For a day trip, short break or weeks' holiday, the Tilligerry Peninsula tucked away on the western side of Port Stephens is home to the quaint villages of historic Tanilba Bay, the site of the first settlement at Lemon Tree Passage.
An easy 35min drive from Nelson Bay or 2.5hrs north from Sydney, leave behind the hustle and bustle and enjoy what these coastal villages have on offer.
Following Nelson Bay Road, then turning off at Salt Ash onto Lemon Tree Passage Road, head along the Avenue of the Allies to discover Tanilba Bay.
The first settler in the area, Lieutenant William Caswell was granted 50 acres of land at Tanilba in 1831 in recognition of his military service in the Royal Navy and built Tanilba House.
You will pass through the extraordinary stone Tanilba Bay Centenary and Water Gates built later in 1931 by Henry Halloran, a real estate developer, designed to welcome visitors approaching from the water.
Continue along the Avenue of the Allies, turn left to follow the waterfront around to Admiralty Avenue to the Temple of the Stork built in 1931 also by Henry Halloran. The Temple of the Stork is made of ornate stone shell with exotic design features. Just a short walk past you will discover the oldest house in Port Stephens, Tanilba House.
FACT: The gates were built of quartz porphyry stone which was quarried nearby. The mortar came from the lime produced by burning oysters.
To discover more about the distinctive sites and landmarks, the Tanilba Bay Walk is approximately 3.5km and takes around 35 - 45 mins where you can take in the unique history and environment of this beautiful place.
FACT: Tanilba Estate was developed post WW1 and curiously there are streets named after important WW1 elements. The street names also use alliterations for example; Avenue of the Allies, President Poincare Parade, Navy Nook and Peace Parade.
Historic Tanilba House was built by Lieutenant William Caswell. Tanilba House is the oldest original home in Port Stephens and is state heritage listed. ‘Tanilba’ is an indigenous word and means ‘Place of white flowers’ presumably due to the many flannel flowers that originally covered the peninsula. Tanilba House hosts weddings, opens for larger groups and hosts a High Tea calendar. For a truly unique stayover, accommodation is available at the homestead in the newly refurbished Historic Maids quarters.
FACT: The gardens at Tanilba House is home to the oldest olive tree in Australia and still produces olives in the field. Tanilba was home to the first vineyard in Port Stephens.
Just 5 minutes’ drive from Tanilba House is the Tilligerry Habitat. Take a walk through magnificent eucalypts, banksias, flannel flowers and Christmas Bush to name a few. Visit the Environment Centre to collect your special interest map and walking track information. Look out for koalas, echidnas and bandicoots as you explore the Chorus Creek Wetlands and the scenic swamp mahogany paperbark forest.
Enjoy fully accessible walking tracks, a native nursery and Verandah café (open Wednesdays). Don’t forget to browse for the gift shop for a locally hand-crafted souvenir. Maps and guides are available to follow the loop trails around Tilligerry Habitat and along the nearby foreshore
The Visitor Information Centre and nursery are open 9am-3pm daily.
Heading back out onto Lemon Tree Passage Road, head towards the waterfront village of Lemon Tree Passage for a variety of lunch options. For a true dining experience at one of the locally renowned restaurants, visit The Poyers right on the Marina of Lemon Tree Passage. Open Wednesday – Sunday for breakfast and lunch, and dinner Friday & Saturday. For fresh cut sandwiches, coffees and milk shakes, head to Heather's Place. Heather's Place also stocks home made sauces, fresh hive honey and sweet treats. Fish and Chips at John Dory’s Takeaway or Pizza at Port side Pizza are great options for a picnic blanket lunch right on the water at the marina.
After lunch, visit Lemon Tree Passage Distilling at Lemon Tree Passage Marina. This little hidden gem boasts on-site distilled gin and vodka using locally sourced ingredients and native Australian botanicals. Operating hours: Friday 4:00pm – 7:00pm; Saturday 12:00noon – 7:00pm; Sunday 12:00noon – 5:00pm.
TIP: If you are keen to throw a line in visit Anglerz Corner for expert advice on all things fishing. A great range of gear available and maybe a hot tip for the best fishing spot.
For locally designed artisan works, head to Tilligerry Arts Group. Located at Meredith Street in Lemon Tree Passage, wander through a delightfully airy and light filled studio and find a mix of eclectic pieces that has earned the Tilligerry Arts Group a strong reputation for unique wares from locals and from travellers near and far.
Open Tuesday – Friday 10am – 4pm; Saturday & Sunday 11am-3pm.
If you have decided to bunk down for the night or a week, The Tilligerry Peninsula offers a great range of accommodation options available.
Nestled on the water of Lemon Tree Passage, Koala Shores Holiday Park provides accommodation options ranging from waterfront cabins, camping and caravan sites to deluxe houses catering for 12. Boat ramp access and private access jetty ensures the water activities are all covered with a spot of fishing, kayaking or swimming. Plenty of onshore activities ensure you can do as much or as little as you like.
For a great friendly, clean and perfectly located motel, you can’t go past the The Lemon Tree Passage Motel. Conveniently located to all the water attractions, cafes and restaurants, and adjacent to the popular Lemon Tree Passage Bowling Club.
Leave the car behind and board Koala Ferries from Nelson Bay Marina and take in the scenic waterways as you head to Lemon Tree Passage Marina. Enjoy lunch at your own leisure at one of the many eateries and stop by Lemon Tree Passage Distilling for a gin and vodka experience. A walk with an ice-cream is the perfect way to enjoy the marina foreshore and waterviews.
Return to Nelson Bay Marina while you take in the sights of the villages and beach inlets of the Port Stephens Harbour and maybe spot one of our local resident bottlenose dolphins.
FACT: Port Stephens waterways are 2.5 times larger than Sydney Harbour and is home to 26 beaches.