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Chasing Dolphins at Port Stephens, Sydney

Sydney . 2013 . May 22

This post is part of our Sydney 7 days 6 nights Trip Itinerary and Report. Do check out the full itinerary and our reviews here.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come out and have a look at the dolphins?  There are plenty of them around”.

Bottlenose Dolphins (Credits:

I peered up from my vomit bag to look at Tommy as another wave of nausea washed over me.  Silently, I berated myself for ignoring the rational side of me which warned me not to come for this dolphin-watching cruise. Extremely prone to sea-sickness, I had a most uncomfortable experience at a whale watching cruise at Gold Coast, Australia last August.  But as always, the enthusiastic and irrational part of me took over my brain while planning for our Sydney getaway.

“It will be ok!”
“The water will be calm!”
“The whale watching cruise at Juneau, Alaska was fine!” I told myself. 

Excuses, that’s what they all were.  Overwhelmed by the prospect of seeing bottlenose dolphins in their natural environment, it did not occur to me that the rough Australian waters were always too much for my weak stomach to bear.

The day started out fine enough.  The Grayline Port Stephens Dolphin Watcher Cruise that we booked through Grayline picked us up at the Mercure Sydney in the morning, whisking us to the surf beach resort of Terrigal, where we had a morning tea break.  En route, we had a glimpse of the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge for the first time, passed through the North Shore suburbs and crossed the Hawkesbury River, renowned for its oysters.

Leaving Sydney City for Port Stephens.

Crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Crossing the Hawksbury River.

The resort town of Terrigal where we had a refreshing morning break.

After leaving Terrigal, we followed the Pacific Coastline towards Williamtown Air Force Base where we had a lunch break at Murray’s.

Food here was expensive and frankly tasteless, and we regretted not making the effort to prepare our own picnic lunch.  Well, if I had known that my expensive lunch was going to end up in the vomit bag, I might have decided not to eat at all.

 We eventually settled for a pot pie to share.

The surrounding area around Murray's.

Port Stephens - A Place of Natural Beauty

Situated at a 2.5 hours drive from Sydney City, Port Stephens offers a breathtaking view of the natural beauty of unspoiled sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and blue skies.  Home to a population of about 80 wild bottlenose dolphins, the gem of Port Stephens is actually Nelson Bay where the daily Dolphin explorer cruises depart from.

On board the Dolphin Explorer cruiser, I was proud to be the only one on board to spot a pair of dolphins frolicking at the water surface before diving into depths beyond our visibility.  That moment of euphoria did not last long and at that point, I did not know that those would be the only dolphins I see for the entire cruise.

As soon as the cruiser leaves the bay and begins its journey to the outlying islands where bottlenose dolphins were known to play at, the seasickness began to play up, leaving me feeling crippled and trapping me in the inner cabins of the cruiser where it is most stable.  Popping the seasickness pills that I kept close to me did not help at all, since they needed to be taken at least an hour before hitting the water.

Tommy and the rest of the cruise had a most enjoyable time exploring the 360 degrees outdoor deck of the cruiser, watching the dolphins play near the shore.   After a most uncomfortable hour chasing the dolphins, the captain turned the ship around to Port Stephens.  On the return journey, Tommy pointed out a live video footage from our cruiser’s underwater videocam.  It showed dolphins swimming underwater around our ship, a perpetually grin on its face.  At least I got to see some dolphins in action!

Peering around the cabin, I found another lady in a similar situation as mine and passed my pills around to another in need.  Well, I didn’t see much of dolphins, but at least I made a new friend. And the next time I take a cruise, I’ll be sure to pop those seasickness pills at the prescribed time and dosage.

How to Get to Port Stephens

To get to Port Stephens, you may want to refer to the Port Stephens website for more information.

By Car: Check out the driving directions from Sydney to Port Stephens.

By Bus: Check out the bus routes.

Day tours from Sydney City to Port Stephen

Many tour operators offer day tours to Port Stephens.   Some of them, like the one we took include a trip to the sand dunes as well. Do check out the options provided by the various operators below.

Grayline - Port Stephens Dolphin Watcher
Imagine Cruises - Port Stephens Day Trip
Sydney Day Tours Australia - Port Stephens Dolphin Watch
Beautiful Tours Australia - Port Stephens Dolphin Watch

Do stay tuned as we bring you our review of the sand dunes in the second part of the tour!

This post is part of our Sydney 7 days 6 nights Trip Itinerary and Report. Do check out the full itinerary and our reviews here.

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