24 March 2014
The last time I made a quick trip north to Port Stephens from Sydney was in the winter of June 2013. I went sandboarding and was amazed by the landscapes of the region, so vast and varying. Lush, deep and green forest transitioned into vast sand dunes. And just beyond the mountain rock, disintegrated by time, a vast and beautiful ocean awaited. The middle of winter typically offers such a different environment, so I couldn’t wait to head back to Port Stephens at the beginning of autumn.
Rather than sand, this time I went straight to the water at Nelson Bay. I hopped onto the Moonshadow Cruise Dolphin Watch and watched in awe as dolphins began swimming alongside the boat within 20 minutes of leaving the harbour. They jumped in and out of the water and played with one another as if they were putting on a show. The captain advised they’d be letting down a “boomnet” and that people could jump in. It sounded mysterious so I naturally volunteered to go in. It turned out to be a large net that trails behind the boat; when you enter, the ocean water rushes over you like a jacuzzi on full blast and you stay pressed against the net. I’ve never done anything like that before but it was unique and caused a good laugh. By the time I dried off, it was time for the next adventure.
Located at the same docks, Port Stephens Watersports was waiting with their boats. Little did I know that the experiences they offered would be so radically different. First up, I parasailed through Nelson Bay. Floating behind the boat, nearly 150m into the air was one of the quietest and most relaxing experiences possible. You get to take in your surroundings whilst feeling completely weightless. After the airbourne cruise, my calm didn’t last for long when I boarded the Thundaboat. I had no idea what was coming; this 30-minute ride is insane. In fact, The twin 200 hp engines take you nearly three metres in the air as you rip through waves. Turns out my favourite adrenaline experience to date was hiding in Port Stephens where I least expected it.
And yet, Port Stephens isn’t just about adventure. Another highlight of the visit for me was Murray’s Craft Brewing Company, one of the older craft breweries leading the charge, not just in New South Wales, but all of Australia. Having crafted over 40 unique beers, Murray’s are heavyweights. At the brewery, I was informed that they even bottled the first double IPA (India Pale Ale) in Australia – that is serious street cred. Because of their wide range and years of experience, Murray’s offers a solid line-up of beers and boasts consistency. And their cafe polishes the deal with awesome eats. In typical NSW fashion, Port Stephens is a great example of gems to be found all over the state.