Port Stephens has long been an annual holiday destination for nearby Newcastle locals, being just under an hour’s drive away and packed with picturesque quiet beaches. It’s the perfect location for those seeking a sunny and sandy escape from reality, even for just a day. A number of exciting new dining spots have opened in recent years, so it’s no wonder people are coming from further afield to seek out slow-paced warm weekends with good food and friends. Here are our recommendations for how to spend 24 hours in Port Stephens.
Start the day with breakfast at the Home Interior In House Kitchen in Nelson Bay, where you can combine a good breakfast with Allpress coffee and an aesthetically pleasing setting for the perfect morning. The Home Interior’s In House Kitchen serves up something for everyone with Aussie staples like bacon, eggs, avocado on toast and other colourful vegetarian options on offer. After brekkie, browse their collection of homewares and gifts. Next, jump in your car and drive five minutes down the road to Shoal Bay.
Walk off your big breakfast by hiking to the top of Mount Tomaree and you’ll be rewarded with uninterrupted views of Port Stephens and the surrounding areas. The hike is on a well-maintained 1km (0.62mi) path up the mountain and takes between an hour to an hour and a half to complete, depending on your pace. You’ll want to take water and wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen as it can get extremely hot in the sun, even first thing in the morning.
Pro tip: Parking is available at the Tomaree Headland car park and Zenith Beach car park.
Below the mountain you can cool off in the turquoise water at Shoal Bay’s Zenith beach after your hike and relax. Set up a beach umbrella and towel, take out a book and settle in. For those looking for more action, take to the water on your surfboard.
Pro tip: Be aware of rips and dangerous waves. If you’re travelling with small children or not a confident swimmer, there’s calm water Shoal Bay Beach just down the road.
Starting to get hungry? Head back down the road to Shoal Bay Country Club for lunch. There are several dining spaces you can choose from but the outdoor deck upstairs is recommended for the view and fresh air. Lounge on colourful furniture and look over the bay while you indulge in an Aperol Spritz and eat fresh seafood, woodfired pizzas and salads.
Pro tip: on weekends, arrive by midday or shortly after to get a table with a view on the upper deck.
Jump back into the car (or take a taxi) and have your designated driver head to Soldiers Point about 20 minutes away, choosing the coastal route to take in the sights of Nelson’s Bay and Salamander Bay. The Terrace Bar at Bannisters is set around an infinity pool and overlooks the sea. It’s time to kick back, cocktail in hand, and watch the sunset.
You don’t have to go far for dinner. Make your way into Rick Stein’s restaurant at Bannisters Port Stephens. It’s all about fresh seafood (vegetarian options available), good wine and waterfront views at the renowned British chef’s North Coast eatery. The interiors of the restaurant are beautifully designed, so whether you’re outside or in, there’s plenty to admire.
Pro tip: make a reservation online to secure your table.
Bannisters and the Shoal Bay Country Club are great options for accommodation, but for those travelling in groups or looking for a private villa, Salt in Shoal Bay is an ideal spot to settle in for the evening. The luxury beach house is located right on the shore and has large windows which overlook the bay, Mount Tomaree and the Yacaaba headland.
Pro tip: Salt has private parking available, so you can leave your car here while you’re exploring Shoal Bay.