There are so many things to do in Port Stephens, a pocket of coastal paradise three hours up the New South Wales coast from Sydney. Port Stephens is actually the name of the vast natural harbour, and the area called Port Stephens is the land to the south of the harbour, and the main town is Nelson Bay. There is a resident colony of over a hundred dolphins in the harbour, supporting Port Stephens’ claim to be the dolphin capital of Australia.
Port Stephens Dolphin Cruises
Dolphin watching cruises run throughout the year from Nelson Bay, and the Moonshadow cruise website claims a 99% success rate in dolphin sightings. The dolphins are very familiar with the boats, and often swim alongside. Cruises last up to two hours.
Swim With Dolphin
The regular cruise vessels usually fit a boom net to the rear of the vessel, and you can sit in there with a chance of a dolphin swimming next to you. You can maximise your chances of a dolphin encounter by heading out on a longer journey, departing at dawn, with Dolphin Swim Australia. Some snorkelling ability is required for this.
Port Stephens Whale Watching
May to mid-November is whale-watching season along the east coast of Australia, as the majestic humpback whales make their seasonal migrations from the Southern Ocean to the Coral Sea and back. Port Stephens is a great place from which you can see them. The cruises last longer and go further than the dolphin cruises, exploring more of the coastal waters around the headlands at the entrance to Port Stephens in search of whales.
Tomaree Head Lookout Walk
Tomaree is the headland to the south of the entrance to Port Stephens, and the twenty-minute climb from the car park at Shoal Bay takes you up through forest to some of the most outstanding views on the east Australian coast. From the top you see Zenith, Wreck and Box beaches in a row, then Fingal sand spit, which when rebuilt will provide a picturesque, albeit precarious, link to Fingal Island.
Snorkelling and Diving
The waters around Port Stephens are an aquatic reserve, and marine life flourishes in this pristine environment, making it an ideal location to snorkel or dive. Lets Go Adventures offer both snorkelling and scuba diving courses. Fly Point, on the outskirts of Nelson Bay, is one of the best sites in the area, otherwise there are plenty of boat diving trips to offshore locations.
Stockton Dunes are the largest moving sand system in the southern hemisphere, stretching 32 km from Birubi Point in Port Stephens to the mouth of the Hunter River, across which lies the city of Newcastle. They are best described as a huge mini-desert with an enormous beach. They are part of the Worimi Conservation Lands, and the Worimi offer fascinating insights into the importance of this unique landscape, running some of the 4 wheel drive tours of the dunes. A small community of fishermen’s huts remains hidden away in the middle of the dunes – this ‘Tin City’ was used as a location in one of the Mad Max series of films.
Eating Out in Port Stephens
You can enjoy lunch or afternoon tea with amazing views at Inner Light Tea rooms, which is adjacent to the old Nelson Head lighthouse overlooking the bay. For fine dining, the Little Beach Boat House has a great seafood menu. Or if you’d prefer to dine out on the water, there are sunset dinner cruises, where you enjoy a seafood barbecue anchored in a cove before heading back to Nelson Bay while enjoying dessert.