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This Might Be the Most Surreal Place in Australia

In New South Wales, Tin City is almost buried by the Stockton Sand Dunes.

In a country full of improbable landscapes, Tin City is among the most unbelievable. This group of tin shacks in the Worimi Conservation Lands is one of the greatest adventures you can have in New South Wales.

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Stockton Sand Dunes

The Stockton Sand Dunes and Tin City are located within the Worimi Conservation Lands, a protected area that belongs to the Worimi people.

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An Otherworldly Landscape

The sand dunes are the largest coastal moving sand mass in the Southern Hemisphere. The dunes stretch for 15 miles along the coast are half a mile wide. The dunes can reach up to 100 feet tall and they move about 13 feet per year.

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Tours and ATVs

Because the dunes lie within a protected National Park, there are only two ways to visit. 4WD Tours R Us plans group tours in a 4WD, or you can book a sunset picnic tour. If you’re interested in riding ATVs, you must go with an Aboriginal guide. Sand Dune Adventures has guides who combine adventure with information about the history of the land.

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While on your tour, you might want to try sandboarding. It’s much easier than it looks—all you have to do is take a seat on the board and let gravity do the rest. It can be a bit scary looking down from the giant dunes, but it’s the perfect combination of thrilling and fun.

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Tin City

Apart from just being a beautiful natural landscape, the dunes are home to one of the weirdest little towns in Australia. In the middle of the beach, you’ll find Tin City.

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A Surreal Town

Originally built by shipwreck survivors in the 1930s, the tiny city of tin shacks is a bit of a no-man’s land now. The houses are privately owned, but they’re not allowed to be sold, and none of the owners are allowed to make money off of the property.

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Filthy Phill’s

Unfortunately, as much as we’d all want this to be the best little bar in the world, that would be illegal. If you think Tin City or the sand dunes looks familiar, you might be right. They filmed part of the original Mad Max movie here in the ’70s.

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If you plan to visit the dunes, make sure you’re there for sunset. As the sun sinks below the horizon, the dunes change color from orange to pink to purple and blue. During a particularly spectacular sunset, the ocean will reflect the sky, turning pastel shades of rose and lilac.

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Beyond the Dunes

Port Stephens is an undeniably beautiful place, with plenty of outdoor adventures beyond the dunes. Go dolphin spotting in Nelson Bay, or whale watching out on the ocean. If you prefer to stay on land, there are miles of pristine white-sand beaches. For the best view of the area, take a short hike up Tomaree Mountain. If you’re lucky, you might spot koalas in the trees or whales out beyond the waves.

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Where to Eat and Stay

Port Stephens is about two and half hours from Sydney. Although the dunes are doable as a day trip, it’s a good idea to stay overnight and do a bit of exploring in this quaint and gorgeous part of coastal Australia. Bannisters Port Stephens is a chic motel with an amazing water view and an excellent restaurant by chef Rick Stein. The internationally-inspired menu is surprising and delicious, focusing on fresh seafood.  For fresh and simple seafood in an upscale waterfront location, visit Little Beach Boathouse.

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