From fine dining to fish and chips and everything in between, the Port Stephens dining scene is diverse and ever-growing.
As you’d expect, seafood is a constant on local menus in Port Stephens with chefs taking advantage of the surrounding bountiful waters where plump oysters are grown just offshore and the likes of wild lobster, prawns and yellowfin tuna are plucked straight from the ocean to plate. But for those who prefer their protein from the land or plant-based dining, you won’t be disappointed. Here are some of the best restaurants in the scenic seaside region of Port Stephens.
Soldiers Point & Corlette
These languid suburbs north of busy hub Nelson Bay pack a punch when it comes to dining options, with upmarket pubs and fine dining on the menu.
1. Cheeky Dog
Tucked underneath boutique hotel Bannisters, this upmarket Port Stephens pub is set in a stylish industrial space that’s both family-friendly and dog-friendly, with a casual bistro menu that has a Mediterranean flair (featuring antipasto and stone-baked pizzas).
Cheeky Dog’s casual bistro menu delights the senses.
There are pool tables and big screens indoors, a beer garden with umbrellas and festoon lights to enjoy alfresco meals, and every Monday, Friday and Sunday there is live music.
The beer garden is perfect for soaking up the sun.
2. Rick Stein at Bannisters
We can’t mention Bannisters without a nod to Rick Stein.
Rick Stein and Bannisters go hand in hand.
The renowned chef’s second eponymous outpost (the first at Mollymook) showcases his love of seafood with a seasonal menu – expect local produce fresh from the sea such as Stockton Beach pipis, Nelson Bay tuna and blue swimmer crab, as well as a selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes. It’s a fine dining experience in a relaxed setting with cosy booths for small groups.
A fine dining experience like no other. (Image: David Griffen Photography)
3. The Point
For two decades this waterfront restaurant has been enticing diners with its Italian-inspired, seafood-focused menu and its idyllic location, where you have front-row seats of Soldiers Point’s famous sunsets. The refined restaurant is known for its signature seafood platters that comprise a fresh feast from local waters, including oysters that are harvested straight in front of the venue.
4. The Wild Herring
Part of The Anchorage Hotel, a luxe boutique stay in Corlette that has a distinct Hamptons vibe, this award-winning waterfront restaurant offers a fine dining experience for adults only. The set menu is centred around locally and sustainably sourced seafood, with each dish artfully plated. Post-dinner sink into a leather lounge for a nightcap at Moby’s Bar, home to a selection of the world’s finest whiskies.
The centre of Port Stephens, and the main base from which holidaymakers make their holiday, Nelson Bay has many waterfront restaurants dotted around the marina and many casual dining and takeaway options nestled in town.
5. Mavericks on the Bay
Overlooking d’Albora Marina with chilled-out views of swaying boats, Mavericks has a modern Australian menu of which Port Stephens seafood is the hero. Indulge in a three-tiered seafood platter, as well as other casual hearty meals including burgers and schnitzels. It’s also a lively spot to come for a cocktail while enjoying live music on weekends.
The seafood platter is to die for.
6. Lime Mexican
If authentic Mexican fare is what you’re craving, get yourself down to this buzzy restaurant at the d’Albora Marina. The menu is bursting with flavourful dishes, with a tapas banquet option available for groups of four or more. Pair your quesadillas, fajitas and tacos with sangria or a tequila cocktail for a true Mexican feast.
7. The Little Nel
Underneath Hotel Nelson, this sweet cafe is the perfect place to wake up to with a lazy brunch in its sun-drenched courtyard. The menu is packed with fresh, hearty plates, with almost everything made from scratch. There are favourites such as smashed avo and bacon and egg roll, and some unique breaky options such as chorizo and halloumi croquettes and a Vietnamese pork belly and omelette Bahn mi. Add in a freshly squeezed juice or a coffee by Pablo & Rusty to kick start your day.
Little Nel’s fresh menu will put a spring in your step.
8. Little Beach Boathouse
Perched on the waterfront at the old Little Beach Marina, this venue offers both refined and casual dining. Upstairs, the elegant coastal restaurant has a set menu for dinner, with a focus on fresh local produce, particularly seafood. While Below Deck is a casual cafe and bar downstairs and the ultimate spot for a sundowner, with a menu of bar snacks to enjoy as night falls over the bay.
9. John Dory’s Takeaway
If you’re after a quick bite or have kids in tow, takeaway is always a winner and this conveniently located fish and chip shop is just a short walk to Nelson Bay Foreshore. There are more than 10 different types of burgers to choose from, just as many seafood packs, and good ol’ fish and chips. Wander down to the waterfront to enjoy it with a view.
Fingal Bay & Shoal Bay
These two picturesque bays just south of Nelson Bay make for idyllic family-friendly holiday spots, with relaxed cafes and fish and chip shops, and a hidden social hub where casual bites, refined dining and cocktails can be had in the one place.
Saltwater has incredible beach views.
10. Saltwater Restaurant
Atop the surf lifesaving club at Fingal Bay, this beachside restaurant has panoramic views of the ocean. A simple and fresh beach-style interior, the menu here is filled with casual meals from a classic beef burger to seafood and squid ink risotto to a wholesome ‘happy soul bowl’ filled with roasted veggies. It’s a beautiful spot for a long lunch, with an extensive cocktail list that may keep you even longer.
Enjoy a long lunch at Saltwater.
11. Shoal Bay Country Club
With a history dating back to the 1930s, the beachside Shoal Bay Country Club has long been a busy hub for social gatherings. Oozing a chic and vibrant 1950s design, it’s a happening spot for drinks with large groups and there are multiple options to have your feed here.
With views like this, you can’t go wrong with Shoal Bay Country Club.
Mermaids Cafe is open from 6:30am for great coffee and a wholesome breakfast menu; The Kitchen and Patio kicks on from 11:30am for lunch and dinner, where you can enjoy woodfired pizzas, seafood and premium cuts of meat; whereas Atmos is a taste of the Greek Islands in Shoal Bay, serving a tasty share menu of meze plates and bigger plates including lamb shoulder, eggplant moussaka and souvla of the day (charcoal rotisserie barbecue).
You can choose to dine at Mermaids Cafe or Atmos restaurant.
12. Aussie Bobs Fish & Chips
You can’t forget a name like Aussie Bob’s, but that’s not the only reason people keep coming back here for their fish and chips. Just a short stroll from the white sands of Shoal Bay, this humble shop was first established more than 100 years ago. It’s no frills but super tasty: think battered, crumbed or barbecued fish, hot chips, potato scallops, prawn cutlets, battered savs, and all our other favourite beachside takeaway foods.
13. Mod Thai
This traditional Thai restaurant has two locations in Port Stephens: in Shoal Bay and Nelson Bay. In operation for more than 10 years, Mod Thai is a favourite with locals and visitors alike. There’s trusted classics such as Pad Thai, green curry and massaman beef, with vegetarian and gluten-free options available, and you can choose to dine in (BYO wine), takeaway or order delivery at both locations.
This quiet suburb is the gateway to the Worimi Conservation Lands and Stockton sand dunes, with a great surf club café and a few casual dining options in town.
14. Crest Birubi Beach
Located at the Birubi Beach surf club, this cafe is open every day for breakfast and lunch with the beach so close you can feel the salt spray. Start your day with a belly-filling Crest Big Breakfast or a wholesome Earth Bowl as you watch swimmers heading in for an early morning dip or perhaps whales as they make their yearly migration. Or swap your coffee for a glass of wine or cider while you enjoy a relaxed lunch ocean-side. Bookings are recommended.
15. Romanza Pizzeria
Romanza is a simple pizzeria in Anna Bay that serves handmade, woodfired pizzas with a gourmet twist. Order a classic such as a Diana Ross (supreme) or New Yorker (pepperoni and three cheeses) or try something a little different such as the Bee Sting (salami, chilli, honey and three cheeses) or the Mighty Mite (Vegemite, chilli, salt, honey and cheese).
Romanza is everything you want from a pizzeria.