Travel Whale of a time

Port Stephens de­liv­ers on the fam­ily fun, writes

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - LIFESTYLE - Anita Quigley The writer was a guest of Des­ti­na­tion NSW

SOME­TIMES as par­ents we can have a ten­dency to prom­ise what we have no con­trol in de­liv­er­ing.

Take whale watch­ing for in­stance. For a week lead­ing up to a long week­end away in the gor­geous Port Stephens — just two and a half hours north of Syd­ney — we fo­cused on the big­gest at­trac­tion to Mas­ter three­year-old: “We’re go­ing to see whales,” I ea­gerly told him.

And he, in turn, told ev­ery­one he en­coun­tered that he was off to see whales.

I didn’t think for a mo­ment — well, not un­til we were scoot­ing out of Nel­son Bay to the ocean aboard our fast­cat En­vi­sion — that we may not, in fact, see a whale.

With each swell that lifted us as we scoured the wide, empty ocean, Mas­ter three­year-old asked: “So where are the whales, Mama?” Good ques­tion. It felt like we were try­ing to find Dory.

But within min­utes of our cap­tain idling the engine, ex­cited shrieks emerge from a fel­low pas­sen­ger: “Whale!”

Phew! And as a huge sense of re­lief floods over me, up comes a large spout of water and there was our very first whale — a hump­back no less. Then two of them. A truly amaz­ing and ma­jes­tic sight.

These mag­nif­i­cent crea­tures came within a few me­tres of us, giv­ing clear views of their huge backs and splash­ing their flukes.

In less than an hour, we see about six whales — fab­u­lously ex­hil­a­rat­ing de­spite none pro­pel­ling them­selves fully out of the water like a Na­tional

Geo­graphic cover shoot. And while the whales were our high­light, there is so much else to do around this idyl­lic part of the NSW coast which has 26 golden beaches, a vast blue bay and many tran­quil in­lets.

This is the per­fect lo­ca­tion for a back-to-ba­sics fam­ily hol­i­day. The pre­vi­ous day we had en­joyed a bike ride around beau­ti­ful Shoal Bay.

I had for­got­ten how much plea­sure you can get as a fam­ily from the sim­ple things in life.

A short drive from Shoal Bay you will find Oak­vale Farm & Fauna World. Per­fect for Mas­ter three­year-old who bot­tle-fed a baby lamb and goat, stroked a koala and tot­tered among timid wal­la­bies happy to be gen­tly scratched, tick­led and pat­ted.

Nel­son and Shoal bays have an abun­dance of wa­ter­front cafes, restau­rants and bars to set­tle in for a wine or two and a bite to eat.

Crest Birubi Beach on the north­ern end of the Stock­ton Bight, next to the largest mov­ing sand dunes in the south­ern hemi­sphere, is a great place to start.

It is the per­fect spot to sit and en­joy the view, which in­cludes dol­phins and mi­grat­ing whales.

As does Nel­son Head In­ner Light Tea Rooms. Its spec­tac­u­lar views of Port Stephens make it the ideal des­ti­na­tion to start the day.

We stayed at Shoal Bay’s Ra­mada Re­sort right on the beach­front.

Our spa­cious twobed­room apart­ment had a gen­er­ous open-plan kitchen, lounge and din­ing, plus laun­dry and an en­suite for each bed­room.

While we vis­ited on a crisp, sunny, cool win­ter’s week­end, which meant a trip to the beach was a stroll along the sand rather than a swim, it’s clear it re­ally is an all-year-round des­ti­na­tion.

With that in mind, we’ll be sure to be back in sum­mer.

Whale watch­ing with En­vi­sion Cruises. Right:feed­ing a kid at Oak­vale Farm & Fauna World.

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