Where in the world is Anna Bay? Head north of Newcastle and you'll find this gem on the Port Stephens Peninsula, just past Stockton Beach and around the corner from Shoal Bay.
This sleepy coastal town feels like it was plucked from Byron Bay and plonked 2.5 hours from Sydney, making it perfect for a weekend away. There's no hustle and bustle, just plenty of coastline to explore, all encased by the lush greenery of Tomaree National Park.
Anna Bay's One Mile Beach may not have an original name, but don't let that stop you. A morning walk here will energise your spirit and a dip in the unbelievably clean water will wash away any stress you've brought from the city. You can almost feel the ions massaging tired muscles and the salt soothing your skin.
If the wind is right you might catch a few waves, otherwise One Mile Beach is almost as flat as Fingal Bay – another 5 minutes up the road. Protected by headlands at either end, both beaches are perfect for paddle boarding or paddling kids; not so Samurai Beach, where clothing is optional. But hey, whatever takes your fancy.
I fancied staying at Melaleuca Surfside Backpackers, over the cabins and caravan parks in the area. Here we were pleased to find loads of room among the gumtrees to pitch a tent, with the added bonus of a resident kangaroo who promptly wandered into the tent to take a poop, just to let us know who was boss.
You can hire one of the permanent tents at Melaleuca or well as take your own (keep the door zipped up), or bunk down in one of the private or dorm-style cabins scattered around. A spacious communal kitchen and lounge area is connected to shower and toilet amenities by a raised timber board walk, giving the impression you're eating and bathing in the treetops.
Midweek, we shared the clean, but rustic facilities with a few European backpackers, who seemed pretty relaxed when a possum made a beeline for their bowl of potato chips, and then sat back on the table and munched away .
Be prepared for an earful of bird calls early in the morning, then greet the day with a fry up on the BBQ - a fridge is available for campers and owners Mick and Michelle sell their own eggs for 40c each.
Spend half a day at nearby Shoal Bay and you'll be charmed by Nelson Bay's lesser known little sister. She has a great promenade and an inviting beach where you can laze on the sand, propel yourself off the jetty, hire a kayak or launch your boat. Or a hike up to the lookout at Shoal Bay's northern end might be more your thing, as might lunch overlooking the promendade at the Game Fish Club. Fresh Mahi Mahi and a beer anyone?
Nelson Bay does, however, lay claim to a pretty mesmerising way to end the day. The sunset over Port Stephens is hard to beat: it lights up the marina to give people fishing off the break wall a last splash of light, before slinking around the corner at Soldiers Point.
If you're a romantic you'll want to watch the show from your picnic on Little Beach, or perhaps with a cocktail in hand at one of the bars taking prime position at the marina. Either way, don't miss picking up some fresh seafood while you're down there.
Take the F3 freeway north and follow the signs to Anna Bay. Greet the wildlife at Melaleuca Surfside Backpackers from $25 per person (2 Koala Place Boat Harbour) or your pick from caravan or cabin accommodation in Anna Bay, or motel or self service accommodation in Shoal Bay or Nelson Bay. You'll be glad you did.