Port Stephens is a perfect natural harbour and the only all weather refuge between Newcastle and Coffs Harbour. Even then, with a strong onshore wind and an outgoing tide you can have a tricky entrance riding breakers into the calm water behind the heads.
Once inside there are a number of excellent anchorages for yachts and you pick the preferred one dependent on wind and swell direction. The two immediate choices are Shoal Bay, if the weather is from the south, or Jimmy’s beach, on the north side of the bay if the weather is from the north. We once anchored of Jimmy’s in a 25-knot nor-easter and it was incredibly comfortable.
We opted for Shoal Bay this time as the wind and swell was from the south. The holding is excellent and you drop the hook in 3-4 m over sand. Ashore the town behind the beach is pretty chilled and on a Tuesday afternoon there wasn’t much going on. A chemist, IGA, bottle shop and a Fish and Chip Shop are it, so the essentials are covered, but no more. If you want facilities and a bit more life, Nelson Bay is only a 40 min. walk away. Or you can take you boat around and spend a night in the ACI Marina or if you are lucky, pick up one of the three free visitor moorings just off main beach.
The best thing about anchoring at Shoal Bay is the great beach and the easy access to Tomaree National Park. The park has some great trails including the summit climb of Tomaree Head with incredible panoramic views around the area. Lower down Tomaree there are the remains of some WW2 gun emplacements, which Ben climbed all over.
Interestingly, a 20 km Circuit walk is about to be constructed which will meander through the coastal villages and pristine beaches providing series of half day, full day or multi day walking options through the Tomaree NP. Sounds like a good idea as the coastal landscape is amazing.