Longing for a seaside escape this summer? Why not spend a few days in Port Stephens just a half-hour drive from Newcastle Airport. Here’s my personal guide to the best spots to stay, eat and play in the region.
Photography Mark Zeidler (unless otherwise stated)
A couple of months ago my partner and I headed to Port Stephens for a short vacay. We started our trip at The Anchorage – its idyllic location overlooking the harbour is simply superb. Who doesn’t love a view of both water and boats?! It was our second time here and it was a nice surprise to discover they now have two pools – one for families and the other an adults only infinity pool (pictured above). Too bad it was too cold to enjoy a swim, oh well just another reason to come back in the summer! What I love about The Anchorage is the Hamptons-style exterior, its proximity to the beach, and the full buffet breakfast included – everything you can possibly imagine for breakfast is available, including champagne!
Our suite on the ground floor was amazing – really big in size, and complete with a patio with beach views. Not a bad spot to enjoy some wine and a cheese platter. Ahh, I could get used to this. With two onsite restaurants, a bar, two swimming pools, and a gym you’d be forgiven for never leaving the hotel. But of course with everything so close by (just a few minutes drive) you’ll want to explore the neighbouring areas for a spot of shopping, cafe hopping, or nature exploring (a hike up to the summit of Tomaree Head) is a must.
SHOAL BAY COUNTRY CLUB
A trip to Port Stephens wouldn’t be complete without visiting Shoal Bay Country Club. It’s a total insta-worthy destination, at every turn you’ll find something to gush over! That’s thanks to interior design firm Luchetti Krelle who completely renovated the historic hotel last year. There are lots of different zones within the venue including Mermaids Cafe – a great spot to start the day with a delicious breakfast. Me and my partner had a tasty lunch in The Kitchen – situated upstairs overlooking the beach. I couldn’t think of a better location to enjoy fish and chips with a side of bruschetta. I totally recommend the fish and chips – it’s the crispiest batter in town!
BANNISTERS PORT STEPHENS
Bannisters newest hotel is located in beautiful Port Stephens and oh my it did not disappoint. We stayed here for our last two nights in Port Stephens – a great way to finish our trip. With magnificent ocean views over Salamander Bay, the hotel has been completely renovated and extended. The infinity pool overlooking the sea is breathtaking. I really enjoyed the food too. If you’re a foodie, and love Rick Stein, you’ll want to check out his signature restaurant onsite. We dined at the informal Terrace Bar (overlooking the pool and ocean) for both lunch and dinner – the highlights included a Grilled Haloumi Salad with pear, candied walnuts and ruby grapefruit (pictured below) and the Fish Tacos with pico de gallo and chipoltle crema (also pictured below). Both were light yet super tasty – the perfect dishes to match those sea views. Oh and the interior in the foyer and adjoining Terrace Bar were equally as fresh – a colour palette of dusty pink and soft olive green was oh-so-delightful.
We also enjoyed a complimentary continental breakfast in Rick Stein’s signature restaurant. There was so much to choose from – muesli, yoghurt, fresh fruit, pastries, coffee, juices and toast. But if you want something more substantial you can order a cooked breakfast off the menu.
The rooms are super comfortable too, with most having ocean views and a balcony to take it all in. I loved that the interiors were pretty much all white, it’s just a beautiful, clean look that doesn’t compete with that amazing view. I’d totally recommend a stay here and even if you can’t stay the night, definitely dine at one of the restaurants on site (just be sure to book a table – it gets packed out pretty quick).
After hearing rave reviews about The Little Nel, we naturally had to pop in for lunch. With just about everything leaving the kitchen made in-house and from scratch, you can certainly tell when you taste the food! I had the Avocado & Tomato Bruschetta while my partner opted for the Braised Wagyu & Mushroom Pot Pie (both pictured below). He told me it was quite possibly the best pie he’s ever eaten, and mine was equally delicious. When I come back, I’d love to try the breakfast menu!
OAKVALE WILDLIFE PARK
If you’re looking for fun activities in the region, a trip to Oakvale Wildlife Park is in order. Get up close and personal with a range of creatures – from kangaroos to lamas to oh-so-cuddly koalas. I could have watched the koalas all day – they are just the cutest – check out the picture below of the mother cuddling with her baby. Oakvale is a must for families and animal lovers (like myself).