My family recently moved from the city of Canberra to the blue waters of Port Stephens, and let's just say, it wasn't a hard move. Although we loved Canberra, Port Stephens is a family friendly, relaxed place to live with 26 beaches and 2.5 million tourists every year coming to experience its natural beauty. This is now our "forever place" and we are just starting to explore it, however it could take an entire lifetime to discover its hidden secrets, local beaches and favourite places to dine with family and friends - and new friends to be made.
When we first arrived, we were overwhelmed with the beauty of every bay around the region and huge array of cafes and restaurants with water views, to take in the sparkling aqua of the water and even spot a dolphin or two. I have put together this list of recommendations from locals who we have chatted to, as a list for others to discover on their holidays, and for us to tick off slowly as we settle in. If you are a local and you have any more tips, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article. These are just 10 of them - and they are all stunning!
Did I mention they were stunning? Image: Little Beach Boathouse Facebook
1/ Little Beach Boathouse is located at Little Beach, just a few minutes drive from the tourist area of Nelson Bay in Port Stephens. This cute little bay is popular with people who love to fish, with a large fish filleting station by the water and pelicans hovering nearby, hoping to catch some scraps. As you drive into the area, Little Beach Boathouse is on the left hand side, with its stunning deck jutting out into the water and immersing itself into the scenery. They specialises in local, fresh seafood and modern Australian cuisine. See here for details.
2/ Inner Light Tearooms is also located in Little Beach, past the Little Beach Boathouse above and towards the Nelson Bay Lighthouse at the end of the headland. Check out their Facebook for photos of their delicious breakfast meals and views down to the water. On our visit to check out its location, we couldn't get a car space and had to turn around and drive back down. It's popular - so get there early if you can! See here for details.
One of the most popular cafes in Port Stephens - Inner Light Tearooms. Image: Inner Light Tearooms Facebook
3/ The Deck is located at Soldiers Point, which is on the opposite side of Nelson Bay to the venues above. We heard about this venue from our local real estate agent, who said it her favourite place to dine overlooking the water. She says it is popular with everyone who visits, as you can sit at the tables and look for pelicans and dolphins popping up beside the restaurant while you eat. Does it get much better than that? See here for details. Also check out The Point restaurant upstairs, for even more sweeping views.
4/ Bannisters is a newly-opened boutique hotel, also located in Soldiers Point. This impressive hotel opened in September 2018 and its main drawcard is that Rick Stein, the popular UK chef who is renowned for cooking with seafood, has opened up a restaurant overlooking the water. This venue is a "must" for all seafood lovers, and the hotel also has The Tavern, for a more relaxed pub-style venue. See here for details.
View pelicans and dolphins from your table at The Deck, Soldiers Point. Image: The Deck Facebook
5/ Mavericks on the Bay is located right in the heart of Nelson Bay, on the waterfront at D'Albora Marina. We heard this venue before we saw it one lazy weekend afternoon, as it had a one man band rocking out some old school favourites to the Sunday afternoon crowd. As well as live music, they also offer a fresh menu with views out to the boats in the marina and the people walking by. If you are looking for somewhere to go for a cheeky cocktail in the evenings, this is a popular venue for all ages. See here for details.
6/ The Wharf Bar & Grill is located at the end of Teramby Road, at Nelson Bay Wharf. You can walk around to it from Mavericks on the Bay above, or drive around and park your car right out the front. The wharf itself is where the seafood trawlers come in and you can watch where the seafood is unloaded. Overlooking the water and marina is The Wharf Bar and Grill with seafood that couldn't get any fresher! Happy Hour is between 3pm - 6pm daily. See here for details. Also in the area check out Bub's Famous Fish & Chips and Bay Harbour Café, for fish and chips right on the water.
Cocktails & fresh seafood at Mavericks on the Bay. Image: Mavericks Facebook
7/ The Anchorage is a hotel, spa and dining experience at Corlette, just a short distance from Nelson Bay. There are two dining venues with water views to choose from - The Wild Herring for regional seafood and The Galley Kitchen, for breakfast, lunch, pizza or dinner under the umbrellas. If you are after just a drink, pop into Hemingway's Bar for a cosy nightcap with a view. See here for details.
8/ Saltwater Restaurant at Fingal Bay was another popular recommendation located on Fingal Bay itself, with a modern Australian menu with an Asian twist, cold beers on tap, sparking wines, specials throughout the year and views over the water. Fingal Bay is a popular bay for tourists to visit to walk along the Fingal Spit, which is a narrow sand bridge to Shark Island with water lapping at both sides - depending on the tide. Pay attention to the warning signs however, with conditions that can change easily. See here for details.
Water views all around from The Anchorage, Corlette. Image: The Anchorage Facebook
9/ Crest Birubi Beach is a locals secret, with views out to the stunning Birubi Beach and an array of food options to drool over. This area at Anna Bay is popular with tourists, with camel rides and trips up the beach to experience the thrill of the Stockton Sand Dunes. For a more relaxed way to spend a morning however, sit back with a delicious breakfast and simply take in the view and holiday atmosphere. We've been told that if you're lucky, you may even spot some whales from your table - so take your binoculars! See here for details.
Take your binoculars for whale watching at Crest, Birubi Beach. Image: Crest at Birubi Beach website
10/ Shoal Bay Country Club opposite Shoal Bay itself may be last on this list, but it is certainly not least! We visited this newly-renovated restaurant, café, bar and function venue on one of our first weekends in Port Stephens. We went for breakfast inside Mermaids Café, however if you walk through into the centre of the building and up the stairs, you have 180 degree views over the aqua-marine hues of Shoal Bay. Sit up there and have a few drinks, lunch, dinner or a seafood platter, and enjoy your holiday in style. See here for details.
All of these venues offer water views and their own sense of style, around the Nelson Bay region. There really is no better way to catch up with friends, or have a romantic meal, than with a meal overlooking the calming waters around the Port Stephens coastline. So what are you waiting for? Why don't you check out one today or this weekend? Life is too short not to!
Enjoy fresh seafood and water views upstairs at Shoal Bay Country Club...(Image: Shoal Bay Country Club Facebook)
Congrats Sue on your new 'forever' home - I must say Port Stephens looks absolutely breathtaking and how exciting to have 'new' places to write about...I look forward to reading about your new favourite spots!