Ever wanted to take the family tobogganing at the snow but found it just too far or too expensive? Well luckily, we have toboggan slopes right on our own doorstep. About an hour north of Newcastle, in the sand dunes near Birubi Beach at beautiful Anna Bay, hides a whole bunch of family fun.
When we arrived at our destination, we were greeted by Ana of Sand Dune Safaris who explained to us that the dunes are the largest moving sand dune system in the Southern Hemisphere. Set in the Worimi Conservation Lands (co-managed by the Worimi people and NPWS) the dunes also serve as a protected bird habitat.
Sand Dune Safaris
Although there are a few other sandboarding operators at Birubi Beach, Sand Dune Safaris are set up for the more personalised outing and family experiences. Apart from sandboarding, they also offer 4WD tours of the dunes. If you’re lucky, you may also get to see a whale or a dolphin. Packages can also be arranged for birthday parties, social groups or playgroups. Contact Ana or Andrew to find out more or visit the Sand Dune Safaris website.
What ages does sandboarding in Stockton suit?
All ages. There are varying slopes to suit everyone. Small children are able to ride on their parent’s laps and, if you’re brave, you may be able to try standing up!
What can I expect in the dunes?
- 4-Wheel Drive Shuttles: 4-wheel drives and an off-road bus run regularly through the dunes to the giant ‘sand bowl.’ This is where you’ll slide down the slopes. Climbing into the dunes, I found myself immersed in another world. The sea of sand had a mystique that, like the snow, was enchanting. However, you do need to remember it is a harsh environment and you will need to look after yourself.
- The Sand Bowl: We arrived at a large, bowl-shaped dune where all the action takes place. Andrew explained everything we needed to know about sandboarding.
- Do I need to take my own board?: No. Your guides will supply you with boards shaped from hardy nylon.
- Seating: Seats and tables for your comfort are provided.
- Goggles: Goggles are provided by your guides but you must remember they are well-loved. Feel free to bring your own ski-type goggles if you wish. Sunglasses with a neoprene sports strap worked fine for me.
- Sunscreen: The sun is intensified in this almost-white sandy environment so sunscreen is an essential (even on a cloudy day). On occasion, the wind may pick up too and sunscreen can help to protect against the dehydrating effect of windburn. It may also be useful to wipe the sunscreen around the inside of your nostrils to provide burning in a sensitive place.
- Hat: Wear a hat. Something that won’t get blown around would be best.
- Water: If you got excited and forgot to bring a water bottle, you can purchase bottled water from your guides for $1.
- Food: There is no food to purchase in the dunes. Pack a picnic or a food platter to bring with you and make a day of it. Remember you can sandboard for as long as like.
- Fitness Levels: You don’t have to be a super fit athlete to try sandboarding. I found you would need to have a small degree of fitness (at least able to climb a 20 or 30 steps). If you can do that, then you should be fine. I have a dodgy knee and took a neoprene support for this. If you have a pre-existing injury, you should consider taking your own precautions. Note: If you have complex medical conditions, seek advice from your GP. Do remember, sand boarding is only part of the experience. If you have a physical injury (broken leg) or grandparents would like to come, it can be fun just as much fun looking on.
- Don’t feel rushed: You don’t need to feel rushed. Take your time to get to the top of the slope and, if you feel tired, stop and have a rest. Enjoy the view while you gather your energy to do it all over again. Remember: the dunes aren’t going anywhere and you do have all day.
- Smoking and alcohol: If you intend to smoke, please do it well away from others and take something in which to collect your butts. Although you won’t need to drink (because of all the adrenaline), take alcohol in cans instead of bottles which can break and get lost in the sand. Broken glass can cause serious injuries and damage to tyres.
What does it cost to sandboard in Stockton Bight?
The costs for sandboarding and other services are listed on the Sand Dune Safaris website. You can stay in the dunes all day if you like. Taking that account, the cost is reasonable for a day of family entertainment.
How do I get there?
From Nelson Bay Road, turn into Gan Gan Road then into James Patterson Street. Follow this until you find the car park at the surf club.
There is a lower car park near where caravans are set up. If you’re not confident driving on sand, park in the top car park (near the surf club) and walk down.
Toilets: Toilets, baby change facilities and showers are located at the Birubi Beach Surf Club.
Café: Located right beside the surf club is Crest Café where you can enjoy a coffee, breakfast or lunch.
If you are in the dunes, shuttles return to the lower carpark on a regular basis and you can walk to the toilets from there.
Can I drive on the beach?
You will need to purchase a permit before you are able to drive on the beach. Note: Vehicular recovery costs can be enormous in this environment. Make sure are confident driving a 4WD in sand, your vehicle is appropriate and setup for off-road environments. Ensure that you have adequate recovery gear before crossing onto the sand.
Further information about driving on WCL can be found at: Worimi Conservation Lands website
General information on sandboarding in Port Stephens can be found at: Sand Dune Safaris website
So, there you are. Be brave and give it a go. You don’t necessarily need to visit the snow to ride the slopes. Just head to Stockton.
Disclosure: Newy with Kids received complimentary tickets for review purpose. All opinions are our own.
Anthony lives near Lake Macquarie and is a dad to four children. He has published two children’s picture books (Flaming Charli and Dancing Charli) and is currently working on his second novel. He has a teaching background and an MA in Writing.