Nelson Bay

Whale-watching cruise, Tourism New South Wales

Population 8153

Nelson Bay is a coastal tourist centre that has remained small enough to maintain its charm. With outstanding white beaches and gentle waters, it is a superb spot for all aquatic activities and enjoys close proximity to Tomaree National Park. The attractive bay is the main anchorage of Port Stephens.

Visitor Information

Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre, 60 Victoria Pde; (02) 4980 6900 or 1800 808 900

Nearby national parks

  • Myall Lakes National Park

    Myall Lakes National Park, on the mid-north coast, encompasses New South Wales' largest coastal lake system, with 10 000 hectares of...more

  • Barrington Tops National Park

    World Heritage–listed Barrington Tops National Park spans a world of contrasts, from subalpine tablelands and peaks wreathed in...more

  • Yengo National Park

    Steep-sided valleys, sandstone ridges and a web of creeks and rivers are contained within the wilderness of Yengo National Park. Part of the...more

Nearby towns

  • Bulahdelah

    Bulahdelah is a pretty town at the foot of Bulahdelah Mountain (known to locals as Alum Mountain because of the alunite that was mined...more

  • Raymond Terrace

    Situated on the banks of the Hunter and William rivers just outside Newcastle, Raymond Terrace was an important wool-shipping area in the...more

  • Stroud

    This delightful town is nestled in the green Karuah Valley and seems to be from another era. The absence of tourist facilities combined with...more

In Town

Inner Lighthouse This 1872 lighthouse, originally lit with 4 kerosene lamps, has been restored by the National Trust and is now completely automated. The adjacent museum features a display of the area's early history, souvenirs and a teahouse. Views of Nelson Bay are stunning. Nelson Head.

Port Stephens This is a haven of calm blue waters and sandy beaches, offering excellent boating, fishing and swimming. It is also something of a wildlife haven: over 100 bottlenose dolphins are permanent residents here; migrating whales can be seen in season on a boat cruise; and koalas can be spotted at Tilligerry Habitat.

Community Art Centre: oil and watercolour paintings, pottery, china and quilting; Shoal Bay Rd.

Self-guide heritage walk: from Dutchmans Bay to Little Beach; brochure from visitor centre.

Cruises: dolphin-watching (all year-round) and whale-watching (May–July and Sept–Nov); on the harbour, Myall River and to Broughton Island. Also dive charters; bookings at visitor centre.

4WD tours: along coastal dunes; bookings at visitor centre.


Tomaree National Park This park consists of bushland, sand dunes, heathland, native forest and over 20 km of rocky coastline and beaches. There is a signposted walk around the headland and another up to Fort Tomaree Lookout for breathtaking 360-degree views. Yacaaba Lookout across the bay (70 km by road) also offers great views. The park is a popular spot for bushwalking, swimming, surfing, snorkelling, fishing and picnicking. The park stretches from Shoal Bay (3 km NE) to Anna Bay (10 km SW).

Little Beach: white beach with native flora reserve behind; 1 km E.

Gan Gan Lookout: spectacular views south to Newcastle and north to Myall Lakes; Nelson Bay Rd; 2 km S.

Shoal Bay: popular and protected bay with spa resort; 3 km NE.

Shell Museum: diverse display of shells, some rare; Sandy Point Rd; 3 km SW.

Toboggan Hill Park: toboggan runs, minigolf and indoor wall-climbing; 5 km SW.

Oakvale Farm and Fauna World: 150 species of native and farm animals, with visitor activities and feeding shows; 16 km SW.

Tomago House: 1843 sandstone villa with family chapel and 19th-century gardens; open 11am–3pm Sun; Tomago Rd; 30 km SW.

Stockton Sand Dunes: this 32 km dune area, the largest moving coastal land mass in the Southern Hemisphere, is popular for sand-boarding and whale-watching. Access is from Anna Bay or Williamtown by 4WD or safari (bookings at visitor centre); 38 km SW.

Port Stephens wineries: several in area, with Stephens Winery featuring Jazz at the Winery in Mar; brochure from visitor centre.

Fishing spots near town

Port Stephens 5 km

 Port Stephens is about 220 km north of Sydney and offers a mixed bag of quality species. In the estuaries, bream, flathead, mulloway and whiting dominate the catch while beach anglers do well on tailor, whiting and... Find out more

Eco-friendly activities around town

Birdwatching near Newcastle 41 km

A reclaimed 45-hectare wetland area just 10 minutes drive from the centre of Newcastle has been Ramsar-listed and is an excellent spot to see up to 213 bird species, including more than 2000 pairs of breeding egrets. The... Find out more

Kayaking, Newcastle to Port Macquarie 81 km

Barrington Outdoor Adventure Centre at Gloucester offers an exciting one-day tour down the Barrington River. Guides can tailor the trip for beginners or family groups, choosing a quieter part of the river where there are... Find out more

Golf courses around town

Pacific Dunes Golf Club 26 km

Advances in club and ball technology, aimed at helping players hit longer and straighter, have had a big effect on golf course architecture since the early 1990s. Many new developers have urged designers to stretch... Find out more

Newcastle Golf Club 37 km

Long before American Tom Doak became the revered course designer he is today, he travelled the world playing and studying more than 800 courses. He made notes on every one, before compiling them into what he called ... Find out more

The Vintage Golf Club 77 km

Hunter Valley semillon, with its zesty aromas and flavours, is sometimes described by wine experts as ‘Australia’s wine gift to the world’. Its appeal also lies in its capacity to age well. The same... Find out more

Magenta Shores Golf & Country Club 88 km

There is something truly inspiring about a golf course – whatever the quality of its playing surfaces – that offers the smells and sounds of the ocean. This is perhaps what first persuaded the Scots to use... Find out more

Kooindah Waters Golf & Spa Resort 91 km

Throughout his playing career, Craig Parry has won tournaments around the world thanks to a mix of sound strategy, good ball-striking and a first-class short game. He brought those same key elements – golfing... Find out more

Cafes & restaurants around town

Fishermen’s Wharf Seafoods

There’s something special about buying your fish and chips down at the wharf. It’s not just for the freshness of the produce, though that is without a doubt a major drawcard, but also for the local knowledge... Find out more

Ritual Organics

If it’s a special night out, book a table at Ritual to indulge in their 12-course degustation menu. Showcasing the best organic local produce in dazzling, imaginative ways, this fine-dining establishment promises a... Find out more

Zest Restaurant

Nestled in the heart of Nelson Bay, Zest is a sanctuary of fine dining in the countryside. The pastel green decor creates a congenial atmosphere, matched by a sleek modern design and local artwork. Try the inspired... Find out more

Nearby breweries

Murray's Craft Brewing Company 16 km

But there’s a-nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear, Than to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer. So sang the late country singing legend Slim Dusty and, more importantly, the words of the famous song were penned... Find out more

Steel River Brewery 43 km

Every brewhouse has its own distinct personality – new ones are punched out in uniform fashion and pretty much look the same, but pre-loved ones tend to have a bit more character and, more often than not, a... Find out more

Bluetongue Brewery 54 km

Set up in 2004 by a consortium of Hunter region identities, including wine man Bruce Tyrell and hotelier Ian Burford, Bluetongue Brewery soon established a significant regional market for its premium lager and alcoholic... Find out more

Hunter Beer Company 75 km

Potters Brewery, as this microbrewery is also known, might seem like a rather odd addition to this convention-based accommodation complex, which is named after the historic beehive-shaped pottery kilns scattered around... Find out more

Campsites around town

Bays Holiday Park 8 km

You can camp in style at this well-appointed caravan park on the Tomaree Peninsula in classy Port Stephens. As well as caravan and tent sites, there are 1- and 2-bedroom cabins and bunkhouse rooms sleeping 4 in each... Find out more

Stewart and Lloyds camping area 16 km

This is the closest campground to Hawks Nest, 10 km along Mungo Brush Rd from town. It’s tucked away behind sand dunes with easy access to the beach. You’ll need to bring drinking water and firewood; gas/fuel... Find out more

Brambles Green camping area (walk-in camping) 21 km

If you’re after a quieter spot and don’t mind missing out on ocean views, this walk-in campsite on the banks of the lower Myall River, south of Bombah Broadwater, is ideal for self-sufficient walkers and as a... Find out more

Tattersalls camping area 22 km

Located on the Karuah River, access is via Hobart Rd from Limeburners Creek. The site is for self-sufficient campers only and access is 4WD only. Bring water and firewood.... Find out more

Double Wharf Campground 23 km

This campground is accessed via Googes Rd off Hobarts Forest Rd. It’s 4WD access only, and you’ll need to bring your own portable toilet, firewood and drinking water.... Find out more

Banksia Green camping area 24 km

It might be a small site, but the power of Banksia Green lies in its close proximity to beach and lake, and it’s not as far from Hawks Nest as some of the other sites. It’s off Mungo Brush Rd, just south of... Find out more

River Mouth camping area (walk-in and boat-based camping) 25 km

As its name suggests, this camping area’s at the mouth of the Myall River. It’s a good stopover for canoeists and kayakers on the Upper Myall River. Walkers can also access the camping area via the Rivermouth... Find out more

Mungo Brush camping area 25 km

On the lake side of Mungo Brush Rd, about 22 km north of Hawks Nest, this is a popular campsite as it’s close to the lake and the beach. There’s a boat ramp here and a number of walking tracks, including the... Find out more

Dees Corner camping area 26 km

Dees Corner offers quiet camping under the dappled shade of melaleucas by Bombah Broadwater. It’s north of Mungo Brush camping area, off Mungo Brush Rd. You need to bring drinking water and firewood, though... Find out more

White Tree Bay camping area 27 km

On the eastern shore of Bombah Broadwater north of Dees Corner camping area off Mungo Brush Rd, this site includes a gas barbecue. Bring your drinking water; gas/fuel stove only.... Find out more

Caravan parks around town

Halifax Holiday Park 2 km

Close to the centre of Nelson Bay, this well-maintained tourist park adjoins a busy public boat ramp on the eastern shores of Port Stephens. There are often people cleaning their catch near the boat ramp and numerous... Find out more

Hawks Nest Beach Holiday Park 6 km

Located just a short walk from a popular beach and the Hawks Nest Surf Club, this park is also only a kilometre from the centre of town. It has large expanses of lawn and is ideal for a family holiday or just a few... Find out more

One Mile Beach Holiday Park 7 km

This quality, award-winning caravan park is located in the popular Port Stephens region, just a few kilometres south of Nelson Bay. Set alongside a popular surf beach, it has excellent amenities and great recreational... Find out more

Myall River Camp 9 km

This bush camp is located a few kilometres north of Hawks Nest, along a road accessible by conventional vehicles. Set on a large grassy expanse beside the Myall River, the camp has no power and limited facilities and... Find out more

Big4 Koala Shores Port Stephens Holiday Park 12 km

Located in a quiet area of the Port Stephens region, this is a quality waterfront park ideal for a family holiday or just a few days. Bookings are required in peak periods and a minimum-length stay applies during all... Find out more

BIG4 Karuah Jetty Village 18 km

Located in a quiet position a short distance from the Pacific Highway, this park has very good amenities and looks across the northern arm of Port Stephens. There is a long jetty, good for fishing, and a limited number... Find out more

Australian Motor Homes Tourist Park 27 km

This park is designed for big rigs. Located alongside the Pacific Highway, west of Karuah, it is a great place for an overnight stay and popular with groups on weekends. The owners also operate a commercial fish farm,... Find out more

Myall Shores Nature Resort 28 km

Situated on the shores of Myall Lakes, access to this park is from Bulahdelah and 10 km of the road is unsealed. Located in a picture-postcard position close to the vehicle ferry crossing, it has good facilities and a... Find out more

Alum Mountain Caravan Park 36 km

Located on the northern edge of town alongside the Pacific Highway, this is an older park with basic facilities. It is very convenient for an overnight stop or as a base to explore the local lakes and forests. Dogs are... Find out more

Bellhaven Caravan Park 39 km

With good access to the Pacific Highway, this basic park has grassy drive-through sites ideal for an overnight stop. The town centre is only a short drive away. Bookings are recommended all year round.... Find out more

Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town

Oaks Lure

Just a short walk from the marina, Oaks Lure, part of the Oaks Hotels and Resorts chain, offers one- or two-bedroom self-contained apartments with full kitchens, or motel rooms with microwaves and tea and coffee... Find out more

The Landmark Nelson Bay

Widely regarded as the best resort in the area, The Landmark offers self-contained accommodation at great value for money. There is a variety of accommodation styles to suit everyone, including the Studio with views of... Find out more

Thurlows at the Bay

Thurlows is a stunning B&B just a stone’s throw from idyllic Dutchmans Beach and a six-minute walk from the heart of Nelson Bay. There are two private, luxurious self-contained suites. The more intimate of the... Find out more

Eco-friendly places to stay around town

Banjo’s Bushland Retreat, Vacy 62 km

With three self-contained lodges of various sizes and a recreation room that includes an environmental centre, this eco-accredited resort keeps nature as its focus. Even the nine-hole minigolf course weaves around the... Find out more

Rest areas around town

Station Creek rest area 13 km

42km N of Raymond Terrace (L)

Just off the highway. For northbound only.

Browns Flat rest area 18 km

20km S of Bulahdelah (L)

Well off the highway near the forest. For southbound only.

Nerong Waterholes rest area 19 km

51km N of Raymond Terrace (L)

On the edge of the forest just off the highway. For northbound only.

Twelve Mile Hill rest area 29 km

15km N of Raymond Terrace (L)

Just off the highway. For northbound only.

Medowie Road rest area 29 km

57km S of Bulahdelah (L)

Surrounded by trees just off the highway. For southbound only.

Bulahdelah Rest Area 37 km

2 km N of Bulahdelah (R) or 70 km S of Taree (L)

Small area just off the highway. Limited shade.

Newmans Road rest areas 44 km

13km N of Bulahdelah (L) or 32km S of Nabiac (L)

Just off the highway (on both sides) around a few trees.

Wang Wauk rest area 65 km

36km N of Bulahdelah (L) or 9km S of Nabiac (R)

Secluded off the highway among shady trees.

Talawahl Creek rest area 80 km

18km S of Taree (L)

Just off the highway among a few trees. For southbound only.

Pothana Lane rest area 80 km

30km NW of Maitland (L) or 17km SE of Singleton (R)

Just off the highway at the end of the 'No Through Rd'.

Golden Highway Junction rest area 86 km

36km NW of Maitland (L) or 11km SE of Singleton (R)

Among a few trees off Golden Hwy.      

Four Mile Hill rest area 89 km

22km N of Nabiac (L)      

Just off the highway. For northbound only.

Service Centre 91 km

93 km N of Sydney (L) or 74 km S of Raymond Terrace (R)

Highway Service Centre just off the highway.

What's on around town

Craft markets: Neil Carroll Park, Shoal Bay Rd, 1st and 3rd Sun each month; Lutheran Church grounds, Anna Bay, 1st Sat each month.

Tomaree Markets: Tomaree Sports Complex, Nelson Bay Rd, Salamander Bay; 2nd and 4th Sun each month.

Medowie market: Bull 'n' Bush Hotel; 2nd Sat each month.

Jazz Wine and Food Festival: Sept.

Port Stephens Whale Festival: Sept–Oct.

Tastes of the Bay Food, Wine and Jazz Festival: Nov.

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