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Published October 19th 2018
To look for whales, or just appreciate the view
For locals and tourists to Nelson Bay, there is no better way to experience the beauty of the region than by looking out from one of the area's most spectacular lookouts. It is a way to get your bearings in a new place and to also see the features of the natural landscape below. Port Stephens has 26 bays and beaches along its waters, with each one showing up as a bright white ribbon of sand in every curve of the bay. Between May to November, if you are on the coastal headlands around the region, you can also look for some of the 25,000 whales that make their migration north and then back down south, in the later months. Visiting the local lookouts is more than what you see, it is the lorikeets you hear, the ocean breeze you feel and the sense of calm, at this relaxing holiday destination along the NSW coastline.
These are just 5 of the many stunning lookouts around the Nelson Bay region. The first one below is the most convenient - located just a few minutes from the heart of Nelson Bay...
Gan Gan Lookout is located on Lily Hill Road, just off the main road which travels down into Nelson Bay. At the entrance to the lookout there are signs to read about the stunning Gymea Lilies that grow wildly on the hill, the Tomaree coastline, the indigenous history and also the meaning of "Gan Gan", which means white-breasted fish hawk (sea eagle) in local indigenous Gathang language. The short walk to the lookout is along a flat concrete path and then up to a concrete viewing platform, 160 metres above sea level, which takes in the colourful and scenic views over the bays of Port Stephens. Gymea Lilies frame each picture, as you look over to the islands along the coastline and down to the towns which make up the region. Take your camera as the views are particularly outstanding - especially on a sunny day when the blue of the water looks good enough to dive into!
Read the signs, admire the lilies and learn about this unique and stunning region
Tomaree Heads Summit Walk at Shoal Bay is another way to view the entire region 160 metres up in the air - however, this lookout requires an uphill, up-stair hike to the top. Once you have reached the top, the views from the metal platforms are enough to literally take your breath away. Look over to Fingal Spit, down to Zenith Beach and across to the ribbons of white sand which make up Shoal Bay and beyond. Ensure you stay for a while at the top and take in the views, look for whales, take plenty of selfies (as proof that you walked up the mountain!) and savour the beauty of this pristine wilderness. For more details on this walk, see the article Tomaree Head Summit Walk - Top 5 Tips to Read Before You Go.
Take in the views of the whole region, from the top of Tomaree Heads Summit Walk
Nelson Head Lighthouse, located in between Nelson Bay and Little Beach, is another top spot to look out to sea and look for whales, as they make their way past the Port Stephens Coastline. The lighthouse itself isn't used anymore and now houses a historical museum inside the lighthouse-keeper's 1800s cottage, however, next door is the popular and scenic, Inner Light Tearooms café. The beauty of this whole headland, which also includes the base for the Maritime Rescue Unit, is that you can sit with a coffee and a scone and spot whales from your table. Does it get much better than that?
180 degree views along the bays, from Nelson Head Lighthouse and Inner Light Tearooms
The Whale Watching Headland at Boat Harbour, a short drive from Nelson Bay, is a popular spot for locals to walk up and look for whales on their migration. The headland and path was upgraded in 2017, to make it more accessible for the elderly and small children to walk up to the top of the headland and look out to sea. When you get to the top of the path, there are two log seats to sit on to stay for a while, or you can walk even further out to the far end of the headland (where you will find a lifesaving ring) for an even better view. If you intend on walking over the rocks, wear some sturdy sneakers.
Follow the locals to the Whale Watching headland at Boat Harbour
5/ The Best View of the Stockton Sand Dunes...and Camels!
Birubi Beach at Anna Bay has a lookout area on top of the surf club, for visitors to look for whales in one direction and look over the Stockton Sand Dunes on the other. The sand dunes are the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere and attract tourists from all around the world. Thrill-seekers enjoy sand boarding down the 30 metre high sand hills, going on a quad biking tours, taking 4WD Beach and Dune tours or riding camels to feel like they are in the Sahara! Either way, standing at the lookout at Birubi Beach is like no other lookout on this list - you look down to the trucks and caravans where people meet their tours, watch the camels and horses get ready for their riders and also see the constant convoy of 4WD trucks taking passengers to the sand hills. It really is a bizarre sight - feeling like you are in a desert - by the beach!
These are the best lookouts that our family have discovered when exploring the region - where is your favourite lookout, or place to look for whales? If you have a favourite that isn't mentioned here, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article and share your tips.
Wherever you go - enjoy the view!
Look out from the platform at Birubi Beach, down to the action on the Stockton Sand Dunes...