Several operators offer dolphin- and whale-watching cruises. Some of the best are aboard the Imagine (tel. 02/4984 9000; www.imaginecruises.com.au), a 15m (49-ft.) catamaran operated by Frank Future and Yves Papin, two real characters. They offer a daily Island Discovery trip that includes dolphin-watching and a trip around the offshore islands. The 4-hour cruise departs from D'Albora Marina in Nelson Bay from Thursday to Sunday at 12:30pm from mid-December to March only. It costs A$65 for adults, A$25 for children 1 to 17, and A$145 for families, including lunch. Three-hour whale-watching tours cost the same and operate twice-daily during the season. A 2-hour dolphin-watching cruise operates two or three times every day between mid-November and the end of May. It costs A$30 for adults, A$15 for children ages 1 to 14, and A$72 for families. If you happen to be around on the weekend nearest a full moon, ask about overnight Full Moon Tours. For something really special, go on a Swim with Dolphins Tour. This operates most weekends all year round and costs A$229. You can just watch the action for A$60 (minimum age of 12).
Several other operators offer good dolphin-watching tours, including Moonshadow Cruises (tel. 02/4984 9388; www.moonshadow.com.au). This company also offers lunch and dinner cruises, as well as opportunities to sand board at Stockton Sand Dunes (A$23 adults, A$18 children; A$66 family), or take a 4-wheel-drive tour of the sand dunes (A$48 adults, A$28 children, A$126 family), which also includes sand boarding.
The Port Stephens Ferry Service (tel. 02/4984 1262) operates delightful ferry journeys between Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens township several times a day. It takes 1 hour each way and you're likely to spot dolphins. Two-way cruises cost A$20 for adults, A$10 for children 5 to 17, and A$50 for families.
Through the Dunes on Horseback
You can ride a horse through the dunes with Sahara Horse Trails (tel. 02/4981 9077; www.saharatrails.com). The barn is on Port Stephens Road, before you reach Nelson Bay. Sahara Trails also has accommodations options. A 1-hour trip costs A$50, and a half-day beach and dune excursion is A$120. There are other options too. Bookings required 1 day in advance.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.