Our first taste of travel after Covid lockdown

Port Stephens NSW

I think it’s safe to say we’re all jonesing to get away on a trip asap. I know that Christina and I are feeling the tug of the open road more than usual.

This time of year we’re usually hiding  from winter’s chilly gaze in Europe, the States or Asia… sometimes all three! Of course, that’s not possible at the moment.

What is possible though is the chance to head intrastate and explore more of New South Wales. 

We decided that our first trip beyond our own neighbourhood and the first night we haven’t spent in our own beds in a long time should be somewhere we’re comfortable with. Somewhere we’ve been before.

So we’ve headed back to Port Stephens – some two and a half hours north of Sydney.

Christina’s sister has a holiday house there and we’re excited to be back in this much unsung beauty spot on the NSW coast. We’ve written quite a bit about this seaside sanctuary.

Here’s a link to more of our stories about Port Stephens and also our essential guide to Port Stephens too.

We’re also looking forward to hanging out with our mate Anton, who’ll be joining us midway through our stay.

We hope you enjoy this Edition and that it inspires you to (safely) get out and about again.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx

Port Stephens NSW - Bagnalls Beach

The first thing we always do when we get to our place in Port Stephens is go straight to the beach. Most of the time, we’re welcomed by a warm breeze, perhaps a stunning sunset… not this time.

Storm’s a-coming.

Where to stay in Port Stephens NSW Corlette

After our quick peep at the beach, we bunker down to a well-stocked woodpile and a warm dinner.

It’s a strange thing to feel so at home when we’ve been stuck in our actual home for so long.

Bagnallls Beach, Port Stephens NSW

This morning, the sky has brightened and the rain has gone. It’s still cold though. We’ve packed our swimming gear, but I doubt if I’ll be going for a dunk this break. Even if I were coated in lard like those crazy people who swim the English Channel.

Thankfully the beautiful views keep us warm enough though. 

Nelson Bay Golf Club, Port Stephens NSW

We’ve decided to try the local golf club out for lunch. Nelson Bay Golf Club has had a big renovation since we were last here and what a difference!

This is a huge 27-hole course and while you chip onto the green, you’re often kept company by mobs of kangaroos. 

But today, we’re just here for the views and the food.

We’re really impressed with the food. Last time we were here, it was more like an RSL club and not a very good one. But the food now is excellent. 

Christina’s sweetcorn fritters with smoked salmon and avocado looks and tastes delicious.

As for my dukkah crusted salmon served on a corn fritter is amazing. The spicy eggplant relish on top really makes this dish.

We’re both suitably impressed. Time to update our Essential Travel Guide to Port Stephens I think!

That’s more like it. The sun’s doing its best to impress now – lighting up the coastline and sparkling off the gently lapping waters.

On her sunrise walk, Christina meets this elegant gent. He’s on the rocks that line the coastal pathway and she has to get pretty close to him to pass by. 

He doesn’t seem to mind though. 

I bet it’s a different story when he’s at the cleaning table next to the boat ramp up the road. I’ve had fish snatched from my hands by these gulping monsters. They’re not a lot of fun and take no prisoners!

Sometimes it feels like we’re back in SoCal when the sky’s this blue and the palms are this tall. 

Though in reality, I do wonder how long it will be before we can safely travel back to the States. Hopefully not too long.

This evening, Christina and I are braving the cold to do what we often enjoy back at home: a backgammon competition, a few glasses of wine and some snacks.

Tonight, Christina absolutely steamrollers me. Usually it’s a bit more even, but perhaps the sea air has given her new powers… 

I’m also quietly distracted by this simply superb cigar. Not that I’m making any excuses. Chris broke me fair and square.

But this Partagas Serie E No. 2 is exquisite. I bought this in Belgium last year when we were in Bruges. Wish we lived closer.

Tonight the sunset is incredible. Gold filigree lines edge the horizon’s clouds and the burnished shores play with fire as the waves break and wash the flames away.

Boat Harbour, Port Stephens NSW

At last my buddy Anton arrives. We’ve been mates for over 15 years and it’s always great to hang out with him.

It’s Anton’s first time to Port Stephens and we’re looking forward to showing him around.

We’re taking the bush track that leads from Corlette round to Nelson Bay. It’s a pretty walk and only takes around 35 minutes to get to the marina.

Along the way we keep our eyes peeled for koalas, but also a huge amount of birdlife. White bellied sea eagles and osprey roam these skies. And everything else from tawny frogmouths to sooty oystercatchers perch, flit or soar here.

We climb to the top of the low headland and look back at Bagnalls Beach. This long thin stretch of sand is one of the few off-leash dog beaches in NSW – another reason we love coming here.

Apart from that, it’s absolutely beautiful I think you’ll agree.

We make it to Nelson Bay marina where the water is so clear we can see the fish swimming below.

But we’re after some lunch. The chip shop that used to be here is sadly closed, but John Dory’s further into Nelson Bay is said to be very good.

Instead, we opt for a couple of beers at the pub and a pie from the most remarkable bakery you’ll find. 

Red Ned’s Gourmet Pie Bar has over 50 different pies to choose from. Talk about kid in a candy store! My smoked chicken and camembert pie is off the charts. 

We also stop in at The Little Nel Cafe for a quick coffee. Definitely the spot to come for decent joe.

Port Stephens, you’ve done it again. Another ridiculous sunset. But we can’t stop too long – the sun might look bright, but the winter wind’s still got a bite. 

Back inside to get the fire started.

Today, we’re on the other side of the peninsula at Boat Harbour. 

This time of year is perfect for spotting migrating whales here as they head north for warmer waters. Before we get to the rocks around Boat Harbour’s stony shore, we meet this little angel. But the wind’s too cold for her and she tries to use me as a wind break. 

We both win though – she gets some shelter and I get a pat. 

Whale Watching at Boat Harbour, Port Stephens NSW

It’s worth the chills from the roaring wind – there are so many whales today (I think you can just see a puff from a blowhole between me and Anton) it’s like humpback soup out there. Gazpacho of course. The water is freezing.

Murray's Brewery, Port Stephens NSW

It’s time for lunch and we head back inland. Murray’s Brewery has changed a lot since we were here last. But thankfully their beer is just as good as ever.

Murray's Brewery, Port Stephens NSW

If beer’s not your disco, Murray’s also does a mean wine tasting. This area is still within the Hunter Region, so the vino from the vines here is very good. 

The cellar door here is a lot of fun and has been beautifully styled. When we were here last, it was a small room with just one place to buy beer, food and merch. Now it’s the whole experience.

Murray's Brewery, Port Stephens NSW

Talking of food, I’m excited to be revisiting this bad boy. The original burger from Murray’s actually managed to convert me to being pro-beetroot on a burger. 

It also landed a spot on our top 10 burgers list.

Murray’s new Fred Man burger no longer has the beetroot component and there seems to be less sauce, but it’s still a hell of a burger!

Murray's Brewery, Port Stephens NSW

Really love the new look to the brewery. I’m looking forward to coming back here again as often as possible!

This evening, we’ve got a bit of a pre-dinner treat planned. Round the corner from where we’re staying is Holberts Oyster Farm, where you can buy freshly shucked oysters, beautiful prawns and a whole range of seafood.

The oysters here are excellent – creamy, salty, plump – perfect for sunset and a glass of bubbles.

Not a bad way to spend our last night in Port Stephens…

And not a bad sunset either.

Crest Cafe Birubi Beach Anna Bay, Port Stephens NSW

This morning, we’ve come across the peninsula again to Anna Bay. Breakfast at Crest Birubi Beach is a good idea at any time of the year, but with the whales migrating at the moment, it brings a whole extra bonus to this view and the excellent food.

I don’t think there are many places on earth where you can enjoy bacon and eggs while you watch humpbacks play in the waves below.

Birubi Beach and Stockton Beach, Anna Bay, Port Stephens NSW

Before we all hit the road back to Sydney, we take a quick walk on the sand. This is Birubi Beach, which then becomes Stockton Beach further up.

There you can drive your car (providing it has four-wheel-drive capabilities) onto the beach, which is pretty cool. 

Behind the beach, the sand becomes mountains as the Stockton Sand Dunes begin. These sand dunes are part of the Woromi Conservation Lands and are the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. 

On the dunes you can explore on foot or on camel, you can sand board, and of course drive.

Horses on the beach, Birubi Beach Stockton BeachAnna Bay, Port Stephens NSW

There are also horseback expeditions on the dunes that end with a ride in the surf. I know that Christina’s eager to try this, but for now, the only ride we’ll be having is back home. 

Next time, Chris. 🙂

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little taste of travel. We’ve been very impressed with how all the venues and locations in Port Stephens have been careful to observe social distancing guidelines and signing in at the door. 

It’s more important now than ever to be careful so that we can all carry on travelling and stay healthy.

Hope your next trip is soon and that we’ve helped a bit to inspire you to travel.

Cheers – Jim & Christina xx


  • Reply July 9, 2020


    We were there a few weeks ago- wonder if we rubbed shoulders and didn’t know it?
    Glad you two are well!

    • Reply July 10, 2020

      Mr Romance

      Ah No way! So funny – isn’t Port Stephens the best? We’re hoping to get back up there soon actually. So peaceful – especially this time of year. Maybe we’ll see you up there some time. 🙂

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