An hour's drive north of Newcastle, the sheltered harbour of Port Stephens is blessed with near-deserted beaches, extraordinary national parks and a unique sand-dune system. The main centre, Nelson Bay, is home to both a fishing fleet and an armada of tourist vessels, the latter trading on the town's status as the ‘dolphin capital of Australia’.
Just east of Nelson Bay is slightly smaller Shoal Bay, which has a long swimming beach; a short drive south is Fingal Bay, with another lovely beach on the fringes of Tomaree National Park. The park stretches west around the clothing-optional Samurai Beach, a popular surfing spot, and One Mile Beach, a gorgeous semicircle of the softest sand and bluest water.
The park ends at somnolent surfside village Anna Bay, which is also the gateway into the incredible Worimi Conservation Lands.