Nelson Bay

The largest town in the Port Stephens area, Nelson Bay is an exciting hub and a great place to base yourself to explore the delights of the region. You’ll find plenty of fun things to do, from dolphin watching to sunset cruises and the sheltered beaches are ideal for families with young children.

Things to do

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 Nelson Bay marina. Between September and May you can swim with wild dolphins with Dolphin Swim Australia.

A couple relax on boat washboard before snorkelling in Nelson Bay, Port Stephens

Whale-watching boat tours operate between May and November, when thousands of humpbacks and other whales migrate along the NSW coast. You can head below the water and snorkel at Fly Point-Halifax Aquatic Reserve just east of the town, with sponge gardens, soft corals, sea turtles and a colourful array of fish.

Hire bikes and cycle the waterfront. The Bartlett cycleway is 5km one-way from pretty Bagnalls Beach to Little Beach, near the heritage-listed Nelson Head lighthouse cottage, built in 1875. At the cottage is a delightful cafe, with stunning views of the vast waterway and beyond.

You’ll discover more spectacular vistas at Gan Gan Hill lookout. Marvel at the natural beauty of the 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.

Point Stephens lighthouse on Fingal Island, Tomaree National Park, NSW, Australia

Getting there and where to stay

Getting to Nelson Bay is easy, with the drive north from Sydney about 2h 30min. You can also fly into Newcastle Airport, where there are car rental services and bus services to Nelson Bay and other towns. There is a wide range of accommodation options from holiday parks to stylish resorts.

Newcastle Airport

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.

Things to Do and Places to Stay

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