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TRAVEL & LEISURE

Seven Spectacular Walks, Hikes and Cycling Routes in Port Stephens

Amble your way around the coastal region on your own two feet — or on two wheels.
By Melanie Colwell and Hudson Brown
June 24, 2020
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Seven Spectacular Walks, Hikes and Cycling Routes in Port Stephens

Amble your way around the coastal region on your own two feet — or on two wheels.
By Melanie Colwell and Hudson Brown
June 24, 2020
  shares

SEVEN SPECTACULAR WALKS, HIKES AND CYCLING ROUTES IN PORT STEPHENS

in partnership with

Amble your way around the coastal region on your own two feet — or on two wheels.

Some walks are superior to others. The walk into work on a Monday morning? Obvious pass. And, after the past few months of spending the majority of your time at home, you're probably not that keen on taking yet another walk around your block either. So, if you're looking for a few walks or hikes that are further from your front door (or place of employment), consider the Port Stephens region.

Based just a 2.5-hour drive north of Sydney, this stunning coastal region offers many epic tracks to conquer. They range in difficulty, but they all promise splendid views of the New South Wales coast, native forests and wildlife — and, if you're there at the right time of year, glimpses of sea life, too. Here are a handful that you should add to your to-do list next time you're planning a weekend escape to the region — plus, a couple of routes that you can do on two wheels, too.

While regional holidays within NSW are now allowed, some of the places mentioned below may be operating differently due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.

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    Pretty much every guide to Port Stephens will make mention of the Tomaree Head Summit Hike. And for good reason. The track is steep and has many steps but is thankfully brief — it should take about 45 minutes to get to the top of the rugged peak positioned 161 metres above the port’s entrance to the Tasman Sea. When you arrive, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views over the town and along the coastline from the two viewing platforms. From the south platform you can spy Fingal Island and the lighthouse, while from the north platform you’ll be able to see Yacaaba Headland, Cabbage Tree and Broughton Island.

    There’s a picnic table up there, too, if you’d like to take a break before you head back down. If you want to keep walking, peel away to the Fort Tomaree track to check out the historic gun emplacements from World War II.

    Image: Destination NSW

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    One Mile Beach

    Backed by sand dunes and bushland that conceal the streets and buildings beyond, One Mile Beach feels more remote than it actually is. Just eight kilometres from Nelson Bay, One Mile is a popular destination in the warmer months for beachgoers, particularly those staying at nearby holiday parks.

    But even when the weather is less than favourable for swimming, surfing and sunbathing, the beach is worth a look in for an easy stroll along the sand. Start at the southern end and walk towards Samurai Point — and be sure to keep an eye out for sea life such as whales and dolphins as you walk. Beyond the point is Samurai Beach, a clothing-optional spot, which also has a free campground accessible via 4WD.

    Image: Destination NSW

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    Gan Gan Hill Lookout

    If the Tomaree Head Summit is the best spot for epic views across the Port Stephens region, then Gan Gan Hill Lookout runs a close second. At 160 metres, it’s one of the highest lookouts in the region, boasting views of the bay — which is a whopping 2.5 times the size of Sydney Harbour — plus the headlands, Tomaree National Park and up to Hawks Nest. And bonus: this one is accessible by car via Lily Hill Road, and the car park is just 100 metres from the vantage point with a slight incline. So, if you’re short on time or if there is a wheelchair user in your group, this is the preferable peak to have on your to-do list. It’s also a great spot to enjoy stunning sunset vistas without the danger of walking back downhill in the dark. Basically, if you’re after minimal effort with maximum reward, this is it. If you do want to walk though, it shouldn’t take you more than 40 minutes each way.

    Gymea lily plants grow in abundance — and up to five metres high — at the top of the hill and flower prominently in spring.

    Image: Vishal Makwana via Flickr

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    Nelson Bay to Fingal Bay Cycleway

    If you’d prefer to explore the Port Stephens region on two wheels than by foot, you’re in luck. A bunch of shared pathways exist across the region that’ll take you along the coast and through bushland, parks and the town streets.

    The best ‘bang for your buck’ (well, it’s actually free), is the Nelson Bay to Fingal Bay Cycleway, which links three of the region’s communities via an eight-kilometre route of shared and on-road paths. Starting at Dutchmans Beach, you’ll wind your way through the Nelson Bay foreshore and along the coast past Neil Caroll Rotary Park. You’ll then spend some time pedalling on the road through to Shoal Bay before arriving in Fingal Bay. Here, you find plenty of facilities to enjoy, including picnic spots, a patrolled surf beach and the sandy bank of Fingal Spit. You can no longer pass over the sand spit to Fingal Island, but it is accessible by boat.

    Image: Fingal Spit via Destination NSW

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    Fingal Island Eco-Walk and Lighthouse Tour

    If you were a kid of the 90s, you probably have an innate curiosity with exploring lighthouses fuelled by many afternoons of watching Round the Twist. And on Fingal Island, you can do just that. First things first: it’s not actually an island, but rather an irregularly shaped headland at the northeastern end of Fingal Bay. It’s connected to the mainland via a sand spit but, due to hazardous conditions at the spit, it’s impassable on foot. But you can reach the landmass via boat.

    To make the most of your trip, we recommend joining one of Imagine Cruises’ eco-tours. The tour, which takes approximately three hours, includes a guided walk to some of the island’s best spots, including the legendary Port Stephens Lighthouse. Here, you’ll get to climb the spiral staircase of the sandstone structure, take a peek at the keepers’ quarters, learn stories of its long history and perhaps spy a whale or two from the balcony in the winter months. The tour also includes visits to Government Cove, Shark Bay and a secluded Aboriginal fish trap lagoon — the latter two are great swimming and snorkelling sites during warmer weather, too.

    Image: Destination NSW

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    Worimi Forest Walk

    Worimi National Park is one of the biggest drawcards to the Port Stephens region, particularly for thrillseekers. Most of the credit is given to Stockton Beach, and deservedly so. It’s the longest beach in New South Wales at 32 kilometres, and the enormous mobile sand dunes are primed for quad biking and sandboarding adventures. But the journey to get there is well worth some attention, too.

    Worimi Forest Walk begins at the car park on the Fern Bay Access Trail. From here, it’s an easy 1.4-kilometre stroll (one way) through the Worimi Conservation Lands — a forest of native greenery, including coastal sand apple blackbutt trees, swamp mahogany paperbark trees and old man banksias. Eventually, you’ll pop out at the southern end of Stockton Beach, an area rich with Aboriginal history, including campsites and burial sites.

    Image: Destination NSW

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    Raymond Terrace to Medowie

    Inland from Port Stephens, away from the beaches and coastal tracks and closer to Newcastle Airport, you’ll find the two towns of Raymond Terrace and Medowie. They’re separated by the Grahamstown Dam, which has a cycleway along its southern shoreline. It’s an easy 11-kilometre ride that is entirely off-road, so you can take your time and make multiple stops whenever you need.

    The path starts at the Lakeside Leisure Centre and passes by the Finnan Park Picnic Area, which has toilet facilities and a barbecue if you need a rest — or you can keep pedalling onward to the Grahamstown Aquatic Centre, which has a couple of picnic tables. Finally, you’ll arrive in the small town of Medowie, home to the Medowie Macadamias farm.

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Top image: Tomaree Head Summit Walk via Destination NSW

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