Why You Should Elope in Port Stephens

It’s no secret that weddings today are bigger and better than ever before.  

And with that, you might be feeling pressured to have a “proper” wedding with a long guest list and traditional elements – like a big ceremony. And even bigger reception.

But I’m here to remind you that this is your day. Your terms. 

Because sometimes, big weddings aren’t feasible. It could come down to COVID-19 restrictions or venue capacity. Or, it could just be that you don’t want to go through the hassle of creating a detailed budget, choosing floral arrangements, and picking out linens and patterns. 

These are just a handful of reasons why more and more couples are ditching the traditional celebration. And dreaming about eloping instead.

If you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you’re at least a bit curious about eloping. But maybe you’re not sure why – or where – you should.

I’ve got you covered! Because in this blog post, you’ll get the details on why eloping – and why eloping in Port Stephens – should be at the top of your list of considerations.


Your Way, Sans Stress

Planning a big wedding with a lengthy guest list can easily become overwhelming and stressful. You’ll quickly find (if you haven’t already) that there are a lot of moving parts – some of them being people’s opinions. 

Eloping is a minimal, no-fuss way to have your wedding cake and eat it too. Or forget the wedding cake altogether and opt for a box of doughnuts. Remember: It’s your day, your way!

And while this is also true for traditional weddings, elopement allows for more flexibility. Especially, when the guest list is small. Because in most cases, there are fewer “rules” to follow and people to please. It’s just you, your fiancé, perhaps a few close family and friends – and planning a momentous day around what makes you two truly happy. 

It’s (Typically) Less Expensive 

The average Australian wedding costs about AUD 36,000. Which most couples dip into their savings to pay for.

While some elopements can cost just as much as traditional weddings, they are typically less expensive, depending on the location you choose. This is why I highly recommend Port Stephens as an elopement destination. Not only because it’s beautiful, but because you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Beautiful landscape options are abundant: sand dunes, rocky beach edges, white sand beaches, bush, forest vibes, nature trails to secret beaches, mountains, and cliff tops. Pretty much every scenic location you can think of!

You can also find a variety of luxurious 5-star accommodation facilities and AirBnB beachfront locations to stay at (read more about these stunning options below). 

Plus, Port Stephens is only 2.5 hours north of Sydney. With the airport only 30 minutes from the bay. So, it’s pretty easy to get to! 

You Want a Meaningful Experience (and Photos to Go Along with it) 

I’m not saying an elopement is more meaningful than a traditional wedding. BUT! I am saying that eloping provides more opportunities to really connect with and focus on one another. Because when you think about it, hosting a traditional wedding with lots of people means your focus is split into a lot of other places.

An intimate elopement with few or no guests means you can be more present. Instead of running from point A to point B and making sure everyone and everything is taken care of, you’ll get to enjoy being together – just the two of you. And you’ll have plenty of (if not more!) opportunities for stunning photos – including the beautiful scenery, the adventure, and the experience.  

You can even turn your elopement into a destination honeymoon! As mentioned above, Port Stephens has a treasure trove of locations perfect for an elopement ceremony and honeymoon accommodation. See more HERE!  


Salt at Shoal Bay

When I think of Shoal Bay, I think of the ocean. And that’s exactly what Salt delivers! 

Offering two contemporary beach houses that overlook the bay, this property is perfect for an intimate wedding with close family and friends who are looking to celebrate!

The larger house is two stories that, combined, accommodate 21 guests (16 adults and 5 kids.) While the second house is a more intimate space that accommodates 6 (4 adults and 2 kids.)

For an intimate wedding, I would recommend using both the upper and ground levels of the larger house. Perhaps, one to house family and friends. And the other to host an intimate reception or dinner with a private chef. While the cottage could be just for you two. This way, you can spread out, relax, and have some privacy in your own space.

Both houses are also beautifully decorated with light coloured decor and tons of natural light – which make for the most gorgeous photos of you getting ready. But they didn’t always start out that way! Check out this fascinating blog post of what the house looked like before and after. I promise – it will make you appreciate the beauty of this property so much more!

The Loft Corlette

Recently renovated, and located in the heart of Corlette near Bangalls beach, this stunning house is a beach-lovers paradise.

Just imagine it: You get ready in a beautiful, contemporary and clean natural-lit space. After your beach-front ceremony, just 100m from the property, you enjoy a celebratory glass of champagne and decadent charcuterie board in the cactus courtyard or sun deck. Then, proceed to dinner in a private car at one of Port Stephens finest restaurants such as Rick Steins in Bannisters luxury hotel.

Sounds like a perfect day to me!

Reef Anna Bay

This house has a little something for everyone. And is perfect for the couple who wants their elopement to feel luxurious, but also have some fun!

Located within walking distance from the Worimi Conservation Lands, you can hold your ceremony in the world’s largest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. After which, we’ll take the most stellar photos. And can even arrange for some camels to join us if you’re feeling up for it!

Or! If you envision a beach-front ceremony, it’s also within walking distance of Birubi Point. (See, it’s got options!)

After you say “I do,” enjoy a romantic dinner on the outdoor deck prepared by a private chef. 

And let the relaxation continue the next day with an intimate breakfast on the master suite patio. Followed by a dip in the large salt-water pool or heated spa.

Shoal Bay Country Club: Luxury Penthouse

The Shoal Bay Country Club is an iconic facility in Port Stephens. And although it has a beautiful indoor reception space, Whitesands, it’s also a great place to host an elopement!

Designed by renowned interior designer Cameron Kimber, the property offers a two-level, four-bedroom penthouse apartment. And while it is beautifully furnished, its most impressive feature is the 180-degree views overlooking Shoal Bay Beach and Mount Tomaree. 

While most couples would use the penthouse to get ready (which is a great option, too!), I foresee it as a beautiful backdrop for an elopement or intimate wedding reception. Have your family and friends stay nearby and join you for a private ceremony on the balcony. Or, because there are many ceremony options nearby – including Shoal Bay Beach, Zenith Beach, Barry Park, and Nelson Head Lighthouse – invite everyone back to the penthouse afterwards for dinner and drinks.

With its large kitchen and open floor plan, it’s beyond perfect for smaller celebrations. And a private chef’s dream.


With elopements and micro weddings becoming so popular, I’m offering special photo collections that include complete style design services so that you can take the guesswork out of planning. This means you not only get photography coverage on your wedding day. But all the bells and whistles to create a personalized and meaningful elopement for you and yours – including selected recommendations for wedding professionals (celebrant, catering service, etc.).  You can read all about it HERE.

Package Details 

Intimate (Just the Two of You)

  • Celebrant: Show up and say “I do” without the hassle of arranging a celebrant – I’ll do it for you!
  • Bouquet: We’ll talk about your style and vision. And I’ll work with a florist to bring it to life.
  • Hair and makeup: You’ll tell me what kind of hair and makeup you prefer so that I can recommend one that compliments your style best
  • Coverage: 2 hours of complete photography coverage in one or two (2) Port Stephens’ locations of your choosing


  • Celebrant
  • Bouquet
  • Hair and Makeup
  • 3 hours of photography coverage in two (2) Port Stephens’ locations 

+ Ceremony floral design: Share your ideas and inspiration with me so that I can arrange for an altar arrangement with a local florist.

Luxe (Up to 18 Guests)

  • Celebrant
  • Bouquet
  • Hair and makeup
  • Ceremony floral design + guest seating
  • Five (5) hours of photography coverage in 2-3 Port Stephens’ locations
  • Fully styled intimate table setting for you and your guests

+ Getting ready grazing platter: Snack on a delicious cheese board or veggie platter while you get ready that I’ll order from a local caterer.

+ Private Dinner: A three-course meal with your very own private in-house chef around a perfectly styled table that reflects your personality and vision. (Get a feel for some of my designs from past workshops HERE!)

You’ll receive your images via an online gallery about six-nine weeks after the elopement. Packages start at $3790. Learn more about my Port Stephens Elopement Services HERE!

Feelings inspired and ready to chat eloping? Let me know!

Port Stephens elopement photography and planning in Shoal Bay in the sand dunes at Stockton beach for photos

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Whether your love story is one blossomed from elegant romance or one of epic proportions, I am so excited to be a part of this journey with you and can’t wait to get to know you more. I am a fine art photographer providing my services all throughout NSW, Australia and destinations worldwide. Passionately devoted to capturing the beauty of your special day. 

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Sheri Mcmahon

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