7 Reasons to Visit Port Stephens
A holiday in Port Stephens is all about the sea and sand, tasting freshly caught seafood, wading in the clear waters and sand boarding down the spectacular Stockton Sand Dunes.
With golden beaches, a vast sparkling blue bay, and exciting water and shore-based activities, Port Stephens is an idyllic beach getaway and the dolphin capital of NSW. Here’s our guide to the ultimate holiday in Port Stephens.
Sit down to decadent dining
Port Stephens has a range of acclaimed waterfront restaurants, hip cafes and impressive wineries and breweries to visit. From succulent seafood to macadamias, avocados and grape vines that thrive in the rich soils, this region is renowned for its exceptional produce.
Enjoy a farm-to-table experience at Cookabarra Restaurant, sample the fresh fish and chips and take a tour of the famous barramundi farm. If you’re looking for a stunning seaside dining experience, Little Beach Boathouse offers beautifully cooked local produce in a magnificent beachside setting. The menu is fresh modern Australian cuisine and the coastal decor, combined with the spectacular ocean views make it a popular destination among visitors and locals.
On Soldiers Point Peninsula, visit the award-winning Rick Stein at Bannisters restaurant – it’s the perfect location for freshly caught seafood and great wine. The focus is on locally sourced produce and the restaurant serves up simple dishes, cooked to perfection and bursting with flavour.
The Galley Kitchen at
For a more low-key brunch, local favourite The Little Nel Cafe in Nelson Bay serves breakfast and lunch on a sun-drenched deck overlooking the bay. At Shoal Bay Country Club you can savour the water views with multiple bars and restaurants spread across the chic beachfront venue.
Try the local wine, craft beer & produce
Known for producing full-flavoured beers, Murray’s Craft Brewing Company pushes the boundaries for brewing, offering a range of quirky craft beers. Angry Man, Whale Ale, XPA and East Coast Lager are all good places to begin training your palate before unleashing the flavour tsunami found in next-level beers like Spartacus, Wild Thing, Heart of Darkness or Punk Monk.
Known as the food bowl of the peninsula, The Salt Ash and Bobs Farm neighbourhood offer working farms and vineyards, where food lovers can sample farm-gate fresh produce. Pack your picnic basket with local delicacies: avocados, figs, macadamias or olives, along with local prawns and oysters fresh from seafood shops at the Nelson Bay marina.
See dolphins & whales in the wild
With around 150-200 bottlenose dolphins inhabiting the waters of Nelson Bay, Port Stephens is known as the dolphin capital of NSW. For many, swimming with wild dolphins is a 'bucket list' experience and with Dolphin Swim Australia you can swim in the open ocean next to these amazing marine mammals.
Moonshadow TQC Cruises also offers options for cruising with the bay’s resident dolphins and whales. Watch in awe as you see these extraordinary animals put on a display of pectoral slaps and body rolls.
Alternatively, set sail aboard a 16m catamaran with Imagine Cruises. Spot whales as they migrate past the islands of the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and flocks of oceanic sea birds. Departing daily from Nelson Bay, Imagine Cruises also offer a 90min whale-watch express tour.
Have an animal encounter
There are plenty of other wildlife experiences, too, including camel riding on the Stockton Sand Dunes and Oakvale Wildlife Park where you can get up close to Australian native animals on 25 acres of natural bushland.
The park offers visitors the chance to bottle-feed baby farm animals and learn more about the wildlife, including koalas, kangaroos, wombats and emus. For unique interactions with marine life and a guided shark encounter tour, visit Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters. See koalas in their natural habitat at the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary – you can even stay the night in a glamping tent.
Surf incredible breaks
Port Stephens is renowned for its amazing surf breaks – the superb swell makes the conditions favourable for both experienced and novice surfers who love to lap up the waves at the pristine beaches and bays. Learn to surf with Port Stephens Surf School, the region’s premier surf experts, or if you’re a skilled surfer in search of that perfect wave, try the legendary breaks at One Mile, Zenith Beach, Fingal Bay Beach or Birubi Beach.
Explore ancient sand dunes
Port Stephens is home to the largest moving coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, the Stockton Sand Dunes and Worimi Conservation Lands. More than 40,000 years old, this spectacular landscape stretches 32km to Newcastle, an Instagram-worthy sight reminiscent of one gigantic sandpit nestled alongside the spectacular coastline. Towering as high as 40m, the steep sandy slopes cover 2,500 hectares and can be explored by foot, quad bike or 4WD.
Discover the endless dunes and experience the thrill of quad biking with Indigenous-owned tour company Sand Dune Adventures. Guests traverse the majestic landscape of the dunes on a 400cc quad bike and learn about the local Aboriginal culture and history. Port Stephens 4WD Tours operates 4WD eco-tours of the dunes, offering sand boarding thrills and adventure for the whole family. For those who prefer to enjoy the serenity as they explore the beautiful sandscape, there are more sedate ways to cross the sand. Saddle up a horse with Sahara Trails or try camel riding with Oakfield Ranch – it’s a fun way to see the extraordinary natural beauty of the vast sand dunes and desert-like landscape.
Hit the hiking trails
A heart-pumping hike to the summit of Tomaree Head is a must. As you hike the track, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of Port Stephens and its coastline. From the top, you can see Yacaaba Headland, Cabbage Tree, Broughton Islands, Fingal Island and Point Stephens Lighthouse, which was built in 1862.