Start: Shoal Bay Holiday Park
End: Zenith Beach / Mount Tomaree summit
Time taken: 2 hours
USP: Amazing wildlife, incredible views, empty beaches
Distance: 5km round trip
The first weekend of October is a long one here in NSW. Three days to escape the city and dive into the countryside. Normally confined to exploring by train (which isn’t a bad thing in Sydney), we took the opportunity to join a group of mates, rent some cars and head North, to Port Stephens and the Shoal Bay area. Only 2.5 hours out of Sydney, if you’re lucky with the traffic.
We just managed to secure the last two pitches at the Shoal Bay Holiday Park. Not a remote campsite by any stretch of the imagination, but an amazing base for checking out the area, with some great walks straight out of the campsite.
One of the best walks in the area was Zenith Beach and Mount Tomaree. They’re both located at the far east of the Shoal Bay headland, around 30 minutes walk from the Holiday Park along the inside of the harbour and past plenty of shops for grabbing coffees and snacks.
Zenith Beach is a small crescent of yellow sand, sandwiched between two high headlands and backed by scrubby sand dunes. On our first arrival the bushes in the dune were hiding a raucous flock of Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo and as we approached the water, a small pod of Dolphins cruised past. Not a bad start!
We visited the beach numerous times over our stay and it was never crowded, with plenty of space to call your own. A few of our group swam out along the northern headland armed with snorkels and came back with stories of Port Jackson sharks (check the footage below). An explore along the southern end of the beach revealed Sacred Kingsfisher and Sooty Oystercatcher.
The track up Mount Tomaree begins right next to Zenith Beach and is best done at sunrise or sunset. Partly for the amazing views and also to make the numerous steps and slopes more bearable in the cooler air temperatures. It’s a well paved and sign posted walk, but there is a lot of ‘up’ to get through before you reach the amazing panoramic views at the top.
Along the way you pass through a Gum Tree forest full of Fig Birds, Pied Butcher Birds and waiting for you at the top, circling Peregrine Falcon and White Bellied Sea Eagle hitching a lift on the thermals. From the top you can see for miles and miles. The hinterland stretching away into the distance, white waves crashing onto Zenith Beach and the stillness of Shoal Bay.
All of this wildlife and beauty within 30 minutes of the campsite puts it pretty high on our list of places to return to.