Although more of an old school family summer holiday destination, if you are after some sun and sand 2.5 hours north of Sydney, Port Stephens offers the intrepid visitor a range of protected blue bays and stunning surf beaches. With a huge proportion of ‘Holiday Parks’, school holidays are squirming with kid laden families. For a more serene experience it’s best to plan outside of these times. Creatures freshly delivered from the sea feature heavily on all menus, with most establishments offering an easy casual atmosphere. Realising a need to keep pace with more bijoux destinations, Port Stephens is trying to up the ante. We are sure it will get there, but until then its natural beauty and unpretentious atmosphere make for a relaxing break.

Top things to do:

First things first, coffee! Espresso at The Home Interior 03 is an ever-busy French country house inspired nook, pumping out Allpress coffee and a small but flavoursome menu to perfection. Smartly presented staff, passionate about their coffee, we are too! To fill the tank, it’s tough to choose a pie from Red Ned’s Gourmet Pie Bar 07 but our favourite is the Macadamia Thai Satay. The Beef Stroganoff is a best seller and has won many an award.

Let’s Go Adventures 13 can take you snorkelling or scuba diving. Teeming with salty critters including sharks and sea horse, Port Stephens offers some of the best shore diving in Australia due to its marine reserve status so there is no need to even board a boat, a much more affordable day out.

A must visit, Little Beach is worthy of a European resort. Swim in the crystal waters before lunching at the regions foodie jewel, Little Beach Boathouse.

One of the draw cards of the region awaits round the corner and we recommend that if you only peel yourself off your beach towel for one activity, it is to experience the eerie vastness of the Stockton Sand Dunes. Head to Birubi Beach lower car park where you will find a number of tour operators on the edge of the dunes. For $25 sandboarding is a fun and harmless hour out but the 2 hour Tin City Sand Dune Adventure Tour will leave you in awe. The trip includes a visit to the iconic ‘Tin City’ as well as sandboarding, it’s hard to believe you are still in Australia – camels, sand dunes and even mini pyramids give an air of Egypt to the whole experience. If you have your own 4WD, you can take on the dunes yourself or just pull up to your own bit of beach for the day. Access to the beach is from the road just after James Patterson Street (opposite Old Main Road).

For all our tips to ensure your road trip features only the best bits, buy your Whileaway Guide (and don’t forget to use the ‘weareexplorers’ discount code to receive a special 10% discount!). Only $9.90 and we will even post it straight to your door! No research required.