When you drive down Stockton St you will sooner or later come to D'Albora Marina. There you can turn left to Salamander Bay, right to Shoal Bay or simply park and enjoy the two dozen shops and restaurants and their enchanting viewpoint over Port Stephens. Since I'm a bit of a regular, it's an activity I heartily recommend. Apart from a couple of franchised outlets there are several individual eating places, some with a tendency to seafood, also understandable as the Fishermen's Co-op is 100 metres down the road and, when you're by the water, what do you expect?
There are a couple of arts and crafts shops, the usual women's clothing shops and, lots and lots of boats. Many that people on my salary could only fantasize about. Still, that's part of the attraction. While you sip your chardy, at least you can dream.
In 1891 this was all so different. For I start I would have had to scramble up Tomaree Headland through the untracked bush to get this shot with a camera that didn't exist at the time; but the real change is the sand spit you can see between the island on the left and the mainland. Up until 1891 it was a couple of hundred metres wide and tree covered, not to mention the telegraph poles - then the storm hit!
You can still cross the sand spit at low tide but, be warned, it can be dangerous if you are not wary of the tides.
It was due to a number of shipwrecks that a lighthouse was installed on the point in 1862. It was designed by colonial architect Alexander Dawson and made of Sydney sandstone. The cylindrical lighthouse is still operational and provides an excellent vantage point.
The fit can actually walk to Fingal Bay (other side of the spit) from Box Beach (foreground). Walking tracks continue around the coastline to Samurai and One Mile Beaches, scene of most of the surfing that takes place up here and where there are more paths to explore. The former is an authorised nude bathing beach and the latter has a resort complex. The Nelson Bay visitors' centre, right in Nelson Bay on the foreshore, has a booklet called "Bushwalks Around Port Stephens".
This popular spot, especially in summer when the nor' easters come in off the ocean and this is one of the few spots where, due to the configuration of the headland, the breeze can be offshore.
Also called Birubi Point, it's a place loved by 4-wheel drivers and fishermen.
For the former there is over 16kms of beach and sand dunes to cruise around but, be careful. Hidden amongst the dunes is a shanty town, unknown by the majority of locals but you get to go past there if you take one of the dune buggy tours.
For fishermen there's rock fishing, beach fishing or you can launch your boat here from one spot (weather permitting) that means you hardly have to start your motor and you can be amongst the fish.
It's a slowly expanding community, being understandably popular with retirees and is around 8kms south of Nelson Bay.
On one of the many peninsulas that jut into Port Stephens is a town called Tanilba Bay.
These historical gates were completed in 1931 and are part war memorial.
Atop the two central pillars are the bollards (things they tie the ropes to) from the H.M.A.S. Sydney, the first Australian ship to sink another during the act of war, as in First World War. This occurred on 9th November, 1914 when the Sydney forced the German cruiser Emden ashore on the Cocos Islands.
....and other places! This is the standout Gymea Lily, on prominent display at many places around Port Stephens but notably, and where this picture was taken, on the One Mile/Anna Bay Road.
Check in around spring.
I remember getting this picture back and thinking how lucky we are in Australia. Imagine this beach in Europe in the middle of July yet, here in the middle of December, on a lovely summers' day in Australia it still has a little bit of room. Like, almost the whole beach is empty.
No, it's not always like that but certainly most of the time and it never gets what would be termed "crowded" by overseas standards.
Fingal Bay is the easternmost of the beaches at Port Stephens and does have some direct exposure to the ocean though the bay is encircled for a large part by its headland and the island and spit opposite.
There are plenty of facilities here including accommodation and places to eat but there's not a lot of them. This place is ideally suited to those with a young family as the beach rarely gets big waves and rips are almost non-existent at the southern end.
To get here you just drive straight through Nelson Bay, then Shoal Bay and Fingal is the next one around.
From the headland where the previous picture was taken, Point Stephens Lighthouse looms just to the north. An eerie spectre shrouded in salt mist it has the aura of something-you-want-to-see-but-can't-quite-get-to about it. Many shipwrecks occurred before a lighthouse was installed here in 1862. Designed by colonial architect Alexander Dawson and made of Sydney sandstone, somewhat sadly, to my way of thinking, it is now painted in lighthouse-white. When constructed, the now island it is on was joined to the mainland by a narrow spit - over 150 metres wide and 5 m above sea-level. It was covered with scrub and also, by the end of the 19th century, with telegraph poles. A fierce gale washed most of the spit away in 1891. At low tide, the remaining sandbar can still be crossed. This is a dangerous exercise if you do not exercise caution! You can also get someone with a boat to take you there. The cylindrical lighthouse is still operational and the vantage point is superb.
The folowing are the bare facts for those who may be interested.
LOCATION: Latitude 32° 44.9'S, Longitude 152° 12.2'E (Map)
OPERATOR: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
CHARACTER: Group Flashing 4 in 30 seconds
LIGHT SOURCE: 12V, 55 Watt, Quartz Halogen
POWER SOURCE: Solar Power
INTENSITY: 40,700 cd
ELEVATION: 38 metres
RANGE: 17 nautical miles (28 kilometres)
HEIGHT: 21 metres
Dolphin watching is a 1.5 - 2 hour experience. You are almost guaranteed to see dolphins because this is their home!
Most boats have a boom net that you can sit in that they lower into the water about 30cm at the deepest (you can stay dry on the sides). It's a lot of fun to sit in so take your swimmers as you will probably want to get right in. Don't forget a towel.
Dolphins love to ride the bow waves of a boat. They will often swim along with the boat for a while, allowing for many opportunities to take photos.
It is quite cheap at around $20 for the tour. You will need to book it in advance in the school holidays.
Were I to be asked to rate the top ten beaches I have been to in Australia, this would be on the list.
One Mile has it all. Easy access if you have a car, splendid headland and a crescent-shaped beach of fine sand curving into the distance. Doesn't matter what the surf conditions are, you can generally find a wave somewhere along its shores.
Located between Anna Bay and Nelson Bay it has a wonderful caravan part (with cabins as well) and a kiosk for a basic meal.
The beach itself is generally "safe" up the southern end unless cyclone swells have come down from up north whereas the middle section (called Samurai) tends to pick up any swell that's going around.
Yet another reason it's called "Blue Water Wonderland".
This is one of my favourite walks. Just around from Fingal Bay there's an unmarked track known by locals (right on a T-intersection) who use it to go fishing and just for plain exercise.
The views to be had along this path are sublime. As good as any ocean walk you'd get in Australia.
Glimpses of Broughton and Cabbage Tree Islands, various headlands and, when you arrive at the end, the ocean breeze wafts through your hair (I wish, for the hair that is!) and the salt spray licks at the rocks defied by the plants that cling desperately to the bits of soil not blown away in the eternal conflict of headlands everywhere as they battle the elements.
To be here is to feel the ocean, to sense its powerful presence, to see the spray arch upwards from the defiant rocks, to experience nature in the raw.
I love it.
Yes, that is exactly what this sign is all about. The hoarding at the eastern end of the D'Albora Marina at Nelson Bay is a feast for those who want to partake in water borne activities.
There's dolphin and whale watching, fishing, kayaking, cruises, paddle boats for the kiddies or just plain old hire boats. So many to choose from, so little time.
So, there you are, rolling in dough and wondering what to spend it on. Here's a suggestion. Buy a large boat, anchor it here and pop up for the weekends.
If you have a bit extra and, let's face it, if you can affort one of the boats, you can, you may choose to stay at the resort as well.
Me, all I can do is afford (just) a meal or two occasionally.
Nelson Bay is only one of several towns on the shores of Port Stephens.
Each year there are several festivals:
Tastes of the Bay, Food and Wine Festival (second weekend of November)
Carols at the Bay (Sunday before Christmas)
Clans on the Coast, Celtic Festival (new in 2008) 16-18 May 2008
Port Stephens Golf Cup Tournament, 18-23 May 2008
Port Stephens Blue Water Country Music Festival, long weekend in June
Port Stephens Golf Classic, 10-15 August 2008
Port Stephens Whale Festival, 1-12 October 2008
This is a fantastic small-time fun park. It has a great tobogtgan run that you will want to do over and over, mini golf, a maze, indoor rock climbing, bumper cars as well as arcade games and remote controlled cars and boats.
OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK
10.00am to 5pm Summer Holidays
10am to 4pm in Winter Months (holidays excluded)
If you are travelling the Port Stephens area, why not pop in for a game of Bingo with the locals.
A few hours of enjoyment for only $22 with big chances of at least winning your fee back.
Beware though...the excitement gets so big, you might forget to say BINGO!!!!
Trust me, I've seen it :o)
Best beer in the Bay - at club prices.