Road trip to Nelson Bay and Port Stephens

Weekend Trip to Port Stephens and Nelson Bay (2024)

Embark on a weekend getaway to the breathtaking coastal haven of Port Stephens and Nelson Bay. Dive into crystal-clear waters, explore pristine beaches, and discover the hidden gems of this seaside paradise. From thrilling water adventures to serene moments by the shore, our guide unveils the perfect blend of relaxation and excitement for your weekend escape. Immerse yourself in the beauty of this seaside retreat with our curated tips and recommendations. Your unforgettable coastal adventure awaits in Port Stephens and Nelson Bay!

New South Wales (NSW) is a haven of diverse landscapes, blessed with everything from awe-inspiring coastlines to the vast beauty of the Outback. Among NSW’s myriad treasures, Port Stephens and Nelson Bay stand out as captivating destinations worth exploring.

I have had the privilege of visiting these two gems multiple times, whether with friends, on solo adventures, on road trips, on bus tours, or by utilising public transport. The allure of Port Stephens and Nelson Bay remains ever-present, drawing visitors into a world where each visit promises new experiences and lasting memories.

For fun big things to see on the way, read 11 big things to see in NSW.

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Weekend Trip to Port Stephens and Nelson Bay
PIN for later reference – Weekend Trip to Port Stephens and Nelson Bay

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About Port Stephens and Nelson Bay

Port Stephens

Nestled within the Hunter region of New South Wales (NSW), Port Stephens is a captivating destination renowned for its stunning beaches, expansive sand dunes, and coastline that epitomizes spectacular beauty. The allure of Port Stephens lies in its pristine natural landscapes, making it a haven for those seeking a perfect blend of sun, sea, and serenity. With its idyllic beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see, Port Stephens offers a picturesque retreat for beach lovers and nature enthusiasts alike.

The region’s famous sand dunes add a touch of adventure to the landscape, creating an immersive experience for thrill-seekers and explorers. As the sun paints the skies with hues of warmth, Port Stephens beckons travellers to discover its coastal charm and bask in the tranquillity that defines this corner of the Hunter region. Whether it’s the call of the waves or the mesmerising coastal vistas, Port Stephens stands as a testament to the natural wonders that grace the shores of New South Wales.

Nelson Bay

Nestled in the heart of the Hunter Region in New South Wales (NSW), Nelson Bay is a picturesque town adorned with beauty and charm. This coastal gem shares its name with the enchanting bay cradling its shores. The synergy between the city and the bay, called Nelson Bay, creates a harmonious blend of natural splendour and seaside tranquillity.

Nelson Bay’s allure lies not only in its coastal vistas but also in the vibrant township that bears witness to the ebb and flow of life. The town’s character unfolds as you stroll through the streets, offering a delightful mix of seaside sophistication and laid-back coastal living. Sharing its name with the town, the bay serves as a scenic backdrop, inviting visitors to indulge in the serenity that washes over the waterfront.

In this captivating corner of the Hunter Region, Nelson Bay encapsulates the essence of coastal living, where the town and bay seamlessly coexist, creating an idyllic retreat for those seeking the perfect synergy of land and sea.

Nelson Bay

How to Get to Port Stephens?

Road Trip from Sydney

Situated approximately 155 kilometres away, Nelson Bay and Port Stephens are easily accessible from Sydney Central Business District (CBD). The proximity between them is evident, with Port Stephens merely 5 kilometres from Nelson Bay.

Embarking on a road journey from Sydney allows travellers to explore both destinations seamlessly. The leisurely drive spans a comfortable 2.5 hours, making it a relaxed and straightforward route from the bustling city to the tranquil coastal beauty of Nelson Bay and Port Stephens.

This road trip promises convenience in the distance. It offers a scenic drive that sets the tone for a refreshing getaway from the urban hustle, inviting travellers to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

By Public Transport

Port Stephens is easily reachable through public transportation. Commuters can hop on trains connecting Sydney’s Central Station to Hamilton train station. From there, a convenient bus service from Maitland Road to Sandy Point Road in Port Stephens ensures a seamless journey.

For the latest and most accurate details, travellers are advised to check Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW), where up-to-date information on train and bus schedules and any travel-related updates can be found. This accessible public transport route provides an efficient and hassle-free option for those looking to explore the beauty of Port Stephens without the need for a private vehicle.

One-Day Bus Tour from Sydney

Day-long bus excursions operate regularly, shuttling between Sydney and Port Stephens. These comprehensive tours guide participants through attractions in Port Stephens and Nelson Bay, encompassing highlights such as engaging dolphin cruises.

The convenience of these tours extends to their inclusive nature, covering pick-up and drop-off services right from the Sydney Central Business District (CBD). Fondly recalling my initial visit to Port Stephens and Nelson Bay, I opted for the APT day tour, which seamlessly introduced me to the scenic wonders and captivating experiences these destinations offer.

Things To Do in Port Stephen and Nelson Bay

Tomaree Head Summit Walk

The Tomaree Head Summit walk unveils awe-inspiring vistas of Port Stephens and the northern coast, offering breathtaking panoramas from its lofty summit, towering approximately 160 meters above sea level. The views are spectacular, each frame capturing its unique charm and beauty.

This scenic journey is facilitated by a well-maintained paved track, ensuring a comfortable and accessible hike. Adding historical intrigue to the experience, the walk features remnants of World War II with gun emplacements constructed in 1941, providing visitors with a glimpse into the region’s wartime history.

Embarking on the Tomaree Head Summit walk promises a visual feast of natural wonders and an exploration of the historical significance that enriches the journey to the summit.

Weekend Trip to Port Stephens and Nelson Bay (2024)
Tomaree Head Summit Walk


  • Starting and Finishing Points: Zenith Beach Car Park.
  • Distance: 2.2 kilometres return.
  • Grade: Moderate (steep path).
  • Time Taken: Approx. 2 hours.
  • There is no entry fee to do the hike.
Weekend Trip to Port Stephens and Nelson Bay (2024)
Views on Nelson Bay

Regrettably, no public transportation is available connecting Nelson Bay to the Zenith Beach car park. The journey to the car park from the city requires a drive of approximately 1 hour.

Gan Gan Hill Lookout

The Gan Gan Hill lookout stands as Nelson Bay’s highest and easily accessible vantage point, offering a sweeping 360-degree panoramic view of the bay.

  • Ample parking spaces are available, and reaching the lookout is a brief stroll from the parking area, ensuring convenience for visitors.
  • Notably, no entry ticket is required, allowing everyone to enjoy the breathtaking views from this elevated vantage point without additional cost.
Road trip to Nelson Bay and Port Stephens
Gan Gan Hill Lookout

Fighter World Museum

The Fighter World Museum is a dedicated aviation museum showcasing RAAF fighter aircraft, providing an incredible opportunity to witness authentic fighter jet planes.

  • The museum’s operating hours are from 10 AM to 4 PM daily.
  • Visitors can access the museum with an entry ticket priced at AUD 16 per adult, offering an affordable opportunity to explore the fascinating world of fighter aircraft.
Fighter World Port Stephens
Fighter World museum

Scuba Diving

Nelson Bay boasts numerous picturesque scuba diving sites, each teeming with abundant marine life. From turtles and jellyfish to sharks and vibrant corals, these underwater locations offer a diverse and captivating experience. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to explore these sites yet, they hold a special place on my bucket list. I am eagerly anticipating the day when I can finally dive into the mesmerising underwater world of Nelson Bay.


Renowned for its expansive sand dunes, Port Stephens offers an exciting opportunity for sandboarding enthusiasts. This thrilling activity promises excellent fun, mainly when the weather is cool and pleasant.

To enhance the experience and ensure safety, wearing full pants and a long-sleeved shirt is advisable, providing protection for the skin during the sandboarding adventure. The unique landscape of Port Stephens’ sand dunes transforms this recreational activity into a memorable and enjoyable experience for those seeking adventure in the great outdoors.

Quad Biking

Exploring the thrill of sand dunes takes on another dimension with quad biking. Typically lasting around 1 hour and 30 minutes, this adventure offers an exhilarating ride across the sandy terrain.

For an extended experience, it can be seamlessly combined with a 4-wheel drive safari, providing adventurers with a diverse and exciting exploration of scenic landscapes. Whether navigating the dunes on a quad bike or embarking on a safari, these activities present an ideal way to immerse oneself in the adventurous spirit of Port Stephens.

Nelson Bay Inner Lighthouse

Nelson Bay Lighthouse, also recognised as Nelson Head Inner Light, is a museum housed within a charming lighthouse keeper’s cottage constructed in the 1800s.

  • Operating hours for the lighthouse museum are from 8:30 AM to 3 PM every day, inviting visitors to step back in time and explore the historical significance encapsulated within the walls of this well-preserved keeper’s cottage.
Nelson Bay Lighthouse
Nelson Bay Inner Lighthouse

Dolphin Cruises

Reiterating, Port Stephens is renowned for its stunning coastline and pristine waters. Embarking on a dolphin-watching cruise is the most incredible activity to experience in Port Stephens.

Fingal Bay Beach

Nestled in Port Stephens, Fingal Bay Beach is a serene expanse of white sand. This surf beach is diligently patrolled, ensuring a safe environment for visitors. The waves typically measure less than 0.5 meters in height, creating a gentle and inviting atmosphere for beachgoers to enjoy.

Fingal Bay beach Nelson Bay
Fingal Bay Beach

Are Port Stephens and Nelson Bay Safe Safe for Solo Female Travellers?

Indeed, without a doubt, Nelson Bay and Port Stephens are exceptionally safe for solo female travelers. I have visited both destinations numerous times and have never encountered any issues. However, as a general practice in any location, exercising caution and being aware of your surroundings, particularly during nighttime, is advisable. Staying vigilant contributes to a safe and enjoyable experience in these beautiful travel destinations.

Weekend Trip to Port Stephens and Nelson Bay (2024)
On the way to Tomaree Head Summit Walk

Closing Notes

Having visited Nelson Bay and Port Stephens multiple times, I adore exploring these destinations. They serve as perfect weekend getaways; the road trip to these places can be comfortably accomplished within a day or over a weekend. The ease of access and the captivating experiences make them ideal choices for short yet delightful escapes.

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    PIN for later reference – Weekend Trip to Port Stephens and Nelson Bay

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