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Spotlight: Little Beach at Nelson Bay, Port Stephens

….but not ‘Little’ in the many things it offers.

When we were looking for our “ultimate” place to live many years ago, we wandered into Port Stephens and found a caravan park right next to a beautiful, tucked-away beach, called Little Beach. We spent a glorious week at Halifax Point Holiday Park and we extended our stay to another week. Our daughter made friends with others on travelling adventures and holidays, and she also learnt to ride her bike without the training wheels with the encouragement of a “much older” 7-year-old (thanks Belinda from Cessnock!) Beryl and Bill from Burleigh Heads (as beautifully scripted on their caravan) had little lolly bags that they handed out to kids as it was close to Christmas. It was such a wonderful holiday that holds such precious and special memories for our family.

As for us, Little Beach holds a very special magic for locals and visitors alike. It is a place for families, friends and social gatherings. It is a bay-located beach that is calm and restful, inviting us to pause and look (at an absolute minimum), and more so, to swim, build sandcastles, kick a ball, play, wander, rest, sunbake and enjoy the company of loved ones and friends at the beach-side areas.

Little Beach is located by car by driving through Nelson Bay, along the bay side road (Victoria Rd) and then continuing straight along Victoria Road, it narrows here at the point where the road bends right to go to Shoal Bay. The road hugs the hill and water’s edge above Fly Point and then joins Dixon Road, leading you to Little Beach Reserve.

How to get to Little Beach

If you are staying in the area, do take a walk, or cycle, to Little Beach, from Nelson Bay, along the combined walk and cycle track as the views of the bay around Fly Point, especially through the filtered trees, are truly worth it! Alternatively, there is also a walk and cycle trail from Shoal Bay end, and the chance to skirt Shoal Bay beach on your way to Little Beach.

From the Nelson Bay (Fly Point) end, most of Little Beach forms part of the Port Stephens Marine Reserve and so there are informative signs along the way, explaining the features of the reserve and the under water animals that live there.

Fly Point Reserve

You will also find some stairs down to the rock area, and this is also a very popular snorkelling and dive spot, to see the underwater wonders the area has to offer. The local dive centres take guided tours of the area and if you are lucky, you may even get the chance to see a seahorse or two! For more information, check out the experts at Let’s Go Adventures and Feet First Dive.

Fly Point dive site

Continuing along the walk to Little Beach (and if you do have time) take a walk through the gardens located on the right-hand side of the road and walkway. Port Stephens Flora Nature Reserve has a number of tracks that wander through the reserve, with signposting of the many local, native plants that have been lovingly planted in the area. For garden lovers, this is a must to see the local flora in the Tomaree Peninsula.

Port Stephens Native Flora Gardens map

And now finally, to Little Breach!

This beautiful beach is such a delight at almost any time of day. Little Beach is such an ideal spot for families and especially for little ones, with its sandy beach and gently lapping waters. The beach also has buoy markers to stop boats and other watercraft from getting too close to the swimming area, allowing for worry-free swimming, especially for kids. Our daughter gained much self-confidence with her swimming at Little Beach before ‘graduating’ to other beaches in the area.

Little Beach is safe swimming, especially with the buoy markers

Along with the main beach area of Little Beach, the beach also extends to the northern side, beyond the wharf and boat ramp area. It also has wonderful views of the bay and provides safe swimming for families, though this area is not netted. This end of Little Beach is generally a more quieter area and there is some very limited parking near here but it is on a gravel and sand road. Enjoy exploring the rocks and rock pools at the far end of the beach.

Little Beach also has disabled ramp access, which is located at the southern end near the jetty, that allows for wheelchair access into the bay and so it is a beach that has easier access than some of the others in the peninsula area.

The northern end of Little Beach, towards Halifax Point

Is the beach patrolled?

No, Little Beach is a bay-side beach and it is not patrolled. While it is generally considered family-friendly and great for little ones, the normal care and precautions need to be taken for any type of swimming at the beach.

Snorkelling options?

Little Beach is also a great place to explore the waterways and also to gain confidence in snorkelling. We often see people snorkelling around the southern wharf and also the rock areas around Little Beach Boathouse. The water is clear and shallow, making it ideal to explore the underwater life.

Picnic or barbecue anyone?

The grass parkland area next to the beach makes it perfect for families and friends to gather and, because of its many facilities, it is such a popular location for a ‘Day at the Beach’. Put up a shade cover, lay out the rug and beach towels, play a game of footy on the beach or Fiska on the reserve and enjoy a picnic lunch or barbecue. There are also picnic tables dotted along the park reserve, as well as barbecue facilities – though not many – so ensure you grab a barbecue early for lunch or dinner. Little Beach also had an easily accessible toilet block with a disabled toilet.

Little Beach also showing the southern jetty and disabled ramp access

Need a break from swimming?

Along with the many delights we all enjoy at the beach, a playground is located at the southern end of the beach so there is simply so much to do for kids! Wander down to the northern end of the beach, towards the jetty and boat launching ramp, as you are sure to spot the local pelicans who love to gather around the ramp and fish cleaning area, in the hope of an ‘off-cut’ or two! The pelicans are a delight to watch especially when they fly off and land back on the beach; the grace of such a large bird is truly spectacular.

Little Beach Jetty, northern end near the boat ramp

Although Little Beach is part of the Port Stephens Marine Reserve and is a protected area, land-based line fishing is available in the Little Beach Habitat Protection Zone. There are 2 jetties located at Little Beach and kids can enjoy dangling a line off the jetty and also see the fish that gather around and under it.

Little Beach fishing areas (courtesy Port Stephens Marine Reserve)

Feeling hungry?

Little Beach also offers options for takeaway, lunch, snacks or even a drink or two! Ever popular Little Beach Boathouse Restaurant is located at the southern end of the beach – bookings are required and it is more for formal dining – while Below Deck is their casual dining area.

We enjoy going to Below Deck later in the afternoon for a late lunch – we find share plates are the best option – along with one of their special cocktails or mocktails. The view over the Bay is outstanding; it is one of our special casual dining spots and even more so because it is dog-friendly too! Also, be on the lookout for dolphins swimming and frolicking around the deck area.

Below Deck is also dog friendly!

For takeaway fish and chips, a hamburger, icecreams or drinks, wander around to Bites on the Bay near the Halifax Holiday Park – it has the basics covered. Disclosure though: that the service is a bit mixed here so patience is the key.

And there is still more!

The other highlight of the Little Beach area is the Inner Lighthouse Reserve and Museum at the northern end of Little Beach. A winding single lane (two way) road leads up to the reserve and there is limited parking (plus disabled parking and access) at the top. The views are so breathtaking of the whole of Port Stephens in all directions! Many weddings occur in the reserve area due to the picture-perfect backdrop. Wander along the lower path that meanders around the edge of the reserve for more great views of the bay.

The museum explores the history of the Nelson Head Light, also known as Nelson Head Inner Light, and the role it played in ensuring the safety of boats and ships in the area. The reserve also holds the Marine Rescue Port Stephens centre, a voluntary organisation that provides radio, rescue and search responses for the community.

The museum is also home to the delightful Inner Light Tea Rooms, so lovely for breakfast, lunch, and morning or afternoon tea. It is very popular so do try to make a booking, especially on weekends or in peak times.

Inner Light Headland reserve and Innerlight Team Rooms

So where is the parking located at Little Beach?

Parking is all day near Little Beach (not metered) and it is generally easy to find a parking spot except for key peak periods. Near the park end of the beach (southern end), dedicated disabled car parking spaces are also available. A small car park is also located near the kiddies’ playground as well as a larger car park along Dixon Road, heading back toward Nelson Bay.

Parking near the boat ramp is only for parking with boat trailers so avoid parking in these areas, if you only have a vehicle. Rangers patrol Little Beach often for parking as well as fishing licences and fish size. The requirements of the area are well sign-posted, so be prepared.

And finally, one of our favourite times at Little Beach is definitely in the glow of the late afternoon. The beach faces west so the magic is the sun slowly moving down to the horizon when the glare slowly subsides and the views of the bay simply ‘glow’. The sunsets are also breathtaking at Little Beach – every time it takes our breath away!

Little Beach Sunset

Need any more information?

Feel free to contact us about anything you may wish to know about Little Beach or if you have some Little Beach hints and recommendations that we have missed, we would love to know them!

Interesting fact too – did you know?

Fly Point was the location of HMAS Assault in World War II, a naval base responsible for the training of boat crews, landing parties and commandos to man assault landing craft that were using the campaigns across the Pacific. The Port Stephens Community Art Centre is housed in the original ‘sick bay’ that was erected during that time and it later became the local hospital. The naval base was converted into a migrant centre and camp that housed many war-displaced migrants from World War II until 1956, and a monument commemorating HMAS Assault and the service provided by the base, can be found at the east end of the reserve. More can be found out here: HMAS Assault Memorial and history.

HMAS Assault monument, Little Beach, Nelson Bay