Wake to the sights, sounds and natural beauty of picturesque Port Stephens, a reclusive hideaway just 2.5 hours north of Sydney. Breathe in the scent of the crisp ocean air and allow the stunning surrounds to work their magic.
Whether you’re taking a break from the mundane humdrum of life or escaping for an action adventure filled with extreme sports, Port Stephens and the Great Lakes provide activities rated from ‘soft’ to ‘extreme’ and cover just about everything from hiking and water skiing, to climbing and skydiving.
Featuring more than 30km of white sandy beaches, hit the water early with a morning surf at a local favourite. Birubi Beach at Anna Bay is completely exposed to wind and waves, but the extreme northern corner is nicely tucked away from the teeth of the summer sea breeze. Holding a nice shape to about three metres, Birubi is best surfed with a S-NE swell.
With amazing beaches comes amazing surfing, so if the waves aren’t breaking at Birubi check out the swell at One Mile Beach (known to surfers as Anna Bay). Its wide surf zone and bars make it a popular surf sport and provides good beach breaks with waves reaching up to 1.5 metres along the central and northern half of One Mile, but relatively low in the south.
If you’re not a surfer, there’s no better place to learn than right where the best surfing happens. Anna Bay Surf School runs lessons daily from 9am, but why not enrol in a 3-day course if you know you’ll be hanging around for a few days?
The café culture of the Port reflects its connection with the natural environment but with so many too choose from, it’s our advice that you follow the locals. Blue Juice Café is located right on the edge of Birubi Beach (opposite the Holiday Park on James Patterson Road) and is a quick fix to a rumbling stomach, but if your hunger is as big as the waves, jump in the car and head to Spectrum Café on Nelson Bay Road for a big breakfast and the best coffee around.
From Anna Bay it’s just a short hour’s drive to one of the highest points in Australia, the World Heritage area of Barrington Tops National Park. Not too far from Dungong, Scone or Gloucester, you’ll feel miles away amid the mountains and stunning wilderness surrounds. Notably different to the breathtaking coastline of Port Stephens, Barrington offers great hiking trails and spectacular views of an array of forest habitats with crisp, clear mountain air.
Dining with dolphins
Experience the thrill of spotting the friendly resident dolphins on board a Moonshadow Twilight Dinner cruise where live entertainment and an indulgent buffet of local seafood will have you struggling to make room for tempting desserts. Head out on deck to soak in the gorgeous sunset as the moon rises over the pristine waters of Port Stephens and spot local dolphins riding the bow waves. Bookings are essential.
Spend the following morning hitting the Stockton Sand Dunes in Anna Bay. A captivating reason to keep out of the water, not only are the dunes huge and majestic, but hugely fun too. Appearing to stretch on forever with 32km of sand drifts, the dunes are at least 30 metres high and one kilometre wide (back to front) just begging to be explored on two wheels (dirt bike), four wheels (quad) or even four legs (horse).
Try an exhilarating quad bike tour with Sand Dune Safaris 4WD Tours and follow experienced guides on an exhilarating 90-minute adventure as warm up your skills on the way to the largest visible shipwreck on the east coast of Australia, “the Synga”. Need more of an adrenalin kick? Then opt for the ultimate buzz of sandboarding; a popular sport that will have you angled at a dizzying 60 degrees on slopes as high as 40 metres.
But before you do, head to the Sandyfoot Café & Bar at Shoal Bay Resort (Shoal Bay Rd, Shoal Bay) where a relaxed coffee and simple café breakfast will start your day on the right foot as you overlook the serenity of the bay.
Wash away the sand from your morning adventure and dive below the surface for an afternoon of snorkelling and diving in and around Broughton Island, just 20 kilometres from Port Stephens. For the more experienced divers, this blue water paradise, part of the Great Lakes Marine Park, is a marine sanctuary with an abundance of soft coral sponge garden, colourful fish and even turtles. Marvel at the colourful marine life as you explore the remnants of wrecks. The Looking Glass at Broughton Island is a magnificent underwater chasm just waiting to be explored and is also a favourite hangout for the friendly resident bottlenose dolphins. In short, it’s the perfect underwater paradise for any diver.
The island is part of the Myall Lakes National Park and the only offshore island in NSW where you can camp among an active seabird colony. Enjoy the sunset on Providence Beach and then wait to watch the little penguins as they waddle ashore.
A treasure trove of action, adventure and outdoor fun, Port Stephens caters to everyone’s thrill-seeking side, be it on land, in water or up in the air. It’s the ultimate destination to get away without too much hassle of crowds and tourists. So jump in the car, book a flight or pedal a pushy: Port Stephens awaits you!