Fingal Island is a top spot in Port Stephens and Nelson Bay that requires some careful planning for a safe visit. The best and safest way to see Fingal Island and Point Stephens Lighthouse is by taking a boat, and you may be able to find a tourism operator to arrange a guided trip to the island. However, most people prefer to walk to Fingal Island, even though the National Parks and Wildlife Services website warns against it due to safety concerns caused by the dangers at Fingal Spit.
If you decide to walk to Fingal Island, be sure to do it when the tide is low. Even though the water might look nice, it’s highly dangerous to swim close to the sand spit.
How to walk to Port Stephen’s Fingal Island and Point Stephens Lighthouse
Disclaimer: since our visit in 2018, things might be different, and conditions can vary each day. This article provides tips and information based on our trip, but if you choose to walk to Fingal Island, be sure to be cautious. It’s wise to get the latest information from local sources.
The most important thing to know when considering walking to Fingal Island is that it cannot be visited at any time. It is essential to check out the tide times to plan a safe trip there.
Fingal Island is only an island when the tide is high. When the water goes down, a sand spit called a tombolo appears and connects Fingal Island to Fingal Bay Beach.
Start walking from Fingal Bay Beach Life Saving Club about one hour before low tide.
It took us around half an hour to cover the 2-kilometer distance on the soft sand to get to Fingal Spit. By this time, the water should be low enough, creating a sandy path connecting Fingal Bay Beach to Fingal Island.
Before crossing Fingal Spit, be sure to carefully check your surroundings.
The conditions change daily. Use your common sense to stay safe.
When you’re on Fingal Island, check the time before you continue your walk.
The trail to Point Stephens Lighthouse is 1.2 kilometres one-way. So, be certain you have enough time to go there and return before the water covers the sand bar again. If time is tight, take a walk up the hill for a fantastic view of Fingal Bay and Port Stephens, and then head back. It’s definitely worth it, and if visiting the lighthouse has to wait for another day to stay safe, that’s obviously a good choice.
The initial 50 meters to get to the Lighthouse Trail on Fingal Island can be a little steep, and the sand is soft. For people not used to hiking or exercising, it might feel a bit hard at first. But it doesn’t last long, and almost anyone can handle it.
The rest of the Lighthouse Trail is easy.
It’s a good idea to have shoes, even flip-flops will work, as it’s not just pure sand anymore. If you’re an early bird, carry a stick to clear spider webs if you might be the first one on the trail. And remember to bring lots of water and perhaps a windbreaker to stay comfortable.
If your walk takes more time than you thought, don’t rush across the sand spit; take a moment to think.
The warning signs recommend not crossing Fingal Spit if there’s any water over the sand bar. The water can rise faster than you might realise, and the powerful currents and waves can be very dangerous. Every year, a few near-drowning incidents occur at the spit, with people being swept away. I heard a local resident saying that if the water goes above your knees, it’s a life-threatening situation. It’s safer to wait for the next low tide rather than taking the risk.
What to expect on Fingal Island
The best part of our visit to Fingal Island was the spectacular views.
Port Stephens is incredibly beautiful, with the bay, lush green hills, and turquoise waters. Fingal Island gives you a different angle over the bay. When you reach the top of the little hill, take a moment to pause and look back; it’s worth the effort, and you’ll be glad you did.
Point Stephens Lighthouse is the highlight of Fingal Island.
I’m a big fan of lighthouses because they offer amazing views of the sea. This one is especially great during the winter when you can see humpback whales migrating along Australia’s East Coast. However, the island isn’t very tall, and you can’t climb the 21-meter-high tower for a full panoramic view. The old cottages nearby weren’t really interesting; they’re fenced off and in pretty bad condition.
You can explore two small secluded bays on Fingal Island.
To get there, simply choose the left path at the beginning of the Lighthouse Trail. Since we didn’t want to take any risk with the tide, we stuck to the direct route back to the lighthouse. But if you have extra time or come back another time, it sounds like a lovely, peaceful place to explore.
Should you be concerned about the sharks when visiting Fingal Island in Port Stephens?
There’s a place called Shark Island right next to Fingal Island, so you might wonder. I couldn’t find the exact reason for its name, but it’s possible it’s linked to Port Jackson sharks coming together during their mating season. I’ve also seen amazing videos of Grey Nurse sharks in the bay, attracted by schools of mullets. These species of sharks aren’t dangerous to humans. Scuba divers even love hanging out with them.
Anyway, you shouldn’t be swimming when you visit Fingal Island, so you don’t need to worry about sharks at all!
Where is Fingal Island / Port Stephens?
Fingal Island is located on the coast of New South Wales, Australia. To reach it, you go through Fingal Bay, which is the easternmost spot on the Port Stephens peninsula within Tomaree National Park. Before they built the lighthouse on Fingal Island, ships would sometimes get mixed up, thinking they were entering Port Stephens when they were actually heading into Fingal Bay.
It takes around 2.5 hours to drive from Sydney to Port Stephens. To fully enjoy the area, it’s great to stay overnight. When we visited, we spent two nights at Bay Bungalow Guesthouse*. We liked how it was close to Nelson Bay and also a good starting point for checking out other spots in the peninsula, such as Murray’s Brewery and Anna Bay.
If you book ahead, you’ll find plenty of accommodations in Nelson Bay* near the beach. This way, you won’t have to worry about finding a parking spot for your car when you explore the most famous attractions!