Nelson Bay, NSW and a Mini-Cyclone

Last weekend we thought we would take a mini-break and find a lovely place to stay for a night not too far from Sydney.

I’d never been to Nelson Bay, a coastal town with a population of just 5,000 that’s part of Port Stephens and just two and a half hours from home.  With the uni students busy (as usual) we climbed into the car with our ‘only child’ and headed north.

Little Beach at Nelson Bay

Little Beach at Nelson Bay

It was a beautiful sunny day although unusually hot for the middle of March and thinking nothing of it, I was looking forward to getting to the resort and spending the afternoon lying in the sun with one of several books I’d packed into my luggage.  Fifteen minutes into the journey the blue sky turned black and suddenly, out of nowhere came rain that had such intensity the noise of it hitting the car prevented us from having conversation without shouting at one another.

But then the rain disappeared as quickly as it arrived and I thought we were leaving the storm behind us.

A pelican checking out the view

A pelican checking out the view

The drive from Sydney to Nelson Bay is fairly easy; it’s freeway just about all the way.  For a weekend getaway it doesn’t seem too far to travel.  As we drove into Nelson Bay we pulled over to check the location of the resort.  While Carl was studying the map I glanced outside and noticed very black clouds were starting to blanket the town.

The view through the windscreen as we drove towards the resort in the middle of the day.  That's a gum tree lying on the road in front of us.

The view through the windscreen as we drove towards the resort in the middle of the day. That’s a gum tree lying on the road in front of us.

We weren’t far away from the resort, in fact, just walking distance away and we started our short journey there but then suddenly, rain and wind came down horrendously.  We could barely make out what was in front of us and had to drive extremely cautiously.  Branches torn from gum trees swirled above us and we drove past a tree that then came crashing across the road bringing live electrical wires with it.  Having driven past moments earlier I’d call that a lucky escape.

Through that blur is the resort

Through that blur is the resort

We drove in through the gates of the resort but the rain was so fierce we couldn’t see where to take the car or where to find reception.  We eventually found somewhere undercover to put the car then Carl got out to try and find where to check-in.  Five minutes later he was back with a courtesy umbrella but soaking wet.

The communal BBQ area not looking so good

The communal BBQ area not looking so good

He had been told we were probably caught up in a mini-cyclone.  The electricity was out, there were people stuck in the lifts, all the outdoor furniture had been thrown from one end of the resort to the other and was now lying in pieces and windows were smashed.

Bit of a tidy up needed here

Bit of a tidy up needed here

We had the key to our apartment and moved the car into the car park.  With no electricity the car park was in darkness and so we used the light on our mobile phones to shine the way to the stairwell.  We navigated our way up the blackened stairwell with the help of our phones and did the same to get down the corridor to find our apartment.

The furniture on our balcony

The furniture on our balcony

When we walked into the apartment the outdoor furniture was strewn across the balcony and the table was upside down with the legs broken.  Alfie was thrilled the apartment had Foxtel (we don’t have it at home) but then screwed up his face when he realised he couldn’t watch it.

Huge branches came down

Huge branches came down

It’s amazing how quickly you realise what you can’t do when you don’t have electricity.  We couldn’t charge my laptop, Carl’s Kobo and i-pad or our phones.  We couldn’t turn on any lights or watch TV or listen to the radio or boil the jug for a cup of tea.  Sirens from emergency services sounded constantly.  With not a lot else to do we went for a walk to survey the damage.  We walked along the shopping strip but couldn’t buy anything because they’d had to close due to no  lighting and not being able to operate EFTPOS machines.

A few live wires here

A few live wires here

But just before 8pm, power was restored.  I was so excited to be able to plug in all our devices, and it meant we could go out for dinner but most of all, it meant I wouldn’t miss the next episode of Downton Abbey.  And we were lucky; 24-hours later 12,000 homes in the area were still without power.

The size of the trees that were destroyed in the storm

The size of the trees that were destroyed in the storm

This mini-cyclone wouldn’t have lasted more than five minutes but what a lot of devastation it caused.  I was in awe of how well and how quickly our country responds to an emergency situation; by the next day so much of the debris that lay scattered across roads and homes and public areas had already been cleared.  For an area with such a small population I was very impressed.

A lot of damage at Little Beach

A lot of damage at Little Beach

More trees

More trees

Everywhere we went the SES had roped off areas considered dangerous

Everywhere we went the SES had roped off areas considered dangerous

These trucks were everywhere tidying things up

These trucks were everywhere tidying things up along with fire trucks

Plenty of devastation

Plenty of devastation

And that was the first mini-cyclone I’ve ever experienced.

This tiny coastal area lost thousands of trees

This tiny coastal area lost thousands of trees

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  1. I love Nelson Bay. What a dramatic weather event.

  2. What a scary experience. We had very strong winds some years back and the tree in my front yard fell north (right side of the property looking out my front door) which took out my fence, the neighbour’s fence and blocked the alley between our two properties. Luckily it turned out to be the city’s tree but that just meant they were responsible for moving/clearing the tree. Our respective house insurance had to pay for fence repair/replacement under an ‘act of god’ exemption.

  3. Oh my gosh! That is some fierce weather! We had an oak tree near our house fall due to bad weather. Thankfully, it missed the house and everything around us (except for the fence it took down), but I couldn’t believe what havoc it caused! Glad everyone is safe.

  4. So glad you were not under one of those trees. No matter where you go, there is always a story to tell. Makes like interesting I guess.
    Lots of trees down here too. Big storms always improve our small ocean view, so there is an upside.

  5. Wow!
    Such devastation! I can’t believe you were checking into a hotel in the middle of all that! Lucky you weren’t one of those caught in the lift. I hope you had a good weekend anyway. Nelson’s Bay looks beautiful.

  6. Looks like a beautiful place for a weekend getaway! Those pictures of the downed trees are crazy!

  7. Wow what a drama! I wonder if it was linked to the tropical cyclone Lusi that hit New Zealand in the weekend? I’m so glad you got through safely, and that order was restored with such efficiency.

  8. What an impressive storm.
    Thank heavens you are all safe.
    The place looks, despite of the destructions left from the mini cyclone, beautiful.

  9. My goodness that’s what 5 minutes can do? That is terrifying indeed! 😮 Good to know that you all weren’t hurt though!

  10. Yikes! That is scary!! I’m glad to hear that you’re all okay!

  11. —OOoo, how scary.
    Glad you are okay. It’s soooo horrible when one needs to drive in weather like this.
    …but the place looks gorgeous. XXXXXXXXXX

  12. Amazing how much damage can be done in 5 minutes. And how clear the sky was soon afterwards. Hope you got Foxtel back up running for Alfie whilst you were there!

  13. Glad to know you, Alfie and Carl are ok though. Mother Nature sure has a way of causing major destruction. I think it’s a reminder to us to not get so comfortable. In Houston back in 2008, we had just moved into out beams new home and 2 moths later we had Hurricane Ike. We decided to not evacuate and stayed watching our home. Oh my goodness, that night of the hurricane, I couldn’t sleep with all the noise of the wind and rain. I thought the roof would be ripped off. I can’t tell you the awful sound of the wind, I can still hear it. Texting with other members of my family and my uncle in California got me through one of ten scariest times. I don’t know how my husband slept through it all ….men.

  14. First, so glad that you all weren’t injured or anyone harmed in this storm. And I can’t believe that the table on your balcony didn’t have the glass top broken, how strange. We had a microburst storm here once that took the top out of a 110 foot tall pine tree and threw it over the top of our home to land on my husbands’ car, but nothing else was disturbed. Mother nature can be strange and fearsome sometimes. Glad that you were able to salvage your weekend after all.

  15. Nature is usually so beautiful, but has such a destructive side, too. I’ve been in more bad weather situations than I care to think of, and am always so grateful when they’re over. Glad you weren’t without power too long — that’s the worst!

  16. A friend of mine used to live there and we visited a few years ago. They had a heatwavecwgere the temp didn’t drop below 35 over night, the humidity was about 1000% and there wasn’t a hint of breeze. I’ve never been so hot or slept so little in my life (and I’m a new mum!). Must be the place of extreme weather.
    Now most importantly…when did downton start?!?

  17. Goodness, it’s amazing (and terrifying) how quickly things can change from a beautiful day to a scary situation! Glad you and your family were okay!! And that you didn’t miss Downton Abby, I hear it’s fabulous!! 😉

  18. Whoa, your little weekend getaway turned into much more of an adventure than you planned! Glad you’re all OK!

  19. Yikey spikies, that looks serious. Glad you weren’t hurt at all, driving in rain like that is really dangerous. I’ve not been up that way – always head south- so hope to hear more about the area.

  20. Thank goodness you didn’t have to drive too far in that rain- how dangerous! I’m so glad your weekend wasn’t ruined with a blackout the whole time and that the storm passed over so quickly. I bet Alfie thought it was all awesome 🙂 xox

  21. Scary stuff! Glad you’re ok. We were at Nelson Bay earlier this year – lovely part of the world.

  22. I’ve never been to Nelson Bay but it sounds like my kind of place – although I think I’d like it sans mini-cyclone.

  23. Ooh man, what a bead weather that day! Look at those huge trees & branches! I am glad to know that you are okey! x

  24. Wow how dramatic. You were very lucky with the falling tree on the road. We’ve had dreadful weather at the start of the year until a week ago, trees down, electricity off and very bad flooding. I’ve come to realise nature only needs a few minutes to destroy an awful lot. Glad you had a good time and didn’t miss Downton. GG

  25. 5 minutes and so much destruction – wow! Glad things were cleaned up quickly – inspite of the destruction, the place looks beautiful!

  26. Wow. Nature can be so amazing and terrifying at the same time. Glad you were safe!

  27. I’ve never heard of a mini-cyclone before! I grew up in Florida where we experienced hurricanes, but thankfully not mini hurricanes! (I think cyclones are the same but in your hemisphere..). Yikes! Scary stuff.

  28. Goodness. What an adventurous start to your holiday – and as you say, it’s amazing how 5 minutes of extreme weather can cause such widespread destruction. I’m glad you only had a few hours without power rather than many days!

  29. Nature was definitely having a bad day, oh my gosh! I am glad you all are safe, despite the lack of electronics!
    Besides that though nelson’s bay is so beautiful!

    Choc Chip Uru

  30. Getting caught in a storm like this can be quite dangerous, as you know. I’m thankful you came through unscathed.

    Tornadoes are not all that uncommon in our region of the U.S. The farm where I grew up was struck by a tornado which took down a silo, tossed silage wagons around in the field and damaged trees. My hometown was ravaged a few years ago by strong winds and a neighboring town struck by a tornado.

    My husband, son, mom and I were once stuck in a severe thunderstorm with 70 mph winds in the pitch dark of night on a rural Minnesota road after attending an outdoor theatre performance based on the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was terrifying. The car was rocking. The grass along the side of the road was blown flat. And we could see only blackness and the occasional flashes of lightening. We all feared the car might be blown over or sucked up by the storm. We were all praying and my son was holding my hand in the backseat. We survived. Praise be to God.

    This Monday my eldest, who was vacationing in Los Angeles with her husband, experienced her first earthquake. That scared her.

  31. It must have taken you totally by surprise how quickly that storm hit. I’d say luck was definitely on your side!

  32. We experienced something similar when we lived in Mauritius. Not fun.
    Have an awesome day Charlie.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  33. Yikes, … a “mini” cyclone you say? I’m so glad I live in an area where such weather conditions is “rare” at worst, and non-existent at best. I can’t imagine how scary it must be to see, or know that just a bit previously, trees were being tossed around and snapped in half! 🙁

  34. First and foremost, thank heavens you guys arrived when you did and unharmed. So much can happen with limbs bringing down power lines like that. Those had to have been some pretty strong winds to bring down so many limbs like that. I know little of cyclones, mini or otherwise, but I’m amazed at how quickly this one came and went. It reminds me of our tornadoes, another type of storm I’ve gladly missed. Glad you’re all safe and sound, Charlie.

  35. Amazing what can happen in a few minutes, glad you guys are all ok, have a great week 🙂


  1. […] that the cyclone has been and gone, I’ll show you the resort where we stayed in Nelson […]

  2. […] the week I had the car, I took it everywhere and we even went away in it to Nelson Bay.  On that trip it was so lovely to have so much space!  Alfie had the choice of six seats to to […]

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