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...
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 for details.
2/ Shoal Bay 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 for details.
3/ Little Beach Boat Ramp 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 for details.
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.
Boat Harbour Boat Ramp, a beach access boat ramp which leads straight out into the ocean
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!