DRIVES AND ROAD TRIPS

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Stay and play – Port Stephens, NSW

Surrounded by various sparkling waterways and dotted by relaxed townships, this magnetising sub-region has captured a glorious patch of turf just north of Newcastle.

Port Stephens shines. Location: Nelson Bay. Credit: Destination NSW.

Where is it?

210km north of Sydney (2hr 40min drive) or 35km north of Newcastle (30min drive).

Why go?

For its absolute all-ages, all-tastes appeal. Port Stephens is planted around a gigantic bay – and alongside snaking rivers, inviting inlets, and brilliant beaches – so aquatic adventures abound. Yet there are unforgettable experiences on dry land too, among them exciting indoor attractions and loads of family-friendly fun. And Port Stephens weather is reliably pleasant, too.

Fun for all. Location: Shoal Bay. Credit: Destination NSW.

The essentials – things to do in Port Stephens, NSW

Explore beautiful beaches

Port Stephens is a magnet for water lovers with a whopping 20-plus beaches that suit abundant aquatic activity. Here are some highlights:

  • Fingal Bay Beach: Beautiful C-shaped shoreline that’s great for families.
  • Shoal Bay Beach: Idyllic stretch worthy of an Insta post.
  • Birubi Beach: Another family favourite with rock pools to explore.
  • One Mile Beach: Long, pretty beach near Tomaree National Park.
  • Zenith Beach: Glorious views, but care required when swimming.
  • Little Beach: Another strip of sand that’s ideal for families.

Zenith Beach is one of many picture-perfect Port Stephens beaches. Credit: Destination NSW.

Water leisure

Port Stephens invites a wealth of water fun. Alongside regular favourites such as swimming, surfing, and fishing, these waters are ideal for the likes of kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, parasailing, and boating.

The area overflows with opportunities for water-based leisure. Credit: Destination NSW.

Whale watching in Port Stephens is highly rated. Glimpse humpbacks and southern rights from many vantage points and on designated tours from May-November. There are fantastic diving and snorkelling adventures in Port Stephens–Great Lakes Marine Park coupled with thrilling dolphin swim tours.

Meet the locals. Credit: Destination NSW.

Fighter World museum

Get up close to an impressive assortment of aircraft and related memorabilia, including the iconic F-111, and enjoy a rare chance to sit in a jet fighter. With its location at Newcastle Airport, adjacent to the RAAF base, Fighter World buzzes with noise and activity. It's best soaked up via a dedicated observation deck.

Tomaree National Park

This park boasts myriad highlights, including wildlife and remnants relating to World War II. But the highlight is the 2.2km return walk to Tomaree Head Summit to witness breath-stealing vistas. Pretty panoramas brilliantly showcase Port Stephens’ desirable location and the wealth of waters that surround it. For more blindingly beautiful views, head to Gan Gan Hill Lookout in Nelson Bay.

Tomaree Head Summit reveals awe-inspiring views. Credit: Destination NSW.

Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters

Meet a super selection of marine life at this popular attraction. The intimate encounters with sharks, stingrays, and other creatures are sure to thrill and the experience is educational as much as it is exciting. 

Enjoy enthralling interactions at Irukandji. Credit: Destination NSW.

Worimi Conservation Lands (Stockton Sand Dunes)

This striking and humungous area has rich appeal, steeped in Indigenous history and home to the southern hemisphere’s largest moving coastal sand dunes. The dunes suit thrilling activities like quad biking and sand boarding and are a magnet for photographers. Other leisure to enjoy in these parts include horse riding and fishing.

Seriously epic sand dunes. Credit: Destination NSW.

Oakvale Wildlife Park

Undoubtably, this is one of the best family attractions in Port Stephens thanks to its excellent line-up of activities and extensive appeal. It features various native and exotic wildlife with regular talks and shows and absorbing up-close encounters. More recently, Oakvale opened a splash bay that is a lure for kids big and small.

Oakvale is an excellent family-friendly attraction. Image courtesy: Oakvale Wildlife Park.

Tilligerry Habitat Reserve

Occupying a spacious foreshore setting on Tanilba Bay, the reserve is home to native flora, bird life, and wildlife, including koalas and echidnas. Various walking tracks weave through the reserve and reveal these features and other scenery, including wetlands. A great attraction for families and couples alike.


Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary

For more enchanting encounters with tree-huggers, visit this excellent attraction. As well as allowing visitors to spot the native animals up close, the sanctuary provides care to sick, injured, and orphaned koalas.


Adorable: Koala Sanctuary Port Stephens. Credit: Destination NSW.

Lighthouses of Port Stephens

These two towering structures demand attention…

  • Nelson Head Heritage Lighthouse and Reserve: Delivers amazing views atop and its associated lighthouse keeper's cottage doubles as a museum.
  • Port Stephens Lighthouse: The circa 1862 lighthouse is located on Fingal Island, reached via boat or kayak. Expect more breathtaking coastal vistas as well as glimpses of historical ruins. 

There's plenty to take in atop Port Stephens Lighthouse. Credit: Destination NSW.

Murray's Craft Brewing Co

These indie beer stalwarts create various interesting seasonal releases to go with their core range of tasty brews, and their Bob’s Farm-based space is inviting inside and out. There’s a cellar door on site too for those who prefer to sample wine.

Quench a thirst at Murray's. Image courtesy: Murray's Craft Brewing Co.

Things to do around Port Stephens, NSW

Although there are tons of things to do in Port Stephens, here are some key destinations if you’re itching for further exploration.

Newcastle

Vibrant Newcastle is the second-most populous city in NSW. It features a huge harbour and combines brilliant beaches and famous baths with striking historical structures, cultural gems, a busy events calendar, and more.

Distance: 35km south of Port Stephens.

For more water-based fun, head 'down the road' to Newcastle. 

Hunter Valley region

Arguably the state’s most famous wine region – and its oldest – the Hunter provides ample opportunity for cellar-door hopping, with most wineries clustered around Pokolbin. In addition, the area is home to treasure-filled national parks like magnificent Barrington Tops as well as the popular Hunter Valley Gardens.

Distance: 100km west of Port Stephens (to Pokolbin).

Manicured magnificence: Hunter Valley Gardens. Credit: Destination NSW.

Random fact

Port Stephens was once a haven for convicts escaping from Sydney. In fairness, they picked a beautiful area to abscond.

Where to stay in Port Stephens, NSW

Looking for accommodation in Port Stephens? We have two fantastic holiday parks in the area. This pair offers a generous assortment of cabin accommodation and caravan and camping sites.

BIG4 Karuah Jetty Holiday Park

Park type: Holiday.

The warm welcome begins with the location, nestled on the shores of Karuah River and flanked by bushland. This popular park features a private jetty that lures anglers, and the array of fun facilities is highlighted by a resort-style pool, splash play area, jumping pillow, tennis and volleyball court, and games room.

Tell me more

Warm welcome: BIG4 Karuah Jetty.

The park is a big hit.

BIG4 Ingenia Holidays Soldiers Point

Park type: Premier.

Although there’s easy beach access from this Soldiers Point holiday park, the wealth of in-park entertainment means there’s little reason to leave its boundaries. There’s a resort-like pool with a slide as well as an indoor pool with various play features. A games room, tennis courts, and BBQs are among the many, many other excellent facilities.

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Stunning location: BIG4 Ingenia Holidays Soldiers Point.

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