Give yourself at least a day to explore Port Stephens and Newcastle and second day to explore the Hunter Valley. The best place to stay is the NRMA Stockton Beach Holiday Park near Newcastle.
Port Stephens is an hour north of Newcastle and its main town Nelson Bay is known as the ‘dolphin capital of Australia’. Embracing the south of the harbor, Tomaree Peninsula has deserted beaches, national parks and sand dunes. On its tip sits Nelson Bay. On the south side of the peninsula is Sumarai Beach where clothing is optional and One Mile Beach with gently sloping sand and incredibly blue water.
Things to do
Ride camels on the beach
Learn to surf
Climb Tomaree Mountain for great ocean views
Explore the waterways in a kayak at Ezy Kayaks or Lazy Paddles
Hire a boat at Port Stephens Marine.
Camping Port Stephens
Fingal Bay Holiday Park
Halifax Holiday Park
Port Stephens Beechside Holiday Park
BIG4 Soldiers Point Holiday Park
Bays Holiday Park
Active Holidays One Mile Beach
Jimmy's Beach Holiday Park
With its good surf beaches, laid back vibe, historical architecture, hip bars, many dining options and thriving art scene, Newcastle is worth a day of your time.
Learn about the military history of Newcastle and explore the underground tunnels at Fort Scratchley.
Spot birds and wildlife at Hunter Wetlands Centre.
Walk the 5 km scenic and historic coastal walk known as Bathers Way.
Enjoy the soaring architecture, stained glass and peace in Christ Church Cathedral.
Learn the history of Newcastle from its Indigenous origins at the engaging Newcastle Museum.
Walk Nobby's Head to the lighthouse to surround yourself with ocean views and fresh salt air.
Climb Queens Wharf Tower for commanding views of the city.
Visit the 'lock up', a police station turned artists' studios. Its padded cell is still in tact.
Feed emus and cuddle a wombat at the Blackbutt Reserve.
NRMA Stockton Beach Holiday Park. It's a quick ferry ride from town and the ferries are regular and cheap.
The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine growing region and it is choc-full of wineries – more than 150 to be precise. Nestled in the fertile valleys 2 ½ hours north of Sydney and two hours inland from Port Stephens, you can enjoy attitude-free wine tasting. Stop in at the Hunter Valley tourist information centre in Maitland and grab some winery maps for a self-guided tour. If you don’t fancy driving, tours are available in vehicles, horse drawn carriages, and on bikes. Time Out put together a top ten wineries list and CNN did a top seven. A personal favorite is Wyndham Estate.
While the wine in the Hunter Valley is a draw card in itself, the region has even more to offer. It is a foodie’s heaven with food and wine schools, world class restaurants, cheese makers, olive oils, smoked fish, and a range of local produce. The region is perfect for hot air ballooning. There are day spas, activities for the kids, antiques, gardens and historic villages.
Indian Roots building, Morpeth, Hunter Valley
Hunter Valley Gardens
High Tea at Peppers Convent
8 things to do in the Hunter Valley
Hunter Valley Wineries: Some of the long established wineries in the region include Mount Pleasant, Drayton, Hungerford Hill, Tyrrell’s (they have a Jazz in the Vines event), Lindemans, Wyndham Estate and Tulloch Wines.
The Pokolbin region is packed with wineries, artisan food providers (cheese, olives, chocolate), and restaurants, and is manageable on a rented bike. There are several bike hire places in Pokolbin.
The Hunter Valley Gardens has over 8 km of walking paths spread over 60 acres of gardens. Kids will love the story book garden with its nursery rhyme characters and topiary animals.
Splash out on some high tea at Peppers Convent.
Morpeth is a pretty National Trust listed riverside town with cafés, interesting little shops, picket fences and well maintained gardens. They also have a ginger beer factory.
Maitland was established in 1818 and many of its historic buildings still stand. Attractions include the Maitland City Art Gallery, the Museum jail, and the East Maitland Heritage walk which includes the photogenic Indian Roots building. Grab a map from the Maitland Visitor Information Centre. It takes two and a half hours to walk, 20 minutes to drive. The heart of Maitland is the Levee Centre which has cafes, boutiques, bars and restaurants.
Wollombi is a charming little country town with sandstone buildings, misty valleys, rivers and scenic countryside. The museum ($2 entry) is housed in a convict-era sandstone courthouse and has a picturesque picnic area where you can enjoy some of the produce and wine you picked up earlier in the day. They also provide walking maps and brochures on the region's highlights.
The Hunter Valley is for art lovers, too. It's riddled with galleries of all kinds so whatever your passion - oils, photography, ceramics - there will be something just for you. It's all on the map below.