As the chilly weather begins to tighten its icy grip around our beloved city, our contributor, Brittany, decided to hit the road on a mission to cure her Winter blues – headed for a place that boasts a Summer vacation vibe all year round…
It happens every year; Winter just breezes into town with its frosty winds and shortened days, putting a definitive end to our carefree, beach-goin’ good time.
But, what if I was to tell you there’s a place not too far from Newcastle where you don’t have to succumb to Winter’s siren call to hole up indoors? A place where you could extend your Summertime fun just a little longer?
Well, hold on to your sun hats, boys and girls, because that place is no myth. No matter what time of year, our neighbouring region Port Stephens just seems to radiate a relaxing Summer holiday vibe. And, when it’s only a short hour’s drive up the road, it makes for the perfect Winter weekend escape.
Ready to bust your Winter blues in Port Stephens? Here’s how…
Make a splash!
Port Stephens is home to many stunning beaches and bays, but just because the water temperature may be more Arctic than Caribbean right now, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the coast. While we may not be so keen to splash around at this time of year, there’s a group of big blue beauties that certainly are. Winter heralds the beginning of one of nature’s most magnificent shows – the annual migration of the Humpback Whale – and Port Stephens just so happens to be one of their favourite spots to visit along the way.
Imagine Cruises run two types of whale-watching tours throughout Winter – a 3 hour cruise on a 60ft sailing catamaran, or the express 90 minute Envision fastcat tour – which both depart daily from D’Albora Marina, Nelson Bay. Each cruise is skippered by an expert crew who are more than happy to share their knowledge of these majestic creatures, the surrounding marine park, and how we can all help to protect it.
Cruising alongside these gentle giants is an experience like no other; your smile will be uncontrollable, your awe will be struck, and your breath will be absolutely taken away.
A day in the dunes
There’s nothing quite like exploring Port Stephen’s desert-like dunes to make you forget all about Winter… In fact, you’d even be forgiven for thinking you’d somehow teleported straight into the middle of the Sahara.
From camel and horse rides, to quad biking, to guided 4WD tours of Tin City, the sand dunes at Anna Bay are certainly action-packed. But, what was our favourite dune activity of all? Sand boarding!
Sand Dune Safaris run sand boarding tours from Birubi Beach carpark every weekend from 10am, and all ages and skill levels can give it a go! The more timid rider can cruise down the gentler slopes, while the thrill-seekers among us can gun down almost vertical dunes at top speeds – standing up, if they’re game (and not fazed by the possibility of a very sandy face-plant if they lose balance!).
Crest cafe, while being very conveniently located in the Birubi SLSC, also serves up a seriously tasty breakfast, making it an excellent place to fuel up for your sand dune adventures. Soak up the beachside atmosphere and friendly service, and if you’re really lucky, your bacon and eggs may even be served with a side of whale sightings!
Take a hike
Let’s be honest, while it feels like a fun holiday activity, hiking is really not that enjoyable in Summer. Legging it up a mountain on a hazy 35-degree day, only to be so hot and bothered by the time you reach the peak that you rush for the nearest shade instead of enjoying the view is simply not a good time.
But, with the cooler weather comes the perfect time to get the heart and legs pumping as you hike up to some of Port Stephens’ most scenic vantage points, and no trip to the region is complete without doing the Mt Tomaree Summit Walk. Taking you 161 metres above sea level, the Mt Tomaree hike is a short yet steep climb with some absolutely beautiful views of the coast waiting for you at the top.
Can’t get enough of the spectacular scenery? Then head up to Gan Gan Lookout, where you’ll be rewarded with a stunning panorama of the entire Port Stephens region, as far north as Hawks Nest, and south through to Newcastle.
Sunny al fresco eats
With all that sailing, sand boarding and hiking, you’re bound to work up quite an appetite. Fortunately, Port Stephens is home to a smorgasbord of great cafes and restaurants.
If there’s one way to inspire those cruisey Summer holiday vibes, it’s a relaxed long lunch in the sunny front courtyard at Little Nel – a cute and casual cafe gem in the heart of Nelson Bay. The menu is deliciously light and fresh, and we dare you to try and resist their selection of sweet treats – after all, ‘holiday mode’ definitely calls for dessert! Little Nel also bring a little bit of Newy to Nelson Bay, serving up our very own Suspension espresso.
Very few things say ‘Summer holiday’ more than sunset drinks, and there’s no better place to kick back with a cold one after a long day of adventures than with the self-proclaimed “purveyors of relaxation” at the Seabreeze Hotel, overlooking Nelson Bay.
As night falls and dinner calls, escape the crisp night air and head inside to the Seabreeze Hotel restaurant. While we may be trying to pretend it’s not Winter, who are we to deny the marriage of a hearty meal on a cold night? Especially when Seabreeze do an incredible shoulder of lamb for two that was just made for such an occasion.
Yes, the thought of sleeping outside in a tent when the mercury hits single digits may seem, a) rather uninviting and, b) slightly insane. But, who says you need a tent to get amongst the great outdoors?
At Treescapes near One Mile Beach, you can still embrace the peace and quiet of being surrounded by nature, but with the comfort of four walls and a nice warm bed. Nestled within bounteous bushland, your cosy cabin at Treescapes becomes your very own tranquil sanctuary where you can just disconnect for a while… Oh, and did I mention you also have your very own indoor spa?
When you’re ready to venture out from your den of zen, you can explore the surrounding parklands to try and catch a glimpse of the local koalas, or take a short walk to the very secluded and very beautiful Samurai Beach.
Port Stephens may not always be able to promise you the warm weather of a Summer vacation, but it can certainly always promise you the sunny disposition and relaxed vibe that comes with it.
So, why not shake those gloomy Winter blues and make your own escape to relaxed Port Stephens this weekend?
Newcastle Live visited as guests of Destination Port Stephens. For detailed information on accommodation, dining, attractions, activities, events, holiday deals and maps, visit Destination Port Stephens’s website.
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