The best things to do in Port Stephens, a diverse and charming area of NSW, Australia.
Whether you’re traveling around New South Wales, or you live here and are looking for a fun weekend trip, I highly recommend visiting the Port Stephens area.
Geographically, Port Stephens is huge. It includes beaches, hills, sand dunes, islands, harbors, wildlife sanctuaries, and marine parks.
The physical shape of the Port Stephens area is winding and intricate. Rivers weave in and out of the land, creating multiple peninsulas and headlands. With such a diverse landscape, there are plenty of fun things to do in the area.
Though Port Stephens is quite large, all of the towns within the area feel small and peaceful. So it’s a nice, quiet getaway from the big cities of Newcastle or Sydney.
Traveling to Port Stephens is also very easy; it’s a 1-hr drive north of Newcastle and a 2.5-hr drive north of Sydney.
Once you arrive, here are some of the best things to do in the Port Stephens area!
10 Best Things To Do In Port Stephens, NSW, Australia
Port Stephens is an amazing destination for families, couples, and solo travelers in Australia. I recommend renting a car if you don’t have one. It makes getting around the area so much easier.
From indulging in fresh seafood to spotting plenty of wildlife, here are some of the best Port Stephens activities to fill your weekend away.
1. Whale Watching
Port Stephens is one of the top destinations for whale-watching in NSW.
The winter months of June through October are the best for spotting whales. Most cruises cost around $60 per person and last a couple of hours.
Some of the most popular tour companies in Port Stephens for a whale watching cruise are:
Unfortunately, the whale watching cruise I had booked in August 2020 got cancelled due to COVID-19 so I can’t speak from personal experience. But next winter I am stoked to head back to Port Stephens and see some whales!
2. Hike Tomaree Mountain
This is easily one of the best things to do in Port Stephens. I considered this the highlight of my weekend there!
Tomaree Mountain is a relatively small peak that you can climb in under an hour. The trail is well-marked, easy to find, and completely free.
It’s located in Tomaree National Park, which covers the entire headland near Nelson Bay.
I recommend hiking at sunrise or sunset. A colorful sky makes the incredible view of the ocean, islands, beaches, and hills that much more stunning.
3. Sandboard the Stockton Sand Dunes
Just south of Port Stephens lies the Stockton Sand Dunes. Part of the Worimi Conservation Lands, this 32-km stretch of sand between Port Stephens and Newcastle is full of fun activities.
It’s actually the largest collection of moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere.
Sandboarding is one of the most popular ways to enjoy the Port Stephens sand dunes. I recommend booking a guided tour, as you’ll need a 4×4 Vehicle and the right equipment.
This sand boarding tour from Get Your Guide only costs $35 and has lots of positive reviews. A highlight of Port Stephens and Nelson Bay!
4. Watch the Sunset in Nelson Bay
Nelson Bay is the largest town in the Port Stephens area. If you’re looking for accommodation in Port Stephens, most of the options are here! (We stayed at the Port Stephens Motel, which was great and only cost around $100 per night).
The pleasant harbor of Nelson Bay is a lovely spot to watch the sunset in Port Stephens.
After a day of exploring the Port Stephens dunes, this is the best way to end an epic day.
5. Eat Fresh Seafood
With so much water surrounding Port Stephens, there is plenty of delicious seafood to eat.
From fancy seafood platters with prawns and oysters, to a classic take-away fish and chips, the seafood here will not disappoint.
Here are a handful of the best places to eat seafood around the area. I’ll list them in order from the cheapest/most casual, to the most expensive.
- Aussie Bob’s Fish and Chips
- Bub’s Famous Fish and Chips
- Bluey’s Restaurant and Bar
- Sandpiper’s Restaurant
- The Point Restaurant
- The Wharf Bar and Grill
6. Visit Tilligerry Habitat Reserve
For nature-lovers, this is one of the best things to do in Port Stephens. The Tilligerry Habitat Reserve is a peaceful sanctuary of nature, where you can relax, explore, and look for native wildlife.
There is a beautiful boardwalk that winds through the bush so you can stretch your legs and observe the flora and fauna.
You can also walk onto the beach and look out at the serene waters of Tanilba Bay. It’s very common to see soldier crabs and dolphins here!
The reserve is a 30 minute drive west of Nelson Bay, and it is free to enter.
7. Go on a Port Stephens Dolphins Adventure
You may find wild dolphins in Port Stephens without even trying. But for a more thrilling experience, you can book a dolphin boat cruise and see these majestic creatures up close in the ocean.
Many of the tour companies that do whale-watching cruises also do a dolphin watching cruise.
This dolphin boat cruise on Get Your Guide even provides snorkeling gear so you can swim with a pod of wild dolphins!
8. Head to the Beach
You definitely can’t visit Port Stephens without spending some time at the beach.
There are so many gorgeous beaches here, all with unique shorelines and views.
Shoal Bay Beach near Nelson Bay is one of the best beaches in Port Stephens. It is nestled right in-between Tomaree Mountain and Nelson Bay Lighthouse. The water here is calm and flat since it’s protected by the headlands.
On the east coast of Port Stephens, just south of Tomaree Mountain, there are four small beaches separated by hills that have good surf.
From north to south, they are Zenith Beach, Wreck Beach, Box Beach, and Fingal Bay Beach.
Just south of Fingal Bay is One Mile Beach, which is popular for surfing and camping. Check out Port Stephens surf school for info about surf lessons in One Mile Beach, Birubi Beach, or Fingal Bay Beach.
9. Visit Oakvale Wildlife Park
For animal lovers, this is one of the best things to do in Port Stephens. Oakvale Wildlife Park near Tilligerry Creek is a family-friendly eco-tourism park full of animals.
They have all the classic Australian animals like kangaroos, dingos, cassowaries, wallabies, koalas, quokkas, and more. You’ll also find a wide array of native birds and reptiles, as well as international animals like Highland Cows and American Alligators.
Park entry fees are $29.50 for adults and $17.50 for children.
10. Interact with Sharks and Rays
This is another one of the best Port Stephens activities for animal lovers. This tourism and conservation space in Anna Bay allows you to get up close and personal with lots of marine animals and reptiles.
Irukandji Shark Encounters not only hosts guided tours and activities for tourists, but they are also dedicated to the conservation and protection of all these special creatures.
Irukandji Shark Encounters rescue and rehabilitate injured or sick sea animals and focus on educating their visitors and staff about conservation. Read more about it on their website!
Book your visit to Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters here.
11. Enjoy the Views of the Port Stephens area at Gan Gan Lookout
This quick but enjoyable activity makes a nice addition to a day of exploring.
While we were waiting to check in to our motel room, we just drove up here for something to do. It’s only a 10-minute drive from Nelson Bay, so it’s worth a stop!
Gan Gan Lookout is accessible by road. Just follow the signs, and from the carpark it’s a 5-minute walk to the lookout platform. The views aren’t as breathtaking as Tomaree Mountain Summit, but they’re still lovely.
You get a nice overview of the Port Stephens area and all the mountains and islands.
12. Ride a Camel
Many people don’t know this, but Australia has camels! You’ll find most of them in central Australia near the desert, but you can also find them near Anna Bay in Port Stephens.
Oakfield Ranch is the go-to tour company for camel rides. You can ride camels at sunset along Birubi Beach, or take a guided horse riding tour as well.
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Thanks for reading these 12 fun things to do in Port Stephens!
From the charm of Nelson Bay, to the stunning Tomaree National Park, to the diverse marine life and wildlife, to the largest moving sand dunes in the Souther Hemisphere, the area is entertaining and beautiful.
Here are some additional resources for traveling around Australia:
- Skyscanner is the best place to find cheap flights
- If you’re looking for budget accommodation, check Hostelworld
- Consider trying a work exchange in Australia for an immersive cultural experience
For more travel inspiration in NSW, check out these articles:
NSW South Coast Road Trip Guide
15 Best Things To Do In Wollongong
Best Things To Do In The Royal National Park, Sydney
1 Week In Sydney Itinerary for the Outdoorsy Traveler
For more helpful articles about traveling in Australia, check these out:
Ultimate Guide to the Australia Working Holiday Visa
Cost of Living in Australia: 2020 Guide
Farm Work in Australia: What Apple Picking is Really Like
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2 thoughts on “12 Fun Things To Do In Port Stephens, NSW Australia”
Great article, full of good info! Is Port Stephens a town or an area? Is Nelson Bay a town within the town?
Port Stephens is the name of the area and there are smaller towns like Nelson Bay within it. But people often say either “Port Stephens” or “Nelson Bay” and it refers to the whole area. I was confused and had to look it up myself, so maybe I’ll try to make that clearer in the article 🙂