Port Stephens is an extremely popular weekend destination from Sydney. Accessible by a 2.5-hour drive north of the city, Port Stephens packs plenty of activities and natural attractions to keep you busy for days. From its sand dunes to pristine beaches, and frolicking whales and dolphins, there’s so much to do and discover in Port Stephens, whether you’re there for the weekend or longer.
How to get to Port Stephens?
By car from Sydney
Port Stephens is an easy 2.5-hour drive from Sydney along the M1 Motorway. However, we took a couple of detours that did make the drive longer, but also more memorable!
Our first stop was at Somersby Falls, a beautiful multi-level waterfall in Somersby. The falls are a popular picnic spot with locals. The picnic area is open 8 am to 8 pm during daylight savings and is open 8 am to 5 pm at other times.
Somersby Falls is a really nice spot to take a break and stretch your legs while admiring a beautiful waterfall!
Our second stop was the beautiful coastal city of Newcastle. Although there is plenty to explore in Newcastle, our objective was to admire its beautiful beaches. We made a quick stop at Merewether Beach and grabbed lunch at Merewether Surfhouse. Highly recommended!
Check out some of the photos from our brief stop at Newcastle.
After our picture-perfect lunch pit-stop at Newcastle, we finally headed towards Port Stephens on B63.
By bus from Sydney
If you prefer being driven, there are daily buses to Port Stephens from Sydney. You can visit the website of the bus operator to learn more about their schedule and frequency.
The closest airport to Port Stephens is Newcastle. There are plenty of direct flights from Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Sydney, Gold Coast, and other regional NSW destinations.
Accommodation in Port Stephens
Port Stephens consists of numerous neighbourhoods or precincts. Fortunately, the area is relatively small and it’s easy to get from one neighbourhood to another.
Soldiers Point, Nelson Bay, Corlette & Salamander Bay, Shoal Bay and Fingal Bay are some of the more popular neighbourhoods in Port Stephens and it’s probably a good idea to find accommodation within them.
This map below can help you find the best deals in the area at the moment.
Based on our research, here are the top recommendations for accommodation in Port Stephens.
We stayed at The Anchorage Port Stephens Hotel & Spa in Corlette, and honestly, we found it to be one of the most beautiful and luxurious properties we’ve ever stayed at.
Things to do and see in Port Stephens, NSW
Port Stephens has so much to offer visitors from beaches, whales, dolphins, amazing food and wines, to spectacular sunsets and more! No wonder it’s such a popular weekend and holiday spot in NSW. So, after spending 4 days in Port Stephens, here are our favourite things to recommend.
1. Enjoy Pristine Beaches
Port Stephens is essentially a peninsula, sticking out into the Tasman Sea. And as such, there is literally no shortage of breathtaking beaches! Each neighbourhood literally has a beach in its backyard.
Some of the beaches in the vicinity that are worth visiting are Shoal Bay Beach, Fingal Bay Beach, and Bagnall’s Beach.
And if you step away from the main neighbourhoods of Port Stephens, there are plenty more beaches to discover, such as Stockton Beach (where the sand dunes are located), the One Mile Beach, and even the Samurai Nudist Beach.
However, as many of these beaches are easy to access, they do tend to get slightly crowded. So, if you’re looking for pristine, rustic beaches in Port Stephens, you might need to bushwhack your way to them.
There’s Zenith Beach that is located next to Shoal Bay Beach but remains relatively empty as there are no activities here. And next to Zenith Beach is Wreck Beach and Box Beach. Both of these beaches aren’t that easy to access and require a bit of hiking. But the reward is pristine, white-sand beaches with few or no people! In fact, you can see these beaches from on top of Tomaree Mountain.
2. Go Whale and Dolphin Watching
If there was one thing that we were looking forward to the most in Port Stephens, it was our whale watching cruise. During the migration season that happens between June and November, humpback whales come extremely close to the headland at Tomaree National Park. In fact, you can see whales breaching from on top of Tomaree Mountain.
Our whale watching cruise was absolutely spectacular! We got to see numerous whales up, close and personal. And other than the whales, we also go to see plenty of dolphins in the area. In fact, as we were heading out of Shoal Bay, we saw a pod of dolphins swimming around peacefully.
And later, as we were returning from our cruise, another (much larger) pod of dolphins decided that they wanted to play with us. Although we’ve had plenty of such encounters before, it’s always a joy to watch dolphins swim so close to the boat, and often show off!
There are a few options for whale watching cruises, the most popular ones are Imagine Cruises and Moonshadow Cruises. You can also go swimming with the dolphins in Port Stephens through Dolphin Swim Australia (Dock C, d’Albora Marina, Teramby Road, Nelson Bay New South Wales 2315, Australia).
3. Hike up Tomaree Mountain
If you’re looking to bust out those hiking shoes, head on down to the Tomaree Head Summit Walk. This short and relatively easy hike gets you to the top of Tomaree Mountain, which is at the end of Shoal Bay.
This coastal walk is famous for plenty of reasons. From on top of Tomaree Mountain you get sweeping 360-degree views of Port Stephens, the Tasman Sea, and all the beautiful, rustic beaches that are hidden from plain sight. And if you’re lucky, you can also spot whales from Tomaree Mountain!
All the details that you need for the Tomaree Head Summit Walk can be found in this post.
4. Admire the Sand Dunes
We were in awe when we stepped onto the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes. At 32kms, these are the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere! Standing in the middle of it all, it felt like we’d been transported to a desert!
Not only are the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes a sight to behold, but they also have plenty of desert-themed activities. You can go on a sand dune tour in a 4WD, quad bike, or on a camel. We decided to go sandboarding, and honestly, it was a lot of fun!
Activity operators have their ticket offices next to the parking spots near the beach.
To us, the activities on the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes were fun but too touristy. Even if you’re not in for the activities, the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes are still highly recommended. You just have to experience for yourself the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere!
5. Dine at Incredible Restaurants
One thing that took us by surprise in Port Stephens was the incredible restaurants that we got to dine at while we were there. None of them left us disappointed. From delectable seafood to mouth-watering burgers, these restaurants in Port Stephens were a delight for us food-lovers!
Here are some of the best restaurants we ate at, and can personally recommend:
- Little Beach Boathouse
- 4 Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay NSW 2315, Australia
- Phone: +61249849420
- Shoal Bay Country Club
- 35-45 Shoal Bay Rd, Shoal Bay NSW 2315, Australia
- Phone: +61249811555
- The Point Restaurant
- Soldiers Point Marina, 1 Sunset Blvd, Soldiers Point NSW 2317, Australia
- Phone: +61249847111
- Sandpipers Restaurant
- 81 Magnus St, Nelson Bay NSW 2315, Australia
We strongly advise that you make a reservation at these restaurants given how busy they can get especially over long weekends and holidays.
6. Catch Spectacular Sunsets
Port Stephens is famous for its epic sunsets. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our action-packed days at Port Stephens, we would look forward to the end of the day just so that we could admire another gorgeous sunset.
The best part about the sunsets is that there are plenty of amazing spots where you can see them. From Gan Gan Lookout to Soldiers Point and more.
You can learn about these beautiful sunset locations in Port Stephens in this post.
Your Port Stephens Weekend Itinerary
We hope you find our list of things to do in Port Stephens helpful. Feel free to cherry-pick from our list to build your itinerary for Port Stephens. And here are some more photos from Port Stephens to inspire you, and get you excited about this beautiful part of NSW.
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