If these past few months have taught us anything, it’s to appreciate the simple things in life: space to breathe, natural beauty, connection to nature and each other.
So now our dreams are finally answered and we can explore this great land of ours again, where better to do that than the coastal region of Port Stephens? This quintessential Australian enclave strikes the perfect balance between life’s simple pleasures and indulgences – natural beauty, heart-pumping adventure, and a collection of coastal towns that ooze soul.
Located on NSW’S North Coast, just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Sydney and a hop, skip and jump from Newcastle Airport, this coastal region boasts pristine landscapes that are a nature lover’s dream. Anchored by a tranquil bay and the Great Lakes Marine Park, aquatic adventures are aplenty. Beach bums are spoilt for choice with 26 stretches of sand to choose from with excellent surf breaks (such as Fingal Bay and One Mile), safe swimming spots for families (such as Little Beach and Shoal Bay), a number of SUP hire options and a surf school for beginners.
Marine animal enthusiasts can get up close to the pods of bottlenose dolphins that reside in the bay on a cruise with Moonshadow-TQC or Imagine Cruises. Get even closer to dolphins during NSW’s only wild dolphin swim in Nelson Bay with Dolphin Swim Australia (September to May) or spot humpbacks on a whale-watching cruise during an extended whale season (May to November).
Back on dry land, Anna Bay is home to the southern hemisphere’s largest coastal sand dunes – Stockton Bight Sand Dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands – which you can explore by 4WD, fly down on a sandboard or traverse on a quad bike further south on the dunes. While at Birubi Beach in Anna Bay, you can take things slower with a sunset camel ride or gallop along the shores on horseback.
Keen hikers can strap on their boots to tackle the Mt Tomaree Summit, a 2.2-kilometre climb that rewards you with panoramic views of Port Stephens and its breathtaking coastline. The surrounding Tomaree National Park comprises coastal bushland, sand dunes, heathland and forest all worth exploring.
Outdoor adventure aside, the many towns that make up Port Stephens are both casual and cool, with an increasingly sophisticated dining scene, chic boutique shopping and first-class accommodation options that are the epitome of barefoot luxury.
Premium boutique hotel Bannisters Port Stephens at Soldiers Point has a tranquil day spa and offers excellent dining at renowned Rick Stein at Bannisters; iconic and ultra-cool Shoal Bay Country Club is a must for casual dining and day drinks; Little Beach Boathouse is the spot for an elegant seafood dinner by the water; while The Anchorage offers refined waterfront accommodation overlooking the marina with a Hamptons-style bar to toast to the good (and simple) things in life.