Port Stephens rivals Sydney Harbour in size and beauty. Located a comfortable two and a half hour drive north of Sydney and only 50 km from Newcastle, Port Stephens is a spectacular harbour, with a narrow entrance between two striking hills of volcanic origin. The harbour is mostly sandy and shallow, but has some deep water for larger vessels (the Queen Mary docked there during WWII). The harbour provides numerous uncrowded, golden beaches and safe, secluded swimming bays with clear azure water enticing visitors to relax, swim, fish, or kayak in a safe environment. This truly is a perfect family holiday destination. One of the main attractions for visitors though is the 140 resident bottle-nose dolphins that make Port Stephens their home and love to interact with visitors.
Shoal Bay is one of the best of the bays, providing the holiday maker with a range of holiday accommodation from backpackers and holiday parks to private villa rentals and exclusive, pampering, spa resorts from which they can make a home base to explore all this paradise has to offer. Something Shoal Bay has which the others don’t is a public jetty which adds quaintness to this tranquil location as well as the perfect spot to dangle a line. There is also a boat ramp, kayak hire and the bay provides a spectacular view of the headland.
Tomaree Head at the eastern most edge of Shoal Bay has a walking track to the summit where the views of the bay, ocean and off-shore islands are spectacular. Boodelbah Island just 3km to the north east is definitely worth a visit as it is the nesting and breeding ground for little penguins, white-faced storm petrels and a variety of shearwaters. On the main track to the summit, you can see the two large gun emplacements (without the guns) of Fort Tomaree which was established on the head during World War II. Tomaree Head is at the tip of Tomaree National Park covering 896 ha of the southern peninsular. The beaches are attractive and ideal for swimming, snorkelling, picnicking, walking and fishing. The park is full of birdlife and from July to February, wildflowers. The bushland around Port Stephens supports 230 bird species, 48 mammal special and 650 plant species, so wherever you find your holiday accommodation in Shoal Bay you are never far away from a unique Australian wildlife experience and there are many bush-walking tracks to make these encounters possible.
Stockton Sand Dunes are a sight and experience not to be missed when you are holidaying in the Shoal Bay area. Stockton Dunes comprise the largest coastal sand dune system in Australia, stretching 32 kilometres and rise to 30 metres high. Imagine horse riding or even camel riding across the dunes, but instead of a view of endless sand, you also get the majestic view of endless, blue oceans. If you like something more adventurous there are quad-bike tours, four-wheel drive tours and the popular sand surfing. It is rumoured that Hawaiian beaches import their sand from Stockton as the natural sand there is black volcanic and doesn’t look as good on the tourist brochures.
Scuba-diving sites of Fly Point and Halifax Park rival the Great Barrier Reef for colour and the area was declared a marine national park in 2006, keeping in its undeveloped, pristine condition for all to enjoy.
Even the best of holidays can have some rainy weather. For some this is an excellent excuse to kick back and relax in their rental accommodation, reading a book or playing games. However, if this is not you, from your holiday home in Shoal Bay, there are plenty of things nearby to keep you amused, such as:
Australian Shark and Ray Centre Dizzyland Event Park – Family Amusement Centre Dolphin Watch and Whale Watch Cruises
Murray’s Brewery & Port Stephens Winery – boutique wine centre and cafe. Enjoy the beer and wine tasting, but don’t drive back to your holiday accommodation in Shoal Bay afterwards.
Inner Lighthouse Cottage Museum and Tea Rooms - Open 7 days, enjoy a cuppa while admiring the breathtaking views of Port Stephens. While you are here, take a look through the heritage museum, coastal patrol radio base and gift shop.
Fighter World – museum of military aircraft and memorabilia
Shoal Bay is a comfortable two and half hour drive north of Sydney, just 50km north of Newcastle. Hire cars and holiday rental accommodation can be arranged from the International Airport in Sydney.
Newcastle also has a domestic airport with buses from the city to the bay.
Trains also run from Sydney to Newcastle regularly and from there you can catch the local bus to your destination.
Imagine arriving in Sydney and a couple of hours later relaxing in your holiday apartment or rental house in Shoal Bay watching the dolphins play in the ocean, seemingly just for your entertainment.