21-year-old AT Reader Lahnee Thomas takes time out at the NSW resort town of Nelson Bay, where coastlines are endless and relaxation is second nature.
The drive from Newcastle to Nelson Bay is so picturesque and diverse you begin to feel as though Mother Nature herself would be smugly impressed by her work. One minute we pass lush fields of wildflowers and grass as tall as I am, meadows filled with lazy cattle grazing under the sunlight, the next we’re surrounded by towering bushland and the sun can barely be seen at all. Out of nowhere, gigantic dunes rise triumphantly from the ground, standing tall and bare, stretching as far as the eye can see. At times it’s easy to believe we’re the only people for miles as we watch trees pass us by.
With only five days to spare on a trip to Newcastle, my partner and I wanted to experience as much of the city and surrounds as possible. So, after a few days exploring its vibrant beaches and historical beauty, we took the drive to Nelson Bay, an unspoilt town on the southern coastline of Port Stephens.
Our first stop was Birubi Point, an amazing beach behind a 32km stretch of rolling dunes at the northernmost point of Stockton Beach at Anna Bay. Here you can swim, surf or snorkel the never-ending coastline, or hoon through the sand hills in a 4WD or quad bike.
For us, the idea of salty wind rushing through our hair couldn’t be beaten, so we geared up for a one-hour quad ride with Quad Bike King, followed by a trek through the plains on the back of a dopey camel. Making our way through the monstrous dunes made us feel as though we were trekking through the vast deserts of the Middle East. We felt a pang of sadness as we moved on.
One Mile Beach, next on our list, is a surfers’ paradise. Despite the name, this quiet piece of coastline, world famous for its breaks, stretches for miles and miles. Being keen surfers, we couldn’t help but feel the itch to jump straight in. Nestled behind a shrubby line of dunes, the waves rolled to a rhythmic beat in steady unison, breaking effortlessly, making it the perfect place to escape the crowded breaks of city beaches.
Although Nelson Bay is barely 10min from One Mile Beach, after a couple of beers at the Anna Bay pub we decided to spend the night at a holiday park in Tomaree National Park. The cost was reasonable and the cabins comfy. After checkout we set off to Nelson Bay. Imagine rolling mountains covered in trees of all shades of green, beaches with snow-white sand and water that sparkles like sapphires. Picture a sidewalk full of beach-style cafes and restaurants galore. We settled into the relaxed atmosphere and made our way to the Mantra Aqua, only 700m from the beach in a picturesque setting, where we planned to stay the night.
Our love of the ocean then led us straight to the glistening shores of the main beach. As we sank into the soft, warm sand, we looked left to see the masts of sailboats parked at d’Albora Marina – the place to go for a dolphin or whale watching tour. Just beyond that are the shallow waters of Halifax Bay, where, with stretches of rock and reef in clear blue water, you can watch plenty of smaller yet dazzling sea life while the sun sneaks through the nearby trees and warms your back.
Back down the main beach lies Fly Point, a true divers’ haven. This well-kept secret offers 60 feet of rock wall and is straight off the shore, making it easy to access. Here we saw everything from vibrant fish and soft corals to playful dolphins swimming just metres away.
Afterwards, we hired bikes and rode along the coastline to the next little hideaway, Shoal Bay, the perfect place to stop for lunch (Aussie Bob’s fish ’n’ chips is the best you’ll ever taste). As our holiday slowly came to a close we chose to end it with a glass of wine and mouth-watering dinner at the award-winning Rock Lobster Restaurant at d’Albora Marina. Treated to magnificent water views from large open windows, we sat and admired the glowing sunset over the rippling sea, trying desperately not to think of tomorrow and the fact that we had to leave this peaceful paradise.