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Published September 16th 2019
Swimming costume required
So you've booked a holiday to the Nelson Bay area in Port Stephens (congratulations, good choice!) and you may now be wondering what there is to do. If you visit in the summer months, expect to spend your days swimming in the crystal-clear bays and devouring fresh, local seafood by night. If you are visiting with kids, there is also a whole list of places to visit around the bay, which the kids will absolutely love - and you will too.
As you drive closer to the Nelson Bay area, you will see road signs to other popular holiday spots such as Fingal Bay, Shoal Bay, Salamander Bay, Soldiers Point and Anna Bay. Each surrounding town has their own beachy charm, so ensure you take a leisurely drive and check them out on your visit. These below, are my top 5 tips on where to go on a holiday to Nelson Bay, however you can't go wrong wherever you end up on your exploration. The whole region has beauty in abundance, so ensure you slow down and relax, to fully appreciate the serenity in this unique, water-lovers paradise.
Stop and appreciate the sunsets, every night
1/ Visit Nelson Bay Town Centre & d'Albora Marinas to get a feel of the town, scope out where you would like to go back for dinner, pick up some supplies from Woollies and grab an ice cream to take down to the water. If you are feeling peckish, stop for lunch at one of the eateries at the marina, then take a stroll along the Nelson Bay Foreshore and discover seafood outlets in one direction, and dolphin cruise boats in the other. Also have a look at the water sport options at the floating booking office, with jet ski, kayak and SUP hire available.
A popular event which happens along the Nelson Bay Foreshore through summer is the Sacred Tree Markets, with food trucks, artisan market stalls and children's activities.
Walk along the waterfront at the d'Albora Marinas...
2/ Drive to Shoal Bay and witness the beauty of the next small seaside town, around the Port Stephens bay. Along the way, take a detour to check out Little Beach, another popular swimming bay, or stop for scones and tea up at Inner Light Tea Rooms.
Although all the bays are picturesque, Shoal Bay is particularly beautiful, with a long beach to lay down your towel and kayak hire, if you would like to explore the coast and look for dolphins and wildlife. When you're ready for lunch, take a visit to Shoal Bay Country Club and relax with a cold drink up on the patio and share a seafood platter for two. If you are feeling energetic, park your car at the end of Shoal Bay Road and walk up the Tomaree Head Summit Trail, for the best views in the region - and the most photographed!
3/ Birubi Beach at Anna Bay is another must-see, to enjoy the view of the 32 kilometre long Stockton Sand Dunes, which is part of the Worimi Conservation Lands. The sand dunes are the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. Parking can be tricky, however if you arrive early you can grab a bacon & egg roll from The Kiosk and go for a walk along the beachfront. Next to the surf club there is a tourist area of caravans, where you can book a camel ride, a 4WD tour or hop on a bus to go sandboarding. If you have a 4WD, book a beach driving permit and go for a drive.
Alternatively, take some water and a wide-brimmed hat and go exploring the sand dunes by foot. I recommend you keep your shoes on however, as there can be sharp objects unearthed by the wind. It feels like you are walking through the Sahara!
Our family have often commented that the Port Stephens region reminds us of The Whitsunday Islands, but without the price tag to get there. The sand is pure white, the water visibility is pristine, multi-million dollar boats cruise the bay and the two headlands at the mouth of the port, look like islands in the distance.
Nelson Bay can get busy during the summer school holidays, but you can still stumble on a secluded bay and be the first person to make footprints in the sand. It is a relaxing, quiet escape, just over 2.5 hours from Sydney. One visit, won't be enough.
Sit on the beach and look for dolphins at Bagnalls Beach, a 5 minute drive from Nelson Bay