Lieutenant James Cook names Port Stephens,

11th May, 1770

The 11th of May 2020 was the 250th anniversary
of the naming of Port Stephens by Lieutenant James Cook during his voyage
of discovery in HMB Endeavour up the east coast of Australia.

Port Stephens was named by Cook after Sir Phillip Stephens, Secretary of the Admiralty.
As Secretary of the Admiralty, much of the correspondence concerning Cook’s voyages emanated from Stephens or was addressed to him.

Portrait of Capt James Cook by Nathaniel Dance, 1776.
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection.

Sir Philip Stephens sat in the House of Commons for 47 years from 1759 to 1806.

During his 32 years as Secretary to the Admiralty, Stephens was one of the most powerful

men in Britain.


He was operating at a time of intense Anglo-French rivalry. He sent out a fleet of navigators to explore the Pacific Ocean including his friend James Cook and the infamous Captain Bligh.

In his logbook description of Port Stephens, Cook wrote: “In passing this bay at the distance of 2 or 3 miles from the shore our soundings were from 33 to 27 fathoms from which I conjectured that there might be a sufficient depth for shipping water in the

The three islands Cook sighted at the entrance to Port Stephens are now known as Boondelbah Island, Cabbage Tree Island and Little Island.

Cabbage Tree Island

Little Island

Boondelbah Island

Point Stephens

Port Stephens

A plaque and replica of Cook's sextant was erected on Boondelbah Island to celebrate the 200th Anniversary.

However, it was over 20 years before Port Stephens saw further European shipping.

In 1791 the convict transport "Salamander", one of eleven vessels of the Third Fleet
transporting convicts to Australia, paid a visit.


The Salamander departed Port Jackson bound for Norfolk Island 4th September 1791 with 160 male convicts, stores, provisions, two non-commissioned officers and eleven privates.


The crew provided a sketch of Port Stephens and some of its arms. Salamander Bay is named after this first European vessel to enter Port Stephens.

Salamander Bay