Just 2.5 hours north of Sydney
, is a large, natural harbour with a narrow entrance between two hills of volcanic origin.
It's been the traditional holiday spot for generations of Australians. They return year after year to enjoy activities in the water and on land. There are endless choices.
Port Stephens lays claim to the title "Dolphin Capital of Australia". It's home to around 150 bottlenose dolphins, and there are plenty of tour operators offering dolphin-watching trips as well as whale-watching trips. Between May and June, humpback whales cruise past the town on their northern migration, returning south between September and November.
Jason Dundas took the easy drive from Sydney to check out some of the attractions. He discovered that the once sleepy seaside town is waking up in a big way!
The latest amusement park, the focus at Dizzyland is on family fun at an affordable price. It's owned by the Haas family which has been involved in the amusement industry for 150 years, so they know what people want. Thanks to its 1885 merry-go-round, Dizzyland has been classified by the National Trust of Australia. The carousel has 57 antique brass poles.
The latest attraction is the Southern Hemisphere's largest inflatable waterslide. It's 60m long and you slide at a 45-degree angle. There are actually two waterslides and a version for little children is about to join the others.
Think of something that should be at an amusement park and you will find it at Dizzyland. All the favourites are there and then some, including dodgem cars for one or two passengers, a pirate ship, jumping castle, mini golf and a Ferris wheel. Tilt-a-Whirl will have you spinning and be prepared to take a bath on the Old School Dunker.
There are grassy picnic areas, free gas barbecue use and a canteen stacked with carnival treats. Every day sees a fun show and keep an eye out for Mr Dizzy. He magically appears and gets everyone going.
Jason wanted to see the beautiful area from on high and joined pilot Deb Carling from Newcastle Helicopters for a scenic flight. Views of the bay and 26 beaches are spectacular and you may be lucky enough to spot a whale or dolphin.
When you think it couldn't get any better, Deb will land her helicopter at Murray's Brewery for an "Ales with Altitude" tour.
If you own a brewery, why not name it after yourself? Murray Howe owns the region's only working brewery, winery and restaurant. The passionate beer enthusiast calls his produce "Ales with Attitude" and it all began with him experimenting in his back shed after tasting a handcrafted beer in a California diner. Now he makes 500 cartons and 60 kegs of his brew every week, and can't keep up with demand.
Two of his beers Nirvana Pale Ale and Grand Cru have been recognised among the best locally-produced beers. One reviewer said, "If you see his name on anything, drink it."
Murray's Brewery shares its home with Port Stephens Winery, the peninsula's original and most successful vineyard. It's on 14 hectares of natural bushland and it's the perfect place to stop for a gourmet meal with a cold beer and a wine or two. They like to use locally grown produce, and some dishes have a slurp of Murray's beer.
This is Nelson Bay's only five-star self-contained accommodation. It overlooks Dutchman's Bay Beach and each apartment has stunning water views.
It's glamorous and elegant, but totally relaxing. Choose from one- or two-bedroom apartments, or three- or four-bedroom penthouses.
Kitchens have Miele appliances, floor heating, bathrobes and beautiful L'Occitane pampering bathroom products. Ensuite bathrooms have a spa bath and huge shower. There's a 25m-long lap pool and a spa, and massages and private chefs can be arranged.
The pool gate opens to a path leading to the heart of Nelson Bay.
Related article: Sand boarding in Port Stephens
Related gallery: Whale spotting in NSW
Port Stephens, 2.5 hours north of Sydney.
Dizzyland admission is free. Single rides are $4 and unlimited rides is $25. It's open between 10am and 4pm on weekends and during school holidays.
Murray's Craft Brewing Company tours run at 2pm every day.
Amarna Resort accommodation starts at $395 a night for a luxury one-bedroom beachfront suite. There is a minimum two-night stay.
Virgin Blue has flights to Sydney.
One-way fares from:
- Canberra $88
- Melbourne $90
- Brisbane $99
- Hobart $112
- Adelaide $119
- Darwin & Perth $229
There are limited seats, which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are subject to change.
Prices correct at November 25, 2010.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
1 Oakvale Drive
Salt Ash 2318
Ph: (02) 4978 1244
Ph: (02) 4965 1800
Murray's Craft Brewing Company
3443 Nelson Bay Road
Bobs Farm 2316
Ph: (02) 4982 6411
16 Christmas Bush Avenue
Nelson Bay 2315
Ph: (02) 4981 1644