Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters have moved and they have exciting plans in store for their all new premises at Anna Bay in Port Stephens! Phase 1 of their world-class aquarium is complete and you can now feed and pat the sharks and rays in their beautiful new home.
We had no trouble finding Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters at their new location. The large entrance and car park were hard to miss, located right near the Port Stephens Drive roundabout on Nelson Bay Road.
There was plenty of space to park in the large car park which includes three disabled car parking spaces. The facility is accessible to all and wheelchair and pram friendly. There’s toilets conveniently located near the entrance, including disabled amenities and a baby change table.
After paying for entry and watching an approximately five minute safety video visitors are able to head into the centre.
On the way in we were met with this fun photo opportunity and we took a moment to admire the beautifully-coloured and unique fish in the indoor aquarium. The kids got particularly excited when they ‘found Nemo!’
The main attraction, however, is the amazing outdoor lagoon! Built to be as naturalistic as possible with a focus on the ocean life’s welfare and lifestyle it features sandy beaches, rocky reefs and deep hideaways.
Ensure that everyone wears or brings along shorts as the Shallows Encounter is included in the entry fee. It’s for those who want an up-close and personal experience but also want to stay (mostly) dry. In this encounter you can wade in the shallows, sit on the rocks and feed and pat the sharks and rays.
For a small fee you can hire a wetsuit which allows you to get right in the water with the sharks and rays swimming all around you. My 7 year old thought this was fabulous! The sharks and rays were friendly and gentle and some even had a little splash and ‘cuddle’ every now and then, much to her delight!
Don’t forget to pack swimwear for this experience. Due to the maintenance of water quality, wetsuits must be hired but are available in all sizes from children to adult.
A favourite, unforgettable experience was being able to pat Ariel the Tawny Nurse Shark. There are also Zebra Sharks and Reef Sharks at Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters. Every single animal has a name and the kids loved hearing all the names and watching the keeper point them out. All the keepers we met were knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic to answer any questions we had about the sharks, rays and their environment.
If you’re interested in learning more you might consider one of the Keeper Talks or an Encounter with a specific type of shark. Or, to get an even closer look at the ocean life, you can purchase a Tropical Snorkel package and enter the deeper water with an experienced guide.
When it’s time to stop feeding the sharks and rays and feed yourself, there are shaded picnic tables to take a break and enjoy something to eat. The centre doesn’t sell food but they do encourage visitors to bring a picnic lunch. They do offer a small selection of snacks and drinks as well as gifts/souvenirs.
My 5 year old loved the kids playground, especially the natural elements, and it was a great spot for him to take a break and burn some energy. It wasn’t enough, however, to tempt Miss 7 who ended up staying in the water with the sharks and rays for almost two whole hours!
We met even more rays in the above-ground tanks. These tanks house younger rays as well as rescue rays. Rescued rays are housed and nursed back to health at Irukandji Shark and Ray Centre through Sea Shelter, a not-for-profit organisation created by the centre’s founders and staff.
As part of Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounter’s plan to expand over the next 10 years in 7 phases, a Sea Shelter Hospital will be built. For now, the facility is at Stage 2, with another new lagoon currently under construction. This lagoon will be undercover and home to the bigger sharks for up close and personal 1-on-1 encounters.
With so much to see, do and experience already, we are so lucky to have this unique and incredible facility so close and I look forward to witnessing the progress of the centre’s ten year plan on return visits.
Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters would be a great spot for a birthday party or an annual pass or gift card would make a great birthday present. They regularly hold Mini Marine Biologist programs for 7-11 and 12-15 year olds. Visit their website for more details.
Address: 2 Jessie Road, Anna Bay, New South Wales
Transport Options: Port Stephens Coaches have direct services from Wickham Interchange. The bus stops near the intersection of Nelson Bay Road and Port Stephens Drive and Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounter is a 7-minute walk from there. It’s a
Phone: 02 4982 2476
Hours: Open every day 9am – 5pm, except Christmas Day. Arrive by 3.30pm to make the last tour. During winter hours, the quietest times to visit are on weekdays or prior to 12pm or after2pm. During summer hours, the quietest times to visit are prior to 10am or after 3pm.
Amenities: Disabled parking, disabled toilets, baby change table and warm showers.
Cost (as at February 2022): Adult 17+ $38, Child 3-16 $22, Concession/Student/Senior $31, Infants 0-2 FREE, Family Passes available. NSW Discover Vouchers accepted.
For more information, visit the Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters website.
Looking for other things to do in Port Stephens? How about exploring Stockton Bight, visiting Oakvale Wildlife Park, a swim at Tomaree Aquatic Centre, Koala Spotting at Tilligerry Habitat or Sandboarding in Anna Bay.
Disclosure: Newy with Kids received complimentary admission to Irukandji Shark and Ray Centre in February 2022 for review purposes. However, all opinions are our own.
Meg is a born and raised Novocastrian whose interests include gardening, reading and writing poetry. In between writing for Newy With Kids and working as a School Learning Support Officer, Meg enjoys camping and travelling with her family and exploring Newcastle and all it has to offer. Meg has two energetic kids and is passionate about kids having the opportunity to be outdoors as often as possible.