This tourist-friendly community is located near Newcastle, New South Wales. It’s situated on the south side Port Stephens, which is a long natural harbor.

Nelson Bay is one of a number of idyllic bays and rocky headlands near the Tomaree Peninsula.

The Tomaree National park and Worimi Conservation Lands protect a lot of the peninsula’s coast and interior. These land are rich in Aboriginal culture, biodiversity, and stunning natural scenery.

You can relax on sandy beaches or trek through Sahara-like dunes.

1. Whale and Dolphin Watching

Whale Watching, Port Stephens

Between mid-May to early November, humpback whales migrate northward along Australia’s east coast in order to calve into warmer tropical waters. They then return.

Port Stephens, with its deep and protected waters, is an ideal place to rest and spot these majestic cetaceans.

You can get a glimpse of the whole fleet from a variety of operators, including AquaMarine Port Stephens and Imagine Cruises. Also, you have Moonshadow – TQC Cruises.

An estimated 160 bottlenose dolphins can be seen year round in Nelson Bay’s waters. These can often also be sighted from shore.

2. Tomaree National Park

Tomaree National Park

The namesake national parks protect most of the land on the Tomaree Peninsula’s tip.

The park’s natural beauty and the many activities available are too numerous to be described in one paragraph.

The Tomaree Peninsula was home to the Worimi People. They used it as a place where they could eat, shelter, and gather medicine. Walking the beaches on this peninsula will take you back in time along ancient Aboriginal travel routes.

Family beach trips are possible at Anna Bay or Fishermans Bay, which offer calm and safe conditions. One Mile Beach, on the south side, is angled towards Tasman Sea surfers.

You may see shorebirds such as waders and shorebirds in the water, including red-necked stints and bar-tailed Godwits. Winter honeyeaters and the lorikeets are found in the coastal heathland.

Wander among spring wildflowers along the Morna point walk or through coastal angophora forests via the Wreck beach walk.

3. Tomaree Head Summit Walk

View from Tomaree Head Lookout

At Port Stephens’ entrance, the towering Tomaree Head rises to 160m. It offers breathtaking views of the Tasman Sea and offshore islands.

You will have a better view between May and October when whale season is in full swing. A pair of binoculars is a must at this time.

There is a 2.2-kilometre trail that leads to the summit. A picnic area and two WWII gun emplacements are also available.

You can also see the historic Point Stephens Lighthouse and a series of bays from this platform on South Fingal Island.

4. Gan Gan Lookout

View From Gan Gan Lookout

If you wish to enjoy the majestic Port Stephens and Tomaree Peninsula from the top of the hills, this is the place for you.

The Gan Gan Lookout, located just off Lily Hill Road, is at 160m above sea level.

Tomaree Head with its sentinel Mount Yacaaba at Port Stephens is the most photographed photograph.

If you look south, you will see the huge dune system that tracks Stockton Beach in Worimi Conservation Lands.

The west vistas are spectacular at dusk, when Soldiers Point and indented shores of the harbour can be seen under a golden sun.

5. Nelson Head Heritage Lighthouse & Reserve

Nelson Head Heritage Lighthouse & Reserve

Another headland, 53m above Port Stephens, is located across Shoal Bay. It has been crowned by a lighthouse since 1875. Nelson Head offers breathtaking views of the ocean that were vital for the beacon’s keepers.

The historic cottage that was used as a lighthouse keeper’s residence is now a museum. You can visit the original living quarters, check out photographs and maps, and learn about the fascinating history of this stretch of coast.

Last but not least, stop by the tearoom to get a cup of hot coffee and a piece of cake, all accompanied with stunning views of Port Stephens.

6. Worimi Conservation Lands

Worimi Conservation Lands

A piece of land that lies just behind Stockton Beach, is owned by the Aboriginal Worimi People. It is managed jointly by the Traditional Owners and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

This is the location of the largest area of mobile sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, rising to as high as 30m and shifting 4m per year.

This romantic area can be reached on horseback, hikes, camel rides and 4WD trips.

Worimi Conservation Lands also contains important Aboriginal sites like middens burial sites, campsites, and tool-making remains.

The park covers more than three quarters the 32-kilometre stretch of beach. It is surrounded by rolling surf and dunes that reach as far as one kilometre inland.

7. Fingal Bay Beach

Fingal Bay Beach

This stunning white sandy beach, which is completely surrounded by Tomaree National Park lines the scallop-shaped Fingal Bay.

Fingal Island protects the coastline from the open ocean. It can sometimes be reached on the northern side of the bay via a sandy spit.

This is the end where the water is calmest and most suited for families. However, there are often rolling waves at the southern end.

Fingal Bay Beach, a patrolled surf spot, is bordered by a landscaped foreshore. There are plenty of shops and amenities in the small holiday community.

This list was created in 2020. Land access to Fingal Island via the spit was forbidden. However, you can kayak there and go ashore for Point Stephens Lighthouse (1862), and an Aboriginal fish trap.

8. Fly Point Aquatic Reserve

Wobbegong Shark

A headland is located at the northern end of Little Nelson Bay with breathtaking views of the bay, town and marina.

The spot is surrounded by kelp forests, sponge gardens and a reserve that extends for half a kilometre to the sea.

The sanctuary is home to a remarkable variety of marine life including blue groupers and wobbegong sharks as well as pineapple fish.

You can dive right from the shore in this area of New South Wales. There are a few businesses in town that will take you there (Lets Go Adventures and Feet First Dive). It is prohibited to take anything out of the reserve, even seashells, so make sure you have an underwater camera.

9. Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters

Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters

A variety of attractions are close by that allow parents and children to get up close and personal with Australian wildlife.

There are many animal experiences available at Anna Bay’s Irukandji shark & ray encounters. These vary depending on your desire to be close to some of Australia’s most misunderstood species.

You can also sit in the shallows, or on the rocks, while you feed and touch the rays.

You can also get involved by wearing a wetsuit and snorkelling with the rays, or swimming in a pool full of nurse sharks or zebra sharks.

Throughout the process, you will learn surprising details about these animals’ behavior, temperaments and feeding habits.

10. Oakvale Wildlife Park

Oakvale Wildlife Park

Oakvale Wildlife Park is a great day out for families and children. It houses dozens of Australian native species as well as domestic species within ten hectares.

There are many residents, including kangaroos and wombats, koalas and dingoes as well as horses and goats, cows, sheep, and rabbits.

Children can feed, cuddle, and pet all day long a variety of animals including goat kids, lambs, and harmless reptiles.

You can also take a tractor ride or talk to fascinating species such as the Tasmanian devil and cassowary.

11. Little Beach Reserve

Little Beach Reserve

Little Beach, located next to Halifax Holiday Park, has the advantage that it faces north-west from Nelson Head.

It has calm waters that are unaffected by the ocean currents. This beach is ideal for children learning to swim.

A small crescent of sand is located between fishing jetties. It’s backed by a grassy area with picnic tables and grill facilities.

Little Beach boasts a boat ramp that is very popular with anglers and attracts a lot of pelicans.

12. Oakfield Ranch

Oakfield Ranch

Camaradrading is the best way to see the dunes of the Worimi Conservation Lands.

Oakfield Ranch is located at Birubi Beach.

These happy, healthy “ships of desert” are very easy to ride and have a great temperament.

You can take a day trip along Birubi Beach with your children if you have the time or you don’t want to book.

Oakfield Ranch also offers 60 minute sunset treks. These require advance booking. They take you to the dunes and then down to the ocean.

You can also get great photos with your phone or camera from the ranch staff.

13. Toboggan Hill Park

Toboggan Hill Park

In Nelson Bay’s steep hinterland is an activity park for families surrounded by natural bushland.

The park’s main attraction is a one-kilometre toboggan trail with 11 bends that starts with a 300-metre climb.

To go along with this, there is a 45-minute tractor train ride through bush. During which you will stop at the Giant Maze to see goannas, and an impressive Dreamtime mural.

Finally, the park’s miniature golf course of 19 holes is located in the Christmas bush and banksias.

14. Fighter World

Fighter World

The Williamtown RAAF Base is located on the route to Newcastle. It was established in World War II and serves as the HQ of the RAAF’s Air Combat Group and Surveillance and Response Group.

A hangar is also available at the base that houses an aviation museum. It primarily preserves fighter jets from the past 70 years.

There are two Avon Sabres and two Dassault Mirages among the exhibits. A Hawker Hunter is also included.

The replicas, aircraft, and weapons accompany the flight, including a Bristol Bloodhound SAM target drone and a GAF Jindivik jet engine.

You can also visit the museum’s observation deck to see what is happening at an active air force base and hear live audio from air traffic control.

15. Nelson Bay Golf Club

The “Bush Course by the Sea” is the name of the highly-rated club in the town. It can be found within walking distance from the marina on the edge to Tomaree National Park.

This description is accurate as Nelson Bay Golf Club’s three nine hole courses run through lush, subtropical forest that is home to wallabies and koalas.

This bush presents a challenge on narrow and undulating fairways, particularly on the second loop (holes 10-18). Green fees for non members were $52 on weekends and $47 on weekdays, while they were reduced for evening rounds.