A range of activities in the area.
Visitors can pursue a range of activities, mostly relating to the proximity of water and the national park: boating, swimming, surfing, wind surfing, waterskiing, diving, fishing, canoeing, bushwalking, bird watching, camping and pursuing the 4WD tracks both north and south of town. There are two caravan parks while, in Tea Gardens, boats and houseboats are available for hire, a passenger ferry departs regularly for Nelson Bay on the other side of Port Stephens, and there are river, lake, fishing, deep-sea fishing and dolphin-watch cruises on offer.
The Visitors Centre
The Visitors' Centre in Myall St, Tea Gardens, which is a large building to your right, 200 m before you reach the bridge, offers a comprehensive account of attractions, activities, tours, cruises, accommodation and bookings, tourist maps, tide charts and fishing guides (see entry on Tea Gardens for more information).
Cross the bridge and head east along Kingfisher Ave. To your left is a reserve noted for its koala colony. There have been further sightings along Mungo Brush Rd and in the National Park.
Hawks Nest Jetty
At the T-intersection a left turn will take you into Myall Lakes National Park (via Mungo Brush Rd) and a right will take you into Tuloa Ave. The first left is Sanderling Ave and the next right is Mermaid Ave where a signpost directs you to the light boat ramp on the riverbank off the middle of Moira Pde adjacent the jetty and south-east of the bridge; a rather lovely spot.
Hawks Nest Beach
Hawks Nest beach is very long and very beautiful. Cabbage Tree Island (26 ha) looms just offshore. It was named after the cabbage tree palms in the two gullies on the island's western side, the only known nesting site of Gould's petrel. The one island in southern Australia to include rainforest habitat it was also the first gazetted flora and fauna reserve in NSW.
It is well worthwhile to walk the two or three kilometres along the spit which separates Hawks Nest from Yacaaba Head, the enormous headland which stands at the northeastern tip of Port Stephens. When you reach the base of the promontory a sign stands adjacent a well-developed path declaring the Yacaaba Head Walk. The path leads around the base of Yacaaba to its pebbly southern side where you can look out across the mouth of the bay to the southern peninsula of Port Stephens. Dolphins frequent an area just offshore from here on a daily basis to socialise and rub their bodies on the smooth pebbles. It is known as Dolphin Hole.
The walk to Yacaaba Head. The sign describes the walk as "difficult". This is an understatement. There are, in essence, three stages. The first is gradual and progresses through some beautiful bush. It reaches a mid-level viewpoint which looks north-west providing excellent views of Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens. From here the walk becomes extremely steep. This part of the walk at first seems to lead to the end of the trail: an alarming thought as the views are terrible. But, if you look to your left you will see the first of a series of white arrows painted on rocks which will faithfully lead you, less arduously, to the apex where the views are breathtaking and all that hard work seems truly worthwhile. Parts of Hawks Nest are obscured by trees but the view to the west over the hinterland across to the mountain range and south along the coast is splendid.
Millions of years ago this was low-lying and relatively flat country until a massive volcanic disturbance thrust the land upwards. Lava, subsidence and millions of years of erosion produced a dramatically undulating landscape of hills and valleys. The headlands and offshore islands represent some of the ancient volcanic peaks from this topography and the rocky outcrops are the product of lava flow. The walk takes about two hours return from the end of Beach Rd and back to your car.
Myall Lakes National Park
Hawks Nest is also one of the main access points for the outstanding Myall Lakes National Park, a 31 562-ha reserve which combines such coastline features as fresh and salt-water lakes, swamps, high dunes, rugged headlands and 40 km of beaches stretching from Hawks Nest north to Seal Rocks . Cross the bridge, follow Kingfisher Ave to its end then turn left. The road is sealed. There are also five signposted beach access tracks for 4WD vehicles which depart from Mungo Brush Rd (they are only permitted south of The Big Gibber).
The park starts 4.3 km north of Kingfisher Ave and there is an information board at this point to help you orient yourself. You can, if you choose, walk the 21-km Mungo Track to Mungo Brush, a popular camping and picnic spot on the southern shore of The Broadwater, the southernmost of the three Myall Lakes where the bird life is prolific. It starts from a signposted spot 750 m along the road from the information board. 8 km from the information board is the start of the Dark Point walk to the right and the Wallflower Walk to the left (directly opposite). The former leads over a series of vast, denuded and impressive sand dunes, past an ancient Aboriginal midden to an absolutely beautiful and unspoiled bit of coastline looking out over Broughton Island. Both Broughton Island and the waters off Little Gibber are noted diving spots. The former is a good spot for fishing, bushwalking and relaxing. Camping is permitted and there is a toilet, an emergency radio and some drinking water. However, access from Tea Gardens is only in the peak period and then is not guaranteed. Nelson Bay are a more certain bet but only in summer. Otherwise you must make your own way. Little Broughton Island is an important breeding location for a number of birds. The Wildflower Walk, and the park in general, are best between August and October.
The Mungo Brush Rainforest Walk is a shorter 30-minute trek from the picnic site at Mungo Brush campsite (14.1 km from the information board). For more information on Mungo Brush and the park in general see the entry on Myall Lakes. Experienced guides can be hired for all local walks, tel: (02) 4997 0872, or phone the visitors' centre.
Fishing is, of course, very popular around the jetties and stone walls, the bridge and Yacaaba Head. Boat-fishing yields whiting, flathead and flounder in Pindimar Bay, to the west, and the ocean beaches are good for surfing and surf fishermen. Crabs can be found in the river and its mouth in season and, for those more interested in the eating than the catching, there is fresh seafood aplenty (the area is well-known for its oysters).
Special Events at Hawks Nest
The Myall Prawn Festival is held at Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest in March. It includes the World Prawn Eating Championship (the record is 1 kg in 5 minutes), a raft race down the Myall, the Mungo Cup Boat Races, rowing events, a fun run, sand modelling, a tug of war, an art exhibition and sale, a mardi gras, stalls and plenty of food.