Tanilba House was built by convicts for Lieutenant William Caswell who received a land grant of 50 acres in 1831. The historic home still stands today, offering scenic vistas of Tanilba Bay, on the Tilligerry Peninsula. It was originally built as a family home and the half-metre-thick stone walls, decorative edges and high ceilings are all part of its colonial charm.

Today, the property features:

  • Convict built 6 bedroom stone homestead built in 1831.

  • Overlooking magnificent Port Stephens.

  • 3 Acres of gardens and grounds.

  • Home to the first vineyard in the region.

  • Stone and timber column 30m long wisteria arbour.

  • Stone wishing Chair.

  • Original convict gaol.

  • Oldest olive tree in Australia.

  • 150 year old fig trees.

  • 150 year old Mulberry tree..

  • Circular stone wall driveway with magnificent entry columns.

In addition to the land at Tanilba Bay, the Caswells also had 920 acres on the Williams River granted to them - this became known as Balickera. Lieutenant Caswell was known to leave Tanilba at 3am each day on horseback to ride to supervise operations at Balickera. In the early 1840s the Caswells returned to the Balickera farm and Tanilba House was leased intermittently until 1897. Lieutenant Caswell died in 1859 and Mrs Caswell in 1886 at the age of 81. 

In 1882 a visitor described the house as a "deserted residence fast moulding into decay". After Mrs Caswell's death that the home was sold to Elizabeth Holmes in 1897 who started restoring the old residence. Mrs Holmes sold Tanilba House to W.J. Ebbeck in 1905, who converted it into a holiday house for fishing parties from Newcastle and Maitland. It changed hands again in 1913 and became the residence of Walter W. Clift who in turn sold it in 1920 to property developer Henry F. Halloran.


Mr Halloran was a real estate agent, developer and landscape architect in Sydney and other parts of NSW. Many say he envisaged a flourishing town surrounding Tanilba House and it was under his guidance that the old house was updated, the conservatory added, ornate fences built and the adjoining "temple" constructed with a vision the home could become Government House if The City of Port Stephens become the Capital City of Australia. Mr Halloran died in 1953 and the house again began to go downhill.


For almost 20 years Tanilba House was used as a holiday destination before being leased to religious group "The Gospel Fisherman".


Helen Taylor’s mother, Helena Oberland, took over the lease in the mid-1950s, using it as a guest house and riding school. Ms Taylor lived at Tanilba House from the mid-1980s. She staged exhibitions, plays, poetry readings and concerts in the historic home. 


In 1980 the state government, finally realising its importance, placed a permanent conservation order on the property.


In 2017 The current owners, Glenn Short and Deirdre Hall purchased the property and have been tirelessly restoring the property and grounds to its former glory


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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