Picturesque Nelson Bay is the main town that’s part of the Port Stephens area. Situated on the New South Wales North Coast a 3 hour drive from Sydney or a 1 hour drive from Newcastle.
This town is not just a great destination for summer, it’s great all year round. So whilst there are beaches I could write about (they’re absolutely beautiful) this piece is more about the other activities you can enjoy when you’re not visiting in the summer months and my picks on where to eat.
The seaside town offers a variety of attractions and things to do within itself and its surrounds. I spent a few days there and whilst I did get the chance to take a quick dip at Fly Point which is a small beach just past the marina as you head towards Shoal Bay (yes, I know its May and it’s getting cold in the southern hemisphere – however, the weather was glorious) I also managed to get in some activities.
Other than enjoying the stunning beaches and clear waters that the bay and its surrounds have to offer there’s a plethora of activities to choose from especially if you’re not visiting in the summer months. With so much to do and see in and around Nelson Bay you can be here for over a week and do something different every day. If you’re only going for a few days then these are a must do.
Horse Riding – Sahara Trails in Anna Bay is a short car ride from Nelson Bays town centre. You have a few choices in what type of rides you want to do. If you’re like me and it’s your first time then opt for the Aussie Bush Trail Ride. The experience lasts for an hour and it’s a good introduction into horse ridding. Alternatively you have the beach ride if you’re more experienced.
View of Shoal Bay. Photo: Maria Schindlecker
View of Zenith Beach. Photo: Maria Schindlecker
Tomaree Head Summit Walk- The views from the mountain are spectacular. The walk up the mountain to the summit will take about 45mins with a few stops in between if you are taking in the view as you go up (or if your fitness level- like mine, is not up to scratch). Whilst you’re walking up take in the views of Shoal Bay and Zenith Beach. Walking back down may be quicker depending on which route you take , there are gun emplacements from World War II you can walk to on your way back down, however, when you’re up there take a few minutes at the top to appreciate the views.
Dolphin Cruise- There are a few different companies that offer cruises around the bay and if you’re lucky enough you may see a few dolphins or a whale. The type of cruise you’re after is dependant on your itinerary and how much you want to spend and of course the time of year.
Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay (5 mins up the road from the town centre) have plenty on offer. Especially seafood, after all this is a bay and they do have a great little fish market down at the marina. Below are a few places I tried out that I recommend ( there were others that didn’t make the list):
Casa De Oro- If you like tapas then this is a nice little restaurant that offers a range of tapas dishes on their menu. Try the pork meatballs and mussels in tomato and chilli salsa they are flavoursome especially when accompanied by the Fried Potato with Tomato Salsa & Aioli. The sangria is also very good. My only negative was the Bruschetta with Tomato, Basil, Bocconcini & Prosciutto, for me it lacked flavour and the piece was small for the price they charge.
Bacon and Eggs & a Carrot Colada at the Little Nel Cafe. Photo: Maria Schindlecker
Little Nel Cafe- This cafe is located in The Nelson Resort just as you enter the towns centre on Government Road. It’s a great spot and the food is delicious. Breakfast and lunch servings are a decent size and will leave even the most ravenous holiday maker feeling content. If you’re looking for an energy boost I recommend skipping the coffee and getting the smoothies in particularly their Carrot Colada. Their Falafel Bowl is also a great option for lunch.
Enjoy a drink with this view. Photo: Maria Schindlecker
Little Beach Boathouse- this is a little piece of heaven where you can either go for drinks and nibbles or enjoy a meal at the restaurant upstairs. My recommendation is to get there just before sunset to watch the sun go down as you sip on your wine. The best spot to sit and relax (trust me the view will put you at ease) is on the deck- if you can get a spot. The boathouse cater for special events as well and after you see the sunset you’ll understand why this place is a popular location for tourists and locals alike.
Scones at the Inner Light Tea Rooms. Photo: Maria Schindlecker
Inner Light Tea Rooms- If you want to have lunch or afternoon tea with some of the most beautiful ocean views- this is the place! The Inner Light Tea Rooms offer a variety of food choices for breakfast or a light lunch. However, if you want to just enjoy a coffee (or milkshake) with some scones this is the place. The scones are divine and will definitely take care of your sweet tooth.
Mod Thai (Shoal Bay)- There are two of these restaurants near each other. One is in Nelson Bay (not much of a view) and the other that I had dinner at is on Shaol Bay Road in Shoal Bay, a very short (like not even 5 min) drive from Nelson Bay town centre. I’ve eaten a lot of Thai food, however this place has some gorgeous food. Whilst the menu isn’t huge there is a choice of dishes (sorry no laksa though). The spring rolls are delicious as is their beef pad Thai and exotic seafood special (a combination of seafood in a red curry).
Nelson Bay is great if you want a short family get away, romantic weekender or just want to chill out and relax with your friends. There are more activities like quad biking, kayaking and camel riding that you can do if you have the time. If you get a chance head out to Murray’s Brewing Co. and sample some local beer and wine.
For more information on Nelson Bay go to visitnsw.com