There are few more pleasant areas in Australia than around Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest, just an hour's drive north of Newcastle. On the northern shores of Port Stephens and with the uniquely beautiful Myall River and Myall Lakes system just a few kilometres north, the area is a boatie's heaven. And if you don't have a boat of your own, you can hire a boat or houseboat or take a fishing or dolphin-watching cruise.
The curious name of the town is believed to stem from a failed tea growing venture by the Australian Agricultural Company in the 1850s. Tea Gardens and its sister town of Hawks Nest are linked across the Myall River by the Singing Bridge, named because of the resonance it gives off during strong winds. The local prawns are a sought-after delicacy, celebrated by the Myall Prawn Festival held in March each year. The accompanying World Prawn Eating Championship has produced a record of 1kg of prawns being downed in five minutes.
Port Stephens is home to a large number of bottle-nosed dolphins, which can often be seen following boats in the bay. A great way to spot these magnificent creatures is to take the ferry across Port Stephens to Nelson Bay on the southern shores. Apparently, dolphins are seen on about 90% of their ferry runs. You can then choose to spend some time in Nelson Bay before heading back to Tea Gardens later in the day.
The Myall Lakes and River is unique, covering an area of around 31,000 hectares, making it one of the largest coastal lake systems in the state. It is a wetland area of international significance, protected by Myall Lakes National Park. In the park, you can go canoeing, boating, swimming, fishing, bushwalking and cycling. There are lookouts, picnic area, campsites and plenty of photographic opportunities.
Myall Prawn Festival (March)
Things to do:
- Visitor Centre - Myall St
- Boating - hire a boat or houseboat or take a fishing or dolphin-watching cruise
- Ferry to Nelson Bay - hopefully see dolphins in Port Stephens
- Myall Lakes National Park - canoeing, boating, swimming, fishing, bushwalking, cycling, picnics, camping