Stockton Sand Dunes, Port Stephens, New South Wales © Destination NSW
A day of outdoor adventure in Port Stephens
Port Stephens locals love where they live — and it’s no wonder, with sweeping dunes, native wildlife and a relaxed way of life.
Port Stephens is a collection of coastal villages located less than a three-hour drive from Sydney on the Mid North Coast. This unassuming spot reveals its magic – an abundance of wildlife and a pristine natural environment – to visitors willing to discover it.
8:30 am: Start your day at The Little Nel in Nelson Bay – it’s a local favourite for coffee and breakfast. Try the smoothie bowl or the fritters with poached eggs, and take away a few freshly made croissants for a mid-morning snack.
10 am: Drive about 30 minutes to the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands. The dunes are a cornerstone of Port Stephens, yet the everchanging, sweeping sands are difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t yet experienced their beauty. Hop on a quad bike and explore the dunes with Sand Dune Adventures, an Aboriginal-owned business that offers exhilarating exploration alongside insights into the local Worimi culture.
12:30 pm: Port Stephens is known as a fishing destination, so it’s no surprise that there’s incredible seafood on the menu. Drive back to Nelson Bay and take in lunch at the Little Beach Boathouse, which overlooks a quiet strip of the bay. Order a tray of local oysters with sourdough, or choose from the wide variety of fish.
1:30 pm: Of course, a day in Port Stephens isn’t complete without an afternoon on the water. A five-minute drive or 30-minute walk will bring you to Moonshadow TQC, which offers dolphin watching cruises with boom net rides and water slides. From May to November, whale watching cruises are also available. Dolphins and whales are common off the coast of Port Stephens, so your chance of an up-close encounter is high.
Late afternoon and evening
4 pm: You’ll certainly step off your dolphin or whale cruise on a high, so keep the good times going at Murray’s Brewery, one of Australia’s early craft beer pioneers. Murray’s makes its beer locally and is open for tastings and tours. Start with the classic Whale Ale, then sample some of the seasonal brews, like a dark, Belgian-style porter.
7 pm: End your day about 20 minutes away near the marina. Book your dinner at The Wild Herring (open Thursday to Saturday), which was named the best seafood restaurant in regional New South Wales in 2019. After indulging in the locally sourced seafood, you just might decide you haven’t had enough of this idyllic coastal village. Luckily, The Wild Herring is located at The Anchorage hotel, which offers a world-class spa, adults-only pool and champagne breakfast.