The area is very popular for its breathtaking coastal scenery, protected waters at the bay, good fishing, and the opportunity to watch whales during the migration season and the resident dolphins. The main town is Nelson Bay that is popular with vacation goers.
The most convenient means of transport into the area is by car.
If coming from Sydney then the train to Newcastle is a great option in terms of speed and cost. Port Stephens is then a 30 minute drive onwards*
Newcastle Airport is only 30 minute drive away, and has connections to many large cities on the east coast. Sydney Airport is about 2.5 hours away by car.
As with most rural destinations in Australia, your best option is usually by car. The area can be cycled however.
- 1 Port Stephens Ferry Service, Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay, ☏ . You can visit Hawks Nest via the ferry service, 1 hour each way Adults: $26 return, Children: $13 return, Under 5 years: free.
- 1 Stockton Sand Dunes. Miles of sand which is easy to explore on foot but watch out for 4x4s racing around some areas. This is where Mad Max and parts of that ubiquitous Aussie anthem 'Down Under' were filmed.
- 2 One Mile Beach. Named after the town One Mile rather than the other way around, is a stunning place to visit whether you surf or not. Atmospheric views down the peninsular and dramatic swells abound here. There's a car park just off the beach and a small store that sells refreshments.
- 3 Mt Tomaree. A 2.2km return walk will lead you to the summit of Mt Tomaree, where you will find fantastic views of Mt Yacaaba, as well as Cabbage Tree, Fingal, Boondelbah and Broughton Islands, and the Point Stephens Lighthouse.
- 4 Gan Gan Lookout, Lily Hill Road, Nelson Bay. This lookout offers fantastic views of the Nelson Bay region and its surrounds.
- 5 Point Stephens Lighthouse, Fingal Island. Located on Fingal Island, this lighthouse is accessible from Fingal Bay by walking across Fingal Spit, however a much safer option is to go by boat/kayak.
Whale watching cruises leave from Nelson Bay and are well worth it in the seasons that humpbacks pass by (May to November). You may also see dolphins and penguins. There is a variety of vessels and price ranges to choose from at the marina.
- 1 Moonshadow-TQC Cruises, Shop 3, 35 Stockton Street, Nelson Bay, ☏ . Specialises in dolphin and whale watching. The whale watching cruise runs at 10:00 and 13:30 for 2.5 hours. And if you don't get to see whales, they offer a second whale-watching trip for free within the following 6 months. $63.
- Imagine Cruises, Nelson Bay, ☏ . The whale watching cruise operates at 10:30 and 14:00 and lasts for 3 to 3.5 hours. If no whales are sighted they offer a second trip for free. $60.
There is a colony of resident dolphins that can be seen from the beaches or from the popular cruises that leave from Nelson Bay. The best season to watch dolphins is from the end of November to May.
Nelson Bay has some of the best shore dives in New South Wales and attracts scuba divers keen to photograph the varied macro sea life at the sites of Fly Point and Halifax. The following dive shops offer gear rental, tank refill, and diving courses.
- Feet First Dive, 17/34 Stockon St, Nelson Bay (Near the parking at the town centre), ☏ .
- Pro Dive (At the Marina), ☏ .
Camel rides are available on the vast dunes of Port Stephens.
- Sienna's Pizzeria Bar and Restaurant, 1 Trafalgar Street, Nelson Bay, ☏ . Excellent Italian food. The site is licensed and BYO with $5 corkage. $30.
- 1 Red Neds Gourmet Pie Bar, 3/17-19 Stockton Street, Nelson Bay (Look for the statue of Ned Kelly), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A popular place for its gourmet pies.
- 1 Salamander Tavern, Town Centre Circuit, Salamander Bay, ☏ . Daily 10am-10pm. A local upmarket establishment. Has a playground for the kids. Try the schnitty or parma.
- Melaleuca Backpackers, 2 Koala Place, One Mile Beach (Formerly 33 Eucalyptus Drive), ☏ . Quirky backpackers hostel with lots of character and lovely owners. Dorms $28-35.
- 1 Botaba Bed and Breakfast (B&B Accommodation in Port Stephens Boat Harbour), 32 Andrew Close, Boat Harbour NSW 2316, ☏ . Botaba Bed and Breakfast is surrounded by native bushland. 'Adults Only' with 2 rooms, each with private ensuite facilities and direct access to the garden. Fluffy bathrobes and natural body products are provided . Cooked breakfast each morning.
- Samurai Beach Bungalows - Port Stephens YHA, Cnr Frost Rd and Robert Connell Close Anna Bay NSW 2316, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 1pm, check-out: 10am. A beautiful little hostel with a pool, bikes, unique bush kitchen and wifi available. Has the feeling of being in asia with lovely statues scattered around the garden. They have a few different room styles from dorm rooms to privates with both shared or private bathroom. Located about 5km out from Nelson bay in a peaceful garden setting. $30 to $170.