It’s a simple enough premise. Scale a 30-metre mound of soft sand. Grab a piece of plastic. Sit on said plastic with your knees up for balance and your fingers trailing behind you for some semblance of control. Go! Fast! Repeat!
There’s so much in store at Port Stephens with kids. More than just one of the prettiest coastal regions in Australia, with dozens of golden beaches and a pretty blue bay, the glorious area is also the gateway to The Worimi Conservation Lands (Stockton Bight Sand Dunes), Australia’s largest coastal dune system and the perfect spot for an adrenalin packed weekend of sandy fun.
Covering an area of 4,200 hectares along 32kilometres of coastline from Stockton, to Anna Bay, “Hanging ten” (or, in my case, tumbling like an ungainly klutz until every last orifice is filled with sand) on the dunes is without doubt, an absolute blast.
But it does have its shortcomings … the muscle straining climb back up the dunes being one of them. So, sandy adventures where someone, or something, else does all the climbing for you are more my speed! With the choice of camel or quad bike, we decided to do what any self-respecting yahoo would and choose both.
We helmet up and climb aboard a caravan of camels to ride through the Worimi Sand Dunes with Oakfield Adventure Camel Rides at Anna Bay.
The kids love their smelly new pals, Jaffa and Stumpy, though mostly I think due to the fact that Jaffa continually tries to bite my arse as we plod through the dunes swaying in time to the camels’ ungainly gait.
But the real winner of our sandy adventures is our Quad bike tour with the team from Sand Dune Adventures, run by members of the Worimi Aboriginal people, who own and protect the dunes. Hooning across the Sahara-like desert of sand on the 90cc quad bikes (safety training and guides are provided), the kids whooping and hollering as they hang on behind us, feels like we’re competing in the Dakkar rally!
And when our time is up, Raffles, Sugarpuff and their daddy, are begging to do it all over again.
So what else does a family of adventurers do in Port Stephens when they’re not playing in its giant sandpit? Turns out there’s plenty more to do in Port Stephens with kids…
Take a leap off Shoal Bay Jetty
Is there anything more fun than jumping off a jetty? Raffles and I took the leap off Shoal Bay Jetty, while Sugarpuff busied herself with stalking seagulls on the beach.
Enjoy the delights of the Shoal Bay Country Club
Country Club that is. The iconic Shoal Bay Country Club (SBCC), dating back to the 1930s, is an airy and bright entertainment destination without sacrificing its historic charm. Besides bars and restaurants there’s a lovely cane lounge, and a cool kids’ play area with integrative gaming and dedicated activities, plus live entertainment day and night.
I was pretty chuffed to discover Spy V. Spy were playing at the SSBC while we were there. It was awesome introducing my own little rock and roller to one of his mama’s first favourite bands. Though I thought it best to give the moshing and stage diving a miss this time around.
Devour fresh local food
We gorged ourselves silly at The Kitchen and Patio, an airy upstairs bistro at SBCC three times, tasting our way through a menu that has everything from pasta and premium cuts of meat to extraordinary seafood platters and smoky wood fired pizzas. But more on that here….
Stay at the Ramada Shoal Bay
When it is time to kick back, Ramada Shoal Bay (right next door to SBCC) offers luxury apartment style accommodation that is just perfect for families. With its massive lagoon-style swimming pool and fountain and indoor mineral baths, it was hard to tear my little fish away. But when we did we were able to borrow bikes from the hotel to explore the area. There are some great family friendly cycle paths in the area.
Take a hike
After gorging on eggs Benedict and the biggest and the best crispy bacon and eggs rolls at Mermaids, a cool 50’s style café at SBCC, we took the half hour hike to the top of Tomaree Headland Lookout for epic views of Port Stephens and its islands.
Set sail on an afternoon yacht cruise
An afternoon yacht cruise with Blue Water Sailing saw us exploring the pristine waters of Port Stephens, accompanied by a couple of very cool wake busting dolphins. Just two of the more than 140 bottlenose dolphins who call Port Stephens home.
Catch a Port Stephens sunset
Because there’s nothing that says holiday quite like playing in the sparkly reflections of a sunset at a postcard-perfect beach like the one at Shoal Bay.
Disclosure: While our visit to Port Stephens with kids break was kindly hosted by The Shoal Bay Country Club and Port Stephens Tourism, all scoffing, leaping, rock’n’rolling, and opinions are, as always, our own.