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The Top Things to do in Port Stephens

Port Stephens answers the call of those looking for a sea change with beautiful beaches, pristine waters and once in a lifetime encounters with dolphins and whales… all within 2.5 hours of Sydney. When you aren’t busy learning how to surf, swimming with dolphins or sand boarding down the largest moving coastal sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, Port Stephens provides the perfect backdrop for a relaxing coastal escape.

Top 10 Things To Do With Kids in Port Stephens

Experience Oz Staff
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We break down what we feel are some of the best – and best value – attractions in some of the most popular locations throughout Australia and New Zealand. Here, we look at the best attractions in Port Stephens to take your kids!

The below places have been selected based on a number of criteria such as value for money, quality of attraction and popularity with kids, and all receive rave reviews from numerous travel sites as well as visitors. Here’s the list.

1. Go Sandboarding

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Location: James Patterson St, Anna Bay, Port Stephens

One of the most popular experiences in Port Stephens, sliding down these giant sand dunes is a must-do activity for the whole family.

Take a deep breath and get sliding down some of Australia’s biggest sand dunes. Reaching heights of 30 metres to 50 metres, these dunes have gained the title of being some of the biggest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere.

The young ones will love the thrill of racing each other down the sandy hill at incredible speeds to see who comes out on top. If the heights of the dunes are a worry you take your mind off it with the beautiful views from the top of the dunes looking out over the scenic Port Stephens area.

"Tour the area around the dunes on board a rugged, adventurous 4WD tour and then grab your board and ride down the largest, moving sand dunes in Australia."

Tour the area around the dunes on board a rugged, adventurous 4WD tour. The hop on hop off shuttle runs every 30 minutes to and from the dunes and Port Stephens all through the day. This shuttle system gives you the freedom to spend as much time as you want running up and sliding down these amazing dunes.

Tours include all necessary equipment and return transfers to the Port Stephens area. A hop on hop off shuttle runs every 30 minutes from the lower car park at the end of James Patterson Street in Anna Bay.

2. Irukandji Encounters

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Location: 686 Marsh Road, Bobs Farm

Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters is an interactive aquarium unlike any other, connecting visitors to our natural world. Aiming to educate visitors on a our ocean and how we can co-exist with its marine life, this fun and challenging interaction is a Port Stephens must.

Jump in the waters and say hello to these friendly sharks and rays on their home turf. This experience shows visitors the friendly personalities of these animals, not as dangerous creatures but as misunderstood animals damaged by the changing ecological systems.

With over 190 sharks and rays calling Irukandji home, your encounter will be filled with curious eyes and friendly faces. This kind of experience is usually associated with an expensive price tag, but at Irukandji everybody gets to experience this encounter for a reasonable price, even the little ones.

"With over 190 sharks and rays calling Irukandji home, your encounter will be filled with curious eyes and friendly faces. This kind of experience is usually associated with an expensive price tag, but at Irukandji everybody gets to experience this encounter for a reasonable price, even the little ones."

There are five different exhibits in the centre displaying the wide range of marine life that call Irukandji home. The Ray Lagoon is home to Southern Eagle Rays, Blue Spotted Mask Rays, White Spotted Sharks, Port Jackson Sharks and Smooth Rays (Australia’s largest ray species).

Tawny Terrain will let you walk in the shallow waters and interact with and feed the 3-metre Tawny Nurse Sharks and watch as it sucks in six litres of water in only one second. Fiddler’s Flats is a hit with the children where they can learn about some of the rays and their natural habitats.

The kids will be blown away by the abilities of these misunderstood creatures and will love the chance to get up close and even feed some of them. Irukandji believes the future conservation of our oceans is very import for the next generations and aim to educate visitors on the importance of protecting vulnerable marine life before it is too late.

3. Oakvale Farm and Fauna World

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Location: 3 Oakvale Drive, Salt Ash

Set on 25 acres of land, Oakvale Farm and Fauna World is one of Port Stephen’s best animal attractions. Since 1979 Oakvale has been providing visitors with the chance to get up close and personal to some of Australia’s native animals as well as a range of exotic and domestic farm animals.

Oakvale is committed to educating visitors on Australia’s gorgeous wildlife and how we can work to protect it together in a fun interactive environment the whole family will love.

The younger visitors will love making friends with Oakvale’s native Australian animals such as the red kangaroo, koala, wombat, fresh water crocodile and laughing kookaburra.

"Oakvale is committed to educating visitors on Australia’s gorgeous wildlife and how we can work to protect it together in a fun interactive environment the whole family will love."

The park also has a diverse range of animals on display with slithering reptiles; the Albino Carpet Python and Jungle Python, feathered friends; Ostriches and Wandering Whistling Ducks, and four legged mammals; Alpacas and Piglets.

Throughout the day there are various shows that showcase some of the park’s domesticated and iconic animals. You can watch some baby farm animals bottle feed, get to know some of the park’s reptiles or learn about one of the favourite Australian animals, the cuddly koala.

Visitors can also hand feed various animals as you wander around the park. Feed bags are available from Oakvale’s kiosk for $1.50 per bag.

4. Toboggan Hill Park

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Location: 16 Aquatic Close (off Salamander Way), Nelson Bay

Take a break from the beaches, marine life and sun with a ride down the relaxing bush land in Nelson Bay. Jump in one of Toboggan Hill Park’s fully equipped toboggans and go for a winding ride through Port Douglas’ natural bush scenery.

The toboggans provide great fun for the whole family – the brave young ones can tackle the luge on their own or share a ride with mum or dad for safety. The speed of your decent down the hill relies completely on the driver with breaks fitted to control the speed.

"Jump in one of Toboggan Hill Park’s fully equipped toboggans and go for a winding ride through Port Douglas’ natural bush scenery."

Thrill seekers can reach speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour by releasing the break and lying flat on their back; those wanting a leisurely cruise down the hill should sit up straight and keep their hands on the brakes.

Despite the name, Toboggan Hill Park offers so many more activities for the everyone to enjoy. You can have a game of putt putt, strap your skates on for ‘hot’ ice skating, run around the outdoor maze or jump aboard a scenic train ride. All extra activities are charged individually per person.

For those wanting to spend the day jumping from activity to activity the kiosk sells a great range of food including some the of the favourites – pies, sausage rolls and hot dogs – there is also a picnic area with barbecues for hire for those wanting to bring their own food. The kids will surely find an activity they love at the park, which will make it almost impossible to drag them away.

5. Tomaree Aquatic Centre

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Location: 3 Aquatic Close, Salamander Bay, NSW

Tomaree Aquatic Centre in Port Stephens offers fun for the family all year round.

If you have water babies then this is the place to be with the facility featuring a 50 metre outdoor heated pool with up to 8 swimming lanes, a shaded and heated kids pool, a wading pool for toddlers, a waterslide and large grassed open areas with free BBQs and volleyball greens.

The heated pools encourage the use of the pool the whole year round but is a particular welcome relief in summer where the shallow pools with lifeguards on duty add an extra peace of mind for parents with small children.

Active kids who love to be in the water can join in on some of the aquatic sporting adventures here including squad swimming lessons for their competitive side and personal development.

There are also more social team building opportunities too with team sports like volleyball and waterpolo lessons taught here.

"The heated pools encourage the use of the pool the whole year round but it is a particular welcome relief in summer where the shallow pools have lifeguards on duty for extra peace of mind for parents with small children."

During the summer, the spiral waterslide proves to be most popular as the children race up and down the stairs to fly down the slide into the pools below. Swimmers ride down the slide on a tandem raft before splashing down into the pool below at the bottom of the slide.

The waterslide opens on weekends from October through to Easter and during the busy school holiday period.

The family friendly venue is a low budget option where you could easily spend the whole day in summer with shaded pools and large open grassed areas and sheltered and free public BBQ’s for use.

Parents are welcome to bring along a picnic but if the kids still find they are hungry or want a treat then there is a kiosk onsite to satisfy their appetite or sweet tooth.

Tomaree Aquatic Centre is also available to host fun pool parties for all ages including the enclosed waterslide.

The operating hours of the centre vary throughout the year depending on the season so please check their website for current opening times, however, the aquatic centre is open 7 days a week for all patrons.

Dolphin Watching and Swimming Cruise

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Location: Dock C, d’Albora Marinas, Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, NSW

There are not too many places in the world where you can swim and interact with wild dolphins but a few lucky visitors can in Port Stephens.

Dolphin Swim Australiarun seasonal dolphin watching and swimming cruises from Nelson Bay between September and May and the experience will blow your mind.

Nelson Bay is the only place in New South Wales where dolphins swims are permitted and these early morning dolphin swims and cruises will make your visit to Port Stephens unforgettable.

The best time to spot these dolphins are in the morning so prepare yourself for a dawn cruise from 5am.

This 4 hour adventure will begin from the d’Albora Marinas in Nelson Bay cruising out to the open waters of the Great Lakes Marine Park looking for pods of dolphins.

"Nelson Bay is the only place in New South Wales where dolphins swims are permitted and these early morning dolphin swims and cruises will make your visit to Port Stephens unforgettable."

Once your captain spots the pods of dolphins, swimmers in groups of 6 will enter the water attached to a safety rope as the dolphins swim freely around you.

Non-swimmers will also find this experience enjoyable as you can view the dolphins from the safety of boat without having to get wet and listen to informative commentary about the behaviours of the dolphins and how each dolphin can be identified by tell tale signs and markings.

Be quick and have your camera at the ready as you capture these magical moments on camera as the playful and graceful dolphins dart in and out of the turquoise waters.

Breakfast is included in this once in a lifetime experience and the captain will have you back at the marina by 10am so that you can get on with your day and enjoy another activity or an afternoon swimming at one of the stunning beaches in Port Stephens.

The experience does not come cheap but then it is hard to but a price on a unique ocean swim interacting with wild dolphins in their natural environment.

7. Learn to Surf

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Location: Hannah Parade, One Mile Beach, Port Stephens, NSW

With a myriad of beautiful beaches surrounding Port Stephens, the kids will definitely be eager to get into the ocean and if they haven’t tried surfing before then perhaps this is the place to send them on a surf lesson.

Port Stephens Surf School run 90 minute group surf lessons suitable for beginners with instructional advice to help you stand up and catch a wave in your first lesson.

The qualified and professional staff will teach you and your children the basic steps including surf safety with all the essential equipment supplied.

All that you need to bring along is determination, a willingness to learn something new and a sense of humour because it is highly unlikely that you will catch a wave on your first attempt.

"With a myriad of beautiful beaches surrounding Port Stephens, the kids will definitely be eager to get into the ocean and if they haven’t tried surfing before then perhaps this is the place to send them on a surf lesson."

Don’t worry though, because everyone else is likely to have a fall or two before you master the basics and catch your first wave but be warned because once you do it will likely become a lifelong hobby.

Once you have a learned how to surf, this is a fun holiday that you can share with your family and take away with you long after your visit to Port Stephens ends.

If you are an adventurous and active family (or at least your kids are) then send them on these surf lessons.

Port Stephens Surf School operates daily from One Mile Beach at 2pm on Mondays and 11.30am for the remainder of the week.

8. Beach Camel Rides

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Location: Birubi Point Public Carpark (Lower Carpark) James Patterson Street, Anna Bay, Port Stephens, NSW

For a sightseeing tour with a difference that is sure to keep the kids entertained then why not consider a camel ride through the sand dunes and shoreline of Port Stephens and Anna Bay.

Oakfield Ranch run 20 minute daytime camel rides and extended 60 minute sunset rides over the sand dunes of Port Stephens and Birubi Beach at Anna Bay.

Operating on Tuesday, Thursday, weekends and public school holidays, the camel rides will take you on a gentle tour through Birubi Point to see the largest moving coastal sand dunes in the southern hemisphere.

"Oakfield Ranch run 20 minute daytime camel rides and extended 60 minute sunset rides over the sand dunes of Port Stephens and Birubi Beach at Anna Bay."

Children as young as 2 years old can join these camel rides with a guardian and the rides are short enough that kids won’t get too bored and want to get off.

The first camel ride of the day begins from 10am with the last ride departing at 3.30pm.

Take it easy enjoying the views atop of these camels navigating the sand dunes before breathing in the fresh ocean air with a short ride along the beach.

These rides are very popular activity and a great way to spend some quality to time with family whether you are a visitor or local in Port Stephens.

9. David Graham Golf Complex

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Location: 4321 Nelson Bay Rd, Anna Bay

If you are looking for an affordable and family friendly activity in Port Stephens then look no further than David Grahams Golf Complex.

The golf course has diversified its offering to introduce kids to the world of golf through family friendly activities such as putt putt, soccer golf, frisbee golf and additional activities like laser tag.

Teach the children how to play on the 20 hole undercover putt putt course where kids can learn to swing and steady their balance in order to aim the golf ball into the child friendly golf course.

Then if you and the kids want to improve your golfing skills then step it up onto the standard 9 hole golf course that is surrounded by native bushland surroundings. Golf buggies are complimentary so that you can experience the fun of zipping around the course to all the different holes just as you would at any other golf course.

"David Graham's Golf Complex puts a spin on the traditional sport making it more inviting for children to want to participate with fun soccer and frisbee golf or kids can opt for laser tag and a round of putt putt golf."

Young ones with shorter attention spans may prefer to try a more active soccer golf or Frisbee golf. It follows the same principle as a regular game of golf, however, players lose the golf clubs and use their feet and hands to push the ball or throw the Frisbee into the hole with the aim of using the least amount of throws or kicks to win the game.

David Grahams Golf Complex also houses a laser tag complex that uses the latest technology to simulate a virtual ‘war ground’ for children with vivid imaginations. With several obstacles and huts for kids to run around and hide behind, it is an innovative way to essentially play hide and seek with the addition of high tech laser guns to keep score.

Using the laser tag guns, each player can run around trying to chase and catch each other out in a natural outdoor setting. All these activities are low cost and encourage play outdoors.

Laser Tag starts from $20 per person with children given several missions or a $30 package that includes 4 laser tag missions, a round of putt putt golf and hot dog and drink for each player.

Laser tag is a fun way to encourage children to get outdoors and be active amongst friends or family and will only take up half a day. If you want to stretch out the day here though then you can on many of the other activities offered at David Grahams Golf Complex.

David Grahams Golf Complex in Port Stephens is open daily from 8am to 6pm except on Christmas Day.

10. Tomarree Head Summit Walk

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Location: Tomaree Head Carpark, Shoal Bay Rd, Shoal Bay, Port Stephens, NSW

The location of Port Stephens lends itself to some stunning coastal walks and lookout points across the east coast. One of the most popular walks in the area is the track to the Tomaree Head Summit Walk.

The track is relatively short at 2.2km return and the walk should only take you 1.5 to 2 hours, however, it is mostly uphill and at times can be on uneven ground so take it easy, stop for a break and bring lots of water.

Once you reach the summit, take a moment to enjoy the spectacular views. During the months of May to October you can even spot Humpback Whales in the distance as they migrate up and down the east coast.

"The location of Port Stephens lends itself to some stunning coastal walks and lookout points across the east coast. One of the most popular walks in the area is the track to the Tomaree Head Summit Walk."

Tomaree Head is 161 metres above the entrance to Port Stephens with beautiful ocean views. Picnic tables are a hot commodity up here so we recommend packing a picnic lunch and find a place to sit down to enjoy a bite to eat before leaving the summit.

While you are here, enjoy views of Yacaaba Head, Cabbage Tree, Boondelbah and Broughton Island from the north platform and views of Zenith, Wreck and Box Beaches as well as Fingal Island and the Point Stephens Lighthouse from the south.

Prams are not recommended and the track is steep in parts so this is an activity that is best suited to children aged 5 and above otherwise you may end up carrying your little ones the entire way.

The Top 10 Things to do in Port Stephens, NSW

by Experience Oz staff
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The central coast of New South Wales remains a criminally underrated travel destination in Australia, boasting some truly beautiful stretches of coast and waterways without the crowds or over-commercialisation that many of the larger and more famous holiday spots encounter.

Perhaps chief amongst these is Port Stephens, which sits roughly 1 hour north-east of major city Newcastle and is a haven for beach-goers and marine enthusiasts as well as a quality getaway for families.

Renowned for its vast sand dunes and expansive main harbour/bay area brimming with marine life, the Port Stephens area hangs its hat on a combination of great overall weather and outdoor-oriented focus that make it an excellent choice for those looking to unwind from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

Add to all of this the ability to indulge in numerous adventures both on and off the water – including high quality wineries inland, famously fresh and reasonably priced seafood, and a range of walks and drives that lead to wonderfully scenic outlooks comprising a myriad of colours – and you've got a spot that is just begging to be experienced before its popularity explodes.

To ensure you get the most out of your trip to this sunny spot on the NSW central coast, here's our list of the Top 10 Things to do in Port Stephens & surrounds.

1. Gan Gan Lookout

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Location: 2 Lily Hill Rd, Nelson Bay

Nearly every region in Australia has its own iconic lookout point – whether it be a tower, hillside or viewing platform – and Port Stephens' own wonderful answer to this is Gan Gan Lookout, a 160m-high viewing area on the outskirts of Nelson's Bay that offers a commanding panorama of Port Stephens itself all the way through to Newcastle.

Gan Gan Lookout makes for an ideal first port of call for first-time visitors to Port Stephens as it provides a wonderful overview of the region's overall layout, which can help visitors to get their bearings on where each significant surrounding point is located.

Accessed at the end of Lily Hill Road reached via a short diversion off the main road to Nelson's Bay, the ability to drive up to the top of Gan Gan Lookout makes it highly accessible as long as you've got your own private transport – although the drive up the hill is quite steep and tight.

The lookout has been recently renovated to provide wheelchair accessibility, while having plaques added that detail the history of both the lookout and Port Stephens as a whole, which helps add some extra context to the area for first-timers.

A second viewing platform was also added, which is a credit to the great work by volunteers from local clubs to keep the lookout in top condition while operating with limited resources.

The spectacle awaiting at the top is well worth the minimal effort to get there; the aqua-blue waters of the bay as well as the various islands dotting the waters look truly spectacular on days with good weather, and photographic enthusiasts will be hard-pressed to find a spot that produces better snapshots.

Late afternoon is perhaps the best time of the day to visit for photography, and during the Spring time the local flora and fauna are at their peak and add both an extra dose of colour and life to the backdrop.

Gymea lilies feature prominently here, and their bright red-pink colouring helps to add more dashes of brightness to the thick greenery.

If you're planning to visit Gan Gan Lookout, it's ideally best to go during the week as on weekends it gets quite crowded and the viewing platforms are of limited size. Time your visit just right, and you'll have the lookout – and all the best spots for photos – to yourself.

Port Stephens' first and best experience also comes with the benefit of being absolutely free, so if you're visiting the area there's no reason NOT to pay a visit to lovely Gan Gan Lookout.

2. Sandboarding with Port Stephens 4WD Tours

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Location: James Paterson St, Anna Bay

If there's any single activity that sums up typical Port Stephens family fun, sand boarding would likely be it. A staple activity of youths growing up in the region, it's one of the simplest joys and also one of the best.

All it takes is a board and a decent sized sand hill, and you've got yourself a makeshift natural theme park ride – without the painful queues.

Port Stephens' Stockton Sand Dunes are the site where this activity is conducted, having featured prominently on this list, and with good cause; they're the largest moving dunes in the Southern Hemisphere and are thus a paradise for sandboarders and fun seekers from all over.

Those with their own 4WD vehicles can attempt to make the journey themselves provided they have the proper dunes access license, however given this requirement the majority of trips out to the dunes for sandboarding purposes for visitors are conducted by Port Stephens 4WD Tours via sturdy 4WD vehicles and make for a ride in and of themselves; the undulating nature of the terrain makes for many bumpy ups-and-downs, which are all taken in good fun.

Once at the dunes, you'll first be given a full safety briefing and then be able to stay there as long as you like; the tour operator runs return trips back out of the dunes at regular intervals while overseeing and supervising the sandboarders at the site for safety purposes.

he combined spectacle of the massive dunes themselves as well as great sea views in the distance and over the greater Port Stephens area make the pure location of the activity half the draw; however it's the thrill of sandboarding itself which steals the show.

Zipping down the sides of dunes ranging between 30 and 40 metres high is something that never gets old!

Perhaps the only downsides to the activity is that it can eventually get tiring walking back up the hills, and that you're going to end up with sand absolutely everywhere by the end; but it's nothing a solid shower won't fix!

It's also worth holding out towards the end of the day in order to be able to stay for sunset – the glow of the setting sun over the dunes and the surrounding areas is magical and a wonderful way to cap off a day of outdoor fun.

Simply put, you haven't truly “done” Port Stephens until you've gone sandboarding, and it's something you're never too old to try or get enjoyment out of.

3. Dolphin Cruise with Dolphin Swim Australia

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Location: 3/35 Stockton St, Nelson Bay

Being a port town, it might seem obvious that aquatic adventures would play a large part in what there is to do in Port Stephens, but what most who haven't visit don't expect is just how beautiful the waters of this part of central NSW truly are.This is one of the main drawcards for those relocating to Port Stephens from various other parts of the country

The lack of overpopulation and pollution make the waters around Port Stephens some of mainland Australia's prettiest, and there are numerous ways to get out and enjoy their clarity and cleanliness from kayaking, to jet boating, to diving or simply having a swim. Combine this with the quantity of marine life that can be found within easy reach of the shore, and the aquatic sightseeing options are numerous here.

In particular, Port Stephens is renowned Australia-wide for its dolphins, boasting one of Australia's highest populations of resident Bottlenose dolphins numbering roughly 140 and giving the region the de-facto title of “Australia's Dolphin Capital”.

Visitors to Port Stephens wanting to get up close with these intelligent and beautiful creatures thus have a variety of choices for getting an encounter – both on top of, and in, the water. Your choice of which option you take will likely depend on two main factors: the amount of energy you are looking to expend, and how confident a swimmer you are in the water.

The large quantity of dolphins in the area makes for a 99% dolphin sightseeing rate, and for extra peace of mind a free return trip is offered on those rare occasions where none are spotted.

Those ready to brave the waters and get truly “within arm's reach” of Port Stephens' dolphins can join a tour with operator Dolphin Swim Australia, who offer New South Wales' only permitted dolphin swim experience. Dubbed by many to be one of life's true “bucket list” items, swimming with dolphins takes advantage of the animals' inherently inquisitive nature to make for a unique and rare interaction with these wild creatures.

As they're wild animals and need to be respected, it's up to the dolphins whether they want to approach the vessel; once they decide it's time for socialising, participants are equipped with wetsuits, harnesses and snorkel/mask combos then descend into the water attached to a rope between the hulls accompanied by a dive master.

It's an incredible feeling to be able to stick your head under the water and be surrounded by a pod of these beautiful mammals, and while the trip is much harder work than an on-board cruise, it's well worth the effort albeit at an increased price.

Regardless of your choice of methods, it's hard not to come away entranced by the character and liveliness of the dolphins of Port Stephens, making an encounter with them a true must-do on any itinerary in the region.

4. Snorkel at Fly Point with Let's Go Adventures

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Location: 8 Teramby Rd, Nelson Bay

While surfing allows you to enjoy Port Stephens on top of the water, an additional layer of beauty can be found awaiting underneath. While there are multiple spots in the region to do so, none is perhaps so accessible and enjoyable than Fly Point in the Halifax Park Aquatic Reserve between Little Beach and Nelson Bay.

Renowned for its great degree of visibility and clear blue/aqua coloured water that's general protected from winds, Fly Point offers calm waters even on blustery days that snorkellers and divers even of younger ages can enjoy, and Let's Go Adventures provide a solid guided overview of the area ideal for newcomers.

As part of an aquatic reserve, fishing is banned at Fly Point which leads to an uninhibited array of fish and other marine life that is dazzling to behold; all it requires is a minimum of effort and you'll soon encounter the likes of multicoloured sponges and corals blanketed by schools of fish – and even the occasional giant sea turtle if you're lucky!

Easy access to this range of sea life just off shore makes this a great spot for snorkellers, while those wanting to take the experience a step further will find quality diving on offer as well. Snorkelling can be done at Fly Point even at low tide, although high tide obviously provides the best overall conditions. Be sure to wear protective footwear or solid flippers, however as the area can be quite rocky underfoot.

The diving on offer here, meanwhile, is quite extensive, with a number of ledges and drop offs where schools of fish gather, while shallow sections of sea grass provide views of crustaceans and sponges.

The average depth for quality viewing here hovers between the 7 – 12 metre mark although drop offs to 24m where Wobbegong sharks and soft corals can be frequently found.

As far as shore dives go, this is one of Australia's best and is a massive time-saver rather than having to travel further out into open waters.

Kids will also enjoy their time at Fly Point as there is plenty of fun to be had in the shallows, as well – a range of rockpools make for explorative fun without having to head into deep waters, and even in the shallows there's plenty of marine life to interact with.

Fish here are surprisingly tame due in large part to their frequent exposure to humans, and it's possible to hand-feed them without much effort as they'll often come directly to you. Couple this with a calm and easily swimmable beach and children can safely enjoy the a day in the water at Fly Point.

Perhaps the only downside is that, due to the area's large degree of popularity, it's subject to overcrowding during busier times; as a result it's best to try and avoid school holiday periods as this can ruin the otherwise serene atmosphere.

Plus, while there's plenty of parking on hand, this also fills up quickly during holiday season, particularly at high tide when conditions are at their best.

There's a lot to see and do at Fly Point, and given that it can all be experienced entirely for free, it's one of Port Stephens' best outdoor days out.

5. Learn to Surf with Port Stephens Surf School

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Location: Hannah Parade, One Mile

The easy access that Port Stephens' many beaches grant to the water coupled with its generally sheltered nature make for a great destination to try your hand at one of Australia's most popular national pastimes – surfing.

Home to over 30 kilometres worth of beachfront that offers the potential for some surf adventures, and this number of spots to choose from comes with a range of difficulty levels to appease surfers of all kinds.

Regardless of if you're looking to take your first steps to acquiring this enjoyable life-long skill or are a more seasoned surfer looking to refine your abilities further, Port Stephens Surf School offers a high standard of lessons across the board that all ages are welcome to participate in.

Group lessons here are divided up into adults and kids classes – with private lessons also available for that extra personal touch – with the initial aim of the friendly instructors to instil a sense of confidents in all participants, no matter their age given some people's understandable initial fear of the ocean.

Lessons are conducted at four different beaches throughout Port Stephens including One Mile Beach (located just 400m from Wanderer's retreat and widely acclaimed as the region's best surf beach that comes with spectacular views to boot), Birubi Beach, Dutman's Beach and Fingal Bay Beach with first-timers starting off in shallow water and learning a beginner-friendly technique to master the art of standing up.

Regardless of if you're a beginner acquiring this enjoyable life-long skill or are a more seasoned surfer refining your abilities, Port Stephens Surf School offers a high standard of lessons across the board that all ages are welcome to participate in.

Safety here is also paramount, and plenty of advice and guidance is given on how to read the waves and recognise rips and other potential hazards on the water, with substantial personal attention given to each student even during busier group lessons.

All surf boards and wetsuits – provided as part of the free – from Port Stephens Surf School are in top-notch, near new condition, reflective of the pride taken in providing the best possible service.

You'll initially start out on a more stable longboard and stick to the whitewash which will allow confidence to build before branching further afield and heading “out the back” once a sufficient level of skill has been achieved, but there's never any pressure or rush put on by the patient staff.

One of the purest and simply enjoyable ways to take advantage of Port Stephens' wonderful marine aspect, surfing is a skill that will stay with you for life and can soon become an entirely healthy addiction – and there are few better and more scenic places to do just that than such an idyllic region.

6. Quad Biking with Sand Dune Adventures

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Location: 2163 Nelson Bay Rd, Williamtown

Camels are far from the only way to explore those massive sand dunes that the Port Stephens region is famous for – if you're looking to kick things up a notch speed-wise, ATV/Quad Bikes provide a much more high-octane way to do so.

Local operator Sand Dune Adventures run quad bike tours that allow for a far less strenuous way to reach the top of the dunes, with the vehicles great at navigating soft sand – a notoriously difficult type of terrain – at high speeds and are renowned for their level of stability.

These tours provide access to the largest and most open part of Port Stephens' dunes at Nelson's Bay and have become one of the region's most easily-identifiable adventures and a true must-do due to their blend of sightseeing, thrills, group-oriented nature and local insight.

The height of some of the dunes encountered along the way is truly impressive – during the journey you'll both ascend and descend their expanses, with a number of steep drops that are a rush and provide great thrills; you'll come across drops as high as 30 metres to plummet down at some points!

At the peak of the dunes, you'll be able to soak in outstanding 360 degree views of the surrounding area, which brings even more of a sense of scale to how big they truly are. Sightseeing isn't the only focus of these tours, however; there's also a great deal of emphasis given to local history.

At the peak of the dunes, you'll be able to soak in outstanding 360 degree views of the surrounding area, which brings even more of a sense of scale to how big they truly are.

This historical aspect includes a deal of respectful insight into local Aboriginal inhabitants as well as European aspects, with stops made along the way to visit a number of historic sites where ancient tools and even burial spots can be spotted.

Depending on the speed of your quad bike group, you may also have the opportunity to get hands-on with these sites and try your hand at digging for fresh water in the “desert” surrounds, and learning about tradition uses of bush medicines and tucker.

Of course, many participants along for the ride will be first-time quad bike riders or children, and the Sand Dune Adventures staff truly understand this; they're both very friendly and patient with beginners. The tours are typically broken up into two separate groups so that more experienced riders cam enjoy the trip at a faster pace, while those who prefer to take it slow can still enjoy their experience while feeling safe at the same time.

Thorough safety briefings and top-notch equipment make for a sense of security throughout even on the relatively uneven sand surface, and even kids as young as 9 years old can enjoy the rush of piloting their own personal vehicle.

Documenting the journey is also welcome here, and bringing your camera – regular or video – is highly recommended as staff will be more than willing to take pictures for you along the way. In all, it's a fun way to get off road while taking advantage of technology to enjoy one of Port Stephens' most renowned natural icons, so if you're up for a dose of adventure quad biking comes highly recommended.

7. Fighter World

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Location: 49 Medowie Rd, Williamtown

One of the sites of major significance in the Port Stephens region is its Royal Australian Air Force base which serves as a significant strategic base for the air force. While it's not accessible to the public, the neighbouring Fighter World attraction has been set up to serve as a hybrid entertainment/educational facility both for those with a passion for aviation or who just want to see some truly impressive aircraft up close.

Fighter World is an attraction centred around two large hangers that are spacious and contain plenty of history within, boasting an extensive collection of fighter aircraft from various periods of history.

These aircraft feature everything from full-sized planes all the way down to intricately-crafted model replicas, and the attraction follows an approach that is surprisingly hands-on as opposed to your traditional standard “museum” experience.

Visitors are given the chance to sit inside some of the aircraft – great for kids and fighter-pilots-at-heat, and something which also provides an appreciation for the complexity of instruments that the pilots had to deal with – and even shoot one of the guns! Suffice to say that history and war buffs will be in their element here, as there's an extensive amount of both planes and memorabilia to take in.

Each aircraft is also very well curated with sufficient signage detailing their uses and involvement, while the highly knowledgeable staff on hand are always willing to share information on both their aircraft and their respective historical periods.

Seeing the likes of Mirages and the F-111 in person is impressive due to both the aircraft's craftsmanship and their scale, and it doesn't take a particular passion for aviation in order to come away impressed by the attraction.

Fighter World is also gradually evolving to integrate more technology and interactivity into the proceedings to help augment the otherwise static exhibits; touch screens allow for personalised information and content so that you can choose to focus on that which interests.

Fighter World's proximity to the RAAF base also provides viewing opportunities for active aircraft. The attraction has a dedicated observation deck that visitors can use as a viewing point to see the military aircraft take off and land at the neighbouring base – a favourite activity for young boys in particular. It's incredibly loud, but in an entirely good way!

Lastly, no mention of Fighter World would be complete without a tip of the cap to their excellent on-site cafe – it's a favourite stop of those making the trip up from Sydney due to their surprisingly good food and drink, with their milkshakes being an oft-mentioned standout.

If you're looking for a dose of aviation history – or simply something unique to get up close with and learn about during days of shaky weather – Fighter World is well worth the visit.

8. Camel Rides with Oakfield Ranch

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Location:Birubi Point Public Carpark, James Paterson St, Anna Bay

There is a wide range of options for enjoying the lovely beachfront stretches that Port Stephens have to offer, and one of the most unique is by one of the oldest methods of transport available to man – the humble camel.

While it might be a sight more typically associated with Western Australia's Broome, Port Stephens' camel rides are a fun sightseeing adventure in their own right, and the large amount and size of the region's sand dunes are the perfect environment for camels to show off their skills.

Operated by Oakfield Ranch – a family-run business who are experts in all-things-camel – these tours provide a unique spin on the standard look-and-see tour experience, and can be done as both a brief sightseeing trip or an extended, 1 hour ride to soak in the area's characteristically beautiful sunsets right on the water.

During the rides, camels are ridden in 2-person-per-camel denominations and the camels themselves are calm and very docile so that first-time riders don't have to be overly concerned about safety, with helmets also provided for an extra dose of reassurance.

Throughout the ride, you'll encounter the beautiful sand dunes that are characteristic of the Port Stephens region, venturing into the heart of them – to the point that it gives the impression of being isolated in the desert rather than being near a major settlement of civilisation.

These camel ride tours gives the impression of being in an isolated desert as you travel through the beautiful sand dunes of the Port Stephens region.

The rides come with a generally positive, joking and upbeat attitude from the staff, who serve as knowledgeable and friendly guides who provide plenty of information on the local area as well as the habits of the attitudes of the camels themselves.

Despite the brevity of the journey, you'll no doubt form a kinship with the camel you get assigned to as their generally laid-back natures make them highly approachable creatures.

The shorter ride choice travels from the initial carpark departure point, to the sand dunes, along to the beachfront and back to the carpark again, and feels much more epic than the actual distance covered. Along the way, riders are also given plenty of time and opportunities to dismount and take photos with the camels and of the surrounding scenery, while the staff are always willing to take pictures for you – so be sure to bring your own camera along for the trip!

In all, camel rides are a great value and distinctive way to do some sightseeing in the Port Stephens region that will make for some great photo opportunities to show your friends and family afterwards.

9. Toboggan Hill Park

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Location: 16 Aquatic Cl, Nelson Bay

The Port Stephens region isn't all beaches, sunshine and dolphins; those looking for a dose of family fun will also have plenty to do here, with one of the more unique child-oriented attractions the area has to offer its popular Toboggan Hill Park in Nelson Bay, located “across the bay” from Port Stephens.

A kind of miniature amusement park, Toboggan Hill provides visitors with the chance to take part in a range of additional activities in addition to its signature toboggans themselves, although these remain the undoubted highlight of the attraction.

Toboggan Hill park is set within a section of wilderness typical of Aussie bush land, which makes for a peaceful and pleasantly cool backdrop for the fun to be had within. That fun all starts, obviously, with the toboggans themselves, and the attraction's main toboggan track stretches an impressive 1 kilometre long with numerous bends and turns along the way.

Riders hop on their own individual toboggan (which can be shared between a parent and their child) and make their way down the track at speeds of their choosing.

Riders hop on their own individual toboggan (which can be shared between a parent and their child) and make their way down the track at speeds of their choosing – sit upright and you'll go slowly and be able to take in the scenery; lie flat on your back and speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour are achievable!

Once you've had your fill of toboganning goodness, there's a fair amount of alternative fun to be had at Toboggan Hill Park, too depending on how much you're looking to pay. As pricing here is charged on a per-activity basis, you'll have your choice of which of the activities interest you and be able to customise your length of stay and entertainment choices accordingly.

Miniature / putt putt golf – always a favourite – can provide good bang for the buck depending on how you pace yourself (and your level of putting skill!), while more energetic options such as skating on a rink (not made of ice – it's dubbed “hot” ice skating which uses synthetic surfaces to achieve the same effect), wall rock climbing, and an outdoor maze all provide their own individual charm.

Train rides are also on offer which take you on a relaxed pace through the scenery, while those wanting to travel on foot can enjoy a bush walk instead.

One thing to note is that there are no real options for proper food here, so be sure to either bring some along for the trip or grab a bite to eat at Nelson's Bay beforehand (or travel before/after lunch time).

Toboggan Hill Park is a great choice of entertainment options for cooler weather periods and on those times when you don't feel like hitting the beach, and it stands out as one of the best ways to spend 2 – 3 hours if you're travelling to the Port Stephens region with kids. They'll no doubt want to ride the toboggan more than once!

10. Port Stephens Mountain Bike Adventures

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Location:Salamander Bay

Port Stephens is very much a travel destination where getting out and enjoying the fresh air and scenery is a key focus, and there are few better and more natural ways to do so than by bike.

The town is one of NSW's top spots for cyclists and is home to a range of varied cycling tracks that provide a number of outstanding viewpoints in return for relatively little effort.

While there are numerous smaller tracks on offer, the major routes that stretch between brief 2 kilometre offerings all the way up to more involved 28 kilometre treks are by far the most popular – and for first-time visitors guided tours with Port Stephens Mountain Bike Adventures can provide a detailed look at all the key highlights of each as well as some insider knowledge and context to local landmarks and geography.

With riders of all experience levels welcome to join in, it's a great way to get a dose of a variety of scenery that provides a good cross-section of what Port Stephens' nature has to offer – beaches, hillsides, local suburbs and rocky tails are all covered here.

Riding tour options also vary in terms of time as well as scenery, with shorter tour options as minimal as 1 hour ranging through to more comprehensive 4 hour rides meaning that those who want to focus on scenery more than a physical challenge – as well as those looking to push themselves – are both catered for.

With riders of all experience levels welcome to join in, it's a great way to get a dose of a variety of scenery that provides a good cross-section of what Port Stephens' nature has to offer – beaches, hillsides, local suburbs and rocky tails are all covered here.

The riding tracks are all of relatively high quality and consistent surfacing, and the majority make their way along the coast providing views of some of Port Stephens' 26-some individual beaches before heading into lush stretches of National Park all while taking advantage of the town's overall lack of traffic.

Popular break points to enjoy a coffee and admire the views include Port Stephens' iconic lighthouse, Mt. Tomaree lookout and several other local essentials that can be customised upon request.

Even locals of Port Stephens can take something away from these rides, with many of the pathways taken going down relatively hidden tracks and back passes that show the town and its surrounds from an alternative angle.

Regardless of if you're looking to take part in a guided tour or explore what Port Stephens has to offer by yourself, it's one of the top spots in Australia to get out and explore on two wheels, with the predictably good weather making biking a viable activity almost all-year-round.