Travel Whale of a time
Port Stephens delivers on the family fun, writes
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.