Port Stephens is always amazing. I visited this place on a day trip and a weekend trip from Sydney and as an excellent detour during a Sydney to Brisbane road trip on Australia’s East Coast. And I’d be happy to go back again: it’s been great every single time.
There are a few reasons why Port Stephens is worth a visit, or actually a few visits.
1. Port Stephens offers amazing coastal views
The best view you can get is from the top of Mount Tomaree. It’s an uphill 1km-hike that usually take around 30 minutes one-way, depending on your level of fitness. The track is easy and well maintained, so if you’re a bit late for the sunset like we were and used to hiking uphill, you can tackle it in 15 minutes.
For those who don’t like walking, the Gan Gan Lookout is accessible by car and offers excellent views of the area too.
We also walked in the Boat Harbour area, up to Morna Point. The rock pools and cliffs were beautiful.
2. Dolphins and whales like to hang out in Port Stephens
Dolphins are in Port Stephens all year round. With more than one thousand dolphins in the bay, it’s known as the Dolphin Capital of Australia. If you’re lucky, you may even see them while snorkelling. I always saw them from the shore, but you can join a cruise to maximise your chances. Dolphin Swim Australia even offers to “swim” with the dolphins (or maybe being towed by the boat would be a better description), giving you the opportunity to feel like you’re part of the dolphin pod. Although it’s pricey, it sounds terrific.
Between May and October, whales stop to rest in Nelson Bay during their annual migration along Australia’s East Coast. You can see them from the shore or a boat.
3. There are excellent diving and snorkelling sites accessible from Port Stephens
Port Stephens is particularly reputed for having some of the best shore dives of Australia. Just a few metres away from the carpark, you can access a beautiful world full of small, intriguing creatures (nudibranchs, seahorses), wobbegong sharks… and giant sea slugs. That’s what amazed me the most during our shore dive: I had no idea sea slugs could get that big. Whether you’re diving or snorkelling, you’ll need to plan this carefully as it’s tidal dependent. There are dangerous currents in Port Stephens, so you want to do your shore dives or snorkel at high tide.
We also did a double dive on Broughton Island to see the Grey Nurse Sharks. We are used to seeing them on amazing local dive sites not far from Brisbane (Julian Rocks, Wolf Rock) and we had Fish Rock Cave planned a few days later during our trip. Not that I would ever complain about having so many opportunities to dive with these beautiful sharks, but it takes away the wow effect. Still, Broughton Island surprised us and was a wonderful dive. Not only did we see a lot of sharks, but the schools of fish around the sharks were stunning. It’s another one of those dives we’ll never forget.
If you cannot snorkel or dive for physical or budget reason, you’ll still be able to experience a memorable marine encounter in Port Stephens.
I haven’t tried it myself but heard good feedback about the Irukandji Shark and Ray Aquarium. On top of learning about these incredible species, you’ll get a change to get very close to them. Click here for more info and to book online*
4. You can have fun in the sand dunes
4WD, quad, sandboarding or camel ride… What do you feel like?
I’ve never tried these activities – trying just to sledge on the dune was an epic fail and I stopped there! – but if you’re keen for these kinds of adventures, you can book them online here*.
You can also simply walk around the dunes in Anna Bay. It’s very photogenic.
5. It’s reputed for seafood
Less than one hour away, the town of Karuah offers premium oysters. A local we met said they are the world’s best oysters. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to judge.
It’s also home to NSW’s Best Fish & Chips (Bubs). At least that’s what they say on the front of the shop and we were advised to try it out. It was closed when we reached Fly Point for our night dive, so that’s another local tip I cannot comment much about.
If all this isn’t enough, you can also bundle your visit with another beautiful drive or stop in nearby beautiful regions like the Hunter Valley, Myall Lakes National Park or Ku-Rin-Gai Chase National Park.
Have you visited Port Stephens? What did you do there? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is Port Stephens?
Port Stephens is very close to Newcastle, about 200 km north of Sydney. It takes 2.5 hours to drive up there. You can even make a detour via the Hunter Valley if you go there for a few days. I recommend spending one weekend in Port Stephens.
If you don’t want to drive or if you only have one day available, there are tours organised from Sydney that will take you up there (click here to view*).
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