in Port Stephens is The Little Nel Cafe in Nelson Bay. They serve local produce that’s healthy and rivals any decent healthy cafe in Sydney.
26. Long Boat Cafe in Fingal Bay
Another fantastic healthy cafe in Port Stephens is the Long Boat Cafe in Fingal Bay. Here you’ll be able to order smoothies and beautiful salads. I ordered the fresh poke bowl and really enjoyed it. After you’ve finished eating, set up camp at Fingal Bay and enjoy this stunning beach for the day.
27. Innerlight Tea rooms
I had planned to take Stevo’s mum to the Inner Light Tearooms for Mother’s Day but unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side at the time. Just imagine having afternoon tea with some of the best views in Port Stephens? This is where it’s at!
28. Rick Stein at Bannisters
Looking for some beautiful Port Stephens restaurants? Let’s start with the famous British chef’s restaurant Rick Stein at Bannisters. Don’t get it confused with his Mollymook restaurant.
Rick Stein’s in Port Stephens is a beautiful restaurant at the stunning Bannisters Hotel. With a speciality in fresh local seafood, the food isn’t cheap, at around $40-$50 for a main meal. This makes a great restaurant for a special occasion.
29. The Anchorage
The beautiful hotel The Anchorage in Port Stephens have a couple of restaurants you can dine at. The Gallery Kitchen is open all day long and serves lunch options like a steak sandwich or a Caesar salad. For dinner expect a menu consisting of Pan roast chicken, and Confit of duck for example.
The other restaurant is called Wild Herring which recently won the best seafood restaurant in NSW.
30. Little Beach Boat House
Little Beach Boathouse in Nelson Bay would be the perfect lunch or dinner spot for a romantic weekend from Sydney.
31. Murray’s Brewery
We found Murray’s Brewing Company in Bobs Farm during a recent visit and just loved it! Located 20 minutes from Nelson Bay, this is a fantastic place to come for the afternoon with friends or family. Bring your dog and sit on the grass, or sit on the picnic benches next to the bar and watch live music. There’s seating inside and a shop as well.
The menu is all about the burgers. We ordered the wagyu burger each, and I have to say the burgers are absolutely amazing. I’m putting my stamp on it being one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten! I also ordered a pint of cider and it tasted just like it does back home. It’s a win all round.
32. Home Interior for breakfast / lunch
The Home Interior is a beautiful homewares shop and cafe, serving up classic Aussie food like avo toast. It’s easily one of the nicest cafes in Port Stephens and we’ve been there a couple of time and loved it!
There are loads of Port Stephens accommodation options to choose from. Here’s some of the best rated hotels on Booking.com you should consider.
Luxury:The Anchorage has it all! A stunning luxury accommodation option, complete with excellent restaurants and a beautiful pool.
Midrange:Bannisters is a bit of an institution as one of the best places to stay in the area. with an infinity pool over looking the stunningly beautiful Shoal Bay, beautiful rooms with bath tubs to relax in, and of course the famous Rick Steins restaurant to eat at.
Budget:Port Stephens Motel offers free wi-fi and an outdoor swimming pool, located just 1 minute from the Nelson Bay waterfront.
Best Family resort:Ramada Resort– With multiple indoor and outdoor pools, spas, gym facilities, and free parking, it’s situated within walking distance of the main attractions at Shoal Bay. Choose between various apartments for the family stay and decide whether to cook meals or eat out at one of the three on site restaurants
Places to visit nearby
Looking for more places to visit near Port Stephens and the Anna Bay area? We’ve visited loads of awesome gems nearby and have travel guides for you to check out. Here’s some of favourite Sydney escapes to visit.
Seal Rocks & The Myall Lakes
As one of the most beautiful places to visit in NSW, Seal Rocks and The Myall Lakes area of Pacific Palms is home to some of our favourite beaches in NSW. I know that’s a big call, but it’s there for a reason. Expect an amazing campground in Seal Rocks that will truly make you feel like you’re away from it all. You can read our guide on Reasons We love Seal Rocks to find out more.
We were lucky to live at Steve’s cousin’s place in Boomerang Beach for a couple of months and it honestly made us feel like we were living in such a gem of a place because it’s literally back to back full of beautiful beaches. This beach is next door to the little town of Blueys Beach which is super popular with surfers.
It’s about a 20 minute drive from the town of Forster which definitely has a 1980s vibe to it, but that doesn’t matter because all is forgotten when you get to Blueys Beach which is sublime. Check our guide for the 19 Best Things To Do In Blueys Beach for all the details. We just love Elizabeth Beach and the nudist beach called Shelly’s Beach is one of our favourites. I’ve heard there’s almost an invisible line in the sand there – one side for nudists, one for clothing optional.
Anyway, put Blueys Beach and Seal Rocks on your list to visit – trust me on this one!
I’m sure you’ve been to the Hunter Valley already, but we’re sharing our guides for how to do the Hunter Valley in an affordable way. Some of the restaurants are really expensive, but we did the leg work and visited some affordable restaurants which we’re letting you know about. So, check out our Best Things To Do In The Hunter Valley before you go.
As we mentioned above, we also lived in Newcastle for a while and visit there all the time to see Steve’s family. What surprises me is how underrated this city is.
Expect some cool bars and restaurants, vintage shops and stunning beaches that aren’t jammed packed full of people. Newcastle is definitely worth a weekend getaway for sure. You can check out our guide for The Best Things To Do In Newcastle and our guide for the Best Beaches In Newcastle too.
Find the best beaches near Sydney on the way up to Port Stephens
And while you’re looking for things to do in Port Stephens, did you know that drive between Sydney and Newcastle is home to some of the best beaches? Get yourself over to Munmorah State Conservation Area and a bit closer to Sydney is Bouddi National Park – expect rock pools, walk through caves and much more!
Honestly, go check out our guide for the Best Secluded Beaches in Sydney and you’ll thank us later for finding these beautiful beaches you’re going to love.
More Sydney guides to check out
Looking for more Sydney inspiration? With plenty to see and do, here’s some of our popular Sydney guides for you to check out: