Port Stephens is one of NSW must see locations if you ask us. With an abundance of amazing waterways (twice the size of Sydney Harbour) and close-up wildlife encounters, it’s a playground full of natural beauty and kick-ass things to do.
Located 2.5 hrs drive north of Sydney and 20 minutes from Newcastle Airport, it’s perfect for a long weekend getaway or a longer staycation. We are yet to try them all, but here’s 7 of our top things to do –
1. Sand Boarding the slopes of Stockton Sand dunes
Jumping on a tour with Sand Dune Safaris we took on these sandy slippery-dips with gusto! Starting on the shorter slopes using the sit down boards then working our way up to the stand up boards. It didn’t take long for us all to be ‘yahoooo-ing’ our way down at lighting speeds. …Just be ready for the thigh burning walk back up to the top – it’s a stinger, but it’s all worth it.
Reaching heights of over 30 metres, and slopes of up to 60 degrees, these dunes form an alien-like lunar landscape. As the largest moving dunes in the Southern Hemisphere they are part of the Worimi Conservation Lands and are a definite ‘must see’ when visiting Port Stephens.
Some other tours on offer here include a 4WD adventure to explore the famous Tin City, a small community who live on the dunes, or a Quad biking tour. This tour has you zipping about on 400CC Quad Bikes providing a mix of adrenaline pumping fun and culture. They’ll have you cruising through the dunes as well as learning about the local indigenous history of the Worimi people.
2. Ride a camel – the ships of the desert
One of the more quirky experiences available in Port Stephens is riding a camel along Birubi Beach. We had a great time clopping along the sand on the camel trail with Sid the camel leading our way. We learnt some interesting facts about camels too, such as they have 3 stomachs and live to about age 40.
Camel tours are run by Oakvale Ranch and start from Birubi Beach lower public car park. They offer 20 minute dune/beach sojourns, or a longer tour that takes you into the rolling dunes to watch the sunset. They are open every day except for Wednesday, as that is HUMP DAY! Love it!
3. Spend the day at Oakvale Wildlife Park
This place is awesome! We had the best time bottle feeding baby goats and pigs, milking a cow and getting up close and personal with the Koalas.
Set on 25 acres this gorgeous wildlife park is 100% Australian owned and operated. There is an endless menagerie of Australian native and domestic farm animals to meet as well as a splash park, play ground and cafe.
We were lucky enough to enjoy the Koala Encounter during our visit where we got to join the Koalas for their breakfast in their enclosure. It was so amazing being so close to them and we also got to sneak peak at a baby joey poking out of mum’s pouch – how special is that? Oakvale is open from 10am daily located in Salt Ash.
4. Climb Mt Tomaree
Oh yeah, that gets the ticker going! The incredible panoramic views from the summit of Mt Tomaree is a treat not to be missed. This 2km walk in Tomaree National Park features a well-kept path with some stairs. It can be a little steep in some places but it is well worth the effort. We have climbed this bad boy many times with the kids and as always, slow and steady wins the race …as well as a yummy bribe, I mean ‘picnic treat’ (wink wink), to enjoy at the top!
Make sure you take your time once up on the summit to enjoy the sweeping views and keep a lookout for whales, dolphins and even seals in the turquoise waters below.
5. Visit the Koala Sanctuary
This place is doing great things to help the local Koala population providing first-class care to sick, injured and orphaned koalas.
The kids loved the ‘Story Walk’ that leads you down to the koalas as it features a large koala sculpture called Kasey. Kasey is displayed in various positions with educational signs sharing his story and the life of a koala.
Further down on the beautiful Sky Walk you can see a range of Koalas chilling out and munching on eucalyptus leaves. Detailed signs share their rescue stories and why they now call Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary home. You also have a chance to look through the hospital viewing window to see the veterinary staff in action administering treatment to sick koalas.
Also on offer here is a deluxe 4 Star glamping experience where you can relax enjoy the natural surrounds and wake up with the koalas – can it get any better? PSKS is open daily 9am – 5pm.
6. Have a 4WD Beach Adventure
If you know us Blondies you would know that this is one of our most favourite things to do! Home of the longest beach in NSW, at 32km, the Stockton Sand Dunes and Worimi Conservation Lands is the perfect place for some 4×4 adventures.
Samurai Beach, a little further north is also a great beach to drive on and explore. Just a little note – Samurai Beach is actually a legal nudist beach so we tend to stay to the middle of the beach when setting up, away from others. …Butt (pun intended), if you are keen to get those buns out when the sun’s out – go for it!
There’s nothing better than pulling up on the sand to enjoy a day at the beach especially with access to your rig and beach ‘toys’. We regularly set up for the day to enjoy some surfing, fishing and swimming fun and even cook up a feed, how’s that for a beach front cafe.
You will have to have a 4WD to access the beach, and a permit for Stockton Beach. Please also remember to lower your tyre pressures (see our tips on this here) and remember normal road rules apply.
7. Jump on a Whale, Dolphin or Water Cruise
Welcome to the humpback super-highway!! Port Stephens is a prime whale watching location and one of the many stops for the humpback whale migration up the NSW coast between May – November each year. The bay is also home to 140 bottlenose dolphins so you have a great chance of seeing these amazing mammals in action.
There are plenty of cruise options available any day of the week as well as eco tours to Broughton Island and Fingal Lighthouse.
Port Stephens is also home to the first worldwide Wild Dolphin Swim where you can get up close with these dolphins, in the water – just like you are a part of their pod.
Eat, Play, Sleep, REPEAT!
Well, it’s safe to say from the above list of kick-ass activities that Port Stephens is a pretty special place. In fact, we think it’s so special we actually bought a house here and now call this gorgeous slice of paradise home! To say we are loving it is an understatement. We are still discovering new and exciting things to do here. A few other places we know and love (or want to try out but haven’t had the time yet) are listed below…
More on offer in Port Stephens –
- Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters – a unique, interactive aquarium that allows you to get up close to sharks and rays.
- Barramundi Farm – Take a tour of this world leading Barramundi fish farm and enjoy a meal at the ‘Cookabarra’ Restaurant.
- Taboggan Park – Cruise down the fun taboggan track – fun for all the family.
- Murrays Distillery – An amazing craft brewer of beer, gin and liquors – it’s a great place to eat and catch up with friends.
- Spirited – A fun indoor soft playground and cafe, great for some rainy day fun.
- Dive / Snorkel – there is loads of this on offer, click link for more info.
- Tilligarry Koala Habitat – Tilligerry Habitat Reserve is a 9 ha flora and fauna reserve where you get the chance to spot a Koala in the wild.
- Fighter World – A great family friendly and totally ‘hands on’ experience, be inspired by some of Australia’s most famous aircraft.
- Golf Courses – There’s loads of golfing options here in the bay, click the link for more info.
- Hellfire Paintball – Grab a bunch of mates and shoot each other!
Best places to eat –
- The Country Club, Shoal bay
- Saltwater Restaurant, Fingal Bay
- Bannisters Port Stephens / Cheeky Dog, Soldiers Point
- Long Boat Cafe, Fingal Bay
- In House Cafe, Nelson Bay
- Crest, Barubi Beach
Best places to sleep –
There’s no doubt that you are spoilt for choice here. We hope this has been helpful. Please share any questions or your own Port Stephens tips in the comments below. Thanks legends, we’ll see you out there.
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