Enclosed by two volcanic headlands, Port Stephens is both the name of a bay and a town to the north of Newcastle. The area is renowned for its white sandy beaches and protected bushland that makes it a popular holiday destination for locals.

Be sure to make the one-kilometer-long hike to the summit of Mount Tomaree for magnificent views along the coast and the Port Stephens entrance. Pods of dolphins can often be seen frolicking in the offshore waters, as well as migrating whales between the months of June and November.

Gun emplacements and an observation post from World War II are still visible at historic Fort Tomaree, with the opportunity to join a guided walking tour along original patrol paths. Explore the weapon pits and operation rooms that were built to defend the New South Wales’ coastline against the invading Japanese.

A short drive from Port Stephens takes you to the Worimi Conservation Lands that are managed by the local indigenous people. It’s here that the largest sand dune system in Australia is found at the Stockton Sand Dunes, which can be experienced while sand-boarding, quad-biking or on horse and camelback. Also of note is the Myall Lakes National Park that encompasses one of New South Wales’ largest lake systems and is a haven for fishing, kayaking and surfing.

If you want to explore below the water’s surface, nearby Broughton Island has a number of dive sites where you can witness a myriad of colorful fish and swim alongside grey nurse sharks. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the active colony of breeding wedge-tailed shearwaters that nest on Broughton Island’s Little Poverty Beach.