things to do in Port Stephens NSW with kids

Family-Friendly things to do in Port Stephens, NSW

Port Stephens with kids

A well-known escape for those from Sydney and the Hunter Valley, Port Stephens is a tropical oasis about 3 hours north of Sydney. The Port Stephens region is a haven for local tourists but would be a great destination for those from overseas. I personally think it’s home to some of the most beautiful beaches and would be a nice taste of the Aussie lifestyle for those visiting from far away.

The Port Stephens region includes the towns of Soldiers Point, Salamander Bay, Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay, Fingal Bay, and more. I included the map below so overseas visitors can visualize the distance from Sydney.

Port Stephens, NSW, Australia

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

Here are a few of our favorite family-friendly things to do in Port Stephens, Australia.

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. This is a strenuous hike, but we could do it with our kids. Our daughter is 4.5 and it wore her out, so that’s probably the minimum age for children!

The trailhead for Tomaree Head is just south of Shoal Bay and will take you about 20-30 minutes to ascend if you’re going at a reasonable pace. This is the place to feel your calves burn and your back sweat. Ha! The total return hike is 2.2 km (1.36 miles).

However, the views at the top will make it worth it. The view over Zenith Beach to the south or Hawks Nest to the north is unbelievable!

On the way down from the summit, you may want to check out the World War II gun emplacements. From 1942-1945, a command post with large guns was placed here to protect from enemy invasion. The nearby steelworks and RAF base had to be protected.

The view over Shoal Bay! This is my happy place!

Zenith Beach from the top

One of my future goals is to do the recently opened, multi-day Tomaree Head Coastal Walk. The 27-km hike (16.7 miles) takes 2-3 days to complete and travels all the way from Tomaree Head to Anna Bay.

Port Stephens by water

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).

On a 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 turn around! The Tea Gardens Hotel has a courtyard with playground equipment. So order your food, let the kids play a little, and enjoy your stopover.

Port Stephens - ferry from Nelson Bay to Tea Gardens

Visit Oakvale Wildlife Park

From floral and fauna to a farm? Huh? That’s right. Oakvale Wildlife Park is located in Salt Ash, right 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 Wildlife Park allows you to feed the kangaroos, pet a koala, or watch a reptile show! It’s the perfect place to experience Australia. Our kids loved every minute!

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.

Family- friendly Port Stephens, New South Wales.

Family-friendly Port Stephens, pat a koala at Oakvale Farm

Family-friendly Port Stephens - Feed a kangaroo at Oakvale Farm

Beaches of Port Stephens

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

Family-friendly Port Stephens, Shoal Bay

We swam at Shoal Bay Beach and near Soldiers Point, but I wanted to visit so many other places. Fingal Bay is idyllic; if you want more surf, hit up Birubi Beach.

Birubi Beach on a calmer day


One of the most popular tourist activities at the Bay is sandboarding! The dunes along Birubi Beach (Anna Bay) are the largest in the southern hemisphere! We booked our adventure with 4WD Tours R Us the morning of our adventure. If you’re visiting during the NSW School Holidays, be sure to book in advance. Allow a 1.5-hour minimum for the drive to the dunes and time to sandboard.

And, the great thing is, if your kids get tired of climbing up the massive sand hill, it’s like being in a giant sandbox! Ha! Our girls had a great time playing in the sand.

TIP: The sand gets HOT, even on a cool day. Make sure you pack plenty of water and sunscreen. In hindsight, I wish we would have taken our soft-sided small cooler bag (similar).

4wd sandboarding.  Things to do in Port Stephens with kids.

Massive dunes at Birubi Beach are a fun sandboarding adventure with kids.

Sandboarding in Port Stephens
Some tours do not allow you to stand. Lucky for my kids (not for me), this one did!

I hope you can see that Port Stephens is fun for kids of all ages and you’ll find plenty to do to keep busy! This is a destination that families can visit again and again.


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2 thoughts on “Family-Friendly things to do in Port Stephens, NSW”

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