I went on a holiday to Port Stephens in New South Wales. I was amazed by its abundance of beautiful ocean and bay beaches. I also found the area features some interesting attractions and good food and drink. It is a wonderful place for a getaway.
The holiday was my third visit to Port Stephens and I stayed in Nelson Bay. Port Stephens encompasses the coastal areas of Shoal Bay, Fingal Bay, Salamander Bay and Anna Bay. It is also a good place to visit in cooler months, due to mild weather and little rain compared to Victoria.
Port Stephens is only about an hour's drive from Newcastle and I enjoyed a day trip there. It is also possible to reach Sydney and surrounds as well as the Hunter Valley wine region within a few hours. I often use a scooter or wheelchair and so the main obstacle for me on the trip was needing to use a hire car to get around as public transport is not easily available in the area.
On previous trips, I stayed with family; however on this trip I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the local accommodation. While I was impressed with Amore on the Beach, the sloping block and steps made it impossible for me to access without assistance. However I loved sitting on the apartment verandah in the morning, enjoying tea and raisin toast, and looking over the bay. There is other accommodation in the area that advertises online as fully accessible, such as Woody’s Place and One Mile Beach Retreat.
Drinks and food
I never go to a new place without trying out the local coffee. The Stockton St area of Nelson Bay offers a variety of coffee shops within a short walking distance on a well-paved street. These areas have plenty of space and would be suitable for people with a vision impairment who may have an assistance dog. My favourite coffee shop was Ethica. The Snickers milkshake at Nice in Nelson Towers overlooking the waterfront is highly recommended and both cafes are accessible. The burgers at the neighbouring Flipped were also delicious. I thought they topped those at the gourmet burger chains in Melbourne.
Stockton Beach is an area with an interesting history. The beach is the site of numerous shipwrecks from the late 19th century. The area was fortified against a potential attack from Japanese forces in World War II. During that time it was used as dumping zone for unexploded bombs by training airmen. There are still some areas that are banned from the public due to the danger of explosion. However it is a popular area for dune buggy rides, fishing and camping. Accessibility arrangements can be made on request. Shelley, Bagnalls, One Mile, Stockton and Fingal Beaches allow permit use for those using mobility vehicles.
The Ngioka Centre features a sensory trail with a concrete pathway lined with blooming, fragrant plant species. Next door is the Port Stephens Native Flora Garden. The garden has a gravel path which would difficult to negotiate for some visitors. The nearby beach features a jetty which leads into the water which allows for accessible swimming.
Dutchies Beach was just down the road from my apartment. This is a small beach with a strip of sand only steps away from the calm water of the bay. It also has a shady area where you can lay under the cover of trees. This makes it a great beach for families or those less mobile. However it would be difficult to push a chair across the sand.
The dolphin and whale cruises are a very popular attraction in Nelson Bay. Dolphin or whale cruises run year round and are a great way to spend the day. There are wheel-on, wheel-off ramps on to the boats. I did not go on the cruise on this trip but have done so previously. At that time, I saw a dolphin come up quite close to the boat which was exciting.
Port Stephens is a place where you can have a relaxing holiday, but also enjoy some fun. Access facilities are available at most attractions, which makes it is a great place to go for your next break.