Last weekend I finally got organized and went to visit a friend at his beach hideaway in Anna Bay on NSW North Coast. Part of Port Stephens shire, Anna Bay is a popular destination for beach holidays about a 3-hour drive from Sydney. And with Australia’s famously sunny weather, even the beginning of winter is a good time for a beach holiday.
Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle
The getaway to the North Coast is the city of Newcastle. I stopped for a quick visit to Nobby’s beach to see if the elephant seal that was spotted there the day before was still around. Elephant seals rarely make it to Australian coastline, so a chance to see one was not to be missed.
The seal, however, did not wait for me, but what I got instead was gusty wind that threw sand and sea spray around at 40 km/hr. It was a miracle I didn’t get blown away into the sea.
There was a White-bellied sea eagle soaring above and at the end of the northern end of the beach, some Crested terns were rocking a bad hair day.
Later in the day, the wind blew in a biblical storm. Coming from Newcastle, my friend and I drove through a solid wall of rain for about 20 minutes. By the time we got to Birubi Point at Stockton beach, the sky looked like the world was about to end.
Stockton beach is epic even for Australian standards. It stretches for 32km (20 miles) from Newcastle to Anna Bay. It is as wide as 1km across in some areas and has sand dunes that tower to up to 30 meters high. Of course, I couldn’t see much of it – it was concealed beyond the dramatic veil of an angry storm.
The best thing about storms and cyclones is their striking beauty in the brief periods of calm between their fury. And this particular storm was hanging over the vast expanse of a sandy beach and looked more like a dust storm then a rainstorm.
For lunchtime entertainment we were offered the view of the dramatically changing sky as the storm crept over the ocean, dragging the tail of distant rain.
We were quite happy to go with the program and spend the rest of the day chasing the storm across the various lookouts along the beach.
Anna Bay has a rugged rocky coastline and the angry weather was making it look more like the Scottish Highlands than an Australian beach town.
Throughout the day, I hoped that one of those calm periods would fall around sunset and we might see an epic sunset, but by late afternoon the sky turned very dark and slowly turned into the night.
The next morning, I spent exploring on my own. I followed various paths along the rocky coastline and even found some wildlife to entertain myself. It’s been raining on and off since I got here, but the coastal birds seemed to be taking it in their stride.
I watched a group of cormorants chilling out on the rocks while being constantly rained on and hit with the spray from the surf.
Nearby a few sooty oystercatchers were snoozing on the rocks and a Heron hunched up behind a large boulder. A White-bellied Sea eagle soared overhead as Australian garnets dove for fish like winged arrows.
There are quite a few trails running along the cliffs in Tomaree National Parks. If you are surefooted enough, you can walk from cliff top to cliff top, but take care not to slip, there are no guard rails here.
If you are not sure which walk to take, head for the Tomaree Head Summit walk. It’s an easy hike you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over Port Stephens, Broughton, Cabbage Tree and Boondelbah islands nature reserves.
Things to do in Anna Bay
There’s no shortage of beaches in Anna Bay to laze away the day. The one-mile beach is the most popular for swimmers and surfers alike.
Tomaree National Park
Explore the rugged coastline of Anna Bay by walking the trails of Tomaree National Park.
Stockton sand dunes
The sand dunes of Stockton beach are the largest mobile sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. Each year, the dunes shift north by approximately 4 meters. There are a number of activities available in Anna Bay to explore the dunes.
Camel rides at Oakfield Ranch
Ride a camel across the sand dunes and along the Stockton beach. You can do a 20 min ride at any time of the day for $30 ($25 for kids) or opt for an hour-long sunset ride. The rides start at Birubi Point public carpark.
Port Stephens 4WD Tours
Spend a couple of hours exploring the dunes by 4WD and go sandboarding. Prices start from $28
Sahara Trails Horse Riding
Explore the dunes and the surrounding National Park from the horseback. The 1hr rides start from $55 (www.saharatrails.com/horse-rides.php)
Combine the sand dunes with Whale watching for a full day adventure
How to get to Anna Bay
You can take an organized tour from Sydney to spend the day exploring Stockton sand dunes and Whale watching.
Anna Bay is 200km north of Sydney and can be reached via a 3-hour drive along M1