Things to do in Fingal Bay & Port Stephens
The perfect location for a family holiday, with the beach across the road and all the attractions of Port Stephens close by, you are bound to have a blast at Seaside Holiday Resort
Enjoy Life at Fingal
Fingal Bay is a popular escape for families and empty nesters who are looking for the perfect coastal holiday, with loads of attractions close by, but still retains the feel of a sleepy seaside town, the perfect spot to make those family memories or truly relax in a beautiful coastal setting.
Seaside Holiday Resort is set on the entrance to Fingal directly across from the accessible beach, Surf Life Saving Club, children's playground, Long Boat Cafe, and Saltwater Restaurant, and is only a ten-minute walk along the accessible foreshore pathway to the main street of town.
A quick trip from Fingal will take you to the incredible attractions of Mt Tomarree, the famed Stockton sand dunes, the most incredible beaches, and the vibrant tourist towns of Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay to make your trip one to remember.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to visit Fingal, whether it be to relax on the long crescent-shaped sands, let the kids splash in the resort's pools, standup paddleboard in the bay, surf the waves at Fingal and Box Beaches, hike the surrounding Tomaree National Park, of have an adventure with any one of the nearby experiences such as dolphin and whale watching, quad biking the sand dunes of the Worimi Conservation Lands or learning to surf, Port Stephens is a bucket-list destination with something for everyone!
Spend the Day at the Beach
The one thing Fingal Bay is famous for is its stunning long crescent-shaped beach, with tidal spit extending across to Fingal (or Shark) Island and its Port Stephens Lighthouse in the north, to Barry Park lookout in the south, Fingal Beach is a photographer's dream and the perfect spot to laze or watch the family play.
Sections of the waters of Fingal Beach are generally calmer than Port Stephen's southern beaches due to the protection offered by the spit, island, and headland, making Fingal the perfect place for the whole family, however, if you are looking for surf you will not be disappointed as Fingal is still a surfing favourite and one of the top recommended surf beaches in the region.
The Surf Life Saving Club located to the north of town and across from Seaside Holiday Resort has wheelchair beach access via its Mobi-mat, as well as floating and sand cruiser beach wheelchair hire.
*Relaxing on the beach, Port Stephens - Destination Port Stephens
Fingal Bay is a great place to head if you enjoy keeping active in the great outdoors when travelling. The town stretches alongside the pristine Fingal Beach with foreshore parkland and its accessible walking path, great for those with mobility needs including families with youngsters on bikes or in prams.
If you enjoy bushwalking or mountain biking, then Fingal Bay is surrounded by Tomaree National Park and there are a myriad of tracks for you to explore. The 8.7km Fingal to Tomaree Walk contains some epic scenery and views with the option of the forest walk or cycleway on the smooth concrete path that joins the pathway at Fingal Beach. This walk will take you past Tomaree's Box, Wreck, and Zenith beaches, or if you are after a longer walk, the 27km Tomaree Coastal Walk offers a two to three-day trek along the coast from Shoal Bay to Birubi with plenty of short walk options in between.
Every Saturday morning at 8am across Marine Drive from Seaside Holiday Resort, you will find the Fingal Bay parkrun. This weekly community event is a 5km course that can be taken at your own pace, and the whole family can take part. Bring the pram, dress up if you want, and don't forget your water, sunscreen, and hat! Just make sure you register with parkrun before your first time.
*Cycling, Tomaree National Park - Destination Port Stephens
Picnic on Fingal Island
Although Fingal's 2km Spit is now often too dangerous to cross, the spit used to be a permanent land bridge linking the Fingal Island (Shark Island) to the mainland until 1891 when it was washed away in the historic Maitland Gale.
The Port Stephens Lighthouse is located on the former headland named Point Stephens by Cook on his discovery of Port Stephens in 1770, and was erected in 1862 along with a lightkeeper's cottage housing the families of keepers over generations. in 1973 the lighthouse became automated, and the keeper's cottage is now in ruins after being vandalised in 1991, but the island is still a fascinating place to visit and makes a great destination for a picnic.
It is best to check with National Parks the best way to get there. It is generally recommended to go by boat or kayak as tidal swells and surges, mixed with the strong current, can easily sweep you away if attempting to cross the spit on foot. Low tide is also recommended.
If you want a proper tour of the island and Lighthouse, Imagine Cruises sometimes run a three-hour Eco Tour.
* Port Stephens Lighthouse, Fingal Island - Destination NSW
Seaside Holiday Resort is located on the lands of Worimi peoples, and in the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge the Traditional Custodians' past, present and future, and their connections to land, sea, and community.
The Worimi Nation was originally marked by four rivers and extends from the Hunter River north to Forster's Manning River, and from the coast to the Barrington Tops and the Allyn and Patterson Rivers in the west.
The history of the hunter-gatherer Worimi (Warrimay) people dates back over tens of thousands of years to time immemorial, with their ancestors having cared for this sacred country over innumerable generations.
In 1873 William Scott wrote; “The Port Stephens Aborigines were more prone to laughter than tears, seemingly regarding life as great fun to be enjoyed to the utmost”.
*Stockton Sand Dunes, Port Stephens - Destination NSW
The area of Port Stephens is full of culturally significant sites to the Worimi people, with many known middens and burial sites having been discovered in the region.
Some of these important relic sites include the canoe trees at Little Beach and middens discovered at Fingal Spit, Anna Bay, Schnapper Point, Boat Harbour, Skate Bay, and Fishermans Bay.
The Aboriginal-owned Worimi Conservation Lands of the Stockton bight is managed with the vision to respect, protect, connect so as to ensure the preservation of the natural and cultural value of the natural landscape.
Take a walk in the coastal bushland of the Worimi Conservation Lands, or join a cultural tour to learn and explore this important sacred space.
If you are looking to learn more about the lands you walk on and to feel a deeper connection to Country, then there are a range of places and guided tours for you to experience when you visit Port Stephens.
The Worimi Conservation Lands have many a way to experience the majesty of the sand dunes and learn more of the culture of the Worimi Peoples. From camel rides, quad bike, to 4WD adventures, there is something for everyone.
Sand Dune Adventures is owned and operated by the Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council and aim to share their stories of Worimi culture and the land with as many visitors as possible in order to preserve them and connect both local and international visitors to their Country.
Sand Dune Adventures have a Culture, Quad, and Sand Boarding Tour for ages 16 and up with the tour running for 1.5hrs with 30-minutes spent on each activity. Groups must be of four or more or booked through an agency.
*Stockton Sand Dunes, Port Stephens - Destination NSW
Hike through Tomaree
Tomaree National Park is filled with native wildlife and takes you to through some of the most picturesque coastal bushland and beaches in the state.
The trek to the summit of Mt Tomaree is probably one of the most popular activities for those that can manage the steep, staired climb to the top, and for good reason! There isn't another place that you can experience the incredible 360-degree views that Mt Tomaree offers up from its north and south viewing platforms anywhere nearby, and it is the best way to see just how breathtaking the coastline of Port Stephens truly is.
There are many other walks available to those who aren't up for the summit challenge. The easier grade Fort Tomaree walk follows a paved track running below the Mt Tomaree's Summit walk to the headland that played an important role in WWII, although now only the gun emplacements remain; or take the track to Wreck Beach for a picnic.
*Bushwalking, Tomaree National Park - Destination Port Stephens
Adventures on the Dunes
Port Stephens is home to the largest moving coastal sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, stretching over 30km down the coast from Anna Bay to heights of up to 40m making the Stockton Sand Dunes a must-see star attraction when visiting the region.
There are a range of ways to explore the dunes, from camel rides with Oakfield Ranch, horse riding along Stockton Beach with Sahara Trails, sand surfing, quad bikes, or a 4WD guided tours with Sand Dune Adventures, Sand Dune Safaris, Quad Bike King, Port Stephens Beach Fishing Safaris, Port Stephens 4WD, 4WD Tours Are Us, 4WD Tag-Along & Passenger Tours.
The only way you can visit the incredible Tin City, a 100% off-the-grid community of tin shacks that was established initially by homeless men during the great depression, and then inhabited by soldiers returning from WWII, is by booking a tour with one of the 4WD Tour operators, but you will need to check to make sure Tin City Tour bookings are available at the time of your trip.
If you have your own 4WD you can apply for a permit to explore the dunes yourself, however, we highly recommend joining a tour to get the full experience.
*Oakfield Ranch Camel Rides, Port Stephens - Destination NSW
Dolphins and Whales
For one of those bucket-list adventures you will never forget when you are in Port Stephens, join a whale-watching cruise or snorkel with Port Stephen's wild oceanic dolphins. There are over 100 bottle-nosed dolphins that make their home in Port Stephens' waters, and over 35,000 humpbacks pass the NSW coastline during the months of May-November each year.
Aquamarine Adventures run a 1hr express dolphin watch, and 90min whale-watching tours, Imagine Cruises dolphin tours last 1.5hrs and they have a dry bow-net and wet boom-net aboard their vessel so that you can ride in the water, and their whale watch lasts 3hrs. Moonshadow-TQC runs just under 3hr whale-watching tours, and either a 1.5hr or 2hr dolphin tour on three vessels, some of which are equipped with boom-net and waterslides! Both Imagine Cruises and Moonshadow-TDC tours come with refreshments and have a bar onboard for the grown-ups.
Dolphin Swim Australia is the only operator in the country allowed to run dolphin swim tours, so it is a truly unique and incredible must-do if you can fit this into your holiday schedule. Suitable for seven years and up, however, if you would prefer to watch from the boat, they also offer watching tours where you can get a bird's eye view as the wild dolphins to interact with those in the water.
*Whale Watching, Port Stephens - Destination NSW
Oakvale Wildlife Park in Salt Ash is a must-add to the family list of places to visit when you travel to Port Stephens. Besides the general zoo entry you can enjoy a more personal encounter that get you up close to the favourites such as the koalas or meerkats, to feeding one of the American alligators. There is a free tractor train that operates twice daily, as well as morning and afternoon animal bottle-feeding sessions that the kids will love. The zoo is equipped with two playgrounds, and a Splash Bay Water Park perfect for cooling down on hot days, and best of all, is completely accessible and even have wheelchairs for hire if needed.
The Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary is just 20mins away as you head back towards Fingal Bay and is the best place you are guaranteed to spot a koala in their natural habitat. There is a 225m SKYwalk viewing platform that provides a birds-eye perspective, plus they have a koala hospital onsite caring and rehabilitating koalas that have been sick or injured.
Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters is one of the best family-friendly all-ages destinations that Port Stephens has to offer! Located in Anna Bay, the marine life is homed in large natural lagoons, sandy beaches, sea caves, and rocky reefs rather than artificial tank enclosures, providing the best captive environment for these incredible creatures.
The park promotes interaction, education, and fun with visitors being able to experience touching and feeding both the rays and small sharks from the side of the enclosures if they choose to remain dry, or by wading in the shallows to interact amongst them, both included with your entry pass.
There is a range of experiences on offer such as the zebra shark encounter which is available to all ages, however, you have to be quick as this one sells out well in advance, and visitors over 12 years of age can take part in the tropical snorkel encounter or the tawny nurse shark feed.
Big Day Out
Looking for something that will keep the kids busy for the whole day? Toboggan Hill Park in Nelson Bay has a range of outdoor and indoor activities for the whole family. The main attraction is the 1km toboggan run that meanders through the picturesque Port Stephens bushland, and can reach speeds of 50km/hr! Take the tractor train to the outdoor maze After that, get lost in the giant outdoor timber maze, play a round of mini-golf, experience the gyro extreme or splash down on a hot day. Head inside to the roller-skating rink, or try your hand at rock climbing. There is also a range of coin-operated amusement games and indoor rides for the littlies under 7years of age. Single ride tickets or family passes can be purchased on arrival, and we recommend checking their website prior to planning your day for opening times.
Go-Karts-Go in Nelson Bay at Bob's Farm is an adrenaline rush suitable for everyone 5yrs and up, and have a range of 4-stroke go-karts including junior go-karts and twin seaters and are open almost everyday during the school holidays.
If you are unlucky enough to encounter a rainy day, head to Nelson Bay Cinemas for the latest movies to keep the kids entertained.
There is some great surf in Port Stephens, and Fingal, One Mile, and Birubi Beach, home of the Port Stephens Pro, are all popular spots amongst the seasoned and beginner surfers and are patrolled throughout the warmer months. You will often find the seasoned locals or pros out at Zenith, or along Stockton Beach, however, as conditions can be unstable we recommend sticking to the main three for beginners and intermediates.
If you have always wanted to surf, or are looking for something to keep the kids occupied, then hit up Port Stephens Surf School. Suitable for children aged 5 and up, their Mon-Fri school holiday intensives at One Mile Beach are perfect for guests staying for a week or two, or you can organise with them to do private or group lessons at Fingal Beach for yourself or the whole family.
For the ultimate adrenaline rush, Escape Kitesurfing run kitesurf, hydrofoil, and wakeboarding adventures from our beautiful Port Stephens and Newcastle for an unbeatable experience you won't forget.
*Birubi Beach, Port Stephens - Destination NSW
Paddle or Sail
Port Stephens is the perfect spot for those that love being on the water, and with the clear waters of the harbour to the gentle waves at Fingal, you will find the perfect conditions to suit you.
If you are staying at Seaside, then the protected waters of Fingal Bay are a great spot for keen kayak and paddleboarders, and kayakers will often make the trip over to Fingal Island for a picnic, whale watching, or for a spot of fishing when the tide is right.
If you didn't pack the kayak or standup paddleboard, not to worry. Just head over to neighbouring Shoal Bay, where Port Stephens Paddle Sports have boards and kayaks for you and the family to hire. They also operate kayak tours, including a stunning sunset tour and a romantic picnic package. If you want to learn to paddleboard, then head over to Shoal Bay SUP who offer private and group lessons as well as tours.
If you prefer a more luxurious experience, Blue Water Sailing runs daily and exclusive yacht charters for you to explore the pristine waters of Port Stephens in style, or you can learn to sail with a 1.5hr sailing lesson.
*Shoal Bay, Port Stephens - Destination NSW
Swim, Snorkel, & Dive
Port Stephens beaches are up there with some of the best in the country, and Fingal was recognised as the 12th best beach in the country by Tourism Australia for 2020. The almost circular crescent shape of Fingal Beach provide calmer waters than many of the other Pacific Ocean facing NSW beaches, however, if the winds are up, best to swim between the flags or the sheltered south end as there are rips often in the north towards the spit. Fingal is patrolled five days a week from late September to April.
If traveling with toddlers Little Beach is the perfect swimming spot due to the lack of waves. There is ramp acces to the water for those using a wheelchair, and suitable playground for the wee ones and children with accessibility needs.
The waters Port Stephens Great Lakes Marine Park are rich in marine biodiversity and make the perfect environment for those who enjoy a dive or snorkel. First Feet Dive run shore and boat dives, plus sell all the equipment you need. Lets Go Adventures Dive Nelson Bay run both shore and boat dives, as well as snorkelling from the shore or nearby islands or hire and sell snorkel gear, plus they run learn to dive courses.
Coffee and Brunch
Nothing beats a holiday where there is quality coffee only a two-minute walk from your accommodation! Located directly across Marine Drive from Seaside Holiday Resort lies Fingal Bay's Longboat Cafe on the foreshore at the Surf Club. With a playground for the younger kids and the beach for the teens, you can opt for takeaway, or sit in and enjoy the incredible selection of fresh breakfast and lunch options that are available.
If you head into Shoal Bay and Nelson Bay there is a huge selection of great cafes to choose from in the main strips, and you really can't go wrong! With water views along the Nelson Bay Marina and the Shoal Bay strip, and with delicious seafood and locally sourced produce, Port Stephens is earning a reputation as a foodie destination.
If you are looking for the freshest food head to The Little Nel in Nelson Bay. A local's favourite with a changing menu that focuses on seasonal produce, and food lovingly made from scratch. Overlooking the stunning waters of Shoal Bay and situated on the headland between the Nelson Bay lighthouse and maritime museum lies the Inner Light Tea Rooms, a welcoming breakfast and lunch spot with great coffee, fluffy scones, accessible access and a children's menu.
If you have the time and feel like a day trip, jump on the ferry to Tea Gardens where there are a range of eateries along the waterfront to enjoy.
Port Stephens has so many amazing food options, it is hard to know where to start. If you are looking for a delicious feed or drink close by, then you can't go past Saltwater Restaurant across the road from the Seaside Holiday Resort. With a selection of delicious freshly caught seafood and superb views of Fingal Beach, this is the perfect spot for both a romantic dinner or a family feast. Another Favourite spot is the Fingal Bay Cellar Cafe. This cozy late morning coffee spot turn evening wine bar has a fantastic selection of delicious meals, and despite its appearances, is welcoming for both couples and family groups and is only a ten-minute walk away along the foreshore into town. If you are after your standard pub meal then the Fingal Bay Sports Club is located up behind the resort and surrounded by the bushland of Tomaree National Park, and there is a children's playground to entertain the little ones making it a great family-friendly spot.
A quick drive to Nelson or Shoal Bay will see you spoiled for choice. From the Little Beach Boathouse and Bar right on the water to modern Mediterranean at The Bouys on the Bay, Thai at the Authentic Thai Restaurant, Indonesian at Bayside Bali, Indian at 2 Brothers Indian Restaurant, and Japanese at Tsuki Japenese Restaurant, and so much more!
Check out the Port Stephens Eat guide for more options.
*Little Beach Boathouse, Nelson Bay - Destination NSW
Bars, Berries, & Breweries
Port Stephens is the place to go if you enjoy a plonk. From Fingal's Cellar Cafe to a range of bars close by such as The Anchorage's Moby's Whiskey Bar, Bannisters Terrace Bar, to the Shoal Bay Country Club, there will be a bar that is just right for you.
Murray's Brewing Co. is located on Bob's Farm on Nelson Bay Road as you head towards the towns of Nelson, Shoal, and Fingal Bay in Port Stephens. With over 10 craft beers on tap, Murray's shares its home with Port Stephens Winery and run daily brewery tours, cellar door beer and wine tasting, and restaurant. Murray's is also a great spot for the whole family and has a large outdoor deck and grassed area, with live music on the weekend afternoons. The adjoining Sunset + Vine Winery is opening its Cellar Door and Cafe in summer 2021.
The artisan winery and cellar door of Tynan Wines is located in Salamander Bay and produces small batches of quality wine from selected vines around the country.
Only a two-hour drive away from Seaside Holiday Resort you will find one of the country's forefront wine regions, the Hunter Valley, making it the ideal day trip. Heavenly Tours can take you there and arrange the tastings so you can relax and enjoy the countryside as you are taken from sip to sip.
Port Stephens is teeming with quality Day Spas to make your time away as relaxing as possible. Whether you are looking for a solo or couples experience, you are bound to find something just right.
At the tip of the luxury end, The Anchorage's Spa Lucca in Corlette has a range of premium packages to help you melt any stress you may have completely away and have couples rooms available, Spa Bannisters in Soldiers Point also has a selection of spa treatments to choose from with a treatment menu that changes with the seasons. Barley Sugar in Salamander Bay is ranked the #1 spa in Port Stephens on Tripadvisor, and offers a range of lush beauty and massage treatments. In Nelson Bay, The Bay Thai Massage offers a range of authentic Thai, European massages and treatments at an affordable price and is open 7 days a week.
Cast a Line
For many, there is nothing more therapeutic than being near the water of a flowing river or the sea, and one of the most relaxing pastimes is a spot of fishing, whether you prefer it from the shore, or boat on the water.
Surrounded by the waters of the South Pacific Ocean, the bay of Port Stephens (which is actually the submerged estuary of the Karuah and Myall Rivers), and Tilligerry Creek not too far away, it is no surprise that Fingal Bay and Port Stephens are a popular destination for keen fishers.
There is a huge variety of species to be found in the waters of the Port Stephens Marine Park with Bream and snapper are plentiful and, by all accounts, an easy catch in this neck of the woods, with Fingal Bay and nearby Fingal Island being one of the best spots in the area to cast a line. The waters of Shoal Bay are great for whiting, flathead, and salmon in the colder months, and crabs are often aplenty in Tilligerry. If you are fishing with the kids, then we recommend the jetty or beach at Shoal Bay where there are virtually no waves.
For those that like their deepsea marlin, jewfish, and tuna fishing, then there is boat hire for those with a license from Boab Boats or Nelson Bay Boat Hire who have a range of boats that don't require a license. If you would prefer to go out on the water with the expert knowledge of a local, then Pacific Blue Charters can take up to 18 people out for a deep-sea adventure.
Make sure you have a current fishing license and check the tides before fishing the shore or rocks, and read through the Fishing Guide to ensure you are adhering to Marine Park fishing rules. Tackle can be sourced from Tackleworld Port Stephens.
Relaxing Round of Golf
If you like a hit of golf, then you would have passed the Nelson Bay Golf Club when heading into Fingal Bay. The 27-hole course is nestled amongst the Tomaree National Park's bushland and is home to kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, native birds, and the occasional goanna, and sandy soils make the one a great golf course to play all year-'round.
A little further afield, you will also find the 18-hole course at Pacific Dunes Golf Club in Medowie, however, if you are after the luxury golfing experience, our favourite Horizons in Salamander Bay might just be your cup of tea.
If you need to keep the older kids entertained whilst you tee off, the 9-hole course and driving range at David Grahams Golf in Anna Bay also have putt-putt, laser tag, laser clay shooting, and more to keep them occupied whilst you enjoy the circuit.
*Horizons Golf Resort, Salamander Bay - Destination NSW
Art and Culture
Port Stephens prides itself on
Located within the D’Albora Marina in Nelson Bay, the Artisan Collective Port Stephens is a stunning space showcasing the works of local artists, creatives, and makers. a great spot to pick up some art to decorate the home without the hefty price tag, or unique gifts for loved ones.
Another great stop is the Port Stephens Community Art Centre located in Nelson Bay's Fly Point parkland near the skatepark. The gallery's artwork is mostly local, and you can usually find an artist on hand who can share the methods used to create the art and crafts on display. We highly recommend taking the time to explore the surrounding gardens, and if it is open, a bite from the garden cafe.
In Lemon Tree Passage you may happen upon the Tilligerry Arts Group at the old fire station. Volunteer-run, this community gallery is another one to add to your list.
*The Artisan Collective Port Stephens in Nelson Bay
Port Stephens is a hive of activity with a range of fun events and markets to suit everyone and the best place to check out what is happening when you are planning your stay is by heading to the Port Stephens What's On and Event Calendar pages or by dropping into the Port Stephens Visitor Centre, where often you will find a range of free live music performances such as acoustic lunch performances and Saturday sessions, exercise classes and workshops, in the neighbouring Apex Park.
If you love your markets, the Fingal Twilight Market kicked off for the first time in 2020 on the Fingal Bay foreshore. Located right across the road from Seaside Holiday Resort and next to the beach, this outdoor market has live music and a range of local artisan and food stalls and is hands down the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon in Port Stephens.
On the 1st and 3rd Sunday every month, the Nelson Bay Legacy Markets are held at Neil Carroll Park on Shoal Bay Road, Fly Point, with the Tomaree Markets held at the same location on the 2nd and 4th Sunday. A new market that has emerged on the scene in 2021 is the Hunter Valley's Homegrown Markets, taking place at Nelson Bay's Apex Park at various times throughout the year and is well worth a visit.
*Fingal Twilight Market - Fingal Bay, Port Stephens NSW