Port Stephens History Timeline

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.

~60,000 years of Aboriginal settlement and history. 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 11th May 1770 Captain James Cook sailed past Point Stephens and named Port Stephens


Five convicts who had escaped from Parramatta, were shipwrecked at Port Stephens and sought refuge with the Worimi


Port Stephens was first formally entered, by the British ship “Salamander” from the Third Fleet


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 the five white escaped convicts living 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




Governor Lachlan Macquarie took parties to the Hunter and named 'Raymond Terrace' as well as exploring the Paterson and Williams Rivers


Early shipping of cedar timber and wool to Sydney commenced in 1816 with Captain Corlette in his 62 ton cutter “Lambton”


Port Stephens was becoming a haven for escaped convicts and 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"


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


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


Shipwreck of Dove with loss of seven lives


Sir Edward Parry becomes Australian Agricultural Company agent and manager


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, the first church in Port Stephens, built by convicts from stone, cemented with lime obtained from oyster shells, and with cedar fittings (the church was later used as a youth hostel). The oldest grave in the cemetery at Carrington dates back to 1837


Paddle wheel steamships were able to reach upstream to Morpeth 


The Australian Agriculture Company was responsible for establishing vineyards at Carrington and the first wine was successfully produced

Tanilba House is built in Tanilba Bay. Lieutenant William Caswell, 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


Raymond Terrace village recognised


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


Census showed Raymond Terrace contained 47 houses, with 364 people, including 105 convicts


Nelson Bay (and not Nelson’s Bay) is shown on a chart of Port Stephens, with soundings made by Captain Phillip Parker King




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 1st May Outer Lighthouse begins operations


Inner Lighthouse begins operations


Worimi tribe reduced to 50 members


Maitland gale removes Fingal Spit


Raymond Terrace butter factory established, which prospered and later led to the large Oak factory being established at Hexham


SS Oakland shipwreck with loss of 11 lives


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 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

Bert Hinkler lands on Stockton Beach on his way to Sydney from Brisbane


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


Pappinbarra shipwreck, but no lives lost


15th February, RAAF Williamtown established


HMAS Assault established as a WW2 training base at Nelson Bay - 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 


On 24th May, an RAAF Catalina crashed into Port Stephens with a loss of 5 lives


MV Sygna wrecked on Stockton Beach


Port Stephens Volunteer Coastal Patrol Marine Rescue established, eventually growing to become Marine Rescue in 2010


The French owned Tomago Aluminium Smelter started up 


Tomaree National Park, comprising 2266 hectares, gazetted 


The ferry service was re-established with an aluminium vessel named “Waterbus” operating four days a week between Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens


Outer Lightkeepers residence burns down


On 1st December, the Port Stephens - Great Lakes Marine Park established pursuant to the Marine Parks Act 1997 (NSW)


The Tomaree Museum Association Incorporated aims to develop a  regional museum and interpretative centre to document, protect and promote the history and changing natural environment of Port Stephens.



The Tomaree Museum Association acknowledges the Worimi people, the traditional owners and custodians of the land and waters upon which Tomaree Museum stands. We should like to pay our respect to the Elders past and present, and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that this website contains a range of material which may be culturally sensitive including records of people who may have passed away.

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