Port Stephens is a fabulous beach holiday destination not far from Sydney. Just over 2 1/2 hours drive north from the centre of Sydney, it’s perfect for a short weekend getaway from Sydney or a longer stay. But what about if you’re bringing your dog along? I cover everything needed for a wonderful dog-friendly getaway to Port Stephens, from where to stay, to dog-friendly things to do with your pup.
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Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Port Stephens
There are a wide range of dog-friendly accommodation options available in the Port Stephens region.
For starters, many of the local caravan parks permit dogs. The jointly-run Fingal Bay Holiday Park, Shoal Bay Holiday Park and Halifax Holiday Park (in between Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay) permit dogs when staying in your own tent or caravan.
There are exclusion periods including NSW school holidays and long weekends (as is common in coastal areas of NSW), except for the June long weekend and July school holidays. You also need to request permission in advance. For their full pet policy click here.
For something for luxurious, consider the recently opened Bannisters Port Stephens at Soldiers Point. Their ground floor Ocean Deck and Luxury Suite rooms are dog-friendly. Stylishly decorated in subdued tones, these ground floor rooms open directly onto the resort’s garden, plus offer easy beach access. For more information, check out their dog-friendly information.
There’s also many options for individual houses and holiday apartments scattered around the Port Stephens area that allow dogs. These are particularly good for larger groups.
One excellent dog-friendly holiday home is Bay Bliss Getaways. Situated only a few streets back from the waterfront in Nelson Bay, it sleeps up to eight and includes everything you could want, from air-con to a BBQ to Netflix. Pets are allowed inside, but only on the wooden floor areas. There is a cleaning fee surcharge only if fur is found inside. There is also a full-fenced backyard, plus no holiday period exclusions.
Another dog-friendly holiday rental in Nelson Bay is Dutchies. This spacious, well-appointed house sleeps up to six guests, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It’s virtually across the road from the off-leash Bagnalls Beach, plus there’s a fenced garden area. Small dogs are welcome, although you need to bring your dog’s bed.
Dog-Friendly Beaches in Port Stephens
My favourite dog-friendly beach in Port Stephens is Bagnalls Beach, in between Nelson Bay and Corlette. This beach fronts on to the placid waters of the port, rather than the ocean, so its crystal clear waters are always calm, great for smaller dogs.
The beach and adjacent reserve is off-leash 24 hours, meaning that you can visit with your dog anytime of day. Note that Dutchmans Beach directly to the east prohibits dogs.
For a more wild experience, head to Birubi Beach, at the start of the massive expanse of Stockton Beach. Dogs are allowed on the 3km section directly south of Birubi Headland, except for in the patrolled section.
Note however that dogs must remain on-leash, at least in the initial stretch, between 9am and 5pm during daylight savings period (roughly October to March), or 10am and 4pm outside of daylight savings. And keep out of the way of the camel tours and 4WDs!
Unfortunately, dogs are prohibited from many of the other beaches in Port Stephens, including Fingal Bay, Little Beach and Shoal Bay.
Dog-Friendly Parks in Port Stephens
In addition to the above beaches, there are a number of other places in Port Stephens where your dog can run about off-leash. For starters, there are fenced dog parks just behind Fingal Bay Beach, at Lancaster Park in Soldiers Point (open 7am to 7pm) and Coachwood Drive Reserve in Medowie.
Some other good off-leash options for your pup include the South Headland in Boat Harbour, Tom O’Dwyer Oval just a few blocks back from the foreshore in Nelson Bay, and Kooindah Park at Lemon Tree Passage. At Shoal Bay, dogs are allowed off-leash at Marrungbanga Reserve outside of 9am to 5pm.
And of course many other parks and walkways allow your dog to join you as long as they stay on a leash. For further details, refer to this page on the local council website.
Note that a number of sections of bushland at Port Stephens are included in the Tomoree National Park, including Mount Tomaree at the entrance to the port, which has a great walking track to the top with magnificent views of the area. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted in the national parks, not even on a leash.
Dog-Friendly Cafes in Port Stephens
Nearly all cafes in Port Stephens have plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy the sunshine, and will likely allow your dog to join you, as long as they are well-behaved. However, I recommend checking in advance, in case they don’t allow pets (which is at the owner’s discretion) or in case they wish for you to sit in a specific area. Plus, if it’s very busy (frequently the case during the peak summer period), it might not be the best environment for your dog.
One particular cafe that I’ve been recommend as dog-friendly, but haven’t yet had the chance to try, is Lemon Tree Cafe at Lemon Tree Passage. There’s plenty of water bowls for dogs, not to mention a few statues that might surprise your pup. The cafe is open for breakfast and lunch, with affordable prices for great food, although I’ve heard reports the food can take awhile. Afterwards, head to the off-leash Kooindah Park.
Many cafes will offer you takeaway options, in case you want to picnic with your dog in one of the pet-friendly reserves of the area. Another great option is Sharp & Co Platters, who can put together a variety of platter boxes for you to feast on anywhere in the Port Stephens area.
More Dog-Friendly Sightseeing Options
If you have a chance to take a boat out on the beautiful calm waters of Port Stephens, grab the opportunity! This is one of the best ways to experience fully the charm of the area and often your dog can join you.
Port Stephens Ferry Service operates multiple ferry trips across the bay between Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens, taking one hour in each direction. Well-behaved dogs are welcome on board. A popular option is the lunch offer, which includes a return ferry trip plus lunch at the Tea Gardens Hotel, which permits dogs in its outdoor beer garden.
Another option is to hire your own boat or yacht, with dogs often allowed to join you on board – just check with the hire company. Soldiers Point Marina in particular is quite dog-friendly (just keep them on a leash), with “puppy parking” including a water bowl for when you go inside the office.
Don’t also miss stopping at Murray’s Brewery and Port Stephens Winery at Bobs Farm, just 15 minutes outside of Nelson Bay. There is a large outdoor dining area where we’ve sat previously with our dog to enjoy lunch – I particularly recommend the burgers! All menu options include a recommended beer and wine pairing, with many of their beers available on tap for tasting.
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