Four Family-Friendly things to do in Port Stephens, New South Wales

A well-known escape for those from Sydney and the Hunter ValleyРPort Stephens is a tropical oasis about 2.5 hours north of Sydney.  The Port Stephens region is a haven for local travels, but caters to the overseas visitors as well (ahem, me!).

Port Stephens Google Maps
Because it’s been a week since I showed off my awesome graphic skills. ūüėČ Maitland is where I lived while on exchange.

 

I’ve been to Port Stephens, which includes the towns of Hawks Nest, Shoal Bay, Nelson Bay, and more, many times. ¬†I celebrated the New Year of 2001 on the curb in Shoal Bay, watching fireworks light up the sky, and Brian and I visited in pre-kid 2006 when we took a dolphin watch tour. ¬†While much of visiting “The Bay” as the locals call it, revolves around the water, you can easily find things to do in the mild winter (as many of the things we’ve done can also be done in winter).

“The Bay” is actually 2.5 times the size of Sydney Harbour. ¬†It’s a much shallower harbour, though, so it’s perfect for dolphin-spotting and kayaking. ¬†You could easily visit for a long weekend, but one week would be even better.

Here are four things we did that would be perfect for your family, too:

 

Hike up Tomaree Head for a fantastic view of Port Stephens

If you want to do something that will not disappoint- hike up the Tomaree Head lookout. ¬†Now, I’ll be honest, we did not do this with our kids. ¬†The hike is STEEP. ¬†I think 5 and up could handle it but Jackson was happy to stay behind.¬† So we headed out sans kids for a little quiet (and peace!).

The trail head is just south of Shoal Bay and will take you about 20 minutes to ascend if you’re going at a reasonable pace. ¬†My calves were BURNING and I asked my husband kindly to slow the heck down. ūüėČ ¬†The views at the top are really unbelievable. ¬†You’ll see this shot of Zenith Beach all over Pinterest (not mine, but in general) because well, it’s just that gorgeous. ¬†To the south you can also see Fingal Bay and the spit.

To the north is Hawks Nest and your view extends inland as well as out to the Pacific Ocean. ¬†You’ll also see lots and lots of spiders. ¬†These golden orbs aren’t poisonous, but they are everywhere. ¬†“Kindly” ask your husband to stop pointing them out. ¬†Ha!

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Take a boat ride

There are many options for gliding across the pristine waters, most of them take off from the marina at Nelson Bay.  Kayak rentals and tours are available, plus whale watching (May to Nov) and dolphin spotting (year round).

This past trip we took the ferry from Nelson Bay to Tea Gardens.  This can also double as a dolphin-spotting trip although the region had just had lots of rain and the water was not ideal for them.

From Tea Gardens you can visit Hawks Nest (gorgeous beaches) or do like we did, and have lunch at the pub and turnaround!  If the kids are along, the Tea Gardens Hotel has a courtyard with playground equipment.  So order your food, let the kids play a little, and enjoy your stopover.

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Have I mentioned that the local pelicans are large enough to eat small children? Beware.

Visit Oakvale Farm

From floral and fauna to the FARM? ¬†Huh? ¬†That’s right. ¬†Oakvale Farm is located in Salt Ash, right at on the cusp of the Port Stephens region. ¬†I didn’t really know what to expect, and sadly, I wasn’t that excited because Newsflash: ¬†we have plenty of farms in Ohio! ¬†But I was pleasantly surprised because Oakvale Farm allows you to feed the kangaroos, pet a koala, and they also have reptile shows! ¬†It’s the perfect place to experience Australiana.

Our kids loved every minute- and the Thomas the Train- was like the icing on the cake.

Tip:  Our friends had an Entertainment Book with a 25% off coupon.  This saved us a substantial amount, so try to get your hands on one.

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Beaches Beaches Beaches

It’s really a no-brainer, but throughout Port Stephens you’ll¬†find plenty of perfect beaches for your family to put up the umbrella and then have a nice swim. ¬†The thing I love about the area is that so many of the beaches are sheltered, so with no waves to pummel them, they are perfect for swimming with kids.

We swam at Shoal Bay Beach and near Soldiers Point, but there were so many other places I wanted to visit. ¬†Fingal Bay ¬†is idyllic and if you’re wanting more of a surf, hit up Birubi Beach.Port Stephens 14Port Stephens 13

Now that you’ve gotten a taste of Port Stephens, can you see why it’s my happy place?

Thanks again to Ron and Judy who took on our entire family at their beach house!  xo  We are so blessed with the best friends!

((I was not paid by anyone to blog about Port Stephens. ¬†Now, if someone would like to pay for me to¬†visit again, I’d kindly oblige.))


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2016 Travel Plans

New year, new places

Continuing on with my 2016 goals, I’d like to share my travel aspirations. ¬†The first two are¬†for sure BOOKED, the others are wishful. ūüôā ¬†As with everything, timing and finances will play a role. ¬†Since we’re taking a big trip to Australia to start the year, Brian’s time off will be limited – and because we have some big financial goals, travels we do take will be “beans and rice” in nature!

International

Australia

We’re crossing off a few things on the Bucket List by heading to Australia this month. ¬†We have tickets to the Australian Open, which has been one of ¬†Mr. Yoder Toter’s top choices…and we’ll get to spend Australia Day in Sydney (kinda like the Aussie version of July 4th except THE WIGGLES WILL BE THERE), which has always been on my Bucket List (the holiday not The Wiggles, sorry Simon). ¬†Our trip is also rounded out by Tasmania. ¬†We’re staying in Hobart and we’ll have four days to explore “Tassie.” ¬†I’m thankful Richelle¬†directed ¬†me to this blog, Tasmania is incredible and you should go there now, or I may have missed it altogether.

Alberta, Canada

I’m so completely pumped¬†about going to see Banff and the Canadian Rockies! ¬†We’re not going until October – and maybe even more exciting, this trip is sans kids!! ¬†We had some airline miles that were due to expire so I nabbed a couple seats and we’re off for a quick 4-night getaway. ¬†The Fairmont Lake Louise has been on my Bucket List for ages, so we’ll stay a couple nights there, too. ¬†I’m calling this our 12 year anniversary trip! ūüôā

landscape-mountains-nature-lake-large

 

More of Canada

The US Dollar is really strong, saving Americans¬†about 25% on a trip to Canada. ¬†I’m dying to see Quebec City and Montreal, but I’m not sure it’s in the cards for this year as those places would probably require a full week away. ¬†We shall see what happens- maybe 2017? ¬†It’s a 14-hour drive from our city, so I’ve even looked into flying to Boston and then road-tripping from there.

USA

New River Gorge, West Virginia

We’ve driven past this area probably 20 times on our way to the beach, but we’ve never made the stop. ¬†I would like to spend a weekend and stay¬†at Hawks Nest State Park and¬†plus hike throughout the various state parks.

Pittsburgh, PA

I’ve had my eye on Pittsburgh thanks to the Children’s and Andy Warhol museum. ¬†I’ve been watching for a hotel sale via Groupon or Travelzoo¬†and maybe we’ll make an overnight trip.

Western KY/Southern IN road trip

Mr YT brought home a brochure from Marengo Caves while he was out and about in Indiana. ¬†This National Landmark in Southern Indiana would make a nice combo with checking out the West Baden Springs Resort (Ok, maybe we won’t take the kids there). ¬† I think the boys would also enjoy the Louisville Slugger Museum and Louisville isn’t too far across the Ohio River. ¬†Sounds like a fun long weekend. ¬†I think we’ll save the longer road trips for when the kids have their own iPads (#kiddingnotkidding).

 

OH-10 (by region)

Some of my favorite Aussies refer to Ohio as O.H.- 10.  Who knew that Ohio was so hard to pronounce with that sweet accent?  I digress.

Guys, gas is under $2/gallon.  They are practically GIVING IT AWAY.  There is no reason not to at least see your own state.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park-Рdone- May 2016!  5 Favorite Spots

Football Hall of Fame (for our 5 yr old¬†world’s greatest football fan)

Columbus Museum of Art (they just did a revamp- haven’t been there since college).

Toledo Zoo and Oak Openings Preserve Metropark

Logan County Transportation Museum and Cedar Bog Nature Preserve

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve

 

Have you been to any of these places? ¬†What’s on your 2016 travel radar?

 

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Screen-Free Play Time Poster

Sad but true, oftentimes this month¬†of the year our TV turns into a holy grail. ¬†Today at 9 am, Bubba asked me, “Is it getting dark?” ¬†Um, no, it’s morning. ¬†I’m really bad about relying in the screen to get ANYTHING done. ¬†Kids don’t fight over Paw Patrol, people. ¬†They fight over toys and Play-doh and snacks. ¬†When it’s difficult to play outside and the neighbors are all in school, we need back up. ¬†CUE THE LIST!

Last year I made this “screen-free play” list to help me navigate winter in Ohio. ¬†I just made it a little prettier and thought I would share — in case ya’ll could use it, too:

What’s your go-to indoor activity when¬†cabin fever has set in?

P.S. ¬†The box of rocks is literally that. ¬†Pinterest is your friend– and it’s a total cost of $3 at the Dollar Tree.

 

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