Destination Guide: Port Stephens

A holiday in Port Stephens can provide the perfect getaway for inner-city dwellers, as it's just two and a half hours away from Sydney. If it's brilliant beaches, decadent restaurants and outdoor adventures you're looking for, this could be just the place for your next holiday. Book in your accommodation and start planning your trip.

History

The historic settlement dates back hundreds of years, with the Worimi Tribe its earliest inhabitants. By 1900, there were few tribal Aboriginals left, however many relics remain in Port Stephens to tell their stories. One of these is Little Beach's 'canoe trees', which formed the materials used to create canoes. The ends were plugged up with clay and paddles were made of seasoned hardwood.

Between Wallis Lake and Newcastle there are more than 35 recorded ceremonial sites, including carved trees, burial grounds and stone arrangements.

Port Stephens was described as "an opening forming a bay" by Captain Cook in May 1770 - and the town's reputation as an idyllic beach haven certainly lives up to this.

Beaches

Be sure to pack your cossie and sunhat when you head to Port Stephens, as it boasts dozens of picturesque swimming and sunbathing destinations. Start out at Fingal Bay, a patrolled beach a short walk away from Barry Park. Cross the spit to see the lighthouse, or recline for a spot of fishing or a picnic. Shoal Bay is nestled between Nelson Head and Mount Tomaree, and has a public jetty, boat ramp and even offers kayaks for hire.

One Mile Beach looks like it's straight off a postcard, and is one of Port Stephens' best swimming beaches. It has reasonable-sized waves for beginner surfers and small children alike. Frolic amongst the Stockton Sand dunes then head down to Birubi Beach, which boasts lifeguards, a cafe and a huge 32 kilometres of beach to stroll along, play a spot of beach tennis or simply relax in the sun.

For a more intimate experience, head to Dutchies Beach, a smaller bay that is perfect for snorkelling and swimming, and perhaps a twilight barbecue to top it all off. If you're lucky, you may even spot some of Port Stephens' resident penguins there.

Outdoor Activities

Port Stephens has an abundance of natural resources, and plenty of stunning outdoor destinations to explore. Start with a trip to Point Stephens Lighthouse, which stands on Fingal Island and can sometimes be accessed from Fingal Bay at low tide. It was built in 1862 and features a unique construction, plus a terrace of lighthouse keepers' quarters just north of the tower. These features are unique to Port Stephens.

Explore the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park, which is New South Wales' largest marine park. It spans almost 100,000 hectares of marine, coastal and estuarine habitats, and boasts the Port Stephens estuary - the largest drowned river valley in New South Wales. It is also home to the Myall and Smiths Lakes, Broughton Island and the only known breeding sites of Gould's petrel, which are endangered.

If you're in the area from May to November, watch out for humpback whales which traverse the waters during their migration.

Golf fans will be spoilt for choice in Port Stephens, with several pristine courses in the area. Head to Nelson Bay Golf Club, which is a 27-hole championship bush course set by the sea and amongst native trees. Watch out for kangaroos, koalas and wallabies as you take your shot, then retreat to the clubhouse and bistro for a refreshment. Alternatively, head to Pacific Dunes, which is an 18-hole championship course. It suits golfers of all levels thanks to its natural sandy base and Port Stephens' temperate weather, with two unique nine-hole loops combining to present an impressive 18-hole course. Take in the woodland and wetland settings while you make your way around this course.

Cyclists can enjoy plenty of specifically designed cycleways to allow for safe biking around the area. Cruise along from Salamander Bay through to Fingal Bay, stopping at the beaches along the way for a quick dip. There are cycleways in Anna Bay, Corlette, Mallabulla, Lemon Tree Passage, Raymond Terrace and many more hot spots, and you can hire a bike while you're there to save bringing your from home.

Food and Drink

Foodies will be in heaven in Port Stephen, with bars and restaurants to suit every taste and budget.Sandpipers Restaurant at Nelson Bay is one to watch, specialising in fresh local seafood and modern Australian cuisine. Make sure you try out some of its famous Port Stephens oysters, or opt for the Seafood Taste Plate which comes with salt and pepper squid, natural oysters, a king prawn stack and fish of the day.

Enjoy a refreshing ale or two at Murray's Craft Brewing Co, a brewery at Bob's Farm that shares its home with Port Stephens Winery. This allows you to combine your love of beer and wine in one place!

The craft brewery produces a huge range of unique brews, many of which can be enjoyed on tap. What's more, these beers are matched to food, giving you the perfect opportunity to order a meal to complement your drink. If you're a seafood fan, try Murray's Whale Ale, which is a wheat beer with the twist. Watch out for the creamy mouthfeel and citric flavour that makes it a perfect match for seafood dishes.

The team at Murray's Craft Brewing Co are proud to give guests the chance to enjoy some locally-produced wine when they visit, and allows them to explore the 35 acre property dotted with vines that grow seven different wine varieties. Next up, visit the cellar door to sip on some 20 different local and regional wines.

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