An idyllic scene awaits in Shoal Bay, where a wide arc of white sand beach is adorned by a heritage lighthouse on one end and the striking Tomaree Head on the other. This small hamlet is a great base for enjoying the natural wonders of Port Stephens, including spotting dolphins and koalas in the wild, and embarking on hikes that finish with unforgettable views.
The calm aquamarine waters of Shoal Bay are perfect for swimming, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding – you can take a SUP lesson or morning tour around the sparkling bay. Alternatively, hire a bike and explore the scenic foreshore. You’ll find picnic tables and barbecue facilities in the beachside reserve.
At the eastern end of the bay is the magnificent Tomaree National Park. Follow the paved Fort Tomaree walk around the headland for reminders of Australia’s World War II coastal defence. From here, take the Tomaree Head summit walk for a breathtaking panorama of Port Stephens and the NSW North Coast. You can even spot whales during the migration season.
In and around the national park, you’ll see koalas munching on swamp mahogany, a species of eucalypt. Head south and there are gorgeous ocean-facing beaches to discover, including the pretty Fingal Bay Beach, which is tucked into Fingal Head. Or take the short walk through coastal forest to Wreck Beach.
A 15min drive away is Anna Bay, a gateway to the incredible Stockton Bight Sand Dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands. There are plenty of adventure tours around the dunes, including quad biking, camel rides, sandboarding and 4WDing. Dolphin, whale and scuba diving tours depart from nearby Nelson Bay.
Eat & drink
Shoal Bay offers a selection of cafes, restaurants and takeaway fish and chips shops. At the Shoal Bay Country Club, enjoy breakfast at Mermaids Cafe, lunch or dinner in the restaurant overlooking the ocean and tasty cocktails on the sunny patio. The club is directly across from the beach and hosts live music on the weekends and kids’ activities on Sunday afternoon.
Getting there & where to stay
Shoal Bay is a 2h 30min drive north from Sydney and 30 minutes northeast from Newcastle Airport. There ARE a range of accommodation options in Shoal Bay to choose from, including holiday parks, cabins, apartments, safari tents and stylish 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.