Are you going for a holiday with the kids to Nelson Bay, but you're not sure what to do, or where to go? There are hundreds of things to do in the Nelson Bay region, from as simple as building sandcastles down at the beach to spending the day at the local zoo or splash park. These are just 40 of the top things to do in the area, however, if you discover more on your holidays, or you are a local who has more ideas, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article and extend the list even more. You can never have too many options!
A holiday at Nelson Bay means that the whole family will spend almost the entire time outdoors enjoying the beauty of the region, so check the weather forecast, pack plenty of sun cream and start counting the sleeps until you can pack up your car and go. Your family holiday in the sun awaits!
Summer fun at Oakvale Wildlife Park. Image: Oakvale Facebook
1/ Oakvale Wildlife Park is located in Salt Ash and is a popular wildlife park for families all year around, however, if you visit in summer they also have a Splash Bay to cool off in - so take your swimmers! See here for details.
2/ Waterworld Central is a temporary inflatable waterpark that is located on the road to Oakvale Wildlife Park, which is open for a month in the summer holidays. See here for details.
3/ SPLASH Waterpark is also a temporary inflatable waterpark that is open during the summer months, literally in the water at Nelson Bay. See here for details.
4/ Toboggan Hill Park is a rustic family entertainment venue with downhill toboggan rides, mini golf, indoor hot ice-skating, tractor rides, indoor rock climbing and a range of activities for the littlies. See here for details.
5/ Sand Boarding is a fun activity for thrill-seekers at Birubi Beach, Anna Bay. The sand dunes are part of the 32km Stockton Beach and Worimi Conservation Lands, which are the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. Take a 4WD bus out to the sand boarding area and then fly down the hills! Check out the websites for Sand Dune Safaris, Port Stephens 4WD and 4WD Tours R Us.
Hit the slopes at Birubi Beach! Image: Port Stephens 4WD Tours Facebook
6/ Quad Bike hire and tours are also available at the dunes, for kids over the age of 7 who go on a slow tour with Sand Dune Adventures and for over 8's with Quad Bike King (Sand Pit only - all other tours are for over 12's).
7/ Camel Rides can also be enjoyed over the sand dunes at Birubi Beach for ages 2 years and over. See here for details.
8/ Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters offer families the chance to get hands-on and take a tour to learn more about stingrays, jellyfish and marine animals. See here for details.
9/ David Grahams Golf Complex offers a host of family activities which include a mini golf course, a driving range, baseball batting cage and Frisbee golf. See here for details.
10/ Super Strike Bowling Alley is located next to Salamander Square shopping centre and is the perfect wet weather or hot weather activity for all ages. As well as the modern 10 lanes, it also has arcade games and air hockey to play afterwards. See here for details.
Super Strike Bowling Alley - perfect for a hot or rainy day
11/ Spirited - A Creative Play Centre is an indoor play centre for all ages, located at Taylors Beach on the road to Salamander Bay. See here for details.
12/ Fighter World is located at Williamtown next to the RAAF base, where they train fighter pilots for the defence force. Look around the museum, sit in a cockpit and watch the planes take off - small children may want to cover their ears! See here for details.
13/ Go Karts Go is an outdoor go-kart track which has double karts for adults and kids over 5 to ride together, as well as Junior Karts for kids aged 8 and over. See here for details.
14/ Nelson Bay Cinema is a small cinema with all the latest release school holiday movies. See here for details.
15/ d'Albora Marinas in Nelson Bay has a high-bouncing bungy trampoline set up each school holidays, where kids are strapped into a harness and can flip and do tricks. See here for location. 16/ Sahara Trails Horse Riding offer horse riding packages for along bush tracks, along the beach or over the dunes. See here for details.
Family horse riding at Sahara Trails. Image: Sahara Trails Facebook
17/ Kayak Hire is available from Nude Kayaks at Bagnalls Beach, Port Stephens Paddlesports in Shoal Bay and Nelson Bay and Soldiers Point Boat Hire, to name a few. Get out on the water and spot some dolphins! 18/ Go on a Dolphin Watching Cruise with Moonshadow TQC Cruises and meet some of the resident dolphins who live in the bay. See here for details.
19/ Nelson Bay Jet Ski Hire is available for kids over the age of 8, if they ride tandem with an adult. See here for details.
20/ Snorkelling is a favourite activity for all ages, with Fly Point a popular spot to snorkel, which can be accessed from Victoria Parade on the way to Little Beach. Alternatively, smaller kids will enjoy snorkelling off any of the family friendly bays in the region.
21/ Go Boogie Boarding at the surf beaches just a short distance from Nelson Bay, which have lifeguards and flags.
22/ Port Stephens Surf School is a popular way for families to learn to surf together whilst on holidays, all year around. See here for details.
23/ Tomaree Aquatic Centre is a popular venue for families, as it has an undercover toddler pool and a large slide for the older kids. See here for details.
Slides and shade at Tomaree Aquatic Centre, Nelson Bay
24/ Fishing is a favourite past-time for all ages in the Port Stephens region, with many local families seen on the rocks at Nelson Bay Breakwater early each day, pulling in bream and larger fish. Although there are numerous bayside options to fish from, see here for some ideas of where to go fishing with kids.
25/ Gan Gan Lookout is a popular lookout in Nelson Bay to visit, with sweeping views over the entire Port Stephens. See if the kids can spot where they are staying, or where they have been. If you visit between May and November, also visit the other lookouts in the area and look for whales.
26/ Go for an Ice-cream at d'Albora Marinas or at Nero's Gelato Café in Nelson Bay, to cool the whole family down on a hot summers day. See here for details.
27/ Tomaree Head Summit Walk is a hard walk for many adults, however if you have older kids or teenagers who are used to hiking or uphill walking, then put on your comfy shoes and experience the best views in the region. See here for details.
28/ Playgrounds are located all around the Nelson Bay region, with the biggest and best (in my daughter's opinion!) located at Nelson Bay, Fingal Bay and Dutchies Beach - see here for details. Also check out the beachside playground at Boat Harbour, for a play and a swim.
A playground with water views at Nelson Bay Playground
29/ Shoal Bay Country Club is a large café, bar and club located opposite Shoal Bay, which had a spectacular $6 million dollar make-over in 2018. At the time of writing, they host free kids activities each Sunday and all week during the school holidays. See here for details.
30/ Run Over the Sand Dunes at Birubi Beach if you want your kids to sleep well at night! The dunes stretch for 32 kilometres, so it feels like you are running through a desert. I would recommend they keep their shoes on however, as broken glass is sometimes unearthed on a windy day. See here for details.
31/ Go to Little Beach, just around the corner from Nelson Bay, and have a swim, play in the playground, buy an ice-block, fish off the jetty, go snorkelling and join other holiday-makers enjoy this "little" touch of paradise. See here for details.
32/ Go Exploring around the Port Stephens region, with Lemontree Passage an easy 30 minute drive away. This small coastal town at the end of a peninsula has a large undercover playground and cute cafes by the water. On the way back, stop in at Tillgerry Habitat and look for koalas in the wild.
33/ Buy some Prawns from the seafood shops at Nelson Bay wharf and sit on the rocks along the Breakwater and enjoy them with a view. The Breakwater is an interesting rock jetty to walk out onto, to watch people fishing and look for wildlife.
Take a walk up the Breakwater and watch people fishing. Don't forget to look for dolphins!
35/ Visit the Swans at Bagnalls Beach who spend their day feeding on the underwater seagrass meadow, a short distance from the shoreline. See here for details.
36/ Tomaree Markets are held on the 2nd and 4th Sunday every month at the Tomaree Sports Complex and have a variety of stalls to explore. Kids will enjoy a sausage sizzle and spending their pocket money on a lucky dip. See here for details. Also check out Sacred Tree Markets, which is a popular market along the Nelson Bay Foreshore in the summer months.
37/ Go to the Local Op Shop and pick up some cheap books or toys for the holidays! When you have finished with them, donate them back for more kids to enjoy. See here for details.
38/ Go to Fingal Bay and walk along the water's edge to Fingal Spit, which is a sand bridge to Shark Island that is revealed at low tide and then disappears at high tide. Ensure that you take heed of the warning signs and don't cross when high tide is approaching.
Go for a walk along the beach to the entrance of Fingal Spit and take in the views. Back at the surf club, there is a playground to play on afterwards - if they have any energy left!