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About Nelson Bay
Salty fresh air and cool soothing breezes drift from the waters of Port Stephens in Nelson Bay. Located 59 km north-east of Newcastle with the Tomaree National Park on the east, Nelson Bay offers beautiful views. Come for surfing, whale or dolphin watching, fishing or diving, Nelson Bay has so much to do and see. Nelson Bay is a popular place for recreational beach and water related activities.
See more NSW Port Stephens holiday accommodation.
Nelson Bay: The Quintessential Australian Beach Break
Even if visitors flock to Nelson Bay for those long stretches of beautiful beaches, the coastal town 60km from Newcastle retains the impression of being miles away from the crowds. It’s easy to escape into nature, with so many national parks, windswept headlands and lesser known beaches a short distance from town. Boasting a prime position on Port Stephens, travellers are privy to some of the freshest seafood in the region, reinforcing that beach break feel. If you’re staying in Nelson Bay, you can rent a wide range of holiday homes, apartments and cottages where you wake up to the sound of the waves.
The Beaches of Nelson Bay
Nelson Bay is lined by a variety of beaches, some that keep going forever and others that are much smaller and quieter. If you’re looking for relatively calm waters to swim in, head to One Mile Beach. This stretch of sand is also a favourite spot for surf lessons, as the waves have just enough swell without being too rough. One Mile Beach isn’t as secluded as Little Beach, which may be the preference of families with small children. Placid waters and plenty of shade ensure a safe, fun environment. If you’re looking for more action, there’s always Birubi, divided into two beaches totalling 32km. Here, opportunities to take part in water sports abound and the beach is wide enough to spread out or fly a kite. Behind Birubi are the well-known Stockton Sand Dunes, which offer a ton of activities in their own right.
Nelson Bay Wildlife Watching
The opportunities to observe native species in their natural habitats abound on and off shore. Around 160 bottlenose dolphins have elected residence in the waters that hug the coast, and tours are organised year-round to venture out and visit them. It is so likely that you’ll spot dolphins that many of the tours advertise 99% chances of sightings on any given day.
Whales are known to wait out the winter in Port Stephens Bay. Whale watching cruises leave from Nelson Bay between May and August. Once again, it is so likely you’ll see these marine mammals on your cruise that most companies offer a money-back guarantee if you get unlucky.
If you tire of coastal sightings, spend some time inland at Tilligerry Habitat, a koala sanctuary. Stretch your legs on the State Reserve’s walking trails, on your own or as part of a tour. In addition to koalas, you’ll be able to observe a wide variety of birds and frogs.
Hikes and Scenic Lookouts around Nelson Bay
Travellers interested in hiking can visit Tomaree National Park, where a network of trails leads to two scenic lookouts. These paths are suitable for all fitness levels and the views over the coast, bay and nearby islands make the little bit of effort worthwhile. The most popular of the two lookouts is Tomaree Head Summit. The national park also harbours Point Stephens Lighthouse, which was erected in 1862. Guided tours of the lighthouse share local historic highlights with visitors, who can also view the ruins of the original light keeper’s cottage while taking in prime views of the coast. If you don’t have time to visit Tomaree National Park, you can head to Gan Gan Lookout, which is only 160m high but offers panoramic views all the way to Newcastle and is a popular spot to watch the sunset.
Options for Eating Out in Nelson Bay
If you’re staying in Nelson Bay, you won’t have to go far to try some locally-caught seafood. For an upscale dining experience, try one of the restaurants down by the marina, some of which have won awards. For a more casual lunch or dinner, stroll along Stockton or Donald Streets, where you can take your pick of cafes. Otherwise, you can do like the locals, pack a basket and eat outside at Dutchies Beach, a favourite picnic spot in Nelson Bay, only a short walk from the centre of town. Spread your blanket on the grass and watch the kids go wild at the playground, widely acclaimed as the best in the Port Stephens region.
Getting to Nelson Bay
Depending on where you’re coming from, there are many ways to get to Nelson Bay. You can fly to Newcastle or Sydney and drive the rest of the way. Otherwise, you can take the train from Sydney to Newcastle and then the bus from Newcastle to Nelson Bay, or take a coach directly from Sydney.
For more travel information, see our article on Family Holidays in Port Stephens.