FIVE THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN THE PORT STEPHENS AREA:
* QUAD BIKING - A few companies run tours on the sand dunes that are part of the Worimi Conservation Lands behind Stockton Beach. Kids as young as seven can get their own quad bike (only a 90cc bike, which is plenty to give them a buzz). Younger ones can ride with an adult. The Aboriginal guides will point out the culturally significant sites along the way. There's also the option of sandboarding. The dunes are 30 metres high in some places. Beware: it's a fun ride on the way down but a tough climb up to the top of the sand dune
* DOLPHIN AND WHALE WATCHING - there are resident dolphins in the waters around Nelson Bay, which is where most of the boat cruises depart from. Some of the tour companies rate your chances of spotting a dolphin at 99%. You can sometimes even see them from the shore. Or from a distance at the top of Mount Tomaree. For whale-watching, take a cruise past Tomaree and Yacaaba headlands. The cruises normally include a waterslide where you can also lay back on netting which drags through the water.
* BEACHES - there are 26 beaches in the region. Fingal Bay and Shoal Bay generally have gentle waves. They both have long stretches of sand. Fingal Bay is a patrolled beach and has a good kiosk and handy parking. Shoal Bay is a nice town with more eating options. Little Beach is nice and quiet with a playground nearby for younger children. There's also a wharf where dolphins can be spotted from.
* TOMAREE NATIONAL PARK - there are a few fun walk options. The walk to the top of Mount Tomaree is manageable for kids about nine and above as there are a few steps over the 2km return trip. It shouldn't take more than 25 minutes to get to the top. The views are great across Port Stephens and Pacific Ocean. Much easier is a walk along the track to the old gun emplacements that were built during World War II to defend the area from incoming ships. Where the walks start, there's a turn-off to Zenith Beach which is great if you want decent surf.
* CAMEL RIDING - nowhere near as thrilling as quad biking, but something very different. It's not often you get the chance to ride a camel. The ride goes over the sand dunes and into the shallow water of the ocean at Stockton Beach.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: Port Stephens is approximately a 2.5-hour drive north of Sydney.
STAYING THERE: The Nelson Resort is a comfortable and conveniently located hotel in the heart of Nelson Bay.
Beaches, the marina and the town's main restaurants and shops are close by. There's a heated pool with a BBQ area.
For more visit nelsonresort.com.au
For details on activities in and around Port Stephens, check out: https://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/north-coast/port-stephens-area/things-to-do.
* The writer travelled as a guest of Destination NSW.