Bannisters is known for its destination properties in NSW coastal locations, and Bannisters Port Stephens was the second to open. Formerly The Salamander, a seaside motel that opened in the late 1960s, it joined the brand’s line-up in 2018, which now includes the original Bannisters Mollymook on the NSW South Coast and Jackson Ranch in Bawley Point, which opened in 2021.
Perched on a rise at Soldiers Point, a 15-minute drive from Nelson Bay, Bannisters Port Stephens features 79 rooms and suites, a lively pub and beer garden and a spa. Room types start with the Paperbark Room, with your choice of king or split double bed. Many of these overlook the peaceful Karuah River, while others offer more private forest and bushland views.
If you’re booking with family or a group of friends, opt for The Deck, which includes three Ocean Deck Upper rooms and a Penthouse, all connected by a shared balcony
The hotel also has dog-friendly rooms and a luxury suite, so you can bring your pooch, too.
“[The rooms are] crisp-white and beachy, with cruise-like balconies, conch shells and ikebana-style flowers in vases,” writes Conde Nast Traveller in a review. “The Luxury Suites have shutters by the bath, so you can open the whole thing up to the sea breeze. […] The beds are lose-yourself-comfy — which is just as well because the kookaburras in the surrounding trees seem to find the rising sun a cause to shriek with staccato laughter, also known as ‘the bushman’s alarm clock’.”
Julio’s is a Mexican restaurant on-site, serving roasted cauliflower, kingfish ceviche tostada and cali or chilli bean burritos. Cheeky Dog is a cavernous pub with nibbles like salt and pepper calamari and soft pretzels, as well as burgers and pizzas. And, if you’re feeling like an after-dinner tipple, Bannisters Tavern will have you sorted with its casual drinks menu. It’s got some quick bites, too.
Like Bannisters Mollymook, it’s also home to a Rick Stein restaurant. There, you’ll find fresh seafood plucked from its 98,000-hectare marine park, complemented by local wines. For the menu, prepared by innovative Head Chef Mitchell Turner, think ricotta dumplings with Fraser Island spanner crab, whole-roasted spatchcock and Basque Country-style mulloway fillet.
As for the spa, the menu is seasonal, aimed at complementing bodies as their needs change in different weather. You’ll start your treatment off with a caffeine-free tea, a blend of jasmine flowers, rose petals and pear pieces. Choose from treatments like relaxation massages and sunburn-targeted hydration wraps, to a Spa Bannisters Signature facial that promises to give you an un-edited, “you really did wake up like this” glow.
Finally, one of the main drawcards of Bannisters Port Stephens is its infinity pool, which looks out onto the treetops and bay, and where you can enjoy cocktails and light dishes from the Terrace Bar.