Port Stephens

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Port Stephens & Nelson Bay Dolphin & Whale Watching

Port Stephens & Nelson Bay Tours from Sydney

Port Stephens; occupied by the Aborigines of the Worimi Tribes whom were referred to as a taller, stouter race of people than those about Sydney with a completely different language.

At the time of European settlement there were estimated to be about 500 Aborigines living around the estuary of Port Stephens. By 1873, the tribe had only 50 members in. By 1900 there were very few tribal Aborigines left.

Aboriginal tribes known as the Worimi first inhabited the region. The Worimi consisted of the Grewerigal, Gamipinigal and Maiagal tribes that lived on the water’s edge around the port. The existence of the Worimi in the area is evident in the occupational sites and artefacts left behind such as scar trees and shell middens.

Port Stephens

In 1770 Captain Cook referred to Port Stephens in his log as “an opening forming a bay.” He went on to describe; “Wind southerly in the day and in the night westerly, a gentle breeze and clear weather. At 4pm past at a distance of one mile a low rocky point which I named Point Stephens… on the north side of this point is an inlet which I called Port Stephens that appears from the masthead to be sheltered from all winds.”

At the entrance lay 3 Small Islands, 2 of which are of a Tolerable height, and on the main, near the shore, are some high round hills that make at a distance like islands. . .’

North of the port, Cook noticed smoke from Aboriginal campfires on the flat land. This suggested to him that there must be coastal lagoons providing good subsistence for the Aborigines.

Despite his description, Cook never entered the Port. It wasn’t entered until 1791 when a whaler commissioned as a convict transport called the Salamander entered the Bay.

In the year 1795, Captain W.R. Broughton (after whom Broughton Island is named) on HM Providence was driven by bad weather past his destination of Port Jackson into Port Stephens for shelter. He was amazed to discover four white men living amongst the Aborigines, survivors of a party of five convicts who escaped from Parramatta. They were befriended by the Worimi, who took them into the tribe, giving them wives, by whom some had children.

Port Stephens was a haven for convicts escaping from Sydney. This led to the establishment of a garrison in 1820, which today is known as Soldiers Point.


Port Stephens Landmarks

  • Broughton Island: (named after Captain Broughton, who sheltered at Port Stephens in 1795 after crossing from South America in the Providence).
  • Cabbage Tree Island: (the only breeding ground for Gould’s petrel).

Port Stephens is a popular tourist attraction for dolphin and whale watching. As well as its beautiful bays and waterways its surrounding national parks are host to an abundance of Australian native flora and fauna.

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