From hopping between local breweries and wineries to chilling on stunning beaches (and don’t forget the wildlife experiences!), these are the best things to do in Port Stephens.
If you’re the kind of person that loves having fun on gorgeous beaches, and is always looking for something extra to do on your holiday besides laying around reading a book, Port Stephens is the place for you.
Located only 2.5 hours north of Sydney, it’s a popular vacation spot for many Aussies, and it’s quickly growing a reputation with international travellers too.
There’s a cool local brewery you have to check out, amazing seafood restaurants and great places to stay. It really is an excellent destination that you should include on your bucket list when you visit Australia.
Mountains To Beaches – The Best Things To Do In Port Stephens
It really is the kind of place that you can’t get bored in. There are so many things to do in Port Stephens, and I’m happy to share with some of my favourite activities in the beachside town.
Go Up A Mountain To Get The Best Views Of Port Stephens
The Tomaree Head Summit walk in Tomaree National Park offers the best views of Port Stephens.
It is steep (and slippery after the rain) so you may need to take your time to reach the summit. But anyone who can climb stairs can do this 2 kilometre return walk, and it’s definitely worth the effort.
The panoramic views from up there, 161 meters above sea level, will take your breath away.
If you own binoculars, you can take them out to try to spot marine life, especially dolphins and, between May and October, whales.
If you only have time to do one thing in Port Stephens, do this walk.
The way to the summit is easy to find. Head to the car park at the end of Shoal Bay Road, and you should see the path going up from there.
If Tomaree Head Summit walk sounds too challenging for you, the Nelson Head Light is another alternative for a short and easy walk with magnificent views of the Port Stephens waters. It’s also the best spot for a coffee break if you go there before 4 pm.
If you don’t want to walk at all, drive to the Gan Gan Lookout.
Perched on a hill in the middle of the peninsula, it also offers 360-degree views around Port Stephens.
Visit Postcard-Perfect Beaches
The beaches in Port Stephens are some of the best on the east coast of Australia. Here are some of my favourites.
From the summit of Tomaree Head, you will notice a pristine beach between the two conical headlands.
That’s Zenith Beach.
It is easy to reach from the car park where you started Tomaree Head Summit walk, hence a perfect opportunity for a refreshing dip after your hike.
The views from the beach of the surrounding national park are stunning.
You’ll find Fingal bay just after Zenith Beach, and still along Tomaree National Park.
It’s famous for its postcard-perfect C shape, and is one of the best places to go surfing in Port Stephens.
It’s also well known for the Fingal sand spit across to Shark Island, that has unfortunately surprised some visitors over the past few years.
While it’s tempting to try to walk over to the island, the sand does make it look like a clear path, it is actually quite dangerous, with ocean currents and swell making the crossing treacherous at even the best times. Currently it is closed to walkers.
Watch Dolphins And Whales
Port Stephens is one of the best places on Earth to spot dolphins.
It’s often referred to as the Dolphin Capital of Australia, so it’s not surprising to see this activity high on the list of the best things to do in Port Stephens.
With more than 100 bottlenose dolphins living in the Port Stephens waters all year round, local cruise operators announce a 99% success rate at spotting them during their tours.
The larger species of more common dolphins live just outside the bay.
If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you will find in Port Stephens the unique opportunity to be dragged by a boat to swim with a pod of dolphins.
While a cruise is the easiest way to encounter dolphins, you can also often spot them from the shore as they come very close to the beach.
Unlike dolphins, whales are seasonal visitors.
You can spot them in the Port Stephens waters from May to October as they migrate along Australia’s East Coast.
It’s always fun to see them from the shore, but there’s nothing like a whale watch cruise to get a sense of their size and be impressed by these giants of the sea.
Plus, your boat may even take a detour to see the seals at Cabbage Tree Island if they’re nearby.
Play In The Sand In Worimi National Park
If you thought that playing in the sand was only for kids, a visit to Port Stephens will change your mind.
In Worimi National Park you’ll find Australia’s largest sand dunes, and some of the largest ones in the Southern Hemisphere!
If you have a 4WD, beach driving can be a fun way to reach Port Stephens (permits required).
Stockton Beach offers a 32-kilometre stretch of dunes that are a lot more scenic than the inland road.
If you don’t have a 4WD, you can still park at Anna Bay in Port Stephens, and you’ll only be a short walk to the scenic beach.
The dune landscape with the camel ride tours will make you feel like you’re in the Sahara Desert. And like in the Sahara, you can also explore the dunes on a quad bike for some adrenaline.
The dunes of Worimi National Park are also a popular place to try sandboarding. You can slide with your bodyboard if you own one, or rent a sandboard in Anna Bay.
Encounter Iconic Australian Animals
If you’re hoping to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s most iconic animals, Port Stephens is a great place to do it.
Spot A Koala In The Wild
Koalas are regularly spotted around Port Stephens, so keep your eyes up when you’re around eucalyptus trees.
If you want to increase your chances, Tilligerry Habitat is particularly known to be koalas’ favourite spot in the region, and provides an opportunity to learn more about the other native fauna and flora.
- Tilligerry Habitat is located in Tanilba Bay.
Close Encounters At A Special Farm
If you prefer more intimate encounters that involve petting and photo opportunities, head to the Oakvale Farm and Fauna World.
They have an impressive list of animals in the exhibit, and offer unique encounters with a dingo, wombat, snakes and a koala.
- Oakvale Farm is located in Salt Ash.
Swim With Sharks And Rays In An Aquarium
The Irukandji Centre wants to educate, raise awareness and make a difference to protect the ocean.
Their interactive aquarium allows anyone to experience close encounters with rays and sharks, even those who cannot swim, so people learn to love them and take action to protect them.
It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Port Stephens when it’s raining.
- Irukandji Shark and Ray Centre is located in Bob’s Farm.
Thousands of soldier crabs come out at low tide and in the evening on the beaches around Port Stephens.
Find a spot on the hard sand and stop moving: you’ll quickly be surrounded by a regiment of crabs!
Snorkel Or Scuba Dive From Shore Or A Boat
Port Stephens has some of Australia’s best scuba diving and snorkelling sites.
The best shore dives and snorkelling are Fly Point and Pipeline, both in the town of Port Stephens. But you’ll have to plan this activity at high tide because of the dangerous current.
It’s heaven for those interested in macro, but that’s not all you get. You can also see wobbegong sharks, colossal sea hares and occasionally sea turtles.
If you’re among the luckiest, you may even spot a dolphin.
Divers can also join a boat trip to dive with grey nurse sharks, Port Jackson sharks or even seals near on the different islands nearby.
You’ll find dive centres to organise your equipment or a guided tour in Nelson Bay.
Visit The Famous Murray’s Brewery
Murray’s Whale Ale is probably the most famous of Murray’s Craft Brewing products.
A visit to Port Stephens will offer you the opportunity to learn more about brewing from one of Australia’s leading craft beer brewers. They have a public brewery tour daily at 2.15 pm.
You can even book a bus shuttle, so you don’t have to drive.
If you’re more into wine than beer, you can also do a wine tasting at the same place, organised by the oldest vineyard of the region. And there’s a small vineyard a bit further up on the hill.
- Murray’s Brewery is located on the main road in Bob’s Farm.
Indulge In Fresh Seafood
A list of the best things to do in Port Stephens wouldn’t be complete without a note about food.
Nelson Bay’s marina restaurants receive fresh seafood daily, and serve it in a lovely setting near the water. For a fancy meal with fantastic views, try Catch at Shoal Bay or The Anchorage in Corlette.
Cookabarra Restaurant in Bobs Farm is reputed for its fresh Barramundi: they have their own Barramundi and hydroponic vegetable farm on-site!
Try to plan your lunch so you can take a tour of their farm at 11 am or 2 pm.
If you love oysters, or if you’re curious and want to learn more about them, head to the Holberts Oyster Farm. From the customer area, you can watch the professional oyster shuckers at work.
A visit to the real oyster farm can be organised for groups.
Just near the shop, you can taste the oyster while enjoying the beautiful views of the bay. Holberts Oyster Farm is located in Salamander Bay.
Try Water Sports
There are many ways to enjoy the beautiful waters of the Port Stephens Bay.
A sailing cruise on a luxury yacht with a glass of champagne may be the most dreamy option. But maybe you’ll prefer hiring a motorboat to go on an adventure on your own?
Shoal Bay is a great place for stand-up paddle boarding. They also have jet skis and kayaks available in Nelson Bay.
Just head down to the port and pick your adventure!
Want to catch some waves? There are four beaches famous for surfing in Port Stephens: One Mile Beach and Fingal Bay Beach – both patrolled – and Birubi Beach and Dutchman’s Beach – that aren’t patrolled.
During peak season, they install a very fun waterpark in Little Nelson Bay.
Go For A Bike Ride
Whether you’re looking for an easy scenic ride or more serious mountain biking, you’ll find a bike path to please you in Port Stephens.
With around 50 km of shared cycleways announced by the Council and mostly quiet streets, cycling in Port Stephens is safe and fun.
You can choose a scenic coastal ride with amazing views from Corlette to Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay or Fingal Bay.
You can also go wild and explore the National Park trails with a mountain bike: it’s more physical, but you’ll get a chance to spot wildlife.
You can hire a bike in Nelson Bay (there’s even a bike hire station opened 24/7) or in Shoal Bay.
If you want even a more original bike ride, you’ll find water bikes at Shoal Bay beach.