Port Stephens is a large, natural harbour with a narrow entrance between two striking hills of volcanic origin Tomaree to the south and Yacaba to the north. The harbour is fairly shallow and sandy but is sufficiently deep to accommodate large vessels. It's a very popular holiday destination that's loads of fun and with interesting things to do.
The Australian Shark and Ray Centre is found between Stockton Beach and Tilligerry Creek. The indoor man-made aquatic environment where anyone can wade, swim, snorkel or dive with fish, seahorses, eels, sharks and rays is the first of its kind. You can touch and hand-feed sharks and rays in 23°C water in a 30m×15m tank.
It's the perfect place for toddlers to get up close to sea creatures: you wade into the water with the animals in your arms, and gradually let them into the water, once they are ready. It's a good idea to begin with a little walk or swim before hand-feeding or patting the creatures, and you will be surprised at how their curiosity draws them to you.
We start the experience with a little walk or swim with the sharks and rays, before we embark on feeding them. Hand feed or pat these awesome little critters, while their brothers and sisters cruise around your feet. Have a little paddle, see if you can entice them up for a bit or just watch them from the surface. You will be truly surprised at how gentle they can be.
The next step is snorkelling. It begins with walking with the fish, baby sharks and eels, feeding them and then feeling them as they glide by. You can go into deeper parts of the tank and snorkel with the friendly sharks, rays and maybe even get an octopus to sit on your hand. One of the most popular experiences is to have a tiny seahorse hold your finger. You will be amazed at how gentle a 2m smooth ray can be. They are all de-barbed and the experience is risk-free.
You will see a dozen species of shark and ray there are around 100 of them swimming around and if you are feeling a little tentative, there are, in addition to the two big tanks, smaller pools to help you ease your way in.
Scuba is one of the most exciting sports on earth and you can give it a go here without signing up for a full course. Once you are comfortable with the breathing exercises, the qualified instructor will take you down. The pool is only 2.5m deep but there's plenty to see.
Port Stephens, around 160km north-east of Sydney.
Australian Shark and Ray Centre entry is $25 for adults and $15 for children 3-15 years. For families of two adults and two children, it's $75. Shark, ray and fish feeding starts at $5 and scuba diving is $95.
Prices correct at October 16, 2008.
For further information
Australian Shark and Ray Centre
686 Marsh Road
Bobs Farm 2316
Ph: (02) 4982 2476
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