February 20, 2023
8 mins Read
Flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side, Karuah River on the other and with 26 beaches lining its coast, Port Stephens is an aquatic playground for swimmers, surfers, watersports, boating enthusiasts and anyone who loves to soak up the sun, sand and sea. If this sounds like you, this guide to Port Stephens beaches and bays will help you plan your next seaside holiday.
Best for: families, boating, fishing
Nestled between Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay, Little Beach is a family-friendly beach with calm and clear waters. Kids will enjoy splashing about in the shallows and making sandcastles with the clean sand.
Turtles can sometimes be spotted here, so pack some snorkels and keep an eye out. It also has a grassy area with barbecues and a playground, for relaxed beachside picnics. There is also a boat ramp and jetty for fishing and cruising about.
Best for: families, diving and snorkelling
Nelson Bay is home to a small swimming bay, which is a great spot for families thanks to the calm conditions and convenient location in town.
It’s also a haven for diving and snorkelling at Fly Point Aquatic Reserve, a protected aquatic sanctuary located between Nelson Bay and Little Beach, where you can swim among sponge gardens and may spot blue groupers, wobbegong sharks and seahorses, among other marine species. The foreshore behind the bay has a picnic area and playground, an ideal post-dip lunch locale.
Best for: families, walking track, paddleboarding
Sometimes referred to as ‘Dutchies’ by locals, this beach has clear water and white sand and is ideal for stand-up paddle boarding. At high tide, the beach is narrow, so it’s best to visit at low tide if you want to relax on the sand. There is a grassy area with barbecues and a playground for kids. There is also a coastal walking path that runs from Nelson Bay to Dutchies and onto Bagnalls Beach.
Best for: scenery, sunsets
On the western side of Soldiers Point, a location renowned for its sunsets, this aptly named beach is most spectacular at the end of the day when the sun melts into the horizon. Of course, it’s worth a visit during daylight hours too; swimming is best at high tide.
Best for: families, walking track, dogs
This white sand beach, just south of Corlette, can be reached by the coastal pathway that runs from Nelson Bay. Dogs are also allowed off-leash here, so if you’re travelling with your four-legged friend this is the beach for you. Black swans also frequent here, who come to feed on the seagrass in this shallow bay. There are three reserves along this stretch, with picnic areas, barbecues, toilets and a playground.
Best for: families, fishing, boating
Located at the northern end of Salamander Bay, which is an estuarine environment, Wanda Beach is a calm spot that’s perfect for relaxed dips and for kids to splash about.
The white-sand beach faces the mouth of Port Stephens and has a lot of seaweed in some areas; swimming is best out the front of George Reserve or take a paddleboard or kayak. The reserve has barbecues, undercover picnic tables and a playground.
There is also a boat ramp and jetty, which you can fish right off, and Bannisters Port Stephens is located at the western end of the beach if you want a relaxed drink afterwards at its gastropub Cheeky Dog.
Best for: families, fishing, snorkelling
Boasting soft white sand and aquamarine waters, this long, curved beach is bookended by Nelson Bay Lighthouse and Mount Tomaree. Mostly gentle conditions make it a favourite with families and great for paddle boarding, and its location adjoining Shoal Bay village is convenient for fish and chip breaks on long beach days.
At the eastern end of the beach, there’s a jetty and picnic area; keen fishermen frequent this area for beach and rock fishing. Snorkelling is also possible, as the beach has extensive seagrass meadows where cuttlefish and seahorses sometimes hide out.
Best for: fishing, watching the sunrise
Wedged between two headlands in Tomaree National Park, Zenith Beach is known for its sugar-white sand and turquoise water. Accessed via two walking tracks, it’s a scenic spot to watch the sunrise and snap the perfect Instagram shot. You shouldn’t swim here though, as it is too dangerous. It’s part of the Great Lakes Marine Park so you may even spot dolphins here and whales during their annual migration.
Best for: seclusion, surfing, fishing
Located in Tomaree National Park, this peaceful cove is somewhat of a little secret, tucked away in Shoal Bay. To access this secluded beach, start at Verona Road, and follow the track to a fire trail; you’ll weave through angophora forest that opens to the beach. It can be steep in some sections and is two kilometres return. Swimming is possible but strong rips can occur.
Best for: seclusion, surfing, fishing
Between Fingal Bay and Shoal Bay, Box Beach is accessed by a 200-metre walkway from the car park and is frequented year-round by surfers. Like the other beaches along this stretch of coast, it has white sand and pristine water. Swimming here can be a little hazardous at times, but the edges of the beach can sometimes comprise shallow rock pools for splashing around in. Rock fishing is also popular here.
Best for: families, swimming, surfing
Despite its name, this Anna Bay beach stretches for 1.3 kilometres and is backed by dunes that reach up to 400 metres. It’s popular with families because it has calm conditions at its southern end and shallows that are perfect for small kids. It’s a great place to learn to surf as it’s also patrolled in summer. There’s a picnic area and a kiosk that operates from the surf club.
Best for: nudists, surfing, four-wheel-driving
Beware: if you prefer your beachgoers clothed, this one isn’t for you. This nudist beach in Tomaree National Park is reached via a walking track or four-wheel drive and is great for surfing and beach driving. It experiences consistent rips, so swimming is best for strong swimmers. There’s also a camping ground here, if you want to stay overnight.
Best for: four-wheel-driving, sand dunes, camel riding
This wide, open beach is the gateway to the famous Worimi Conservation Lands and Stockton Bight Sand Dunes, which are accessible by four-wheel drive.
The dunes are a natural adventure playground, on which you can enjoy quad biking and sandboarding. Birubi Beach is great for surfing, and beginners can book lessons here, but conditions can be a bit tricky during moderate to big swells.
There is a kiosk and café at the surf club (it’s patrolled during beach season), a picnic area, and it’s also home to aboriginal middens at Birubi Point. Camel rides are also available along the beach with Oakfield Ranch Camel Rides, which operates during the day and at sunset.
Best for: Families, whale watching, surfing and paddle boarding
Surrounded by Tomaree National Park, Fingal Bay is a favourite with families, for its sugar-white sand and calm, patrolled beach (during beach season). Surfers also regularly grace its waves and it’s a great spot to take a surf lesson or go paddleboarding.
What makes this beach so unique is the sand bridge known as ‘The Spit’ that leads across to Fingal (Shark) Island, which is also home to the 1862-built Port Stephens Lighthouse and the ruins of its caretakers’ cottage. (It is important that you do not cross over the spit if there is any water over it, due to strong currents).
There is also a whale-watching platform here, to try and spot these majestic mammals pass by the coast between May and November. Coffee and food are easily available at the surf club’s restaurant and café, and little ones can play at Fingal Bay Foreshore Reserve, which has a children’s playground.
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