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What are the Best Free Things to do in Nelson Bay?

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by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun!
Published November 19th 2019
Have you booked a holiday to the beautiful Nelson Bay in Port Stephens? Are you looking for some FREE things to do while you're there? If you visit in the warmer months, ensure you take your swimming costume, as most of the summer activities revolve around the crystal-clear waters of the bays and beaches - which is completely free! Of course there are plenty of paid things to do, however the beauty of this region is that most of the activities you can do are outside and taking in the stunning, natural setting.

These are my favourite free things to do in Nelson Bay - which one(s) are yours? Have you found a way to soak up the atmosphere, that doesn't cost a cent? If so, please leave a comment at the top of this article and share your favourite past-times that don't cost a thing. You can't get much better than free!

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Take a walk up to the top of Tomaree Head, for a spectacular view for FREE!


Walking is the best way to learn about a new area, with Nelson Bay no exception. There is a walkway that travels along the coastline starting from Bagnalls Beach to Nelson Bay and then it continues all the way to Little Beach. Along the way you can stop and take in the views, look in the clear water for marine life, watch the sunrise or use the free exercise equipment behind Little Nelson Bay beach. For a real leg-burn with a view, take a hike up to the top of the spectacular Tomaree Headland for the best view in the entire region! There are plenty of short walks to start your day and go exploring, in the Nelson Bay region.

Dolphin Spotting doesn't have to be from a cruise boat, as the resident dolphins in the Port Stephens region often come into shore to look for food. Our family have now seen so many dolphins swim by that when I point one out, our young daughter just says "oh, that's cool" and continues what she was doing! Our favourite spots are sitting on the end of the Nelson Bay Breakwall and Bagnalls Beach - however you will spot them anywhere along the bays.

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Bagnalls Beach (dog walking beach). Just one of the many bays you can walk along and be surprised by a dolphin swimming by


Climbing the Stockton Sand Dunes at Birubi Beach is a favourite Sunday activity in our family, as they are fun to explore and to run up and down. Each time you visit, it is completely different, as the sand dunes change quickly with the weather. They are the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. Although visitors pay money to catch a 4WD bus to the highest sand dunes to slide down on boards, you can also walk through the dunes on your own and find your own steep hills to run down - for free! Keep your shoes on, take plenty of water and slap on the sun cream in summer - the reflection is bright!

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Explore the Stockton Sand Dunes, which are part of the Worimi National Park


Lookouts in the area are a good way to get an idea of the shape of the Port Stephens coastline and some of them are ideal to look for whales between May to November. The most popular lookout is located on the road into town, at the Gan Gan Lookout. There is a steep hill to drive up and just several car parking spots, then it is then just a short walk to a small but spectacular lookout. The water looks bright aqua from the high vantage point and there are signs which point out the different islands out on the water. Our first impression of Port Stephens, when we went to this lookout for the first time, was that it looked like The Whitsunday Islands. See here for a full article on the lookouts around Nelson Bay.

* If you are still looking for some more free ideas, our family also love to go fishing, have a BBQ along the Nelson Bay Foreshore, go snorkelling off any of the bays, walk along the beach, go for a swim, enjoy the free kids activities each Sunday at Shoal Bay Country Club, check out some playgrounds and explore the local markets.

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View of the entrance to Port Stephens, from Gan Gan Lookout


What About The Cheap Options?

If you are happy to spend a little bit of money, there are still a lot of things to do on the cheap in Nelson Bay. Some ideas include buying a handful of prawns and sitting on the Nelson Bay Breakwall, cooling down with an ice-cream, going op shopping to find a bargain, riding the toboggan at Toboggan Hill Park, riding down the slide at Tomaree Pool, playing a game of Putt Putt, enjoying a plate of scones at Inner Light Tearooms, getting some fish and chips from Bay Harbour Café and relaxing with a coffee at The Little Nel.

When visiting this small, seaside region, it is important to slow down, enjoy the simple things in life and soak up the holiday atmosphere. It doesn't cost a cent to find a park bench, cosy up to someone you love and just enjoy the view...

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Slow down and simply enjoy the view - for free!


* Did you find a favourite park bench to enjoy the view whilst on holiday in Nelson Bay? Or find more free things to do to add to this list? If so, please comment at the top of this article and share your discoveries. You can never have too many free ideas!




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