Quiet coves and great surf beaches have been luring travellers to Port Stephens for generations – and rightly so. But this New South Wales holiday spot is about more than sand and sunscreen.
HIKERS will love joining Port Stephens locals on their weekly slog up Tomaree Head. Jutting out into the ocean at the end of Shoal Bay, the headland makes for great holiday exercise, with the 2.2-kilometre (return) summit walk an energetic but not out-of-reach challenge. If you’re of fair fitness, it will take you about 50 minutes to complete the return journey, including photo stops. Make sure you swap your thongs for joggers as you’ll be scaling metal staircases, stone steps and uneven paths.

 

WILDLIFE warriors will enjoy looking for wild koalas as they wander the timber walkways at Tilligerry Habitat Reserve, Tanilba Bay. The koalas feed and rest among the native bushland here so don’t forget to look up into the towering eucalypts. Even if you fail to spot any of the cuddly icons, the reserve makes for a nice afternoon among banksias, yellow wattle and pretty flannel flowers.

 

WATER babies will relish the chance to hop aboard one of Nelson Bay’s whale-watching vessels. Imagine Cruises offers a 90-minute ‘express’ tour on a fast cat, which will see passengers zoom along the ‘humpback highway’ in search of whales on their annual migration to and from Antarctica (May to November). If time permits, you’ll also visit a fur seal colony and search for bottlenose dolphins playing in the bay. Expect to return covered in saltwater and with tales of the high seas.

 

EXPLORERS will thrive on adventuring beneath the water’s surface to the region’s fantastic scuba diving sites. There are plenty to choose from, including a grey nurse shark sanctuary off rugged Broughton Island, 14 kilometres north-east of Port Stephens. The island is part of Port Stephens–Great Lakes Marine Park, home to turtles, dolphins, and hundreds of fish species. Shore divers and snorkellers can also get up close to colourful nudibranchs and seahorses at The Pipeline, off Nelson Bay.

 

PHOTOGRAPHERS will be mesmerised by sunset at Anchorage Marina, Corlette. Wander the break wall as the sun turns the sky orange and moored yachts are swathed in gold. D’Albora Marinas Nelson Bay also makes for great sunset photography, as does the view from Tomaree Head. If you want to capture sunrise, one of the best spots is Birubi Beach, and afterwards you can grab breakfast at Crest cafe. Time your visit with Port Stephens’ nature photography competition, Shutterfest (until 16 July).

 

Plan your adventure in Port Stephens this winter at www.portstephens.org.au/winter