Port Stephens is the submerged estuary of the Karuah and Myall Rivers.
Originally the lower Hunter Valley in the Carboniferous period (~359 to 299 million years ago) would have been a spectacular but harsh environment with volcanic and glacial activity.
The volcanic plugs of Tomaree and Yacaaba date back to that time period.
There is about 60,000 years of Aboriginal settlement and history in Port Stephens.
The Worimi tribe;
“generally taller and stouter than tribes from Sydney with a completely different language…”
– extended from Port Stephens in the south to Forster/Tuncurry in the north and as far west as Gloucester.
On the 11th of May 1770, Captain James Cook and crew sailed past Point Stephens and named Port Stephens.
Five convicts who had escaped from Parramatta were shipwrecked at Port Stephens and sort refuge with the Worimi people.
- Port Stephens was surveyed by Charles Grimes who served as Surveyor General of New South Wales – he wrote that he could see no reason why anyone should visit there again!
- Worimi tribe population was seen to be around 400 people.
- Captain W.R. Broughton turned the HMS Providence into Port Stephens and found four survivors of the five white escaped convicts who had lived with the Worimi.
HMS Providence was a sloop of the Royal Navy, famous for being commanded by William Bligh on his second breadfruit voyage between 1791 and 1794.
Lt.Colonel Paterson took the survey vessel “Lady Nelson” up the Hunter River and camped at the site of Raymond Terrace.
Early shipping of cedar timber and wool to Sydney commenced in 1816 with Captain Corlette in his 62 ton cutter “Lambton”.
Governor Lachlan Macquarie took parties to the Hunter and named ‘Raymond Terrace’ as well as exploring the Paterson and Williams Rivers.
- Port Stephens was becoming a haven for escaped convicts.
A NSW garrison was established at what is now known as Soldiers Point, so called because of the garrison.
- Land grants; east and west of the Hunter, Paterson and Williams Rivers were made available.
- One of these was to James King who established a vineyard and one of the first potteries in NSW on his property “Irrawang”.
1824 – 1827
- The Australian Agricultural Company was established as a land development company with the assistance of the British Parliament’s Crown Grant of 1,000,000 acres – they carried produce from the hinterland to North Arm Cove and operated “Karua”, one of the first steamers in Australia.
- Captain William Cromarty was granted a land Grant in 1824 of 300 acres covering Soldiers Point and Salamander Bay. The Cromarty family were the first Colonial family to reside in Port Stephens at Soldiers Point.
- Carrington became first settlement to “produce wool of the finest quality in New South Wales for the markets of Great Britain.
- There was a timber mill at Winda Woppa.
- Whalers were frequent visitors to Port Stephens.
- The Australian Agriculture Company was responsible for establishing vineyards at Carrington and the first wine was successfully produced.
- Carrington had a population of 500 and a school for 50 children. This was the first school built in Port Stephens.
- Carrington was also the site of Port Stephens’ first hospital and of the former Holy Trinity Anglican Church. It was the first church in Port Stephens, built by convicts from stone & cemented with lime obtained from oyster shells and with cedar fittings.
- The oldest grave in the cemetery at Carrington dates back to 1837.
- Tanilba House is built in Tanilba Bay.
- Lieutenant William Caswell of the Royal Navy, received a land grant of 20.2 hectares (50 acres) along with an assignment of convicts who cleared the land and built Tanilba House from locally quarried stone.
- Pandora shipwreck with loss of 5 lives.
- The Junction Inn, Raymond Terrace commenced serving local patrons making it now the second longest continuously licensed hotel in NSW.
Capt Cromarty 49, his 16 yr old son William, an assigned convict servant and an Aboriginal worker drowned at One Mile beach in efforts to recover a boat from the King William IV.
Tomago house construction commenced – this country residence with its fine verandahs and cool cellars was the heart of a vast agricultural estate.
Sketchley Cottage, Raymond Terrace constructed.
Nelson Bay (and not Nelson’s Bay) is shown on a chart of Port Stephens, with soundings made by Captain Phillip Parker King.
The township of Nelson Bay was origninally known as Teramby.
1850 – 1880
McPherson family developed a large shipbuilding operation in Raymond Terrace.
Henry Blackford was the first settler on the Tilligerry Peninsula which forms part of the southern shoreline of Port Stephens.
Under the Crown Lands Alienation Act, Tomaree Head was declared a reserve; it was used for recreational purposes and occasional squatting from the 1860s until the 1930s.
On May 1, Outer Lighthouse begins operations on Point Stephens at what was then known as False Bay and today as Fingal Bay.
Maitland gale removes the Fingal Spit connecting Point Stephens to the mainland at Fingal Bay when it was known as False Bay.
Raymond Terrace butter factory established.
It prospered and later led to the large Oak Dairy factory being established at Hexham.
The first passenger ferry between Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens was started by the Boyce and Thurlo families.
It proved such a success that the runs were expanded to Salt Ash and Soldiers Point.
They operated three launches: “Reliance”, “Kingfisher” and “Replica”.
Pindimar, on the north side of Port Stephens, is proposed as a city and port for overseas shipping.
Pindimar proposed as a site of a naval base for the Pacific Fleet by Admiral of the Fleet, Viscount Jellicoe.
- Canberra selected as new capital in lieu of North Arm Cove.
- North Arm Cove was selected as a potential the site by Walter Burley Griffin in the expectation that Port Stephens would become the main seaport for New South Wales.
- A timber mill was built at Winda Woppa and shipped out 13 million square feet of wood in 1922.
- Aviation pioneer Bert Hinkler makes an emergency landing on Stockton Beach on his way to Sydney from Brisbane.
Hinkler and his pet magpie are towed by horses along Stockton Bight to Stockton by Anna Bay local Thomas `Fuffy’ Eagleton.
- Pindimar shark catching and processing station opened and later converted into an ice factory.
- The Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens Ferry Service taken over by the Engal family who installed the first diesel engines to operate on Port Stephens.
- HMAS Assault established as a WW2 training base at Nelson Bay where over 20,000 US and several thousand Australian troops trained in Amphibeous landings before deployment to the war in the Pacific against Japan.
- The hospital from this facility is now the Community Arts Centre.
- Tomaree Head Army/RAAF Camp progressively established on Tomaree Headland with gun emplacements – now known as Tomaree Lodge.
Port Stephens Volunteer Coastal Patrol Marine Rescue established, eventually growing to become Marine Rescue in 2010.