We took our time getting ready this morning since we didn’t have to check out. After breakfast, we packed our day bag and headed towards Port Stephens. Point of destination is Worimi Conservation Park where you can find the Stockton sand dunes, the longest at 32 km coastal sand dunes found in the southern hemisphere.
Point of note though, Port Stephens has promoted itself very well as a tourist destination outside of Sydney and has met with lots of success. There is alot more that you can do here but we’ve chosen the sand dunes as this is a unique experience for myself and the children. It is not likely that we’re going to trudge our way through some desert anytime soon so this is the next best thing.
The entrance to the sand dunes is via Anna Bay exit and I was surprised to see that the place has its own amenities on the premise. There is a cafeteria where we had our lunch and all manners of tours that you can sign up for. The first thing we tried was the camel ride. It cost A$45 for adult and child to ride the hairy beast of burden for a 20 minute trek around the dunes. Truly a novel experience – another to add to my collection from horse to elephant and now camel.
Other tours you can try is to take a bus/4WD to deeper within the sand dunes for sand boarding experience. This would cost us A$75 for the whole family. You can also go horse riding for an hour through the reserve for A$80. Theo wanted to try this but as it was a popular sport, all spots have been booked until after lunch.
After a quick lunch of sandwiches, we decided to do a bit of exploring by ourselves and save the A$75 for the 4WD ride. The sand dunes are open to public and can be trekked by foot with pretty much lots of tenacity, which was what we did. Walking on sand is a lot tougher than walking on ground. Each step sinks into the sand and it takes twice the energy to pull it out.
For the children though, this was incredibly fun as they had never had the opportunity to play with sand, sand and more sand in such quantity and freedom. Fortunately for me, they didn’t need further encouragement to muck around and when I told them we were headed for that huge mountain of sand, they almost burst with enthusiasm.
Mid way to the sand dunes though is a muddy track used by the buses and 4WDs to get to the highest dunes for sand boarding. The ground is thus covered with diesel spills so this part was rather icky to tread through on bare foot. The ground is also covered in certain areas with thorny thistles so one has to tread carefully to avoid the discomfort of stepping on it.
And finally we arrived at our very first sand dune. Whoopee!! I hate to admit it but sand boarding is so fun! I was initially a bit hesitant to try it out but it didn’t take long to warm up to climbing the shifting soft sand and sliding down it. Okay, we didn’t bring a board which would have aided the sliding part. So we had to content with rolling down it.
And in the midst of it all, my camera fell out of my pocket and got buried in the sand. Although I managed to retrieve it, the super fine sand had gotten into the lenses and for the remainder of the trip, it couldn’t zoom properly. Drats. Just had to happen the moment I choose to let myself go and become completely crazy.
And that just about ends our sand dune expedition. With a heavy heart, we trekked back to our car and just in time. By the time we got back into our vehicle cleaned of all sand particles from our crevices, it started to pour.
We spent the next hour or so taking a car ride exploring Port Stephens while waiting for the rain to stop. The geography of this town is rather cumbersome. It is goes around a deep bay where its mouth is about 5 km wide. Because of this, in order to get from one side to the other, you have to make a detour of 50 km. Unfortunately unless you own a yacht or sailboat, that’s the only way to get around.
We stopped at Nelson Bay next to catch sight of bottlenose dolphins which according to the guidebook can be seen in abundance within the port itself. Well not exactly in abundance but it was easy to sight them swimming around in the harbour and around the sailboats pulling in to port. These cute little creatures don’t seem afraid of humans at all.
Another creature that has no fear for humans are the seagulls. There is a park near the harbour with BBQ pits and a family was happily cooking their outdoor dinner to the audience of almost a hundred seagulls ravenously eyeing the pit. I have never seen so many seagulls before much less so brave to remain despite the numerous shooing. Certainly reminds me of the movie Finding Nemo – “Mine, mine, mine!”
The harbour area was freezing cold though and all of us were starting to shiver so we sought shelter in a nearby Coles while doing some grocery shopping for the night’s dinner. I found out that cooking bacon provides some oil with which you can cook other stuff. Just a bit. Have to choose the fatty bits though. Ha ha. And that ends our day in Port Stephens.