My skin starts to burn as I’m exposed to the harsh Australian sun.
I look up. Around. There’s nothing but the heat of the afternoon gently toasting my face; the heat of the sand below me warming my feet.
I’ve lost my friends. They’re out of shouting distance now. I push on, but I don’t really know where I’m going. There’s nothing but sand as far as the eye can see - and these dunes stretch further than I imagine - but I feel compelled to keep walking. Up and down every dune, impatiently waiting to see how different the current is from the next. The randomness is intoxicating. I’m addicted.
That’s the beautiful thing about Stockton Sand Dunes. Every time you go, it’s a different experience. Literally the sands of time shifting your perspective. You’ll find something new every time.
And each time, it’s beautiful. At the risk of sounding corny, there’s a real connection between you and the nature out there in the dunes. Maybe it’s the vastness making you feel like a small part of something larger. Maybe it’s the quiet; the sound of the wind gently whipping up the sand as you meander through it. Maybe it’s the uniqueness of every dune, certain to be different from the next. Or maybe I’m romanticising too much about a bunch of sand.
Either way, Stockton sand dunes holds the top spot for me to recommend when visiting Sydney or New South Wales.
Stockton sand dunes is the largest coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a 32km (20 mile) stretch of beach, dune and sand up from Newcastle, about 2.5 hours from Sydney.
There’s a whole bunch of activities you can do while you’re up there, from 4 wheel driving, quad biking (highly recommended), camel riding, to sand boarding. One of the best things to do however, is just to walk it - to get lost in the dunes and the beach and see it up close.
Trust me, it’s amazing.
How to get to Stockton Sand Dunes
Of course it really depends on what you want to do there. If you’re doing an activity, let the company tell you where to go.
However, if you want to explore the dunes yourself, by far the best place to do so is up at Anna bay end where the dunes are largest.
Park on the side of the road and head north west to the big dunes. You’ll have to cross some vegetation next to some old abandoned buildings, but walk 5-10 minutes and you’ll be up in the dunes in no time.
Go in as deep as you dare, and if you’re staying until dark, bring a jumper as the dunes get really cold at night even if it’s mid-summer.
If you’ve got a 4WD
...then you’re in luck - you can experience all of the dunes.
Get there a little early and enter from Gan Gan Road. Head along the path until you eventually hit the beach. Go as far in as you want, but remember to stay within the fences, otherwise you may get bogged. Of course, remember to deflate your tyres and turn your traction control off.
When you’re done, either walk up to the dunes from where you are, or come back to the start next to the abandoned village and experience it from there.
How to capture Stockton Sand Dunes
That will give you enough time to explore the dunes and experience it, find some angles you want to shoot it from and then when sunset hits, you’ll be able to get your shots.
If you go at the right time of year (usually around summerish), the sun lines up with the dunes perfectly, giving you a straight-on shot.
Bring a drone. If you’re up at the Anna bay end, you’re far enough away from the airport in Newcastle and out of the National park area, so it’s safe to fly in. Just be wary that sometimes it does get really windy, and if you loose your drone, good luck trying to find that needle in that haystack.
You could also potentially visit for sunrise. But being 2.5 hours from Sydney, that may mean waking up at 2am to get there in time during the summer.