Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Shoal Bay, NSW

Just 2.5 hours north of Sydney, the coastal town of Shoal Bay occupies the southern headland of Port Stephens NSW, flanked by Tomaree Natinal Park and has both ocean and harbour beaches.

Known for:

  • Iconic beachside village
  • Impressive bay and beaches (both bay side and ocean side at Zenith Beach)

Shoal Bay

Supposedly named by Governer General Macquarie because of the sand shoals that exist there. A paved walking track leads to the summit of Tomaree Head, rated as one of the top 10 panoramic views in the world. It is a 1.5 hour return walk which includes a visit to WWII gun emplacements.

Shoal Bay has a pristine sandy beach with cobalt blue waters and resident dolphin population. Shoal Bay can be reached by road approximately two and a half hours north of Sydney.

A serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, this quaint town offers a breathtaking tapestry of turquoise waters, pristine sands, and vibrant ecosystems. It’s a place where nature unfolds itself in ways more than one, providing an immersive, rejuvenating experience to all who venture its path.

At Shoal Bay, the beauty begins at dawn. As the sun rises, painting the sky with hues of pink and orange, the bay seems to awaken, stretching out under the morning light. Early risers are rewarded with the breathtaking spectacle of the daybreak, when the coastal vista is nothing short of a postcard view.

One of the highlights of Shoal Bay is undoubtedly the tranquil beach. Here, you can feel the soft sand beneath your feet and the gentle sea breeze on your face. The azure waters are inviting for a refreshing swim, a paddleboard session, or even a leisurely kayak ride. The crystal clear water also offers an excellent opportunity for snorkeling, revealing a vibrant underwater world teeming with marine life.

However, the true magic of Shoal Bay lies in its majestic natural landscapes. The crown jewel is the Tomaree National Park, which is a haven for nature lovers. A moderately challenging hike up the Tomaree Head Summit rewards you with panoramic views of Port Stephens, its surrounding islands, and the vast Pacific Ocean. The sight of the brilliant blue waters merging with the sky at the horizon is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Venture deeper into the national park, and you’ll find a thriving variety of plant and animal life. With a bit of luck and patience, you might spot the elusive koala nestled among the eucalyptus trees or a colourful rosella taking flight. In the spring, the park is adorned with wildflowers in bloom, painting the landscape with a burst of vibrant colours.

Shoal Bay isn’t just about its landscapes; it is also rich in marine biodiversity. Dolphins often grace the bay with their playful presence, and between May and November, the annual whale migration transforms the bay into a theatre of Mother Nature’s greatest spectacle. The sight of these majestic creatures breaching and frolicking in the sparkling ocean is a sight to behold, one that never fails to elicit awe and admiration.

In the evenings, Shoal Bay offers a peaceful respite as the sun begins to set, painting the sky and the sea with hues of crimson and gold. Enjoy a quiet evening walk along the beach, savouring the sight of the setting sun while the rhythmic symphony of the waves sets a soothing background score.

Shoal Bay is more than a destination; it’s an experience, an opportunity to reconnect with nature in its purest form.

Shoal Bay, Port Stephens

Port Stephens is characterized by a large, natural harbor which is over twice the size of Sydney Harbour. It’s also home to two significant national parks: Tomaree National Park and Myall Lakes National Park.

This region also offers a thriving food scene with a focus on local seafood and produce. The area includes a number of restaurants, markets, and festivals that celebrate local fare.

While Port Stephens is often considered a popular holiday destination, it’s also home to several small towns, including Nelson Bay, which is the largest and most well-known.

Things To Do

If the prospect of sun-soaked beaches and panoramic views sparks your wanderlust, Shoal Bay and Port Stephens will be sure to captivate your adventurous spirit. These spectacular coastal destinations offer a wide array of thrilling activities that transform the ordinary into extraordinary. From adrenaline-pumping water sports to serene beach strolls, every corner holds a new adventure to be discovered.

Water Sports Galore

For the water enthusiasts, Shoal Bay and Port Stephens are an aquatic playground. They offer a myriad of water activities such as jet-skiing, stand-up paddleboarding, and windsurfing. Snorkelling and scuba diving are particularly popular, with underwater visibility often excellent, unveiling an array of colourful marine life. Exploring beneath the waves gives you a chance to immerse yourself in an aquatic ballet of fish darting through the coral, with the occasional sea turtle or playful dolphin making an appearance.

Whale and Dolphin Watching

If marine wildlife fascinates you, plan a whale watching tour during the migration season from May to November. The sight of these colossal creatures breaching the ocean surface is unforgettable.

Throughout the year, you can also embark on dolphin-watching cruises or rent a kayak and paddle around the calm waters, increasing your chance to spot these friendly sea creatures up close.

Trekking at Tomaree National Park

Lace up your hiking boots and take the trek up Tomaree Head Summit in Tomaree National Park. This moderately challenging hike culminates in a spectacular panoramic view of the bay and beyond. For the birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, the park is a biodiversity hotspot with numerous bird species and even occasional koala sightings.

Cycling and Quad Biking

Take advantage of the area’s well-developed cycling routes, like the Nelson Bay Foreshore Coastal Walk/Cycleway. The calm streets of Shoal Bay are also perfect for a leisurely bike ride. For a more adrenaline-fuelled ride, go quad biking in the Stockton Sand Dunes, the largest moving coastal dunes in the southern hemisphere.

Fishing and Seafood Dining

Fishing enthusiasts can enjoy the abundance of aquatic life that Shoal Bay and Port Stephens offer. Charter a boat or simply cast a line from one of the quiet, sandy beaches. After a successful day of fishing, what could be better than a seafood feast? Many local restaurants offer delicious fresh seafood dishes, often with views over the bay.

Sandboarding Adventure

Don’t miss out on the unique experience of sandboarding at Stockton Sand Dunes. Whether you choose to sit or stand on your board, sliding down these enormous dunes will get your heart racing!

Beach and Sand Dune 4WD Tours

With over 4,200 hectares of sandy terrain to explore, including the grand Stockton Sand Dunes, the largest moving sand mass in the southern hemisphere, it’s a vast playground for 4WD enthusiasts.

Setting off from the tranquil beauty of Shoal Bay, a Tag-Along Tour offers adventurers the chance to traverse the unique coastal terrain in a convoy led by experienced guides. You get to navigate your 4WD vehicle through the shifting sands, under the clear blue sky, with the constant symphony of crashing waves in the background.

The sense of exhilaration begins from the moment you grip the steering wheel, feel the engine’s hum beneath the seat, and steer the vehicle onto the soft sand. As your 4WD powers through the sandy expanse, leaving behind a trail of swirling dust, the thrill of navigating the challenging and ever-changing terrain begins to mount. It’s a journey that demands as much from the driver’s skills as it does from their spirit of adventure.

The tour is not just about the adrenaline rush, though. As you drive along the sandy coastline, the stunning beauty of Port Stephens is laid bare in all its glory. From the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean lapping the sandy shores, to the grandeur of the sand dunes stretching out into the horizon, it’s a visual feast that complements the thrill of the drive.

In the spirit of a true adventure, the tour also includes the opportunity to try sandboarding, an activity that is as fun as it is thrilling. Sliding down the steep, sandy slopes on a board gives a whole new perspective to the dunes and is sure to leave you with lasting memories.

The Beach and Sand Dune 4WD Tag-Along Tour culminates as the sun begins to set, painting the sky with shades of pink and gold. As you drive back to Shoal Bay under this vibrant canopy, you carry with you the satisfaction of having conquered the dunes and the exhilaration of an adventure well-spent.

Whether you’re an off-roading veteran or a novice eager to experience the thrill of driving on the beach, the 4WD Tag-Along Tour in Port Stephens is a journey worth embarking on. It’s an adventure that combines the thrill of off-roading with the natural beauty of Port Stephens, offering a unique way to experience this remarkable region.!

Relaxing at Zenith Beach

After your adventures, wind down with a visit to Zenith Beach. This serene and less crowded beach at the base of Tomaree Head is perfect for relaxing, swimming, or simply watching the sunset with a picnic.

Shoal Bay and Port Stephens are not just destinations – they are canvases for creating unforgettable experiences. They serve as both a thrilling adventure hub and a tranquil retreat, catering to all types of travellers.

Where To Stay

Shoal Bay Resort and Spa in Port Stephens offers a large range of accommodation including studio suites, self contained one, two and three bedroom apartments, penthouses, villas, the lodge and heritage rooms.

Where to stay?


  • 18-35's
  • Active
  • Caravan and Camping
  • Farm/Station
  • Rural/Country
  • Eco Tourism
  • Food and Wine
  • Historic/Heritage
  • Honeymoon
  • Indulgence/Luxury
  • Mountain
  • Nature based
  • Relaxation
  • Self-Drive
  • Soft Adventure

Popular Activities

  • Off Road Driving
  • Mountain Biking
  • Trail bike riding
  • Bird Watching
  • Bush Walking
  • Canoeing
  • Cycling
  • Go Karting
  • Golfing
  • Mini Golf/Putt Putt
  • Horse Riding
  • Kayaking
  • Lunch Cruising
  • Sailing
  • Scenic Flight
  • Sightseeing
  • Wind Surfing
  • Swimming
  • National Park
  • Quad Bike Riding
  • Scuba-Diving
  • Fishing - Beach
  • Beach
  • Surfing
  • Fishing - Estuary
  • Diving
  • Seakayaking
  • Snorkelling
  • Caravan and Camping
  • Sandboarding
  • Food and Wine

About Shoal Bay

  • Locality: Suburb
  • Shoal Bay Postcode: 2315
  • State: New South Wales
  • Region: Hunter
  • Latitude: -32.72414
  • Longitude: 152.17498
  • Elevation: 12m
  • Population: 1864
  • Median Income: $27508
  • Area (Sq/km): 4.019
  • Timezone: Australia/Sydney

Accommodation In Shoal Bay

Discover some of the accommodation in and around Shoal Bay

Explore The Outback

Australia has a vast remote interior, much of it largely untouched. By night, the outback is deathly quiet, with the only light provided by the stars and the moon - a perfect oportunity for stargazing. Explore the isolated heart of the country, meet and connect with Aboriginal people and experience one of the oldest living cultures in the world. Go ‘walk-about’ and immerse yourself with Australia’s endless outback horizons.

Outback Experiences

Luxe Accommodation

Enjoy a distinctly Australian luxury experience, such as the unforgettable reefs, islands, beaches and coast; rugged mountain ranges, rainforests and vast national parks; and the many vibrant food and wine regions. Take a once in a lifetime adventure and discover the sheer indulgence of experiencing the wonders of Australia in style and stay in total luxury.

Australia has wide variety of accommodation options to suit most budgets and travelling preferences. Choose from luxury lodges, boutique hotels, serviced apartments, motels, bed and breakfasts, caravan parks as well as youth and backpacker hostels.


Glasshouse Mountains

The Glasshouse Mountains in the hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast are actually the cores of 20 million year old volcanoes. The sides of the volcanoes have eroded away leaving only the hardened rock spiremountain cores we see today. Learn more about this awe-inspiring landscape.

Glasshouse Mountains