But if you plan your visit well, you’ll stay safe and have a great time exploring Shark Island.
How you can visit Shark Island in Port Stephens
The safest way to visit Shark Island in Port Stephens is by boat.
Imagine Cruise* can organise tours there on demand. You’ll disembark on the beach, just after Fingal Spit, directly on Shark Island, with a guide who knows the place.
Shark Island is also a spot for scuba diving.
I haven’t been there yet as boats were going out to dive Broughton Island every time we were visiting. But Shark Island is famous for a collapsed wharf where the Port Jackson sharks hang around during the mating season in winter and spring.
But the most popular way to visit Shark Island is to walk there.
Note that the National Parks and Wildlife Services website advises not to walk there for safety reasons, because of the dangers at Fingal Spit. If you plan to walk to Shark Island, make sure you cross the sand spit at low tide. Although the water looks beautiful, it is highly dangerous to swim near the sand spit.
How to walk to Port Stephen’s Shark Island and Point Stephens Lighthouse
The most important thing to know when considering walking to Shark Island (also called 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.
Shark Island is only an island at high tide. When the water goes down, a tombolo (sand spit) appears and links Shark Island to Fingal Bay Beach.
Start walking from Fingal Bay Beach Life Saving Club about one hour before low tide.
It took us about half an hour to walk the 2 kilometres on rather soft sand to reach Fingal Spit. By then, the water should be low enough to create a sand walkway between Fingal Bay Beach to Shark Island.
Always have a look at the surroundings before crossing Fingal Spit.
The conditions change daily. Use your common sense to stay safe.
Once on Shark Island, have a look at the time before you walk further.
It’s a 1.2-kilometre walk one-way to Point Stephens Lighthouse so you must make sure you have enough time to go there and come back before the water starts covering the sand bar. If you’re short on time, just walk up the hill to see the view of Fingal Bay and Port Stephens, and come back. It’s already worth your efforts. Stay safe and keep the lighthouse for another time.
The first 50 metres to reach the Lighthouse Trail on Shark Island are a bit steep and on soft sand. People who aren’t used to hiking or exercising could be surprised and find it a bit hard. But it doesn’t last long at all and is feasible by almost anyone.
The rest of the Lighthouse Trail is easy.
You may want to bring shoes (tongues will do) for that part as it’s not pure sand anymore. If you may be the first one in the morning, walk with a stick to remove spider webs! Make sure you bring plenty of water and a wind stopper.
If the walk took you longer than you expected, don’t cross the sand spit in a hurry but think first.
The warning signs advise that you should not attempt to cross Fingal Spit if there is any water over the sand bar. The water can go up quicker than you expect, and the strong currents and waves are dangerous. There are near-drownings at the spit a few times a year with people being swept off. I read a resident said that if the water gets higher than the knee, it’s life-threatening. You’d better wait for the next low tide than risking it.
What to expect on Shark Island
The best part of our visit to Shark Island was the spectacular views.
With the bay, the beautiful green mounts and the turquoise waters, Port Stephens is stunning. Shark Island offers a different angle over the bay. As soon as you’ve walked up the small hill, stop and turn around to catch your breath. You won’t regret your efforts.
Point Stephens Lighthouse is the main attraction on Shark Island.
I love lighthouses: they always have the best sea views. It’s particularly true for this one during winter when you can spot the humpback whales migrating on Australia’s East Coast. Unfortunately, the island isn’t high and it’s not possible to climb the 21-metre-high tower for a panoramic view. The nearby ruined cottages weren’t interesting at all. They are fenced and in very poor shape.
You can explore two small secluded bays on Shark Island.
You just need to take a left path early on the Lighthouse Trail. We didn’t want to take any risk with the tide so we skipped that path and did a direct return walk to the lighthouse. But with more time, or during a second visit, it sounded like a nice quiet spot.
If you’re interested in learning more about Shark Island, you may want to read the book Sheer Grit by Arthur Murdoch*.
Should you be worried about the sharks when visiting Shark Island in Port Stephens?
I haven’t found information about how Shark Island got its name. But I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it comes from the aggregation of Port Jackson sharks during their mating season. And I’ve also seen spectacular footage 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.
When someone spots a shark near the beach, lifeguards check the area with their jet skis to confirm if it’s safe for swimmers. They may decide to close the beach for swimming – so you’ll be aware if there is any risk.
Anyway, you should not be entering the water when you go to Shark Island, so you don’t have to worry at all about the shark!
Where is Shark Island / Port Stephens?
Shark Island is on the coast of New South Wales in Australia. It is accessible from Fingal Bay, the easternmost point of Port Stephens peninsula, in Tomaree National Park. Before the lighthouse was built on Shark Island, boats were often mistaking the entrance to Fingal Bay for that of Port Stephens.
It takes about 2.5 hours from Sydney to drive to Port Stephens. An overnight stay is ideal to explore the region. We spent two nights at Bay Bungalow Guesthouse* the last time we visited. We appreciated the proximity to Nelson Bay while being ideally positioned to explore other places in the peninsula (like the Murray’s Brewery and Anna Bay).
If you can book in advance, you’ll have a long list of accommodations in Nelson Bay* close to the beach, which is ideal to avoid looking for a spot to park the car!
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