6 Days in Port Stephens Paradise
As it turned out the freezing weather down south, (best snow season in years), helped make up our minds. Instead of working our way up the coast, we decided to start at Port Stephens and work our way back south from there. So two days after leaving the Mornington Peninsula, and an overnight stop at the Gundagai Hotel, we arrived at Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, booked into the Halifax Caravan Park and started planning our expedition of discovery.
As is always the case when arriving someplace new, you have no idea where you to go or what you should do to get the most out of your limited time at that location. The very next morning we set about getting some information and went straight to the headquarters of the NSW Marine Rescue in Port Stephens which is based on Nelson Head at the heritage classified inner lighthouse station.
OK, you might be thinking that’s an odd place to start but who better to speak to about the best and most popular boating places in and around the port which is actually two and a half times larger than Sydney Harbour. And, as it turned out, when we got to the Marine Rescue HQ there was a sign actually encouraging visitors to come up to the watch tower and talk to the volunteers.
On the northern side you will find ramps at Allworth and Karuah (on the Karuah River) and Winda Woppa, Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens (2 ramps). These four ramps are on the Myall River.
After a late start leaving Soldiers Point we headed straight to Fame Cove which is on the northern side of the bay and is an excellent all wind anchorage with five permanent moorings available to whoever gets there first. Scattered throughout the Port Stephens waterways are moorings referred to as ‘courtesy moorings’ which can be used by anyone free of charge. They are pink which makes them easily identifiable as public moorings as opposed to private. The only problem with these moorings is that there is not enough of them.
The next morning we had a choice; go offshore to Broughton Island or up the Myall River to check out Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest. The decision was made by the weather, or more particularly the swell which was dropping from a massive 6 metres to 2 over the following two days. After watching the Marine Rescue boys tow a yacht back from Broughton Island after the crew became completely incapacitated from sea sickness in the 6 metre swells, we opted for a nice quiet cruise up the Myall River.
NSW Marine Rescue towing a boat back into port
After travelling for over one and a half hours and not seeing a soul, we came across a small wooden landing at a location called ‘Black Oaks’. Perfect for our overnight stop. We put our deck chairs on the small landing, opened the bar and watched the river change colour with the dying sunset. This place could be in the middle of nowhere, we didn’t see another person from the minute we left Tea Gardens to the minute we arrived back there the next day.