Tanilba Bay Walk has been created to celebrate the unique history and environment of this beautiful place.
The project was instigated by the Tanilba Foreshore Hall committee and completed with the help of the Tilligerry community association and other great community partners. This project was funded through the Port Stephens Community Grants program.
The walk is approximately 3.5km one way and takes around 35 to 45 minutes to complete. In some parts, the natural environment limits access by wheelchair and other mobility aids.
Tanilba Bay Walk
Below you can find historical and geographical information about each of the unique sites along the walk.
1. Sunset Park
Sunset Park is named after the spectacular sunsets viewed across the water from the point.
The traditional owners of this land, the Worimi People of Port Stephens, hunted and fished these shores. You can still see the remains of shell middens across the banks.
The stone fireplaces and seats rebuilt from lime kiln rocks were originally built by convicts assigned to Lieutenant William Caswell in about 1831. It was used for burning the oyster shell middens to make mortar used in the construction of Tanilba House. Rock for the house was also quarried from the park.
Additional stone table and seats, timber park furniture, playground, dance hall and replica stonework fireplaces and seating were designed and built by land developer Henry F. Halloran in 1932.
2. Tanilba House
Tenilba (Tanilba) is an indigenous place name. 'Tenil' means place of white flowers and 'ba' means water.
Tanilba House and its surrounds are state heritage listed. The grounds include a convict built stone wall, a gaol, a stone water tank, a wishing chair in the wisteria pergola, stone entrance pillars and a direction finder. The house is privately owned and is open for weddings, high teas and special events.
Lieutenant William Caswell received a 50 acre land grant for his distinguished service to the Royal Navy. In the early 1830s, Caswell and 3 assigned convicts arrived in Tanilba. His wife Susan and 2 children arrived shortly after.
The first house was just a slab hut. This was followed by a small cottage built in 1833 to accommodate their growing family.
By 1837, foundations were laid for Caswell's 'mansion on the hill' — an elegant family home built by convicts from local porphyry stone, sandstone brought in as ships ballast and lime mortar made in the kilns in Sunset Park.
They established a thriving vineyard, orchard and vegetable garden. The olive tree planted by Susan Caswell still thrives and is now one of the oldest living olive trees in Australia.
Soon after, convict labour was withdrawn and crops failed with drought. Along with many others, Caswell became insolvent. He advertised the house and grounds to let. By 1844, the family were forced to remove to the farm at Balickera where they had permanent water.
The estate was leased until it was sold to the Holmes family in 1897. Henry F. Halloran bought the estate in 1920 — he surveyed the Tanilba Estate subdivision, made additions to the house and added many stone features to the estate.
3. Photo Shelter
The Photo Shelter is located in Meridian Park, opposite Tanilba House where Henry F. Halloran built a stone meridian finder in the land surrounding the house. He named the park when Tanilba House Estate was surveyed because it is supposedly 136⁰ meridian of longitude.
The Photo Shelter features photographs and interpretive panels about the first inhabitants and traditional owners of this land, the Worimi People of Port Stephens. It also displays images of Tanilba House, the Caswell family and the early European settlement of Tanilba Bay.
A stone memorial found in the garden area pays tribute to 2 small Caswell children and a Caswell family governess who died at Tanilba, although the burial site is now concealed on an adjacent property.
4. Summer House
The Summer House is located in Pomona Place. It was designed in 1931 by Henry F. Halloran, who had a penchant for building summer houses or 'picnic reserves' in his seaside estates.
Alongside the Summer House is a stone fireplace, advertised in Halloran’s brochure for Tanilba House Estate as being “a place to boil the billy or grill the chops”.
You'll also find a curved stone wall leading down to Sunrise Point.
5. Sunrise Point
Sunrise Point is named after the superb morning sunrise viewed across the bay from the prominent vantage point.
This is thought to be the landing place of Lieutenant William Caswell when he arrived by boat to take early possession of his land grant in 1830.
In Pomona Place, you'll find a coiled, circular stone bather’s change room and a circular stone rubbish bin built by Henry F. Halloran in 1934. At this time, Halloran had applied to the Local Land Board for a special lease to construct a swimming pool on the foreshore at Sunrise Point.
6. Temple of the Stork
The Temple of the Stork is an ornate stone and shell temple with exotic design features. It was built from local rock quarried from Mallabula and completed in 1933.
From the air, the layout of the temple area is very similar to the masonic lodge emblem, of which Henry F. Halloran was a staunch member.
The floor and ceiling of the temple feature reversed images while patterns of 8 appear mystically in the design.
7. Tanilba Foreshore Hall and Park
In 1952, the Tanilba Bay Progress Association was formed with Art Paton elected as the first president.
With the help of locals and weekend campers, the Tanilba Progress Hall was constructed in 1960 over a period of 8 weekends.
All community events, parties, Church and Sunday school, plus games like housie (bingo) and indoor bowls, took place at the hall. It was later renamed Tanilba Foreshore Hall.
Nearby Tanilba Park is the site of Foster and Kitty (Clara) Brown’s boat shed. The Brown family, originally from Branxton, lived in the boat shed and hired row boats to the holiday campers. The boat shed was a popular place that also had the only telephone line in Tanilba Bay for community use.
8. Mirage jet crash site
At about 12 midday on 2 May 1980, a Mirage A3-58 that had been engaged in an affiliation exercise with the Navy ship HMAS Hobart crashed into the foreshore of Tanilba Bay.
The aircraft malfunctioned and the pilot ejected safely into scrubland north of the Salt Ash drop zone. However, the abandoned aircraft continued on its own course to crash land on the sand 50 metres from the shore.
The impact sent scattered fragments of the jet, sand and mud everywhere. A section of the port wing landed against a fence and fragments damaged a parked car.
Miraculously, no one was injured. It was a lucky escape for all!
9. Centenary Gate
The Centenary Gate, also known as the Water Gate, were constructed from 1929 to 31 March 1931. It was built to mark the centenary of European settlement at Tanilba Bay by the original grantee, Lieutenant William Caswell.
Henry F. Halloran designed the gate from round and broken quartz porphyry embellished with white feldspar gathered from Tanilba foreshore and a quarry at Mallabula.
The metal arch suspended between the rock pillars reads 'Tanilba Bay' and was designed to be viewed from the water when many visitors arrived by boat to Tanilba Bay.
Halloran’s interest in history caused him to add 4 plaques to the Water Gate to:
Commemorate the naming of Port Stephens by Captain James Cook on 11 May 1770
Commemorate Australia’s first naval battle between HMAS Sydney and the German cruiser Emden at the Cocos Islands on 9 November 1914
Commemorate Caswell’s grant on 31 March 1831
Commemorate the completion of the gate in 1931.
The 2 bollards on the central columns are from HMAS Sydney, which was moored in Port Stephens on its way to being scrapped.
10. Tanilba Bay Boardwalk
The Tanilba Bay Boardwalk was built in stages along the foreshore on Crown land managed by Port Stephens Council. It was completed with additional support from Landcom.
Enjoy a stroll between almost pristine wetland and the sandy foreshore. Keep an eye out for koalas, which can sometimes be seen in the treetops.
11. Tilligerry Habitat
Tilligerry Habitat is a Crown Reserve. A local task force leading the project was formed in 1993 and it was gazetted on 5 July 1996.
Eco-tourist and education activities overlap — while you walk, learn about the history, geography, koalas and plants of this unique area. You can also visit the straw bale Environment Centre and Nursery.
Tilligerry Habitat, like most of Tanilba Bay and Mallabula, was mined for sand extensively by dredge during the 1960s. Rehabilitation is ongoing to try to recreate the natural environment as much as possible.
12. Caswell Reserve
This reserve is named in honour of the Caswell family from Tanilba, the first European settlers of the area.
Lieutenant William Caswell received a 50 acre land grant for his distinguished service to the Royal Navy. In the early 1830s, Caswell and 3 assigned convicts arrived in Tanilba. His wife Susan and 2 children arrived shortly after and they constructed Tanilba House.
13. Rookes Point
Located in Mallabula, Rookes Point is named in honour of the Rooke family from Lemon Tree Passage.
Henry Rooke, together with his father George, ran a guest house and a gentleman’s fishing retreat at Lemon Tree Passage. The point was a favourite plentiful fishing spot for them to take their visitors.
From the point, there is a lovely bushland loop walk to Mallabula jetty and the scenic foreshore of Port Stephens.