Bannisters Port Stephens
There’s something pretty magical about Port Stephens. Maybe it’s the pods of dolphins that seem to hang out all year round, maybe it’s the mysterious twin headlands that guard the entrance out to sea; it could be the tranquil coves and dusty white sand, or the unbeatable sparkle of the water as the sun hits golden hour.
Whatever it is, it captured the imagination of one of the world’s greatest chefs: Rick Stein.
The seafood heavyweight opened the third version of his luxury boutique resort on a quiet beach at Soldiers Point in Port Stephens in late 2018. The hotel follows the vibe of Bannisters in Mollymook—laid back luxury, sand between your toes, delicious seafood and slick coastal design. Across its 78 rooms, there are four luxury suites and a penthouse—and the majority of rooms feature picture frame views across Port Stephens vast blue waters.
Like Bannisters Pavilion, the reception area opens out into a breathtaking crystal-coloured infinity pool and terrace bar. Here you can sip cocktails and enjoy casual bar snacks and meals like steamed bao buns, fish tacos, burgers, grilled barramundi and (so appropriate) oysters from local growers. For a sweet snack, there’s even an Archie Rose gin-infused cheesecake.
Named after Stein himself, the onsite restaurant features a menu he designed in collaboration with its head chef Mitchell Turner. On it, you’ll find local king prawns, sand whiting, snapper and blue eye trevalla. You’ll also get Stein’s famous Fruits de mer platter, oysters Charentaise, fish and shellfish soup with rouille, Madras curry of blue eye trevalla with tomato and tamarind, and his iconic fish pie.
The beautiful dining room (by interior designer Romy Alwill) features plush royal blue booths, brass accents and Japanese watercolour wallpaper.
Alwill is also the design mastermind behind Spa Bannisters, the hotel’s slice-of-heaven Palm Springs-inspired day spa. Featuring five treatment rooms and organic skincare from Organic Spa and KORA organics, up the ante on your relaxation with a massage or luxury facial treatment.
When you’re ready, lounge on day beds on the hotel’s rolling green front lawn or slip down to the quiet jetty to watch the water at sunset for dolphins, margarita in hand.
At just under three hours from Sydney, this is the coastal escape you absolutely need.
Image credit: Bannisters.