Port Stephens Nelson Bay Australia ~ New South Wales
Port Stephens Nelson Bay Marina
Why I went to Port Stephens: Beaches, trails, off-the-beaten-track.
After the reason for my high season trip to Australia (the New Years Eve Fireworks) had gone up in a puff of smoke, I looked for places to visit that were away from the big city bustle and off the beaten track, but still within a few hours by road or rail from Sydney.
On previous trips, I'd traveled to Cairns, in northern Queensland, and Kangaroo Island on the south coast, with its Remarkable Rocks. My first choice this trip was an easy one: the Blue Mountains (train).
On earlier trips, I'd never made time for what is basically a day trip from Sydney. But after the Blue Mountains, where to go next?
That's when I came across a place called Port Stephens, and adjacent Nelson Bay, up along the NSW coast past Newcastle.
Port Stephens, a Getaway Holiday Close to Sydney:
I had travelled this highway north from Sydney before, but hadn't taken the turn off to Port Stephens.
From what I could tell by searching online, this coastal area was popular with Australians, much favoured for family holidays and camping and beaches and the usual seaside diversions such as Sand Dune Buggy rides, dolphin watching, National Parks trails and boat tours. I saw lots of signs about watching out for koalas but I never did see any bears.
It sounded perfect, and indeed, it was.
How to get to Port Stephens, Nelson Bay and area:
Port Stephens is about 160 km (99 miles) north of Sydney, depending on your start point, and which one of a dozen smaller communities you want to be in when you get to Port Stephens:
Towns include Raymond Terrace, Shoal Bay (Tomaree Head and Zenith Beach) and Nelson Bay (see the Ferry to Tea Gardens), Salamander Bay, Corlette, Soldiers Point, Anna Bay, Taylors Beach, Fingal Bay, and Boat Harbour and likely a few more that I don't recall.
By Car: If you are renting a car, or a camper van or RV, you're golden. It's only a 2-3 hour drive from Sydney depending on your starting point and destination. And you'll find much to explore around Port Stephens and the New South Wales coast, and into the Hunter Valley.
By Bus: Port Stephens Coaches has daily between Central Station Sydney (a few blocks walk from my hotel in Sydney) and Nelson Bay.
And, as I discovered when I got there, there was a bus stop right outside my hotel in Nelson Bay (the Marina Resort). How lucky was that? PSC also stops in North Sydney at Chatswood and Hornsby, and at a number of stops in Port Stephens.
I bought my ticket online at www.pscoaches.com.au. Round trip was about $60, and took 3 1/2 to 4 hours each way depending on traffic and stops.
By Train or Air: travel to Newcastle, then go by shuttle bus, or car to Port Stephens communities.
Best Time to Travel to Port Stephens?
Outside the Christmas school holiday high season, if possbile. Many Port Stephens resorts are booked months in advance for the high season when I traveled, and many hotels have a minimum stay requirement, often 5 to 7 days.
I could only spend three nights there, and was happy to find the Marina Bay Resort could accommodate me.
As it turned out, this part of north eastern NSW (and southern Queensland) had a rainier than usual spring and summer, and hotels booked months earlier had many cancellations and vacanies.
How Long to Stay in Port Stephens?
My 3-day trip was not even close to long enough to see the sights, and still fit in some beach time. Stay at least a week if the weather's good, especially if you like dune buggy rides, camel rides, hiking, looking for koalas in the wild, ferry rides to Tea Garden and Hawk's Nest, and Myall Lakes parks, golfing, mini golf, horse treks, macadamia nut farms and oyster farms and boat tours.