Breif historical facts about Port Stephens, New South Wales, Australia.


Boondelbah Island. Home for the little penguin, Gould's petrel, white-faced storm petrel, wedge-tailed, short-tailed and sooty shearwaters.

Broughton Island. Named after Captain Broughton, who sheltered at Port Stephens in 1795 after crossing from South America in the Providence.

Cabbage Tree Island. The only breeding place for Gould's petrel.

Carrington. First settlement of the Australian Agricultural Company which was set up in 1824 to "produce wool of the finest quality in New South Wales for the markets of Great Britain ...". By 1830 Carrington had a population of 500 and a school for 50 children. This was the first school built in Port Stephens. Port Stephens' first hospital was also situated at Carrington. Site of the former Holy Trinity Anglican Church, the first church in Port Stephens - built by convicts from stone, cemented with lime obtained from oyster shells, and with cedar fittings (later used as a youth hostel). The oldest grave in the cemetery at Carrington dates back to 1837. The general layout of Carrington is much the same today as it was in the past. Site of memorial to William Cromarty erected by A.A. Co. The A.A. Co. was also responsible for establishing vineyards at Carrington and the first wine was successfully produced in 1831. Hawks Nest. Supposedly named because of the hawks that nested in a large tree used as navigational marker.

Karuah. During the time of the Australian Agricultural Co. Karuah was known as Sawyers Point because logs from up the river were sawn up here.

Legges Camp Guest House. The two storied guest house was completed in 1927. Much of the timber for the guest house was salvaged from the sunken drogher, 'Bellbird'. Provided accommodation for 70 people, who came to the Myall Lakes for game hunting and fishing.

The 29k track to Big Gibber and Seal Rocks was constructed between 1934 and 1936 by Harry Legge and his sons, Ron and Allan. The track was created without destroying trees.

Mungo Brush. Brush was the name given to the coastal rain forests which once contained cedar. Still remaining are paper barks, cabbage palms and red gums. The Mungo Brush Regatta commenced in 1909 - a three day social event for the people of the lakes with visitors coming from Sydney, Newcastle and elsewhere.

Myall Lakes. Aboriginal word meaning 'wild'. Aboriginal shell middens occur frequently along the coast and on Broughton Island. Excavation has revealed the bones of dingoes and macropods as well as fishbones, shells and implements. Human skeletons have also been found. White settlement reduced the Aboriginal population. There was a substantial timber trade on the lakes. Cedar trade commenced in 1816 and was well established by the early 1820s. In the early 20th Century the residents of the Myall Lakes could travel only by water. Supplies were brought in by the storeboat "Nepean" travelling from Tea Gardens around the lakes. The vessel carried food, medicine, clothing, hardware etc. Mining for mineral sands commenced in the late 1960s. In 1972 Myall Lakes National Park, a small area on the eastern side of Myall Lakes, was established. Mined areas were revegetated. The national Park was extended in 1976 to include the western side of the lakes. All sand mining in the National Park ceased in 1983.

North Arm Cove. The site for Walter Burley Griffin's great city (the New York of Australia), planned in the expectation that Port Stephens would become the main seaport for New South Wales. The land was purchased by Henry F. Haloran, land developer and surveyor, but the city never eventuated. Plans for the city show two railway stations, a business district, Federal and State office sites, a factory district, car parks, wharves, parks and playgrounds. The subdivision commenced in 1918, the outline of which can still be seen from the air.

Pindimar. Aboriginal name meaning 'Black Possum'. The site was proposed for the development of Pindimar City as a port for overseas shipping in 1918. Pindimar was also the suggested site of a naval base for the Pacific Fleet by Admiral of the Fleet, Viscount Jellicoe, in 1919. The proposed city was designed by W. Scott Griffiths and covered an area of 7000 acres. Plans for the development included farming lots for returned soldiers, a railway link, industrial and educational zones, a cathedral, golf links and cemeteries. The proposal was later rejected and the city never eventuated. A shark catching and processing station opened in 1927 and was later converted into an ice factory.

Tahlee House. Originally built of sandstock brick in 1826 for Robert Dawson, the first manager of the Aust. Ag. Co. and home to the first four commissioners of the A.A. Co. The house was destroyed by fire in 1860. The Hon. R.H.D. White, a Sydney stockbroker, purchased Tahlee in 1880 and built a new residence on the remains of old, utilising the remaining walls. The home featured a beautiful garden, ball room and tennis courts and was the centre of extravagant hospitality, entertainment and general carousing. The boat harbour at Tahlee was originally built by convicts.

Tamboi. Old fishing village. Setting for the novel February Dark by Ann Von Bertouch.

Tea Gardens. Chinese gardeners tried unsuccessfully to grow tea here in the time of the Aust. Ag. Co. It later became a shipping point for cedar from the Myall River and Lakes area. The site of limekilns used for the burning of shells from aboriginal middens.

Winda Woppa. Site of the first timber mill built in 1920.

Port Stephens. Cook, sailing by on Friday, May 11, 1770, noted in his Journal:

'...a low rocky point which I named Point Stephens. . . on the N. side of this point is an inlet which I called Port Stephens ... that appeared to me from the Masthead to be shelter'd from all Winds. At the entrance lay 3 Small Islands, 2 of which are of a Tolerable height, and on the main, near the shore, are some high round hills that make at a distance like islands. . .'

Stephens was one of the secretaries to the Admiralty at that time. North of the port, Cook noticed smoke from Aboriginal campfires on the flat land. This suggested to him that there must be coastal lagoons providing good subsistence for the Aborigines.

Worimi Aborigines lived in the coastal area centred on Port Stephens and stretching from the north bank of the lower Hunter to the northern end of Wallis Lake (present Forster), then inland to the Chichester area and down to Maitland. Their language must have been similar to that spoken by the Awabakal around Lake Macquarie, as Threlkeld who worked there is said to have addressed gatherings of Aborigines at Port Stephens as well, in their own tongue

Escaped Convicts. It seems that the earliest Europeans to live in this area were five escaped convicts, wrecked at Port Stephens in 1790. They were befriended by the Worimi, who took them into the tribe, giving them wives, by whom some had children, and taking them along on their wanderings. Five years later the white men were 'rescued' by Captain Broughton of the Providence, when he entered the Port to shelter from a gale.

Point Stephens. On the point, or intermittent island, named by Captain Cook, is the Port Stephens Lighthouse built in 1862, and a lighthouse-keepers residence, built about 1861. The lighthouse was designed by then Colonial Architect Alexander Dawson, and is built of Sydney sandstone. The residence, also sandstone, has three separate living units within the single structure. The point was linked to the mainland by a permanent sand spit. In1891 it was washed away in a gale and the spit has become an intermittent landform, covered at high tide.

Soldiers Point. A small garrison of soldiers was established here in about the late 1820s to try to prevent escaped convicts from Port .Macquarie crossing the narrow section of Port Stephens en route to settled areas further south.

Captain William Cromarty came to NSW with his wife in 1824. He had associations with the Australian Agricultural Co., and received a grant of 340 acres near Booral, but did not settle there. Cromarty became a pilot at Newcastle, succeeding William Eckford in 1833, when he was also engaged to sound and chart the Hunter River. After receiving a serious injury while piloting a vessel, he resigned and settled at Soldiers Point where he had been granted land in lieu of the piece at Booral. Here he did cargo work with his ship Fame. He and his son William both died in 1838 apparently in an attempt to salvage a boat from One Mile Beach. His wife, with another son and three daughters, stayed on at Soldiers Point, where they kept a small store for passing whalers and fishermen. Mrs Cromarty died in 1862, and was buried at Soldiers Point, as storms prevented the crossing to Carrington where her husband's remains had been taken.

Tanilba An extravaganza of stone-work welcomes you to Tanilba Bay. The Centenary Gates, designed and erected by Henry F. Halloran in 1931, commemorate the arrival of the first settler, William Caswell. Lieutenant William Caswell RN had served as a midshipman on the Victory at Trafalgar. He settled on his grants at Tanilba, where he built Tanilba House in 1831. He lived here for about ten years before moving to the Williams River, where he built Ballikera. Caswell's daughter married Andrew Lang of Dunmore. He died at sea in 1859. The house faces Port Stephens across Meridian Park, and has extravagant stone landscaping. In the 1940s it was leased as their headquarters by the Gospel Fisherman Mission, before their move to Tahlee on the northern shore of the Port.

Grahamstown Lake was constructed on the former Grahamstown Moors, beginning in 1957. It is now linked to the Williams River by the Balikera Canal on the site of Caswell's property. The scheme was originally developed by a firm of Swedish consultants, and was built to augment water supply from Chichester Dam and Tomago Sandbeds. The link to Seaham Weir on the Williams provides for adjustment of water levels in the river as well as the dam, so incorporating flood mitigation with water supply. Water from Grahamstown was first used in 1960, some years before the whole scheme was completed.


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