The launchpad for whale watching tours, sunset cruises and swim with dolphin adventures, Nelson Bay offers a close-to-nature experience with all the creature comforts. The largest town in the Port Stephens area, you’ll find easy access to cafés, restaurants and shopping, as well as sheltered beaches perfect for families with young children.
See dolphins, whales & marine life
More than 100 dolphins live in the pristine blue waters of the Port Stephens – Great Lakes Marine Park. Dolphin watching cruises depart all year from the busy marina in Nelson Bay. For a truly unique experience, during the warmer months, you can swim amongst wild dolphins with Dolphin Swim Australia.
Whale watching boat tours operate between May and November, when thousands of humpback and southern right whales migrate along the NSW North Coast. Just east of Nelson Bay, go snorkelling at Fly Point – Halifax Aquatic Reserve, and discover an underwater world teeming with sponge gardens, soft corals, sea turtles and a colourful array of fish.
Cycling & lookouts
Hire bikes and cycle the picturesque waterfront. The Bartlett cycleway is 5km one-way from pretty Bagnalls Beach to Little Beach, near the heritage-listed Nelson Head Lighthouse, built in 1872. In the lighthouse cottage, there is a delightful cafe with stunning coastal views. The Little Nel is another great local cafe.
You’ll discover more panoramic vistas at Gan Gan Hill lookout, where you can marvel at the natural beauty of the Port Stephens inlet, twice the size of Sydney Harbour. To the east is the magnificent Tomaree National Park and Fingal Bay. To the south are the giant Stockton Bight Sand Dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands, one of Australia’s great natural wonders.
Getting there & where to stay
Nelson Bay is a 2h 45min drive north from Sydney. You can also fly into Newcastle Airport, where there are bus services to Nelson Bay and other towns, or you can hire a car and make the one-hour drive northeast. Accommodation options in Nelson Bay range from holiday parks to luxury resorts.
Fly into Newcastle Airport
Newcastle Airport is 34km from Nelson Bay, the main town in Port Stephens. Choose from various transport options on arrival, including car rental, limousine and door-to-door shuttle bus, to make the short trip northeast to Port Stephens. Public buses are available to Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay.
Newcastle Airport offers direct flights to and from eight destinations throughout southeastern Australia. Jetstar flies to Brisbane, Melbourne and the Gold Coast; Virgin Australia flies to Melbourne; QantasLink flies to Brisbane; and Regional Express flies to Sydney. FlyPelican flies to Ballina/Byron, Canberra, Dubbo and Taree. Virgin Australia also operates seasonal direct flights to Auckland, New Zealand, between November and February.