Discover the wonders of Nelson Bay
Lovers of aquatic pursuits will never wonder what to do in Nelson Bay. Its serious collection of cove protected beaches offer booming waves of all sizes, its marine life is abundant and remarkably friendly, while the town itself extends the courtesy of handsome streets filled with cafes and restaurants.
1. Dive with grey nurse sharks
Both qualified divers, my other half and I took to the deeper waters of Port Stephen’s, specifically to a spot called “Looking Glass”. This tunnel, about 16 meter deep under the surface, is favoured by grey nurse sharks. These large nocturnal hunters retire here during the day, drifting half asleep in the constantly flowing current.
Most local dive shops will take you there, provided you have a valid diving license, and guide you to the bottom of the tunnel. There you’ll lie quite still while a group of some 30 sizable sharks will circle around you, so close you can touch them.
At the time it was my first ever encounter with a marine predator exceeding my own size, and as such a heart stopping yet utterly exhilarating experience.
2.Experience a close encounter with wild dolphins
There are an estimated 140 Bottlenose dolphins, permanently resident in and around Port Stephens, and Nelsons Bay is known Australia-wide for its dolphin colonies.
A handful of local tour companies will try to lure you into their nets, literally, attached to motor boats that take to the deeper channels around Nelson Bay. Dolphins love to play in the rippled waters and eventually come close enough. However, we find the experience a little noisy with all the other people in the net, and not quite special.
We suggest a different approach entirely. Find a local man, hire a sea kayak and set off to the waters recommended by him. Dolphins get a little bored during quieter seasons (outside school holidays) and often seek out kayakers to entertain themselves.
Unlike the tour companies, this method offers no guarantee of meeting wild dolphin pods but when it happens, it is a truly intimate encounter.
3.Play in the sands of Stockton Beach
Running up and down the vast dunes of Worimi Conservation Lands (also known as Stockton Beach), 10km south of Nelson Bay, is only one way to experience the abundant fine sand.
On the beach, which stretches for unbelievable 32km, you can join a 4×4 trip and test your skills driving on the slippery squeaky surface. Sand dune surfing is an alternative if you’re struggling to catch the real wave or you can choose to ride on a camel over the sandy hills. Anna Bay is your closest point to access the dunes.
There’s little to no shade on Stockton Beach, therefore bringing a beach tent and plenty of suncream is a wise idea.