Port Stephens is one of the most valuable road trips available to those living in New South Wales. The quintessential Aussie scene of laid-back beaches and copious hiking trials has long been a magnet for both domestic and international tourists looking to soak up the scene outside of a major city. The harbour’s eastern most suburb, Fingal Bay, is a popular choice for this reason given it’s quiet and calm while also serving as the perfect base for exploring.
To highlight the classic NSW destination we hit up Ford, who were keen on exploring the benefits of a road trip given they just launched Ford 2nd Car, which is a world first program for the company where Ranger or Escape owners can borrow an additional Mustang for their own personal use. They loaned us a shiny new Mustang to fang it on up to Fingal Bay so we could take in the surrounds and put together six of the top things to do in the area.
1. Hunt for the Best Food and Drink
You realise you’re in the Hunter Region, right? It won’t take long before you’re ducking in and out of all those award-winning wineries, so when you feel like leaving the beach behind for a day head on out to the vines and inhale some of the best wine and cheese experiences in the country. It’s also the best option for dining in the area, although that may change when Rick Stein opens a new Bannisters in Port Stephens.
If beer is more your thing, you’ve got the excellent Murray’s Brewery just down the road, so if you’ve got a group on you then organising a brewery tour is a must.
Port Stephens has some of the best snorkelling spots in all of Australia, particularly Fly Point which is just a stone’s throw away at Nelson Bay. There are all types of interesting things to see there, from abundant sea life to remnants of shipwrecks. Even if you’re a beginner just head on over to Feet First Dive and you’ll be a pro in no time.
3. Walk the Spit
Fingal Beach is one of the most beautiful in the country (notice a theme here?) and has been a top choice for on-water activities since forever. Those mountainous waves might have something to do with it, but also the fascinating (though potentially dangerous) walk over to Fingal Island. Keep an eye out for low tide and make your way across the notorious sandbar that connects the beach to the island, but be careful as you don’t want the water to get too high (anything higher than knee deep) or you’d be risking your life – the sandbar can be overwhelmed with water pretty quickly. After you’ve made it across take some time to explore the lighthouse and the ruins of the lighthouse keeper’s cottage complex, which dates all the way back to 1862. Just remember to be mindful of the tide forecast and the time.
4. Tomaree Head Summit Walk
The payoff for the 25 minute hike up to Tomaree Head is almost too generous. It’s easy to feel undeserving when you receive your reward at the top, giving you access to panoramic views over Port Stephens and its many offshore islands. It’s the perfect place to bust out the ol’ picnic basket, but after you’re done don’t head down yet, spend some time checking out the historic gun emplacements left over from Fort Tomaree, which was a major part of the country’s east coast defense system during World War II. If you’re lucky you’ll spot some whales as well.
5. Dolphin and Whale Watching
Port Stephens is widely known as the premier spot along the NSW coast for in-season (May to November) whale watching while also playing host to many bottle-nosed dolphins. As such there are plenty of cruises available each and every day ferrying people across the harbour so they can easily spot these two majestic sea-dwelling mammals. For more information you can head on over to Visit NSW’s website HERE.
6. Stockton Sand Dunes
Having set up base in Fingal Bay, you’re but a short distance from the famous Stockton Sand Dunes, a collection of 40m high dunes with 60 degree slops that are perfect for sandboarding, quad biking and 4WD driving. You’ve got a bunch of tours doing justice to all three activities just one click away and they’re all pretty well-priced.