If you’re just about ready to venture off to an island that has permanently warm weather, don’t leave just yet.
Although winter may have you fixed to the heater with an endless supply of hot chocolate, Port Stephens in winter is the unexpected destination that can cure the blues that have managed to creep in.
Just over a two-hour drive north of Sydney, Port Stephens during the winter months offers a relaxing and revitalising getaway without the jostling crowds of summer. From scenic walks and nature hikes to delicious seafood, this charming coastal town knows how to impress.
But what if you knew that winter was also a wonderful time of year to visit? Not only will you avoid the pesky crowds and stress of getting a reservation for brunch, wintertime also offers a peace and serenity like no other. What’s there to do in winter you ask? A whole heap of plenty…
Perhaps one of the most convincing reasons to visit Port Stephens in winter is the fact its home to some of the best whale watching on the eastern coast of Australia.
From May to early September, humpback and southern right whales migrate north past Port Stephens, giving those in-the-know a show to behold.
Boat Harbour and Fingal Bay remain local favourite viewing spots where you’ll be able to see literally hundreds of them from the safety of dry land (for those of us who prefer more stable footing!). But if you want to get up close and personal with the gentle giants, there are whale watching tours that depart multiple times a day.
Lunch at the Shoal Bay Country Club
A visit to Port Stephens isn’t complete without dining at the charming Shoal Bay Country Club.
A favourite of locals and a must-visit for tourists, head down for brunch and try its warming Middle Eastern baked eggs, with fresh tomato and capsicum ragout, Spanish chorizo, herbs and toasted bread.
If you like your breakfast on the sweet side, try the signature waffles with strawberry puree, berry compote, fresh berries, mango and whipped mascarpone. Didn’t make it to breakfast? Be sure to stop by for gourmet wood-fire pizza and blue swimmer crab spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, leek and spinach coulis, chilli, garlic and pecorino romano. Bellissimo!
Tomaree Head Summit walk
A short stroll up the paved track to the Tomaree Head summit will show you breathtaking panoramic views over idyllic Port Stephens, and its surrounding coastline.
You’ll also be able to see all the way to Cabbage Tree and Boondelbah islands, which are the world’s only nesting sites for the endangered Gould’s petrel.
For the picture-perfect Instagram, head up just before the sun is setting to find a colourful backdrop and an exclusive ambience. The surrounding area has a multitude of beautiful nature walks, so if you enjoy this one and want more, there’s plenty of local natural wonders to discover.
Sand dune adventures
Consider a visit to the Worimi Conservation Lands, the 4200-hectare site managed by the Worimi people, the traditional owners of the land in Port Stephens.
The Worimi are proud of their culture and heritage, continuing the maintenance of their cultural practices and their sacred and significant sites. Whilst learning about the local area, a range of guided tour experiences are available from authorised tour operators. And if you are ready for some adrenaline-based activities, perhaps consider a 4WD or quadbike tour of the dunes?
Camel riding on the beach
If you’d like to experience a desert-like adventure without the sweltering heat, a camel riding tour is the way to go.
These run all year round but in winter you don’t need to worry about the blistering heat – just make sure you take a few extra layers! And if it’s a romantic twist you’re after, a sunset ride may be right up your alley.
If you are looking for something more relaxing, enjoy an afternoon at the recently revamped Anchorage Hotel and Spa. With winter packages on offer, Spa Lucca is open daily from 9am to 6pm, offering a range of treatments to relax and restore your mind, body and soul.
Or, alternatively, bask in the infinity pool overlooking the nautical surrounds. Sounds tough, doesn’t it?