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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: Zenith Beach. Credit: Destination NSW.

Where is it?

210km north of Sydney (2hr 40min drive) or 33km 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.

Aquatic activity abounds. Credit: Sail Port Stephens.

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.

Shoal Bay 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.

Whale watching in Port Stephens is highly rated, too. 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.

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

Fighter World museum

Looking for a rainy day activity in Port Stephens? Try this excellent attraction. Fighter World allows visitors to get up close to an impressive assortment of aircraft and related memorabilia, including the iconic F-111, and affords a rare chance to sit in a jet fighter. With its location at Newcastle Airport, adjacent to the RAAF base, the museum buzzes with noise and activity, best soaked up via a dedicated observation deck.

Tomaree National Park

This park boasts myriad highlights, among them wildlife that includes koalas and remnants relating to World War II. And one of the best free things do in Port Stephens is take 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 the popular Gan Gan Hill Lookout in Nelson Bay.

Tomaree Head Summit reveals awe-inspiring views. Credit: Jarryd Salem.

Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters

Meet a super selection of marine life at this popular attraction. The intimate encounters with sharks, stingrays, and other creatures is sure to thrill and the experience is educational as much as it is exciting. Irukandji has plans to move from its current Bobs Farm location to Anna Bay with the new site expected to open mid-2020.

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 Stockton 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.

Glorious waterways meet 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’s home to various native and exotic wildlife with regular talks and shows and absorbing up-close encounters. More recently, Oakvale has 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.

Try to spot cute koalas at Tilligerry Habitat Reserve.

Nelson Head Heritage Lighthouse and Reserve

Soak up some of the best views available in Port Stephens from this vantage point. The historical lighthouse keeper's cottage doubles as a local history museum, and there are tea rooms nearby for refreshments.

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.


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: 33km south of Port Stephens.

Searching for more water-based fun? Head 'down the road' to Newcastle. Credit: Destination NSW.

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: 102km west of Port Stephens (to Pokolbin).

The Hunter Valley is a hop, skip, and a jump away. Or about 100km in the old language. 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 trio offers a generous assortment of cabin accommodation and caravan and camping sites. And if you’re after pet-friendly accommodation in Port Stephens, you’ll be pleased to know that all three parks accept dogs.

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.

Book now

There are fun facilities galore at BIG4 Karuah Jetty.

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.

Book now

Inside and out, BIG4 Ingenia Holidays Soldiers Point teems with appeal.

Isn’t it time you had a Port Stephens getaway? Plan your next break with BIG4 now.

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