Beachside bliss at Bannisters, Port Stephens in NSW, Australia

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Beachside bliss at Bannisters, Port Stephens in NSW, Australia


Fans of chef Rick Stein, seafood lovers and people trying to find the right beachside weekend getaway, it’s time to pack your baggage.

A two-and-a-half hours north of Sydney, on the East Coast of Australia, is the gorgeous seaside vacation spot of Port Stephens – over 30km of white, sandy seashores, pristine waters, fabulous nationwide parks, beautiful sand dunes, coastal walks and tiny cities, all wrapped up in a terrifically laidback life-style.  26 beautiful seashores and an impressive bay, the native space is a blue water paradise.  World-class surf breaks, scuba diving with gray nurse sharks, swimming with wild dolphins, snorkelling in quiet bays, sightseeing cruises, jet boat pleasure rides, and quad bike excursions – Port Stephens is all about family-friendly enjoyable. But for many who love to do completely nothing on vacation, and do it in fashion, then Bannisters Port Stephens is the right vacation spot!

Port Stephens will not be a city in its personal proper, however slightly a set of relaxed coastal neighbourhoods, every providing one thing a bit completely different, together with Nelson Bay, Anna Bay, Shoal Bay, Fingal Bay, and my private favorite Soldiers Point, a picturesque peninsula and sleepy bayside hamlet on the southern shores of Port Stephens,

In 1826 a small garrison of troopers was established at Friendship Point to seize escaped convicts. The garrison was later deserted and Friendship Point was renamed Soldiers Point. It’s now often called the very best spot for sunsets in Port Stephens, with beautiful waterways, secure swimming seashores and an award-winning marina that draws yachts from across the globe.

Family holidays to Soldiers Point started once I was very younger. Packed into the again of the automotive, with my youthful sister and two very bushy spaniels, it appeared like an limitless journey and I might inevitably get car-sick someplace en route. My sister and I might battle over the armrest and my dad and mom would shout to us to cease bickering. We have been scorching and sticky, we have been drained and irritable. These are the issues childhood recollections are made from!

But as soon as we arrived all that was forgotten instantly, swept away within the pleasure of being on vacation in our favorite place! We’d spend the summer time in an antiquated picket home, with a wrap-around verandah, in true previous Australian colonial constructing fashion. We drew straws for who’d get the privilege of sleeping out within the tiny screened-in part of the verandah that served as an additional bed room. The entrance steps of the home led straight to the seashore, and we’d disappear down onto the sand for hours at a time, solely returning because it acquired darkish. Parental supervision was minimal, this was many years earlier than ‘helicopter parenting’ existed. We shaped ‘gangs’ with different children on the seashore, and spent hours collectively trying to find shells and looking out in rock swimming pools. Saturday afternoon we got 20 cents to spend on the native store and would spend an age deciding which of the sweets to spend the cash on, rising hours later with a small paper bag with our ‘mixed lollies’. Saturday nights there was at all times a film on on the group centre and almost the entire city would flip as much as watch it, it doesn’t matter what was displaying. We watched pelicans fishing with their outsized beaks and realized to fish ourselves. We hand-fed the colorful rainbow lorikeets that landed on the verandah every time somebody went exterior. We swam and made sandcastles, embellished with shells, seaweed and driftwood. Family barbeques have been an virtually day by day ritual and somebody, normally me, would inevitably lose a sausage to a artful kookaburra that had swooped in simply because the sausage was on its strategy to my mouth! These have been a few of my happiest days. But I grew up, moved away, moved on, moved abroad, and left these summers at Soldiers Point behind.

Now, 40 years later, I used to be returning. Having lived in Zambia for properly over 30 years, I used to be making one in every of my rare visits again to Australia to see my dad and mom. Time was quick, however I used to be decided to revisit the Soldiers Point of my childhood. I hopped within the automotive and headed up the street, and down reminiscence lane.

The previous winding, car-sick-making, freeway was gone, as an alternative, a three-lane expressway sped me alongside, sooner than I used to be ready for. I missed my turnoff and spent a while ‘finding myself’ within the streets of Newcastle, earlier than a pleasant bystander acquired me again on observe. Pulling into Soldiers Point I used to be pleasantly stunned to see some issues hadn’t modified. Some issues although have been unrecognisable. The group centre was nonetheless standing, although no Saturday evening movies gave the impression to be marketed. The nook retailer with the sweets was not. The wharf the place I’d learnt to fish was nonetheless intact, however the home with its wrap-around verandah was gone. What was additionally the identical, however completely different, was the previous Salamander. The as soon as down-at-heel, sixties motel, Salamander Shores, had by no means appeared so good in my youth. But it was the Salamander not. Transformed, many tens of millions of {dollars} later, right into a four-star luxe retreat for foodies, Bannisters effortlessly captures the coastal attraction of Port Stephens, completely packaged into a contemporary lodge, and this was the place I might be spending my weekend.

Bannisters Port Stephens opened in late 2018. This is the second location for the Bannisters group, which started in 2002 when media entrepreneur Peter Cosgrove renovated a seventies motel at Mollymook, a tiny city on the coast, three hours south of Sydney. But Bannisters by the Sea by no means actually took off till Cosgrove welcomed in Rick Stein, who began his first restaurant exterior of the UK right here in 2009. Rick Stein’s in Mollymook has since develop into an extremely well-liked restaurant for Sydneysiders, Canberrans and International guests alike, all wanting to bask in some fantastic seafood and take in the slowed-place south coast life.

Starting his profession in 1975 with The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall UK, Rick Stein has made a profession out of traversing the world and discovering a few of its most scrumptious areas. He’s written over 20 cookbooks, made greater than 30 cookery reveals, and he’s now one of many world’s most well-respected cooks, with a popularity for serving solely the best fish and shellfish – unimaginable seafood merely ready. After the success at Mollymook, and eager to broaden their footprint in Australia, Rick, his spouse Sarah and Peter Cosgrove turned their hand to Bannisters Port Stephens.

Situated cliffside, the lodge is grand in scale however boutique in vibe. A glowing makeover infused with design parts like ground to ceiling glass, trademark whites and breezy blue tones, timber accents and loads of greenery; in some way respiration new life into the area while retaining the character of its former Salamander days. Dogs and youngsters are welcome, there are even pet-friendly rooms. The workers are tremendous pleasant, and in some way have the knack of managing to make good service completely drama-free. An infinity pool appears down over the identical public jetty the place I’d as soon as realized to fish, and the place affected person fathers and excited children nonetheless dangle their fishing strains. The lodge options 80 rooms, together with 4 luxurious suites and a penthouse, that each one include both water or bushland views. There are a few completely different choices relating to eating – a cavernous bar downstairs referred to as the Cheeky Dog, good for pizza, pool and watching sports activities on the large TV screens and Julio’s Mexican Cantina, with bay views, Mexican meals and margaritas. But, by far the very best, surely, is Rick Stein’s, a fantastic eating restaurant, however with a relaxed, vacation really feel.

When movie star chef Rick Stein takes the helm, you understand you’re in good fingers, add progressive Head Chef Mitchell Turner, whose ardour for cooking started from a younger age, and the ensuing menu shines a highlight on the very best of the area’s seafood. The high quality of native seafood and proximity to the Hunter Valley and its wines offered Stein on the situation for the restaurant. King prawns, sand whiting, snapper and blue trevally star, whereas Sydney rock oysters are sourced from native growers a mere 600 metres away. You can’t get extra native than that.

Port Stephens is residence to a number of the greatest seafood on the east coast of Australia and the menu displays this. It begins with a collection of recent seafood – assume grilled scallops and freshly shucked oysters. Follow that with an entrée of sashimi of native yellowfin tuna or maybe native lobster and dirt crab linguine. For fundamental course, I went with the wonderful Sri Lankan native swordfish curry, while my son opted to go away the seafood and go for a Tasmanian wagyu rump steak. Desserts are decadently wealthy, mine being a divine chocolate fondant. Whatever you select, the components are freshly caught or sourced and superbly ready, and when mixed with a wide-ranging wine record to enhance each course, you actually can’t go improper.

Early the following morning the rising solar solar is shining by the gum bushes and glistening on the water within the calm, clear bay that stretches out in the direction of the distant Yaccaba and Tomaree headlands. A pre-breakfast stroll right down to the wharf and alongside the seashore, it doesn’t get rather more good than this. Port Stephens is a magical coastal vacation spot, the place you possibly can change off, get swept up within the pure environment and take a break from the day by day grind. 

Sarah Kingdom

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, earlier than transferring to Africa on the age of 21, Sarah Kingdom is a mountain climber and information, journey author, yoga trainer, path runner, and mom of two. When she will not be climbing or touring she lives on a cattle ranch in central Zambia. She guides journeys usually in India, Nepal, Tibet, Russia, and Ethiopia, and takes climbers up Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro quite a few instances a yr.

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