Port Stephens, Forster & Surrounds
Port Stephens is referred to as Australia's blue water paradise, and deservedly so, with stunning sapphire blue waters all around and gorgeous white sand beaches. The Port Stephens - Great Lakes Marine Park stretches 98,000 ha from Stockton Beach to Cape Hawke.
Port Stephens is Australia's dolphin capital, with its own resident pod of over 150 friendly bottlenose dolphins.The dolphins are playful and inquisitive mammals and live in these waters all year round, so dolphin viewing tours can be taken any season. Cruises are a great option, especially for families and those wanting to view the dolphins in a relaxing environment. Taking a kayak tour is a great way to get up even closer.
A huge drawcard in the area during winter is whale watching. May to November when the great migration is taking place is a fantastic time to visit Port Stephens. Book yourself a cosy weekend in some lovely accommodation, rug up and head out on the water. For those that want to stay on terra firma, Boat Harbour offers a great vantage point for land based whale watching. Set yourself up on a rug and take some binoculars!
There are little towns all around the shores and numerous beaches to choose from. Nelson Bay on the southern end of Port Stephens is the main holiday centre, with a cosmopolitan atmosphere offering a pretty marina, shops, resorts and plenty of dining options. Shoal Bay is a small resort strip sitting on the most gorgeous stretch of sand, and is a place where you can wake up to stunning views of the bay. Corlette is a secluded area, with some fine BnBs and the lovely anchorage resort and marina.
Like much of the NSW North Coast, Port Stephen’s is a culinary paradise. The freshest of seafood and abundant local produce conspire to make dining here a treat (avocados, macadamia nuts and olives are just a few of the tempting tastes of the region) . The area is also famous for its oyster farming, with Pacific oysters loved for their flavour and freshness. And with the Hunter Valley’s world class vineyards literally on the doorstep (and some boutique wineries in the immediate vicinity), what can we say… gastronomes really are spoilt for choice!
The natural environment here is pristine. Surf or swim at uncrowded beaches, snorkel, kayak or take one of the many adventurous tours. Go parasailing, deep sea fishing, horse trekking, or wine tasting. Or get away from it all and take a walk through the spectacular Tomaree National Park. Keep your eyes open for koalas too, as Port Stephens is one place where you have a good chance of spotting these cute marsupials in their natural habitat.
To the south, the Stockton Sand Dunes have to be seen to be believed. A visit to Australia's largest moving sand mass can have you believing you've just set foot in the Sahara desert. Stretching as far as the eye can see, some of the dunes reach 40 metres in height. Running alongside a pounding surf beach over 32 kilometres, they really are a sight to behold. The dunes are located right between Newcastle and Port Stephens, and are easily reached from both. Stockton Beach Tours depart Newcastle, and Anna Bay is Port Stephen's access point. There are numerous adventure companies offering trips to see the dunes. You can go quad biking, sand boarding, four wheel driving and horse riding on the sands. Learn about the diverse marine and animal life of the dunes, see shipwrecks and World War II relics, tour the 'Tin City' (scene of many filmings, notably the early Mel Gibson cinema classic, 'Mad Max"). You can even take a sunset camel trek along the beach here.
Driving north of Port Stephens en route to Port Macquarie lies the Myall and Wallis Lakes area, with beautiful beaches along Pacific Palms and the twin towns of Forster-Tuncurry. The Myall Lakes National Park is one of the most popular parks in NSW. It is a paradise for watersports enthusiasts with beaches, lakes and rivers galore. You can chill out in glorious lakefront nature parks, or soak up the surf on gorgeous beaches like Blueys. Forster is a seaside town offering loads of amenities, with apartment hotels and restaurants. It's also one of the spots on our coast with its own local pod of dolphins and offers the opportunity to get in the water and swim with them.