Our essential guide to Port Stephens – the hidden gem on the NSW coast

Only 2 and a half hours north of Sydney, Port Stephens is an easy destination for people wanting to get away from the quick beat of city life. Our essential guide to Port Stephens has all you need to know about this unsung hero of the NSW coast.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Mrs Romance and I have been visiting Port Stephens for years. It’s close enough to Sydney that it’s an easy 2 1/2-hour drive, but it’s far enough away to really give the feeling of being away from everyone.

In fact it features as one of our top 9 easy Sydney getaways. Its white sandy beaches, friendly seaside towns, and a wealth of eateries and things to do make Port Stephens an easy decision for when you just want to escape the city for a bit.

We’ve broken our guide down into 3 digestible sections with our real favourites leading each list.

Essential Guide to Port Stephens

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Where to eat

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Chips & gravy at the Corlette Store, 27 Sandy Point Rd, Corlette

Not only a local secret but a local favourite as well, the chips and gravy from the Corlette Store are superb. These guys don’t have a website and keep irregular hours, but they’re worth a look if you’re hungry!

Grab your chips and go relax on the sand at nearby Bagnall’s Beach.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Sandbars Seafood, Nelson Bay Marina

Although the décor in this big chip shop is a bit odd (think underwater strip joint!) and the wait for the food can take a while, these are the best chips you’ll find in Nelson Bay. This was a new find for us from the last time we were here. Very impressed.

Murray’s Brewery – 3443 Nelson Bay Rd, Bobs Farm

On the way out of Port Stephens is this craft brewery. The craft beer they make and serve here is excellent and the food is too. In fact the burger, although not cheap, is one of my all-time favourites. A big statement.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

House Café in The Home Interior – 41 Donald Street, Nelson Bay

This café within a homewares store is incredibly yet unsurprisingly popular – especially at the weekend. But with the best coffee in town, it’s worth the wait. Although we’ve never eaten here, we’ve heard the food is top notch too.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Seabreeze Hotel – 1 Stockton Street, Nelson Bay

The newly renovated Seabreeze pub has the light, airy cheerfulness you’d expect in a seaside bistro. The food is on point and the service is professional. But if you want dinner – especially at the weekend – bookings are essential.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Port Stephens Game Fishing Club – 57 Shoal Bay Road, Shoal Bay

A little rough and ready, but with killer views out over the bay, The Game Fishing Club is actually a real diamond. The food is good pub style, as is the vibe – so no tuxedos and ball gowns – but if you want to feel like part of the community, you’ll get that here more than anywhere.

Just watch your timings for food; Salt Bistro’s kitchen fires 12pm-2pm for lunch and 6pm-8pm for dinner. No earlier, no later.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Crest Birubi Beach – 73 James Paterson Street, Anna Bay

Part of the Birubi Beach Surf Life Saving Club and open for breakfast and lunch 7 days a week, this is a café with the best views of Port Stephens.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Little Beach Boathouse – Little Beach Marina, 4 Victoria Parade, Nelson Bay

Right on the water, this lunch and dinner restaurant is perfect for a special occasion meal and something a bit more romantic than a lot of other places in Port Stephens.

Holbert’s Oyster Farm – 52 Diemars Road, Salamander Bay

If you’re looking for real-world priced wine and beer to go with the best local prawns and oysters in the area (plus amazing views over the bay or into the shucking shed), this 5-generation family-run business is hard to beat.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Inner Light Tea Rooms – 5a Lighthouse Road Nelson Bay

Being part of the Nelson Bay lighthouse means this little breakfast-and-lunch café has views to die for. Its simple menus will keep you going while you take in the vistas over the bay.

What to do

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Cycle or walk the cycle track

From Nelson Bay to Corlette is a track that dips and winds through bushland and beaches. It’s the perfect way to work up an appetite and to see the sights on offer from this beautiful peninsular.

Just so you know, Bagnall’s Beach, which is in front of Corlette, is a real rarity. It’s an all-year-round off-leash dog beach.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Soldier crabs at sunset

An amazing natural event every evening as the sun goes down sees thousands of soldier crabs – about the size of a ping pong ball – march in huge regiments across the hard sand at beaches all round Port Stephens. These harmless crustaceans make for awesome photo opportunities as the sun dips below the horizon.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Snorkelling in the marine reserve – Little Nelson Bay

Off the beach at Fly Point Park are two dive sites – Seahorse Gardens and Fly Point. Fly Point is more protected, so snorkelling is easier here. Lots of fish and even turtles swim this section of the reserve.

Hike up headland and Mt Tomaree

The highest point in the area, Mount Tomaree was used as a lookout post and gun placement in WWII. You can still find vestiges of the military base here, and the views out from the top are breathtaking. It’s a pretty good hike too!

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

SUP

Becoming evermore popular, SUP or – Stand Up Paddleboarding – is perfect for the (usually) calm conditions and warmer waters of the bay. The guys who operate Port Stephens Paddle Sports are friendly and accommodating. Give them a call and organise when you want to give it a go. Highly recommended!

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Safe surf beaches

If surfing and a big wave is more your thing, One Mile Beach and Fingal Beach are both patrolled and save. They’re also both beautiful beaches well worth checking out even if you don’t fancy a dip.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Dolphin and whale watching

Incredibly popular from Port Stephens, the dolphin spotting cruises happen all year round. Humpback whales do a return-trip migration every year, going north in the winter and back south in the summer months.

There are so many companies to choose from. Our advice: go with the smallest boat possible and one with an open deck.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Sand dunes between Anna Bay and Stockton

If you’ve driven in from Sydney, you’ll have seen the sand dunes on your right on the road in. These sand dunes are part of the Woromi Conservation Lands and are the largest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere. There are lots of things you can do on the dunes, from 4×4 tours to sand boarding – or just pretending your Laurence of Arabia!

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Saturday markets around Port Stephens

There are a variety of markets on every Saturday (and some Sundays) in the Port Stephens area. From Food to craft, there’s always something on at the weekend. Check the schedule in the link above to find out more.

Irukandji, Shark and Ray Encounters – 686 Marsh Rd, Bobs Farm

This entirely interactive experience is run by a young couple with conservation and education at the heart of what they do. Far from your average aquarium, this family-focused marine centre is all about showing people what the creatures of the blue are really like and to help us understand the impact we’re having on their environment.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Port Stephens ferry service – leaves from Victoria Parade Public Jetty Wharf

Catch a ferry to Tea Gardens to check out what’s going on across the bay. The service also does lunch cruises and dolphin cruises too. Just so you know, high winds and poor weather can cause cancelations to the service. Check the website for up-to-date times.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Everything else

There’s so much to do here in Port Stephens – cinemas, shopping, diving, kayaking, jetskiing, fishing… the list goes on and on. More information is here in the local tourism guide.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Where to stay

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Corlette on AirBnB – Sandy Point Road

There are literally hundreds of places to stay in Port Stephens, but whenever we go, we’re looking for homely comfort, space and a local feel. That’s why we always go for this place on AirBnB.

It’s on Sandy Point Road, so all you have to do is cross the street and you’re in the water. It’s perfect. Plus it’s just down the road from the Corlette Store and their legendary chips and gravy!

You’re also on the bus route in and out of Nelson Bay – and Sydney for that matter – and the track that takes you all the way to the marina starts here too. If you’ve got a boat, there’s a boat ramp at the end of the street too.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

The Anchorage and Marina – Corlette

Also in Corlette, the Anchorage is luxurious living and perfect if you have your own boat. The restaurant here is said to be extremely good too.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Amarna Resort at Dutchies Beach

Boutique and very private, this small resort whispers romance. From its infinity pool overlooking the beach to its beautifully decked out serviced apartments, this 5 star accommodation shows the best of what Port Stephens has to offer.

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Port Stephens really does have so much to offer. This pretty peninsular epitomises the Australian lifestyle people think we all have! But in spite of its ideal setting, it somehow gets overlooked as a destination.

I say, let’s take advantage of that while word’s still not quite out!

Mr and Mrs Romance - our essential guide to Port Stephens NSW Australia

Have you ever been to Port Stephens? What’s your favourite thing about it? Are there any unsung hero destinations near where you live? Tell us everything in the comments below!

Images by Mrs Romance.

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