The new, barefoot luxe Salt at Shoal Bay is directly across the road from the sands of (arguably) Port Stephens' most beautiful stretch of beach and framed by Tomaree National Park. Shoal Bay is on the southern shores of Port Stephens, about three hours' drive from Sydney, and its laidback coastal village is an easy stroll from Salt.
Salt built from the shell of a two-storey 1970s home. Owners Michael and Lauren Charge spilled blood, sweat and tears to create what they considered to be the perfect beach house, in conjunction with family partner Greenbuild Constructions.
Salt at Shoal Bay Photo: The Muse Collective
Salt is divided into two self-contained levels plus there's a third freestanding cottage. Salt One on the upper level sleeps 11 and is perhaps the pick of accommodation, with its neutral palette and dreamy panoramic sea views framed by oversized windows. Salt two on the ground floor (it also sleeps 11) is equally inviting with its light-filled interiors and secluded backyard deck. The adorable Salt three (aka The Cottage) sleeps six.
Each space features enormous windows to capture sunrises and all-day natural light. There are also fireplaces, spotted gum boardwalks, Velux sky windows for star gazing, Webber barbecues and bar zones for enjoying a post-swim Aperol Spritz.
Salt One, Salt at Shoal Bay. Photo: The Muse Collective
We're staying in Salt one and given it's just me and two 10-year-olds, there's plenty of room to spread out. One of the four bedrooms is fitted with custom-made triple bunk beds which the girls adore, although no one's game to sleep on the highest bunk. The aesthetic is coastal luxe, with outdoor showers to step into straight from the beach, luxurious Sarah Ellison lounges, Sisal rugs and Cultiver linen. My favourite spot is the balcony with its view over the languid bay, bobbing boats and the headlands beyond. There's also a light-filtering privacy blind, which comes in handy as there's quite a lot of passing traffic of the wheeled and on-foot variety.
Salt offers stylish full-size kitchens (equipped with the absolute basics), however who wants to cook and clean up on holidays? The Shoal Bay Country Club nearby sports a retro-inspired makeover and offers multiple eateries, a fab cocktail list, a menu concocted by executive chef Atick Elahi and regular live music. Order the blue swimmer crab spaghetti and a jug of sangria and enjoy it on the deck with stellar bay views. The feel is Bondi-esque without the crowds. The Inhouse Kitchen and Little Nel at Nelson Bay both do great coffee and breakfasts; Bub's Famous Fish and Chips, in my opinion, is the best fish and chippo in town. Swing by Two Bob's Bakery on your way through Nelson Bay and pick up a loaf of the incredible sourdough.
Take an early morning dip and stroll along Shoal Bay Beach. For surfing, check out Zenith and Box Beaches or head for Birubi Beach to see the awe inspiring Stockton Sand Dunes. Climb Tomaree Head for commanding views of Port Stephens and the North Coast all the way to Cabbage Tree and Boondelbah islands. Sunset drinks on the deck at the Little Beach Boat House are always a good idea. Most days, dolphins swim by.
This is the ultimate beach house - family friendly and yet seriously stylish. You'll wish you lived here.
From $570 for Salt Three which sleeps six. See saltatshoalbay.com.au
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Salt at Shoal Bay.