Port Stephen & Nelson Bay Guest Post by Rhys!
Rhys is the man in my life and happens to know Australia very well, especially the Hunter Valley region. He showed me around Port Stephen and Nelson Bay, it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. He gives practical tips on visiting Nelson Bay in this post.
The Hunter Valley & Nelson Bay
Nelson Bay is located in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. The bay is on the southern shores of Port Stephens and offers beautiful beaches ideal for a wide range of water activities and family fun both in and out of the water.
Visit from Sydney on your Australia Holiday
A favourite holiday location for Sydneysiders the local economy survives on tourism. The Bay and surrounding towns offer a variety of activities suited to a wide range of ages and interests. You could do a trip to Nelson Bay and the Hunter Valley region easily from Sydney. If you’ve a few weeks in Australia, it wouldn’t be a stretch to visit Sydney, the Blue Mountains, and the Hunter Valley including Port Stephens. Check out the post on Blue Mountains attractions and things to do.
Best time to visit New South Wales
It’s best to visit outside New South Wales designated school holidays which occur at set times through the year. You’ll find accommodation rates cheaper and the attractions will be easier to book. Plan the dates of your Australia holiday wisely.
Getting there & getting around
Nelson Bay is a 2.5 hours drive from Sydney and just 60 kilometers from Newcastle, a major regional hub in New South Wales. Port Stephens buses and Nelson Bay taxis service the area. There is no rail service and currently Uber is not active in the area. But to get there and see the best parts of Nelson Bay you’re best to have your own private car or book an organised tour.
Accommodation at Port Stephen & Nelson Bay
There’s plenty of accommodation available to suit everyone’s budget. From caravan parks to quality motels and you can browse the options on local online booking sites like wotif.com.
Things to do at Nelson Bay
There’s plenty to keep you occupied whilst visiting Nelson Bay. From the simple things like waking up early for a walk along the waterfront watching the sun rise in the still morning air to throwing the swimmers on and heading to the beach with the pristine white sand The Bay as the locals call it is famous for. You can also hire a kayak and paddle out into The Bay and see if you can spot a dolphin.
There’s also a few good lookouts to get a good look along the coastline. Marine Rescue is one such spot and you can talk to the volunteers as they monitor the traffic and emergency channels and coordinate rescues as needed. The volunteers are usually locals who have given up their time in retirement to give back to the community. Their elevated control hub gives great views and there’s a cafe on site for refreshments and a small maritime museum to look through for a gold coin donation. ($1 or more)
For those with moderate levels of fitness the walk to the Tomaree Point lookout is worth the exercise to get there. It’s a well maintained track with concrete paths, steel stairs and bridges. It’s very safe but can be an exhausting journey in hot weather. Be sure to take a water bottle with you to keep hydrated and don’t forget your camera.
There’s a steel structure out on the ledge that gives excellent views and a great photo opportunity. The site is actually a WW2 defence site and had a radar installed as well as other coastal defence installations. All that’s left is some foundations and bunkers. You’ll find plaques that go into the history of the site.
Whale watching tours run from May to November covering the migration North along the Australian coastline of humpback and other whales to the warmer waters for breeding before they migrate back South for the Antarctic waters. You’ll head out through the heads into the open waters of the Pacific ocean try to spot a whale breach. Once you find a pod of whales you’ll get to go close – but the whales are given a safe distance of 100m or so to keep you safe and prevent the boat from stressing the animals. It’s a truly majestic experience to experience these large animals close up and it’s a great experience for a family to share. Due to the weather the tours can be cancelled if the weather is inclement which is good. It’s very hard to spot whales when the seas become rough and it can get uncomfortable if you don’t have ‘sea legs’. It’s not much fun being on a boat wishing you were on dry land!
If you visit outside whale season there’s still cruises you can take out on The Bay. Many run dolphin watching cruises. These animals are very smart and are used to the boats out on the water. They like to put on a show and have some fun in front of an appreciative crowd! They don’t leave the protected waters of Nelson Bay so you get a nice smooth ride perfect for the kids.
Culture & Adventure
For the more adventurous head to the Murrook cultural centre at Williamtown. They run sand dune quad bike and 4wd tours on the biggest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. They will also include a cultural tour of the centre giving a history of the Woromi people – the traditional owners of the land. Your support helps preserve their culture and run support programs for their community.
If you like the idea of seeing the sand dunes but enjoy a slower paced ride, then head to Birubi beach and book a camel ride. Introduced by white settlers to assist in colonising Australia it’s estimated there’s over 1 million feral camels in Australia. These camels are well trained and you get to see parts of Port Stephens that many of the locals haven’t.
Nelson Bay isn’t an international tourist hotspot, but it’s really worth the trip. The beach is amazing and view from Tomaree Point is absolutely fantastic. It’s just a 2.5 hours drive from Sydney after all, very accessible and easy to visit.