Located about a 2.5-hour drive north of Sydney, Port Stephens is a great family holiday destination for those who love the sun and outdoors. Between gentle bay beaches, dolphin and whale watching trips, sand duning, camel riding and bush walks, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to enjoying the beautiful state of NSW!
Where to Stay
Stay at any one of Port Stephens’ idyllic towns, each as beautiful as the next, including Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay, Salamander Bay, Soldiers Point, Anna Bay, Fingal Bay and more. There are so many great options for family-friendly accommodation. We have listed a few of our favourites, including 2 we’ve stayed at, but this is by no means a definitive list!
Port Stephens Beachside Holiday Parks
Located in Shoal Bay, Soldiers Point, Fingal Bay and Nelson Bay, these 4 (soon to be 5) council-run caravan parks offer all levels of accommodation from camping to self-contained cabins with heating and cooling.
The Shoal Bay caravan park is fabulous and our go-to destination, being right across the road from a lovely gentle bay with small waves (great for young kids). It’s walking distance from everything you could need including a chemist, restaurants, some cute retail shops and Shoal Bay Country Club (can’t beat water views and entertainment with dinner!).
The caravan park itself has a school holiday program, 1/2 basketball/netball court, picnic area, BBQ facilities and right next door is a fenced playground! #perfectlocation
On another visit, we stayed at Thou Walla in the glamping tents which we chose as they have a stunning sunset over the lake. Thou Walla is further away from the main town centre (being Nelsons Bay – a short drive away) but in walking distance to a couple of lovely restaurants that overlook the water.
Learn more about these caravan parks here.
Ramada Resort, Shoal Bay
Ramada Resort has serviced apartments with indoor and outdoor pool, is located across the road from Shoal Bay and is a stone’s throw away from plenty of dining and shopping options. The accommodation has kitchen options, laundry facilities, an onsite gym and much more. Find all their details here.
Ingenia Holidays, Soldiers Point
Located at the other end of Port Stephens in Soldiers Point, this waterfront caravan park has a lot to offer from fully contained cabins, jumping pad, a kids club, playground, indoor pool with kids water play area + outdoor pool, BBQ facilities, games room and a lot more. It’s not walking distance to cafes or shops but you won’t need to leave once you get here! Find all their details here.
Where to Eat
Famous Red Neds Gourmet Pies – a must when you visit Port Stephens. All pies are made fresh on the premises. Be warned there are over 50 pies, sausage rolls, pastries & sweet delights to tempt you! You will find them in the main shopping area on Stockton St Nelson Bay.
Shoal Bay Country Club – located on the water, most tables have stunning views on the bay. They offer a kids menu, extensive adults menu and the food is fantastic! They are also open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch & dinner plus takeaway pizza. In the past, they’ve provided school holiday activities but check before you go due to COVID restrictions. Check out their menu and more here.
Nelson Bay Golf Club – here you will find burgers, pasta’s, roast of the day, grilled fish/steak plus a good kids menu. For the kids there is a kids room with games, indoor play area, toys and more. Find them here.
Salamander Tavern is located just outside the Salamander Square shopping centre (heading towards Soldiers Point) and has a great kids playground with $10 kids meals. It has a big shaded outdoor eating area and offers traditional pub food venue. The playground was updated in June 2019.
Murray’s Brewery is a classic yet modern pub in Nelson Bay. It has a large grassed area for kids to run around on, a downloadable kids scavenger hunt and the kids $10 meals include a drink and ice cream.
Where to play and things to do
- Nelson Bay Marina – after enjoying a fish’n’chips lunch and checking out the shops, take a walk around the Marina with an ice-cream in hand. It’s a MUST DO! The marina even has a jumbo chess game, a playground and MORE sand to play in.
- Fenced playground at Shoal Bay – it’s located right beside Shoal Bay Caravan Park at 6 Government Rd, Shoal Bay. Find more here.
- Sand dune quad biking – we did this with Miss 8 (she rode with one of us) and it was so much fun! We used this local company.
- Dolphin & whale watching tours – this is such a popular activity and luckily there’s no shortage of tours. We went with Mood Shadow.
- Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters – play and feed small sharks and stingrays. Find their info here.
- Tomaree Headland Summit Walk -best for kids 7+, the walk is about 35-40 mins uphill but the view is stunning. You might even see migrating whales from May to Sep! Learn more here.
- Camel and horseback riding – yes you can enjoy either of these in the Port Stephens picturesque beaches. Find operators here.
- Beaches – Most of the beaches are really sheltered and thus have few big waves. Kids will love paddling in the water! Shoal Bay is our favourite.
Looking for more family-friendly getaways? We’ve written about some other great trips here.