If you are visiting Nelson Bay in Port Stephens on holidays, then you will probably be wanting to take advantage of all the water sports there are available. The water is so crystal-clear, it is perfect for snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming, kayaking, SUP'ing and for many people - fishing. As Port Stephens Harbour is 2.5 times larger than Sydney Harbour, there is plenty of fish to be found within the port and if you venture out between the heads, then you could be bringing back a marlin!
If you are driving here with your boat and trailer, then you will want to find the handiest boat ramp to where you want to go for the day. Do you want to take your boat out of the heads and into the open ocean? Or do you want to explore the estuaries around the inner port? Luckily, there are 3 well-maintained boat ramps which provide access to the port and river system, as well as close to the heads for ocean fishing. Scroll down for photos and where to find them...
Image: Original image supplied by Google maps
1/ Soldiers Point Boat Ramp
is a new facility that can be found literally at the far end of the Soldiers Point peninsula, at the end of Mitchell Street
, just 20 minutes from Nelson Bay. This upgraded ramp is the perfect access point to the Karuah River and further into the port, with plenty of free parking, a wide area to manoeuvre and a small fish scaling station nearby - which the pelicans love! This is easily the best boat ramp in the area and the most popular, so be prepared to wait during the school holidays. See the interactive map here
* On our last visit we noticed new parking signage along the edge of the car park - see the Port Stephens Examiner article for more details.
2/ Shoal Bay Boat Ramp
New facilities at Soldiers Point Boat Ramp
is located on Shoal Bay Road
, past the shops and on the way to the entrance to Tomaree Summit Walk
. It is just a 5 minute drive from Nelson Bay town centre. It has a free parking area for cars and trailers opposite the ramp, which fills up quickly in the summer months. This wide boat ramp is the closest boat ramp to the mouth of the port, so it is utilised by a range of fishing boats and jet skis. The road around it can get quite congested in the school holidays, so be careful when manoeuvring. See the interactive map here
Shoal Bay boat ramp, located on Shoal Bay Road
3/ Little Beach Boat Ramp
A quiet time between boats and jet skis!
is located at the end of the road into Little Beach, on Beach Road
just before you drive up the hill to Inner Light Tearooms
. It is just a few minutes' drive from Nelson Bay town centre. It has a large car park with free parking and an impressive fish scaling station, with running water. This facility is loved by local fishermen as well as local pelicans - by the dozen! Please read the signage in the area before you take your boat out, particularly regarding the native wildlife that is abundant in the water. See the interactive map here
Little Beach Boat Ramp
Signage, fish scaling station and views!
These 3 boat ramps above, are the biggest and most popular, however, there are other smaller ones in the area to try, if you have a jet ski or smaller boat. Each of them have their restrictions however, so be prepared for windy conditions or smaller parking areas.
For example, Soldiers Point Jetty
has a small boat ramp called Salamander Shores behind Bannisters Hotel
, with a single lane road going in and out. The road is narrow and the water can get very choppy depending on the wind direction, as it has no protection from the elements. Another one off the beaten track is at Boat Harbour
, which has a beach access boat ramp suitable for 4WD vehicles. Many locals leave their cars and trailers parked on the sand until they return. This is a busy spot to meet some locals and get some fishing tips, but if you are new to boating, then the top 3 on this list would be highly recommended.
Websites To Check Before You Go
Boat Harbour Boat Ramp, a beach access boat ramp which leads straight out into the ocean
Before you go out on your boat for the day, see below for some handy websites, to ensure your day goes smoothly:
The Port Stephens - Great Lakes Marine Park website
and Zoning Map
, for Sanctuary Zones and fishing locations around Port Stephens.
Department of Primary Industries website
for bag limits for saltwater fishing and legal methods of fishing.
Service NSW website
to obtain a NSW fishing license.
Marine Rescue Port Stephens website
, for boating rules, life jacket information and updates in NSW.
Duff's Salamander Bait & Tackle website
, for local fishing reports and boating tips.
Bureau of Meteorology (boM) website
for weather updates.
Tides Chart website
, to know when to go.
The Roads and Maritime Services website
for all boat ramp locations in the area.
We are fortunate in Port Stephens to have a large natural harbour of approximately 134 square kilometres to explore. These boat ramps can become busy during the summer months and school holidays, so patience will be the key to a successful day on and off the water.
Stay safe when venturing out into Port Stephens and enjoy your day in paradise!
* This article was put together with tips from local fishermen and women in the area, however, if you have a tip or suggestion, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article.
Spend your weekend out on the water!