Port Stephens, an easy drive north from Sydney, is a watery paradise with plenty to keep the family entertained. Whether you are into boating, fishing, scuba or snorkeling, you can do it in the whopping 98,000-hectare Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park.
The region also lays claim to the title ‘Dolphin Capital of Australia’ with Nelson Bay’s waterways home to more than 100 bottlenose dolphins and the top spot in NSW for humpback whale watching during the annual migration season from May to November. For up-close and personal experiences, you can even jump in with them on a Wild Dolphin Swimming Experience.
If you prefer your creatures more on the cuddly side, get hands on with the animals at Oakvale Farm and Fauna World or take a guided koala-spotting walk in the Tilligerry Habitat State Reserve in Tanilba.
Adventure seekers can learn to surf on one of Port Stephens many glorious beaches, scuba dive or snorkel around its islands, or kayak, paddle board or boat along its rivers and lakes. Or take a hike along one of Tomaree National Park’s many walking trails including coastal tracks where you can soak up the amazing views of Port Stephens and the offshore islands. Not to be missed is a visit to Stockton Beach, south of Port Stephens, which is home to the largest coastal sand dune system in Australia, and adventure central! Rev up a quad bike, ride on a horse or camel, or grab a sand board to explore the epic dunes.
With an incredible variety of activities on offer both on and off the water, here are a few of our favourite Port Stephens experiences for families.
There’s plenty of fun to be found in Port Stephens for littlies. For marine life encounters with a difference, head to Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters where the kids can get hands on with fascinating sea life and learn all about the natural world.
If your kids prefer their critters cuddly, head to Tilligerry Habitat State Reserve in Tanilba to take a guided koala-spotting tour in their natural environment.
And at Oakvale Farm and Fauna World, kids will adore the up-close animal encounters. Here you’ll find a variety of domestic farm animals just waiting to be petted, as well as native and exotic animal species, many of which you can feed and interact with. After all that animal fun head to Oakvale’s Splash Bay, an innovative water play area where the kids can cool off under water cannons, spray tunnels and a tipping bucket.
Port Stephens lies in a temperate zone with mild and comfortable weather year-round. Winter runs from June to August and daytime temperatures fall so you’ll need to rug up. The warmest time to visit is from December to February, but cool sea breezes keep temperatures mild. These months coincide with the NSW summer school holidays which can see an increase in crowds and pricing, so you’ll want to book ahead.
It’s worth considering visiting outside of peak holiday seasons, including Easter, NSW school holidays and the Christmas and New Year period, for more affordable accommodation.
Spring is a wonderful time to visit with lovely warm weather and an abundance of native wildflowers adding an additional splash of colour to the area. May to November is the best time for whale watching as it is the peak of the season with thousands of migrating whales passing through Port Stephens.
With the best of everything fresh from the farm gate, including avocados, stone fruit, vegetables and nuts and seafood straight off the local fishing trawlers, Port Stephens is a hot destination for food lovers. Whether it is a fine dining experience or fish and chips on the beach you seek, you can be sure of a great meal inspired by the fresh, local, seasonal produce.
You’ll find a huge choice of waterfront cafes, tasty takeaways and gourmet restaurants for every budget, plus kid friendly pubs and club bistros with activities and play areas. There’s even a selection of kid friendly vineyards and boutique breweries.
The Hog’s Breath in Nelson’s Bay is a popular spot for families and if you’re after the best fish in chips, don’t miss iconic Bub’s Fish & Chips at Nelson Bay. Or for flavours fresh from the farm, visit Medowie Macadamias for a selection of Macadamia inspired treats.
January – Brickfest by the Bay
This annual event has exhibitors from across NSW showcasing their amazing LEGO creations while raising funds for the Tomaree High Robotics Team.
April - Sail Port Stephens Junior Regatta
This junior off-the-beach regatta is open to one-sail dinghy classes.
June - Naturefest Port Stephens
An exciting series of events that celebrates Mother Nature with nature based activities.
September - The Tomaree Trail Run Festival
Enjoy an action-packed weekend of spectacular coastal, beach and bushland trails and events for all ages and abilities.
September - Clans on The Coast Festival
This celebration of Celtic fun will see traditional dancing, Highland Games, pipe bands and entertainers come to Tomaree.
November – Tastes of the Bay
This annual festival offers three days of fun, food, wine and jazz in Nelson Bay CBD and Apex Park.
A family oasis in Nelson Bay, the Mantra Aqua and its self-contained apartments, swimming pool and hot location will make your beach holiday a breeze.
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