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Stories from our backyard: Imagine Cruises

Apr 6, 2021 | Australia, New South Wales

Imagine Cruises
Whale breach Port Stephens

Frank Future used to be a Lighthouse keeper 30 years ago. His appreciation of the ocean wilderness, boating, whales, and the protection of the environment were and still are his passion. Those initial passions sowed the beginnings of Imagine Cruises which is based in Port Stephens, Australia. Today he shares the beauty of the largest and most scenic Marine Park in New South Wales with the world and features over 8 cruises and tours showcasing the best of what Port Stephens has to offer. Bottlenose dolphins, Common dolphins, Little penguins, and Humpback whales are the stars of the show, and the tours also cover exploratory visits to the local islands, snorkelling, and sailing in the Bay. Imagine Cruises is an award-winning operator that has attained and held the highest level of Eco Tourism accreditation for over 20 years. The company and crew are passionate about presenting the wildlife and beauty of the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park, whilst simultaneously doing their best to educate their guests and take care of the spectacular environment as well as its creatures on both land and sea. Imagine donates $1 from every Dolphin watch booking to the Marine Parks Association to help with research projects.

Port Stephens:

Imagine Cruises
Tomaree Head Summit Walk, Port Stephens. Credit: Destination NSW

Port Stephens is two and a half hours drive north of Sydney or only 20 minutes from Newcastle Airport. The region offers beautiful beaches, stunning sand dunes, coastal walks, national parks, pristine waters, and a great range of accommodation. Nelson Bay is the hub of the Port Stephens region, with a bustling marina that’s home to many cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. A holiday to Port Stephens/Nelson Bay is all about the sun, sea and sand, tasting freshly caught seafood, swimming in the clear waters, cruising on the Bay to meet the local marine residents and sandboarding down the spectacular Stockton Sand Dunes. It’s the perfect antidote to the excitement of Sydney city life and provides a quick and easy escape to relax and rejuvenate.

Imagine Cruises
Dolphin sighting from boom net

The showcase Whale Watch cruise is an absolute must-do to appreciate the beauty of the Marine Park as well as get up close and personal with the rich variety of local wildlife. The 3-hour Whale Watch cruise runs twice daily in season (May-November) and when the sails go up and the motors are turned off it is so quiet you can hear the whales breathe! With small group numbers the cruise sails out to witness the whales migrating past the islands of the Marine Park. Expect to view the fun-loving Dolphin antics as well as the spectacular behaviour of the majestic Humpbacks. It’s a win-win combo cruise! For those visiting in the warmer months (October-May) there are plenty of cruise options to view or swim with Dolphins, as well as snorkel, hike and explore the local islands of the Marine Park.

Imagine Cruises
Migaloo the rare white male Humpback Whale

One of the local stars of the east coast Humpbacks is “Migaloo”, a rare white male Humpback Whale. Imagine Cruises first encountered “Migaloo” 25 years ago, and he can still be sighted traveling the coast if you are very lucky. The name “Migaloo” means “white fella” in the indigenous language of the Bundjalung tribe of the north coast of NSW.

Dedicated to the protection of Dolphins & Whales…

Imagine Cruises
Humpback breach off Port Stephens

Imagine Cruises is impressive not only because of what they showcase in their Marine Park…but also because of what they do for their local stakeholders. In the early days, Frank was involved with both Greenpeace and the international Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), promoting Whale watch cruises as the only sustainable alternative to commercial whaling.

Imagine Cruises
Boom net fun

Right from the beginning Imagine Cruises have continued to support research and conservation initiatives such as the Dolphin Research Education and Management (DREAM) research fund, Eco Network Port Stephens, Ocean & Coastal Care Initiatives, attending the International Whaling Commission meetings for 10 years, Eco-tourism Australia and the Marine Parks Association. It’s admirable. Their community efforts do not stop there with their ongoing support to obtaining a World Heritage-listing for the Port Stephens Marine Park. A remarkable goal for a very special corner of the world. Make sure to include Imagine Cruises & Port Stephens on your wish list for your next Australia holiday…. I know I will be doing just that :).


The summer season (December-April) is traditionally the most popular time to visit. The daytime temperatures range around 26 degrees Celsius and the nights are mild. Perfect weather for all activities.

Good to know:

Quad biking on the Stockton Sand Dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands, Port Stephens. Credit: Destination NSW

Port Stephens is a place of scenic beauty with a huge natural harbour bigger than Sydney Harbour. If you love being close to nature, then you will love Port Stephens! It’s a natural wonderland with plenty of Koalas, Dolphins and Whales (in season). Explore the nearby National Parks and the 26 beautiful beaches. You could stay for 2-3 nights or more as there is plenty to do! Apart from the numerous tours with Imagine Cruises, other top highlights include swimming with the Dolphins, experience some beach & dune driving and don’t forget the sandboarding (great fun for families), if quad biking is your thing then make sure to catch a 1 hour tour, learn to surf and make sure to visit the recently opened Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary.

And finally:

Koala Encounter in Port Stephens. Credit: Destination NSW

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