What to do in Port Stephens in the cooler months
When the temperature drops, it’s easy to feel like you need to whip out the dressing gown and go into hibernation for a few months.
But, there are places like Port Stephens that are as outstanding in winter as they are in the warmer months. Port Stephens is known for its mild winter weather, excellent whale watching, and plentiful outdoor activities.
With fewer crowds and more affordable accommodation, heading to the region in winter is a no-brainer. Check out our guide for ideas on what to do on a winter weekend in Port Stephens.
While most Port Stephens neighbourhoods are pretty close to one another, it can be a good idea to base yourself in one area so you don’t have to move around too much on your relaxing weekend.
On a recent trip, my partner and I based ourselves in the idyllic Soldiers Point, but areas like Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay, Corlette, Fingal Bay, and Anna Bay all have plenty of accommodation options too.
Bannisters Port Stephens is a stand-out for laidback luxury in Soldiers Point, as is Thou Walla Sunset Retreat if you like things a little more rustic. Elsewhere, The Anchorage in Corlette is an indulgent spot for a getaway.
Before you check into your accommodation, drop by Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary to see koalas in their natural habitat. The sanctuary provides care to injured, sick, and orphaned koalas, and your visit not only supports these rescued koalas, but also the long-term rehabilitation and conservation of koalas in the wild.
Wander along the path through the bush as you spot the resident koalas sleeping high up in the trees, munching on eucalyptus leaves, and often, being active right down at eye level.
It’s time for lunch, and there are options to suit every taste and budget in Port Stephens. Splurging? Sit down at the acclaimed Rick Stein at Bannisters for a seafood feast featuring fresh, local catches like oysters, blue swimmer crab, and yellowfin tuna.
For a laidback lunch by the beach, head to Crest at Birubi Beach. The lunch menu is full of Mediterranean-inspired fare, perfect for enjoying as you spot whales frolicking just off the headland.
After lunch, check in to your accommodation, and take the opportunity to unwind for the afternoon. Whether it’s sipping a cocktail by the pool (swimming optional) or reading a book on your balcony, leave yourself time to soak up the holiday vibes.
There are plenty of spots in Port Stephens to admire the sunset, but none more aptly-named than Sunset Beach in Soldiers Point. Head down to the beach, wander along the sand, and take in the sunset over the water.
After (hopefully) experiencing a stunning sunset, dinner is calling. For a menu of modern Greek food set in an interior that will transport you to the Greek Islands, book in at Atmos in Shoal Bay. In Nelson Bay, Little Beach Boathouse is the place to be for modern Australian cuisine done well, paired with Hunter Valley wines.
For more of a pub atmosphere, head to Cheeky Dog, just below Bannisters in Soldiers Point. Expect upmarket pub fare, a dog-friendly beer garden, and live music.
Julio’s is another excellent dinner option for modern takes on Mexican cuisine, as is The Galley Kitchen for a seafood-focused menu (also with a whole ‘Family Dining’ section).
Wake up to the sea breeze and get fuelled up for the day ahead. Port Stephens is blessed with some great spots for breakfast and brunch, including The Little Nel Cafe, Two Bobs Bakery, and In House Kitchen in Nelson Bay; Saltwater Restaurant and Longboat Cafe in Fingal Bay; and Mermaids in Shoal Bay.
After breakfast, spend the morning working up a sweat on one of the region’s picturesque walking tracks. We chose the Tomaree Head Summit walk, a steep but short walk to the best views in Port Stephens.
Other scenic options include the walk from Shoal Bay to the secluded Wreck Beach, Nelson Bay Marina to Bagnalls Beach, or around Wanda Wanda Headland in Soldiers Point.
On Sunday afternoon, it’s time to go whale watching – but not before you replenish your energy with lunch.
Takeaway fish and chips are an ideal lunch option anywhere in Port Stephens. Try Aussie Bob’s Fish and Chips in Shoal Bay, The Deck Cafe in Soldiers Point, or Bub’s Famous Fish and Chips in Nelson Bay.
If you’re keen to whale watch on land, bring your fish and chips and binoculars, and settle in for some of the best whale watching on the east coast. There are stacks of vantage points in Port Stephens for spotting whales, but some of our favourite spots are Boat Harbour headland, Iris Moore Reserve in Anna Bay, and Barry Park in Fingal Bay.
Prefer to get up close and personal with the whales? Our guide covers your options for whale watching cruises in Port Stephens. A cruise is a great way to watch whales on their migration, as well as dolphins, seals, and birds.
On your way home, stop in at B Farm by Murray’s. Whether you pop into The Cellar to taste Murray’s beer, wine, and spirits, shop produce at Murray’s Market, have an afternoon high tea at the Agnes Tea Pavilion, or devour an arvo snack and brew in the beer garden, there’s plenty to explore to round out your weekend.