Crows Nest, Nelson Bay, NSW.
Elevated above d'Albora Marinas at Nelson Bay, Crows Nest Apartment has a prime location in the heart of Port Stephens, located 2½ hours north of Sydney. Generations of Australian families come to Port Stephens for its natural beauty, abundant wildlife, oysters by the bay, safe swimming beaches and deep blue waters home to playful dolphins and whales. From the apartment you can watch cruise boats come and go, see fishing trawlers heading out to sea and admire the many luxury cruisers berthed out front. You could get away with not having a car, although if you want to visit other beaches, Tomaree National Park or the Stockton Beach sand dunes, it might prove tricky.
The loft apartment has two bedrooms, an expansive, combined lounge, dining and kitchen area with high, airy ceilings, two bathrooms and a fabulous timber deck looking out over the marina. There are 47 steps leading up to the apartment, which may rule out those with bad knees or mobility issues. Crows Nest Apartment is the only accommodation at the marina and the views are arguably the best in the bay – 180-degree panoramic vistas of boats, pelicans, Nelson Bay itself and stunning sunrises and sunsets.
Crows Nest is well set up for a family or two couples, and sleeps five – the master bedroom has a king-size bed and the second bedroom has a queen-size bed and one king single. Parking is provided in the marina car park. Crows Nest is well equipped and comfortable rather than luxurious, with microwave, dishwasher, large flat screen TV, Foxtel, DVD, Wi-Fi, ducted air-conditioning, internal laundry and more. The decor is nautical inspired, but a tad outdated. There's a spa bath in the ensuite off the main bedroom. The most inviting feature of the apartment is unquestionably the deck – the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine, watch the bustling marina and catch a sunset.
You will need to hire linen for Crows Nest (a family pack costs $75 for three nights). Supplies such as toiletries, washing up liquid and washing powder err on the basic and limited side, but are more than adequate if you're just staying for the weekend. Plastic wrapped soap and sanitary seals across the toilets cheapen the feel of the penthouse apartment. Crows Nest is self-catering so be sure and bring everything with you or stock up on supplies at the supermarket and bottle shop nearby.
Port Stephen's food scene is undergoing a resurgence. Head to L'il Buddha for its traditional Asian menu; the Buddha Lamb and Shantung chicken are popular dishes. Crest at Birubi Beach offers knockout breakfasts (try the smashed avocado with feta on sourdough), excellent coffee and uninterrupted views of Stockton Beach. The Galley Kitchen meanwhile at the Anchorage Port Stephens offers relaxed waterfront dining. Dishes on offer include Port Stephens oysters, crispy leg of duck pancakes, miso-glazed ocean trout brouchettes and heavenly sticky date pudding. If you want to eat in at Crows Nest, there's a fully equipped kitchen and gas BBQ on the outdoor deck.
Everything is right on your doorstep. Take a walk along the break wall to admire the boats and see if the fishermen have caught anything. Directly behind the marina is the main town of Nelson Bay itself. The Little Nell Cafe just up the hill is a terrific spot to have breakfast and coffee. Also check out The Home Interior, a stylish homewares store cum cafe. Walk the foreshore and explore the picturesque beaches of Shoal Bay, Fingal Bay, Wreck and Box Beach. The Inner Light Tearooms overlooking Nelson and Shoal Bay is a terrific spot for afternoon tea. Also don't miss the iconic Bub's Fish and Chips next door to the marina, with seafood delivered straight from the trawler to their door daily.
Ideally suited for a family, or extended family, Crows Nest offers a terrific base for exploring Port Stephens, while also offering a comfortable well-equipped pad to return to at the end of the day.
Crows Nest costs $525 for two nights, or pay $545 for three nights until September (including school holidays) for up to five guests. Teramby Rd, d'Albora Marina, Nelson Bay. (02) 4981 1577. See www.portstephensaccommodation.com/accommodation/1767
Highlight: Taking in the views from the deck.
Lowlight: The restaurant extraction fans outside the apartment were noisy.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Destination Port Stephens.