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I based myself at the Best Western Apollo International Hotel in Charlestown, New South Wales & it was a good start-point to tour the Hunter Valley, Newcastle & Port Stephens. It took about an hour to drive to Nelson Bay & for most of the way the road was just straight, running parallel to the coastline.
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I encountered some glitches with my online reservations & instead of getting on a catamaran which I originally booked for; I literally ‘jumped on board’ another boat when I found out minutes before departure time that the catamaran was not running that morning due to maintenance work being done.
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This photo should be aptly captioned as… “Calm before the storm” as it was taken minutes before I made a beeline for the last pier in desperation to board  the cruise. Other than this little unhappy episode, it was a lovely morning where I was able to watch the seagulls take flight & capture  them in motion.
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D’Albora Marinas at Nelson Bay is a nice pier area with shops & restaurants & this is where the Imagine Cruises Booking office is situated. This is the embarkation  point for the Dolphin & Whale watching tours.
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After a mad scramble;  jumping & waving,  I managed to get on the Moonshadow V Supercat  that was just pulling out from the pier.  Phew….it was embarrassing to say the least but I really did not want to miss this exciting opportunity of seeing the dolphins which was an almost guaranteed sighting & mess up my plans for the day. A phone call by the Boat Manager was all it took to sort out the ticketing issue & all was good, so that I could continue with the Sand Dunes tour at Stockton beach  in the afternoon.
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After about 20 mins as the boat sailed towards the open sea, a school of curious dolphins visited us. It takes trained eyes to spot them in the distance but the Boat Captain was really helpful in pointing them out to us.
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At first, all I could see were their dorsal fins as they surfaced about 200-300 m away. If I was not in the know, it would have been easy to mistake them for sharks. But then again if you observe their swim patterns you would notice that the dolphins frolic in the water, diving in & out rather playfully in comparison  to the straight cruising sharks.
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Everyone on board was ecstatic to be this close to the dolphins & I was just musing about how it might have been the reverse  –  where the dolphins  have come to observe this crazy bunch of people get all excited,  clamouring to get the best spot on the bow, busy taking selfies/ wefies & trying  to keep their balance on the rocking boat without dropping their mobiles or cameras into the sea!
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It must have been entertaining for the dolphins as much as it was for us homo-sapiens in this friendly encounter.
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This vessel has a Twist & Twirl Water-slide with a huge boom net for ultimate fun during their 2 hour Splash & Slide Dolphin Watch Cruise which operates during mid Nov till early May.
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Just passing the Nelson Head Lighthouse Reserve where the water is clear & an attractive  turquoise blue but be careful in these parts as the currents are strong & I observed some sections where  the waters was  swirling agitatedly.
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At the upper deck of the Supercat with a good view of the pointy  Mount Yacaaba in the background.
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Nelson Bay, New South Wales, Australia
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Our hour & a half cruise seemed to end all too soon as we headed  back to D’Albora Marinas after all that euphoria.
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After expanding some energy sand boarding at the Stockton Bight Sand dunes, it was time to replenish & we drove up to Nelson Head Light where I was told there is a charming cafe with splendid views of Mount Yacaaba, Boondebah Island & Mount Tomaree.
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The Inner Light Tea Room is such a sweet spot to have breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea & the panoramic view is…priceless!
I had a scrumptious  Chicken Salad which came in a generous portion.
My sweet tooth beckoned…could not resist their lovely Scones paired with Strawberry jam & cream.
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The first light was installed in 1872 & the cottage built 3 years later. It was occupied by the Maritime Services Board until 1985. Since 1990 the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol has been appointed as trustees.
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The Nelson Head Light is different from others as it does not have a tower. Light is shone through the windows of the octagonal  lantern room but it was later mounted outside. In 1946 the light was electrified & evetually  in 1984 it was automated. The original light was just a kerosene lamp mounted on a wooden tower. It was maintained &  lit every evening by Mr William Glover who was also the Telegraph Operator. The light was a white red white sector lamp
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The Inner Light was built on Nelson Head to guide vessels through the Yacaaba & Tomaree Headlands. Before the commencement of the lighthouse in 1875 entering Port Stephens was extremely dangerous. There were records of 44 shipwrecks & at least 40 lives lost as a result.
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We see here a Dolphin Watch cruiser in Port Stephens & can catch glimpses of the occasional dolphins leaping out of the water, delighting the spectators on board. The fishermen in Port Stephens estimate that there are about 160 dolphins living in this bay area which is why dolphin sightings is a common occurence.

If you are anywhere near Port Stephens, remember to do a Dolphin or Whale Watching tour depending on the season. I have seen dolphins following our ship at Milford Sound in New Zealand which was nice but the dolphins pods here at Port Stephens are highly sociable,  love meeting people & actually swim towards the vessels to ‘say hello’!

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