Jay and I paddleboard a lot around Port Stephens and other NSW coastal locations. We often wonder why Shoal Bay is so popular. On a weekend over summer it is not uncommon to see 20 people out on their boards.
So what makes Shoal Bay such a special place to paddleboard?
1) Mount Tomaree which dominates the landscape along with its twin on the Tea Gardens side – Yaccaba Headland.
Mt Tomaree rises above Shoal Bay like Neptune would rise in Greek mythological stories. It looks down upon the water with such grandeur. From the summit of Mt Tomaree, paddleboarders look so tiny and insignificant. The mountain also gives that wonderful wind break from any coastal breezes. This keeps the eastern end of Shoal Bay fairly sheltered and a great place to paddle.
2) The water depth across much of Shoal Bay is less than 10m. At the eastern end, within the 8 knot markers where the Shoal Bay SUP Paddleboard School is located the average depth is approximately 3-5m (high tide).
Being such a shallow bay it is an ideal location for sea grasses to grow and the green of the sea grass together with patches of white sand and the the sparkle of the crystal clear water make paddleboarding a truly amazing experience. I enjoy paddleboarding all the time but really love it when I can see things under my board rather than just the green you see in the deep water , or the turbid mud in some creeks and estuaries. Shoal Bay is also almost unaffected by water currents except for the area around the Port Stephens entrance.
3) The biodiversity of the marine park is amazing. Port Stephens has been designated a marine park for a very good reason. The enterance to the port is wide and deep, framed by the sheer cliffs of Tomaree and Yaccaba allowing easy pasage for marine life such as turtles, fish and the ocassional fairy penguin.
There is a healthy population of Bottlenose dolphins that make Port Stephens home. These regularly frequent Shoal Bay hunting for fish. When working on the beach , we see dolphins at some point most days. It is always a thrill to paddle with the dolphins and they are often very inquisitive and regularly surface near our boards or go directly underneath us. Turtles are also often seen throughout Port Stephens and in Shoal Bay. They feed on the sea grasses that are prevalent in the bay.
A wide variety of fish and rays caqn be seen throughout Shoal Bay. The most easily seen are the Shovel Nose rays and stinhg rays on the bottom that frequent the area we call ‘the shoals’ that are under Mount Tomaree. In fact we recently came across a school of Cow-Nosed stingrays that numbered over a hundred in this area that thrilled and exited the group that was fortunate enough to be on the water at that time.
4) Swimming is great in Shoal Bay. Unlike many other paddleboarding locations where I would be fairly reluctant to swim, Shoal Bay is a great place to swim and be in the water. I know that being off the board is not the idea of paddleboarding but when the weather is nice and water is warm many of our paddleboarders, including Jay and I, spend as much time in the water as on the board. The area under Mount Tomaree is the usual lazy zone where people swim , laze around on the boards and generally splash around and enjoy the water. The water clarity of Shoal Bay gives it a tropical feel, together with the beach, lagoon and the luxury vessels you can easily pretend you are at some exotic Caribbean or Mediterranean location.
We chose Shoal Bay to set up our school as it has exceptional paddleboarding qualities. Shoal Bay is not just a paddleboarding location but a destination. Even if you have paddleboarded before and can’t work out what the fuss is all about, come up and see us at Shoal Bay SUP and we will give you paddleboarding at one of the best locations on the whole of the NSW coast.
Our Shoal Bay SUP school is Located an hour North of Newcastle , two hours from the central coast and three hours from Sydney.