Shoal Bay is a scenic bay in the beautiful Port Stephens, just a few minutes' drive from Nelson Bay. Although every bay in the Port Stephens region is stunning, Shoal Bay has received a double dose of beauty with a long strip of pure white sand in contrast to bright blue water, that takes on different colours throughout the day. It is a popular holiday destination for many, with tourists and locals flocking to it each weekend, school holidays and every day in between.
As Shoal Bay is the closest bay to the mouth of Port Stephens, it originally became a base for a burgeoning fishing industry in the 1930's and if you visit Shoal Bay Country Club along the waterfront, you can see black and white photos of the huge fish they used to catch. During World War II the government built gun emplacements at Tomaree Head, the mountain at the end of Shoal Bay, to defend the entrance to Port Stephens - which you can still walk to today. As years have gone by, more people have discovered this pristine location and it is now a tourist destination in itself. Here are 5 things to do to enjoy every minute in paradise...
You won't be able to resist going in for a splash! Shoal Bay looking towards Tomaree Head...
1/ Swimming is the most obvious activity to do at Shoal Bay, because as soon as you see the blue water of the bay you are going to want to dive right in! The most popular area to lay down a towel and open up a beach umbrella is around the jetty, where the water is clear and it is close to the car parking. You will often see people jumping off the jetty into the water, snorkelling or swimming laps along the length of the bay. There is no better place to experience the clear water and beauty of Port Stephens than Shoal Bay.
2/ Hire a Kayak or SUP from Port Stephens Paddlesports, just across the road from the beach, and get out on the clear water and immerse yourself in the bay. The friendly staff at the shopfront will arrange your equipment, with kayaks on the grass by the beach waiting to be pulled down into the water. If you have never done it before they will give you instructions and then you can paddle out and enjoy the scenery and spot a dolphin or two. You can also book online before your visit if you prefer, with online deals available. See here for details.
3/ Tomaree Head Summit Walk is a must-do for many people when they visit Shoal Bay, as the view from the top is featured on much of the advertising for Port Stephens. It has one of the most picturesque views of any lookout that I have ever been to and impresses everyone who makes the effort to walk up to the top. Although the view at the very top is stunning, there is a metal walkway on the last stages of the walk where you can capture the best views and take photos. On the way up or on the way back, ensure you take the turn-off to look at the gun emplacements from World War II and learn about the history of the region in wartime. Put on your best walking shoes and take plenty of water! See here for a full article on the walk.
If you are looking for more walks to do in the area, also check out the Zenith Beach to Wreck Beach Walk, located just up the road from the Tomaree Head Summit Walk entrance.
View from the top of Tomaree Head Summit Walk (Shoal Bay is on the right)
4/ Shoal Bay Country Club is a large, modern and fresh café, restaurant and bar right across the water from Shoal Bay. In 2018 it received a $6 million dollar makeover and it is one of the highlights of visiting this bayside town. Sit on the rooftop and enjoy a cocktail, watch a band, grab a takeaway coffee or relax over breakfast at this fresh and inviting location. This venue is open until 2am every night (midnight on Sundays), celebrating like it's the weekend, every day of the year. See here for details.
5/ Fishing is another way to enjoy this beautiful piece of paradise, with many keen fishermen and women often seen fishing off the beach at the far end of the bay (closest to Nelson Bay), off the jetty and towards Tomaree Head, however you can fish anywhere off the bay. When fishing in the Port Stephens region, ensure you have a NSW fishing license and be aware of the Sanctuary Zones within the bay - see here for a map.
Shoal Bay is one of my personal favourite places to visit in Port Stephens. As you drive into the bay you can't help but catch your breath at the beauty of the colours of the sand and water - it is like you have arrived in a beachfront oasis. Our family often stop and pick up takeaway coffees and milkshakes from Shoal Bay Country Club and take them over to the jetty to just simply stand and take in the view. It is the ideal place to shake off the stresses of the working week, slow down and celebrate the start of the weekend...