Shoal Bay, including Fingal Bay, is a rural and residential area bounded by Port Stephens in the north, the Tasman Sea in the east and south and Nelson Bay in the west.
The area was first settled in the early 1800s, when land was used mainly for farming and fishing. The area grew significantly in the post-war years and new housing has led to recent population growth.
The area is dominated by Tomaree National Park, which conserves over two thousand hectares of coastal bushland, including twenty kilometres of rocky coastline and beaches. There are several bushwalks in the park to vantage points from which you can take in expansive views over Port Stephens and the ocean. Shoal Bay beach is popular in the summer.
Port Stephens is unchallenged in its claim to the title of ‘Dolphin Capital of Australia’ and the town of Nelson Bay is the starting point for many of the cruise and charter craft specially adapted to dolphin-watching. The port is home to almost 150 bottlenose dolphins which take as much pleasure riding the bow waves of the craft with which they rendezvous daily as the passengers derive from watching them at play.
Twice a year the Port also hosts pods of humpback whales as these leviathans of the sea make their migratory journeys north to the warmer waters off Queensland to breed before making the return run back to Antarctica.
On the south-west shore of Port Stephens lies the Tilligerry Peninsula, a tranquil spot surrounded on three sides by water. It is one of the richest koala habitats in NSW, and visitors can keep an eye out for them as they walk along the shoreline, or join a guided tour for an in-depth look at these marsupial creatures.