Australia // Discovering the beauty of Port Stephens’ natural harbor

Woohoo, we finally did it! We bought a campervan!

After criss-crossing the Sydney suburbs for hours and hours to check out about a dozen homes on wheels, we finally found one that caught our eye and had about everything we were looking for in a campervan. Fridge: check! Lots of space: check! Solar panels: check! Comfy bed: check!

Port Stephens // Australia

Of course, as soon as you have your “brand new” secondhand van you want to put the pedal to the metal and take it somewhere awesome! So the minute the work week had ended we packed our weekend bag and cruised towards the lovely natural harbor of Port Stephens, just north of Newcastle and about 3 hours from Sydney. Boy, did we pick a great place for our first weekend away in the van!

We drove straight from Sydney to Nelson Bay, a small suburb on the southeastern shore of Port Stephens, and set up camp just in front of Little Beach which also happens to offer stunning views over the bay area.

Luckily for us the school holiday had just ended the week before, so there were plenty of good spots available to park our campervan. Have a look at the pictures and you’ll have to admit this is an awesome spot for camping!

DSC_0386Port Stephens // AustraliaAs soon as dawn started setting in we threw some prawns and sausages on the barbie (surf ‘n turf you know) and had a candlelight dinner under a billion stars. How’s that for romantic :) ?Port Stephens Little Beach // AustraliaPort Stephens // AustraliaPort Stephens // AustraliaThe next morning we woke up (kinda) bright an early to see the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean. We maneuvered our campervan up the steep Lighthouse Road until we reached – surprise surprise – a lighthouse! There’s a little tea room attached to the lighthouse which hadn’t opened yet but that didn’t bother us. It meant that we had the sunrise all to ourselves – except for a couple of quarreling parakeets :)

Port Stephens // Australia Port Stephens // AustraliaPort Stephens parakeets // AustraliaPort Stephens is not only known for its gorgeous landscapes. In fact, its biggest attraction is a pod of about 140 bottlenose dolphins that call the Port Stephens bay area their home. Plenty of dolphin cruise agencies offer tours around the bay, but if you ask us, the best way to go is to book a whale watching cruise.

When we were making our way out to sea, we saw plenty of dolphins feasting on fish along the shore, so we basically got two for the price of one :)

Port Stephens // AustraliaGrabbing a quick brekkie before departure
Port Stephens // AustraliaPort Stephens dolphins // Australia

Out in the ocean the first couple of friendly giants we spotted was a mother whale with her newborn, and later on we witnessed four adult whales rumbling and tumbling about in front of our boat, which sure made our day! Even if we hadn’t seen any whales at all it would’ve been a magnificent boat trip. The scenery is ab-so-lu-te-ly stunning!

Port Stephens whale watching // Australia
 Now where are those whales?Port Stephens whale watching // AustraliaPort Stephens whale watching // AustraliaPort Stephens whale watching // AustraliaPort Stephens Port Stephens whale watching // Australia
 Hey mate, is that a smiley on your tail!?DSC_0750

By the time we got back ashore hunger had hit us and our fellow (non-seasick) boat buddies hard, so what could be better than having some fish ‘n chips at one of the many excellent harborside restaurants?

Port Stephens // Australia Port Stephens // Australia

Once our energy levels were back up again (fried Barramundi always helps) we got ready for our afternoon activity – a wonderful hike to an even more wonderful summit at the Tomaree National Park! The short and well paved hike uphill runs through the dense rainforest until you reach the top where the most stunning panoramas await you.  Port Stephens Mount Tomaree // Australia Port Stephens Mount Tomaree // Australia Port Stephens Mount Tomaree // Australia

Several lookout points atop Mount Tomaree allow you to explore the horizon in every direction – watch out for whale blows in the distance!

Port Stephens Mount Tomaree // AustraliaPort Stephens Mount Tomaree // Australia

Tomaree National Park is a superb location to spot some of the amazing wildlife that lives around Port Stephens. We got into a bit of a stare-off with a water dragon (and lost…), spotted some dolphins playing along the shore just below us and to top it off we saw a white-bellied sea eagle soaring around the mountain top in search of its next prey. Awesome!

Port Stephens Water Dragon // Australia
 What are you lookin’ at?Port Stephens Sea Eagle // Australia

Quick tips:

  • During school holidays it can get really busy at Port Stephens, so if peace and quiet is what you’re after better come on weekdays.
  • Whales can mostly be spotted between May (when they are migrating north from the cold arctic waters) and November (when they are migrating back south again).
  • If you haven’t got your own wheels (yet) hop on a train from Sydney’s Central Station to Newcastle and catch bus 130 towards Nelson Bay (consider 5 hours travel time).

A bit further down south from Nelson Bay the Worimi Conservation Lands – AKA the longest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere – are located. As you can imagine these massive dunes form a terrific playground for anyone.

We’ll be reporting on that soon so stay tuned!