The main town of Port Stephens and one of the best places in the world to see dolphins in the wild, Nelson Bay is quiet town set in breathtaking surroundings of ocean, beaches and unspoilt national park.
Nelson Bay is 2.5 hours drive from Sydney or 25 minutes drive from Newcastle. There are also daily buses from Sydney or you can fly into Newcastle and hire a car to get there. It’s best to have a car so it’s easier to see the area.
You’ll find some gorgeous resorts and hotels along the water at quite a reasonable price at around $80-$90 a night for a double room. Sharing an apartment with a few people will know the price down a little more to about $30 per person per night, making this a very affordable holiday spot. There are a couple of youth hostels but the prices are almost the same as getting a hotel or apartment, a dorm bed being about $30 a night.
The number one thing to do here is a dolphin or whale watching tour. There are also many other different types of water sports like surfing, fishing, parasailing and diving or snorkelling. Take a bushwalk through the Tomaree National park or a day trip to one of the surrounding islands such as Cabbage Tree Island or Broughton Island , or to the tea gardens on the opposite side of the port.
Head up to the Gan Gan Lookout for a spectacular view of the area and be sure to keep your eyes out for the local wildlife. You might even see a koala if you’re very lucky! There’s a heritage lighthouse that’s worth a look too. A 4WD tour of the Worimi Conservation Lands and sand boarding down the dunes is loads of fun.
There are so many little restaurants and tea houses in the area but for a real food experience, drive around the town and stop at all the roadside stalls to try the local produce. You can find all sorts of delicious things like figs, olives, oysters and other types of seafood, macadamia nuts (roasted are the best!), wine and the local brewed beer. Yum!
You’ll find a dive centre in town and there are some great sites to see in the bay. A couple of wreck dives for advanced diver are the SS Macleay and SS Oakland. The most popular site and great for all levels and snorkelers too is Fly Point with some nice sponge gardens and abundant sea life. Macro Photographers will love the many nudibranchs at Halifax Park and the labyrinth at Fisherman’s Bay.
Get off the beaten track on your visit to Nelson Bay and see the best this area has to offer.
(By Kelly Luckman)