If you are visiting or living in Newcastle, you will know that there are a wide array of things to do around the city. On weekends, you may be having a bite to eat at Merewether Beach, visiting local museums, exploring the Honeysuckle Precinct or stopping for a coffee along the foreshore, just to name a few attractions. Another popular thing to do is to cross the bridge, head north and go exploring the Port Stephens region - just 1 hour north from Newcastle city centre. It is the perfect destination for a quick city escape and if you have kids, the 1 hour drive doesn't give them time to get bored!
A popular place to visit is the waterside town of Nelson Bay, which sits like the jewel in the crown of the scenic region. The best time to visit is in summer - when you can take advantage of the clear waters to swim in and soak up that holiday atmosphere. Here are just some of the things to do if you hop in the car and hit the road for a quick day trip, this weekend...
Fighter World is a unique tourist attraction, which is located next to Newcastle Airport at Williamtown. It is the home of the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force), so expect to see some low-flying fighter jets zoom overhead as you drive by. If you choose to stop and have a look at the Fighter World museum, there is a viewing platform to watch the jets take off. Take your ear plugs! See here for details.
Oakvale Wildlife Park is located further along the route, at an area called Salt Ash. This wildlife park is perfect for little kids, as it has an interactive petting zoo of farm animals and it doesn't take too long to walk around it. If you visit in summer, ensure you take your swimmers, as it also has an impressive water park to cool off in. See here for details.
Quad Bike King is another sign that you will see, on the drive to Nelson Bay. This is where you can join a quad bike tour of the Stockton Sand Dunes, as part of the Worimi Conservation Lands. It is a must-do for thrill seekers! See here for details.
Murray's Brewery is a popular brewery and pub at Bobs Farm, 15 minutes before you get to Nelson Bay. This family friendly venue is an attraction for all ages, with a wide range of Murray's beers to try, wine tasting, pizza, burgers and a large grassy area for kids to run around on. See here for details.
Gan Gan Lookout is located at the entrance to Nelson Bay and it is worth the quick stop to have a look at the region from above. This lookout provides a spectacular view of the bays and beaches within Port Stephens, as well as out to the white expanse of sand of the Stockton Sand Dunes. See here for a map.
SPLASH Waterpark is an inflatable school holiday attraction that is set up in the waters of Nelson Bay each summer, where kids and adults can traverse the obstacle course on the water. It costs $20 for the 1 hour session (at the time of writing), with bridges to walk over, inflatable pillows to bounce from and towers to climb. See here for details.
Little Beach is a small, popular little bay around the peninsula from Nelson Bay. It has a caravan park which is popular with families, as well as a scenic cafe called the Inner Light Tearooms. If you love to snorkel, there is a popular snorkelling spot called Fly Point, where you walk down into the water at high tide and swim straight off the coastline.
Shoal Bay is the next bay along, and when you drive along behind the beach you will be "oohing" and "aahing" at the sight of the torquoise water against the bright white sand. Tomaree Head is a large mountain in the background - which you can climb for the best views in the entire region. If you don't feel like exercise, then visit Shoal Bay Country Club for a seafood platter and a few cocktails!
Go snorkelling off Fly Point, between Little Beach and Little Nelson Bay
Stockton Sand Dunes begin in Newcastle in the suburb of Stockton, and continue all the way up the coastline to Birubi Beach at Anna Bay, just 15 minutes from Nelson Bay. The sand dunes are the largest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere and are part of the Worimi Conservation Lands. Visitors can go on camel rides through the dunes, learn about the area on 4WD tours or go for a slide down the dunes. If you get a beach permit, you can simply drive straight from Stockton to Birubi Beach along the 32 kilometre beach - who needs roads?
* Parking can be an issue at Birubi Beach over summer, however a Visitor Centre called Birubi Point Aboriginal Place, will be built in late 2020, with better parking facilities.
One day may not be enough to visit this relaxing and scenic region, with many places to explore on the drive in, as well as around the region. When you come back next time, try a new restaurant, swim at a different beach, go for another walk and simply enjoy the attractions at this water-lovers paradise, so close to the city.
Why don't you hit the road this weekend? You are sure to return home with sand in your car, salty hair and that care-free feeling like you've just been on holiday...
Palm trees and white sand, in this little pocket of paradise