Whilst browsing an Australian Instagram account one day, a photo of endless untouched sand dunes caught my eye. I quickly did some research and discovered that they were Stockton Sand Dunes, just outside of Sydney in a place called Port Stephens. How did I not know that there was a whole Sahara Desert equivalent practically on my doorstep!?!
Port Stephens is a two and a half hour drive north of Sydney. It took me more like three and a half hours due to a few wrong turns (ok, maybe more than a few). Yes, I do use Google Maps and no, I can’t explain how I vcll manage to get lost. I stayed for a couple of nights mid-week near Birubi Beach in Anna Bay, which was the perfect amount of time for a visit. The first couple of days were windy. And by windy, I mean the kind of wind where you can barely open your car door without it almost blowing off, but luckily the last day was perfect weather.
Stockton Sand Dunes are the largest moving sand dune system in the Southern Hemisphere and the original Mad Max movie was filmed amongst them. On a side note, I recently watched ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and have honestly never been so bored watching a film in my entire life. Seriously, how on earth does that film have an 8.1/10 rating on IMDB and 97% on Rotten Tomatoes!?! Admittedly, it’s not my favoured genre of film, but still…Anyway, Stockton Sand Dunes did not disappoint. They were every bit as sprawling and phenomenal as I was hoping. I stuck to wandering around the dunes myself, mostly without a single person in sight, but there are many dune-based activities on offer, such as horse rides, camel rides, dune boarding, four wheel-drive tours and quad biking.
To see 360-degree panoramic views of Port Stephens and its coastlines, climb Mount Tomaree at Shoal Bay. Fortunately, this is less daunting than it sounds and the return walk took me less than an hour, including staying at the top for a fair while to take photos and absorb the view. Right next to Mount Tomaree you have Zenith Beach and Wreck Beach. I went fairly early (at around 8am) and had both beaches entirely to myself. They have a kind of rugged feel to them; surrounded by huge mountains and hills. A little further on from Wreck Beach, you’ve got Fingal Split which is a sandbar that you can walk across at low tide to Shark Island.
Seeing Stockton Sand Dunes made me realise, yet again, the diverse landscapes that Australia has to offer and how lucky I am to live here.