Port Stephens: A Hidden Coastal Paradise
Okay so I don't know how well known Port Stephen's is. It would appear many travellers bypass it, and we only heard from it from a random magazine article. Then again maybe many already know about it's stunning beaches, laid-back atmosphere and the awesome hostel experience that is Melaleuca Surfside Backpackers.
Port Stephens is an hour from Newcastle, where we spent one night in a hostel that shall not be named. If you like being woken up at 1am, 4am and then 8am by loud obnoxious drunkards sitting outside your door, then gimme a shout and I'll tell you it's name...
Tired and simultaneously wired, we awaited our coach to Melaleuca, where we hoped to camp for a little bit, chill at the beach and just relax in warmer temperatures after an amazing but chilly time in the Blue Mountains. The journey cost next to nothing, thanks to the Opal card, kind of like an Oyster card, but it's used across New South Wales and ensures fair and cheap fares across the trains and buses. Australia might be generally expensive, but it's public transport is brilliant.
Arriving at Melaleuca we found it to be like a cross between Tarzan's house and the Swiss Family Robinson; palm trees, wooden decking passageways through the plant-life between buildings, and to top it off, a rescue Kangaroo called Josie! Speaking of kangaroos, we also met wild ones at sunset, it was a magical experience.
Pitching our tiny two man tent, our new 'Tiny House' for the time being, we then walked down to the local beach, literally across the road, One Mile. The sun was nearly gone out the sky and the sea had been warmed all day, and now gently lapped the shore, as the sky changed into a volcanic orange/red shade.
Check out some more awesome photos of Australia!
The next day we walked to Stockton Beach, home to the largest expanse of moving sand-dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. Sometimes things with such bold titles, don't always live up to them, but this was one of the most 'wow' moments we've had thus far in Oz.
Lush green-land in the distance, then rolling hills of the softest golden sands, followed by the rough coastal beach, waves crashing against the land. Such a landscape of contrasts, and all a half hour walk from Melaleuca.
We didn't fancy doing the camel ride that appeared to last all of 15 minutes so instead we went sand-boarding! Pretty fun!
The guy said Taran couldn't stand up for safety reasons but he let him anyway. I kept to what was safe for a clumsy person and did the sitting down boarding, which was not scary at all! I laughed like a demon all the way down.
The next days were a blur of beautiful beaches, beginning with snorkelling at Nelson Bay. Our friend Innes who we met in the Blue Mountains joined us at Melaleuca, and came out for his first taste of Port Stephen's warm weather and not so warm sea. We stayed quite shallow and only swam for about an hour, but spotted a seahorse, a small puffer and schools of tiny dancing fish.
Being here feels like our beach-side camping in Cornwall, sun-soaked days of doing nothing too taxing, but slightly more tropical sights and warmer weather. After another relaxing afternoon of paddling at One Mile beach, we relaxed with pizza and card games with Innes. A tour group called 'Ultimate Oz' were now staying at Melaleuca too, and there drinking game of 'I have never' provided a little bit of entertainment, and too much information...
The next day came shark-spotting at Fingal Bay. We did our second day of hitch-hiking to get to Fingal, a nice guy who'd once lived in England took us all the way to beach. We would of got the bus but the times are really scant here, and the locals are super friendly so it made sense to gain more hitching confidence.
Once at Fingal, a pretty and sheltered cove, Taran and I walked the the Spit, across knee-deep crystal waters to reach a small island home to a white light-house. Making it back across the rising tides we relaxed and looked out onto the stunning Shoal Bay and Zenith beach across the gentle sea. The ocean was rough on one side of the spit and gentle on the other, which was also dotted with small green mountainous islands. It felt like like we'd landed in Thailand, or maybe the island out of 'Lost'! Oh yeah, whilst walking back along the beach we only saw a shark didn't we!
A fisherman pointed out its shiny white tummy darting through the waves catching all the jumping mullet fish. It wasn't the clearest view, not like an aquarium, but to be honest, it was much better. Seeing this giant scary but harmless creature doing its thing happily in the open sea... well 10 ft from the edge and miles from the open sea, a tad close for comfort when we had only been paddling an hour earlier!
The next few days were taken up with the terrible storm that hit the coast. Held hostage by the battering winds and torrential downpour, we had an interesting experience (read about it here!).
But the crazy weather didn't mar our time in what was a relaxed and unexpectedly beautiful seaside town. We definitely recommend it as a stop on your East-Coast travels!
Thanks for reading!
Hannah and Taran here. We hail from Southern England, where we met online and are now realizing our mutual passion for travel here at Nomad'erHowFar. We discuss Nomadic Living, Simplifying your Life and Long-term Travel, to empower, motivate and inspire our readers. Get to know us here!