We had a fabulous family fun holiday in the Port Stephens area recently. We had a week at a gorgeous house in Nelson Bay, the resort area of Port Stephens. The house is called Dutchies Beach Cottage, a mere 100m stroll to the delightful Dutchman’s Beach and easy walking distance to the marina.
The Port Stephens area is such a great holiday destination. It’s an easy drive from Sydney, and there are tonnes and tonnes of fun family adventure options.
What to do in Nelson Bay? I’m sharing our favourites!
What to do in Nelson Bay
Fly Point Markets
There are a variety of markets in the Port Stephens region. Click here for a list.
We visited Fly Point Markets, where we pottered through a variety of new, second hand and vintage goods, crafts, handmade condiments, and fresh produce. One bag of mushrooms fed us for breakfast for the week for $5 – and they were so yummy!
Toboggan Hill Park
Set in bushland in Nelson Bay, Toboggan Hill Park features family fun for everyone, with indoor and outdoor action. Rides start at $8 each for adults and big kids ($5 for littlies). We bought the Family Pass which gave us 16 rides for $80. Our top three activities were:
We all loved the one kilometre long Toboggan Track – a 300m automatic uphill tow, followed by a track with eleven bends. Pace yourself or race yourself, by controlling your descent with a handbrake. Kids under 8 ride with a parent.
A tractor-towed ride through the bushland to a giant maze. Always fun to pit your skills against your offspring and Maze Mania gives you the perfect opportunity. Guess what? I lost. I know right?
Splash Down Under
A bucket of water balloons, a launcher and two opponents. What could possibly go wrong? Boyo and the Welshman had a lot of fun drenching each other at Splash Down Under. You might get lucky and have your opponent’s balloons land in your cage without bursting. More ammo!
d’Albora Marina, Nelson Bay
Visit the d’Albora Marina near the Nelson Bay town centre. Indulge in some yacht porn and excellent people watching as you enjoy a coffee, a wander along the beach, book activities, feed your faces, indulge in delicious ice cream, and jump your heart out on the bungee trampoline. Might be best not to combine the last two activities, just quietly.
Fine dining isn’t really a feature, but you’re on holiday by the beach. We were very happy with our Hog’s Breath Cafe steaks, and harbourside fish and chips. We recommend The Marina Ice Creamery for your daily hit of ice cream. With more than 50 flavours, you might need a bit of time to choose!
I have to be honest here. There is very little to do in Tea Gardens. But that’s kind of the charm of this day trip! We caught the Port Stephens Ferry from the Public Wharf, Nelson Bay. It was $50 return for the three of us. The ferry trip is suitable for those prone to seasickness – yup, that would be me. You might get lucky and see dolphins, or just relax and enjoy the view.
Once we embarked, we hit the Tea Gardens Hotel Motel for the best fish and chips I’ve had in Australia. Oh My Gods. Delicious. And bargainous.
Boyo and I hit the Lolly Shop for a few Kimba Likes Daily Treats. Pop Rocks for the win!
The Blokefolk had The Best Time with Sand Dune Adventures. Really cool guys run amazing tag-a-long tours, with the biggest quad bikes available in the area. Smaller dudes and dudettes aged 7-12 can participate with smaller bikes and tracks.
Boyo was OK to ride the standard size – and didn’t that make him happy! The Blokefolk were buzzing for hours after their experience. It comes with a double thumbs up recommendation.
Hit local beaches for a fabulous snorkelling experience, metres from the beach. Check your weather apps and signage at the marina for any potential issues on the day. Pop on your snorkelling mask and venture out to see what you can see.
The Blokefolk recommend Dutchman’s Beach, Fly Point and Little Beach.
Port Stephens offers a huge variety of fishing trips. However, most of them are 7 hour trips, which is a bit much for kids, we thought. Leave it to the Welshman to discover an excellent alternative. He had to make a special request at the marina booking office, but it worked out beautifully.
For $100, the Blokefolk hired a tinny with outboard motor and all the fishing gear they needed for a 2 hour fishing jaunt. They played catch and kiss, releasing their fish back into their watery homes.
Tilligerry Koala Habitat
A lovely local drive to Tanilba Bay brought us to the Tilligerry Koala Habitat. You can go on a guided tour or wander around the well maintained tracks by yourself.
Unfortunately, we had no luck spotting koalas but we did have a fabulous family adventure, wandering in the gorgeous bushland, besides the very pretty Tanilba Bay.
Gorgeously soft white sand, really interesting seaweed, gentle waves and shallow dropoffs, surrounded by lawn and trees, make for a top beach experience. Personally, I’d add in comfy sunloungers, bath temperature water and cocktail service, but that’s just me.
Hunting & Gathering
We’re quite fond of a tiki tour drive around when on holiday. It’s a great way to see the local sights, and venture out for supplies. We did our main shopping at Salamander Bay Shopping Centre, where there is a Kmart, Target, Coles, Woolworths and Aldi all in the same spot.
Our favourite store though was the local suppliers and side of the road stalls. We picked up free range eggs, old school tomatoes (ie ones that actually tasted of tomato!), delicious strawberries, perfect avocados and fresh salad veg. I could have brought home a whole car load full of cuttings and plants for my garden too.
Not quite a side of the road stall, but definitely worth venturing to for some excellent hunting and gathering action is Holbert’s Oyster Farm. Grab and go or sit at their picnic tables for a quick lunch.
Murray’s Craft Brewing Co
The Welshman was so prepared for his visit to Murray’s Craft Brewing Co that he packed his own growler. Ahem, settle petal. A growler is a 1.9L glass bottle to transport your own draft beer home from craft breweries. He was thrilled to bits with the growler cooler we found for him at Murray’s. Like a stubby cooler but real man sized.
Not just great beer at Murray’s but a lovely restaurant, beer garden and space for the kids to run around happily. Or try a game of bocce on their outdoor lawn. Catch the Beer Bus if you’d like to sample their wares on site, or stock up at their shop and enjoy a refreshing ale at home.
I’ve been known to pick a wine by the label (backed up with a smidgen of nous) and you can’t go wrong doing this at Murray’s. Best labels ever. My recommendation is the Rude Boy Pilsener – and I almost never drink beer. Just goes to show how yummy it was. The Welshman’s quite fond of the Fred Limited Edition IPA.
I really wanted to try sandboarding but was ruled out due to my injured hand. Boo! We drove to Anna Bay, hit Birubi Point where we saw camel rides on the beach, and then jumped on board the safari trucks with the sandboarding dudes at Quad Bike King. A short fun sand dune tour in a huge 4WD truck took us to the rolling sand dunes of the Stockton Bight.
Following some instructions, the Blokefolk grabbed their boards, climbed the hills and had a whale of a time sandboarding. Highly recommended!
Tiki tour is a Kiwi term for going on a bit of a drive. One of the things we love to do on holiday is jump in the car and see the sights. It’s a great mix of scenic drive, stickybeaking, house porn and singalongs in the car. Port Stephens certainly is well set up for tiki touring with gorgeous scenery, farmland, bushland and some seriously fabulous real estate – from quirky retro cute to architectural masterpieces.
Ginormous hugs and kisses for our most excellent holiday planner, chef, chauffeur and tour guide, the Welshman.
Have you visited Port Stephens? Had fish and chips at Tea Gardens? Wiped out on sandboarding?