"Bigger and better" are the words used almost every year to describe the Port's increasingly popular and unique 'human whale' event but this year's formation was the biggest and best yet, organisers say.
Counting of the participants involved in creating the outline of a 120 metre long humpback whale at Fingal Beach on Sunday is still underway however Mel Turner, one of the event organisers, said the preliminary figure stood at about 1600 humans and 17 dogs.
"It's a great result," Ms Turner, from Moonshadow-TQC Cruises, said.
"We were worried that the wind and cold weather would put people off.
"But once the sun came out, it was a beautiful day. We were able to get the drone up. All in all, we were super lucky and it turned out to be a great day."
The human whale event has been running in Port Stephens since 2011, organised in large part by Moonshadow and Imagine Cruises with support from Destination Port Stephens, Destination NSW and Fingal Bay businesses.
The fun formation is a tribute to the annual whale migration and the 'humpback highway', which passes through Port Stephens, that the creatures travel along.
Last year a total of 1318 people help form the outline of a humpback whale on Fingal Beach, eclipsing the 2017 record by more than 300.
This year's attendance, while not yet finalised, has already smashed last year's record by close to 300 people.
Asked why she thought the human whale event was so popular with the public, Ms Turner said she believed it was because of the location in which it is staged and its uniqueness.
"It's something that's not really done anywhere else," she said. "It's in celebration of the whales. There are whale festivals but this event is unique. And it's free. There's also the education side of it.
"It's just really different and family friendly."
The human whale event is free, but participants are asked to register on the morning of the formation.
Ms Turner said a lot of the names that appear on the registration list take part in the formation annually.
While many of the names are 'locals', there are some from much further afield. In this year's formation was a couple from Perth, Western Australia.
"The interest shown in this event is definitely increasing," Ms Turner said. "We know from talks with some accommodation providers, like The Retreat, that they have had phone calls asking when it [formation] was happening.
"I think it will only get bigger and better in the years to come."
Due to its popularity, in 2017 the formation was moved from Shoal Bay to Fingal Bay to accommodate the growth in participation numbers.
In addition to the formation, the event has a conservation theme that includes interactive and educational displays from groups such as OCCI, Marine Parks, Sea Shelter, Dolphin Swim Australia and this year, Plastic Free Port Stephens.
Fingal Beach Surf Life Saving Club run a barbecue.
Saltwater Restaurant, Longboat Cafe, Holidays By the Bay Real Estate and Fingal Sports and Recreation Club sponsored this year's human whale event.
North Point Surveys once again provided its services and mapped out the whale outline used to guide participants into place.
Ms Turner said that organisers would look to add a whale calf to the formation next year if the event attracted even greater numbers.