Charli from Hi-5 takes us to her favourite neck of the woods in Port Stephens.
Charli from Hi-5 is a Port Stephens girl and she was delighted to show Getaway around her home town.
Port Stephens was seen by Captain James Cook in May 1770, but although he named it, he didn't enter the port. It wasn't until 1791 that Salamander, a whaler commissioned as a convict transport, entered the bay.
In 1795, Captain WR Broughton on HM Providence was driven by bad weather past his destination of Port Jackson into Port Stephens. He was surprised to discover four white men living amongst the Aborigines, survivors of a party of convicts who had escaped from Parramatta. The Worimi took them into their tribe, gave them wives, some of whom had children, and took them along on their wanderings.
During WWII the Bay was taken over by US General Douglas MacArthur as a training base, requiring residents to move out. Tomaree Head became Fort Tomaree, complete with radar, gun emplacements and lookout bunkers. They were never used, but when a Japanese submarine attacked Newcastle Harbour, it was touch and go.
Today Port Stephens is a very pleasant holiday centre, with employment coming from tourism, fishing and retail trade.
Charli loves Anna Bay, gateway to the largest mobile sand dunes on Australia's east coast. They extend 32 kilometres from Birrubi Point to Stockton. There are lots of things to do on the dunes, but Charli's tip is to take a horse ride.
The Bonney family runs Sahara Trails Horseriding and Farmstays and has shaped their property from scratch. They began with 10 horses and now have over 30, as well as dogs, cats, chickens, ducks and geese.
The homestead accommodates 12 in three rooms. There are two ensuites and kitchenette. Stage one of the Koala Sanctuary project is planted on the property.
There is something for all horse lovers, whatever age and experience. They emphasise good value with safety and quality service. There are one-hour trail rides, two-hour bush lagoon trail rides and two-hour coastal dune and beach rides.
Nelson Bay is the unofficial capital of the area. The pretty town is on the southern coastline, close to the port headlands, and despite its growing popularity, it hasn't sacrificed charm for tourism.
The elevated land at its east is Nelson Head, which has Inner Lighthouse, dating from 1872. This still operates and is classified as National Trust. Three kerosene lamps were replaced by electricity in 1946 and the system was recently automated. The cottage was built in 1875 and the small cluster of buildings is a modest historical display.
Fly Point is a nautical term meaning "safe anchorage with protection from winds". This was the site where Chinese fishermen cured fish for export to China. Their burial site, the area's first school, original customs building and a WWII armed forces personnel and training base were at Fly Point.
Twenty-two thousand Australian and American troops trained in ship-to-shore invasions and heavily fortified it against Japanese attacks aimed at the industry of Newcastle, Williamtown aerodrome and the Tomago water supply.
Halifax Park Aquatic Reserve covers 70 hectares. It is diverse, with steep submarine cliffs, rocky reefs, a sandy channel covered with stretches of seagrass beds and strong tidal currents ensure a high level of water quality.
Happily living there are seahorses, pipefish, pygmy leatherjackets, small wrasses, tiny gurnards, flathead, molluscs, urchins and a variety of nudibranchs. In the deeper waters are sponges, soft corals, ascidians, hydroids and tunicates. Summer brings juvenile tropical fish such as butterfly fish, damsel fish, wrasses and butterfly cod, which go by winter.
Swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving are permitted. Fishing can only be by hook and line from the two jetties within the reserve and from the beach between.
As the tides are unpredictable and strong, it's best to get advice from the experts at Pro Dive Nelson Bay.