With its pristine waters and white sandy shores, Shoal Bay has long been known as the little sister to the more hip and popular Byron Bay.
But with plenty of activities on offer alongside its stunning natural setting, Shoal Bay is trying to shake off that comparison, and shape itself as the perfect weekend destination.
Located in the greater Port Stephens region, just three hours north of Sydney, it’s a peaceful escape from the daily grind and boasts a host of unique, authentic and remarkable experiences to keep even the most active of visitors busy.
Be was invited to explore Shoal Bay on a weekend trip, and here’s what we tried:
6 things to do in Shoal Bay
Quad biking: I am possibly the worst driver in the world, but nothing was going to stop me from jumping on a big red quad bike and giving it a go.
The Stockton dunes are the largest in the Port Stephens region and let me tell you, if you don’t do it just for the adrenaline rush, do it for the spectacular landscape and ocean views.
Some of the dunes are quite steep, and at one point I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay on my bike, but in no time at all I got the hang of it.
A quad-bike tour from Sand Dune Adventures showcases the stunning, 360 degree views to their best advantage, and also introduces you to the traditional land of the Worimi Aboriginal Nation with its fresh water lagoons and midden sites.
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A camel tour: One Mile Beach is one of the most famous stretches of sand in Australia, and if you don’t want to soak up the sunshine by foot, there are camel rides that run every 20 minutes from the Oakfield Ranch.
This was my first experience with a camel so I was a little nervous, and unfortunately for me, the camel and I started off on the wrong foot.
The closer I got to him, the angrier he seemed to get, so I decided to swap the ride for an Aperol Spritz at the Swell Kiosk.
My fellow tour mates on the other hand, loved the camel riding experience, and enjoyed looking out over the sand dunes at sunset.
Explore your surroundings on a bush walk: There’s a short but invigorating walk to the summit of Tomaree Head which boasts the most spectacular views of the rugged coastline.
It stands 161 metres above the Port Stephens entrance in the Tomaree National Park, and is best enjoyed at sunrise.
Don’t worry, it’s well worth waking up early for, and the incredible ocean views from the top of the mountain will make you feel like you’re on top of the world.
Take to the seas while sailing or paddle boarding: If you prefer a more glamorous approach to adventure, there are luxury sailing charters that explore the Port Stephens waterways.
The ‘Champagne On Ice’ yacht from Blue Water Sailing, will take you to secluded beaches for a quick swim and a gourmet lunch, then sail back while watching the sunset.
There really isn’t anything better than taking in that fresh, salty air and the sound of the ocean while sipping on a glass of bubbly. If you’re lucky, the skipper may even let you have a sail on the way back to the dock!
To get a little closer to the water, try paddle boarding instead.
Gorge on good food: The Shoal Bay Country Club is a lovely place to unwind over a delicious meal and specialty cocktail.
The pub’s got an inviting and breezy feel, with striped pastel umbrellas bringing a cosmopolitan touch to the historical charm of the 1930s building.
If you get the chance, don’t miss out on trying their wood-fired pizzas, or go for a salmon or kingfish ceviche. The menu uses locally sourced produce and seafood so you get a good taste of the region.
Shoal Bay really does have something for everyone and is definitely one of Australia’s hidden gems… well, not for much longer.
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