Just north of Newcastle you'll find the town of Anna Bay, the gateway to the Worimi Conservation Lands and the famous Stockton Sand Dunes. They say no visit to Port Stephens is complete without a sand-boarding adventure. So leaving our shoes in the car at the departure point at Birubi Beach, my wife Denise and I climbed aboard one of the giant 4WD buses to be taken out into the dunes for a morning of sand-boarding.
|That's Denise preparing for her first downhill run at the Stockton Sand Dunes, May 2016.|
We jumped aboard an early morning 4WD Tours R Us tour bus without needing to phone ahead and book. There are many different sized tours on offer, ranging from 4WD quad bike tours to see the shipwreck of the giant 53,000 ton bulk carrier the Sygna that ran ashore trying to reach Newcastle's port in 1974, to 4WD bus tours to visit the abandoned Tin City that dates back to the late 19th Century and was used in the filming of the original Mad Max movie back in 1979. We opted for the seat-of-your-pants sand-boarding adventure.
|Sand-boarding from top peak was a rush. Stockton Sand Dunes May 2016.|
Sand-boarding involves being driven south along the beachfront before being driven over the dunes to the largest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. With sand boards supplied, there is nothing more to do but march yourself up to a height you feel comfortable with, and slide back down to the mobile base camp. After a first-run to get comfortable with how to control your speed, I slugged it back to the very top of the largest dune on offer, and let it rip!
|Birubi Beach at Anna Bay is where the ocean meets the Stockton Sand Dunes. Photo May 2016.|
After an hour-and-a-half of walking back to the top, our legs had well and truly had enough. Content to catch the next 4WD shuttle back to Birubi Beach, we left just as a large Korean tour group was arriving. Although the dunes stretch almost the entire way along the 32 km long Stockton Beach towards the mouth of the Hunter River in Newcastle, the best way to view the Stockton Dunes is from the entrance to the Worimi Conservation Lands at Anna Bay. For the casual viewer wanting to see the dunes for free, a leisurely stroll along the beach will bring you right alongside these massive dunes. However, to feel as though you are surrounded by sand dunes in the middle of the Sahara Desert it is best to take a tour. The sand-boarding tour cost us only $28 Australian per person, and in my opinion was worth every cent! Visiting the Stockton Sand Dunes was something I had always talked about doing, but the sand-boarding adventure was the cherry-on-top.
What I liked: As far as enviro-type tours go, this one was extremely affordable and fun.
What I didn't: Be warned, if the wind picks up you're going to be fighting to keep the sand out of your eyes and mouth. Even on the best of days, the sand is going to find its way down your pants.