Port Stephens as it looked on 16th March 1795

Port Stephens Surveyed by C Grimes 16th March 1795 (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)
Port Stephens Surveyed by Charles Grimes 16th March 1795 (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)


Port Stephens

Latitude – 32″: 28′ S.

Tide at Entrance – 2 Knots

High Water, full, and Change at 10 O’Clock.

Tide rises – 7 feet.

The Harbour, and Rivers abover Direction Island, were traced by rowing from point to point, and estimating the distance by the Eye.

Below Direction Island, by taking the bearings from the vessel, as she lay at anchor off Salamander Point. The Country to the S. and W. is a mangrove Swamp; on the N. side, there are a few Hills, but the Ground is very bad and the Timber, low.

There are mangroves, and Oysters, as far up the Rivers, as we went, tho’ the Water is perfectly fresh.

The Rivers appear to be supplied, more from the Swamps, on each side – than the high land, at the Heads – for we never found – (in the Rivers) the Ebb Tide run more than 1/4 Mile; nor did the Trees, on their Banks appear bent by floods.

A Veseel running into Port Stephens, must keep the N. Head, close on board, within half a Cable; and run over the Bar, ’till they find 3 fath. water; then steer for Salamander Point, and keep the S. Shore, on board there is a good passage on the S. side of Direction Island, and a Vessel may lay perfectly secure in 3 1/2 fath. water, within Point Friendship.

There is a Bar across the Mouth of the Harbour – running in, at low Water, we had 3 fath.  water – but coming out at high water 4 1/2 with a very heavy swell: The Sea breaks every two, or three minutes very heavy – but more on the S. than N. Shore.

C. Grimes
16th March 1795

Published Version of Charles Grimes 1795 Map of Port Stephens. Insert between Pages 286-287 Historical Records NSW Vol 2.
Published Version of Charles Grimes’ 1795 Map of Port Stephens. Insert between Pages 286-287 Historical Records NSW Vol 2.


21st March 1795 Examination of Port Stephens.

Wishing to obtain some information which I could depend upon respecting the harbour of Port Stephens (thirty leagues to the northward of this place), I sent the colonial vessel thither, under the direction of Mr. Grimes, the Deputy-Surveyor. He remained in it about a week, and from his report, I have no reason to conclude it will ever be necessary to send a second time to it. – (HRA p. 490 From: Despatches – Captain Paterson, Administrator, to the Right Hon. Henry Dundas. Sydney, New South Wales 21st March, 1795.)

18th August 1795 William Broughton

Broughton, W. R. Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean in His Majesty’s Sloop Providence and Her Tender. London: T Cadell & W Davies, 1804.


Broughton, W. R. Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean in His Majesty’s Sloop Providence and Her Tender. London: T Cadell & W Davies, 1804. Page 16


Broughton, W. R. Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean in His Majesty’s Sloop Providence and Her Tender. London: T Cadell & W Davies, 1804. Page 17


Broughton, W. R. Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean in His Majesty’s Sloop Providence and Her Tender. London: T Cadell & W Davies, 1804. Page 18


Broughton, W. R. Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean in His Majesty’s Sloop Providence and Her Tender. London: T Cadell & W Davies, 1804. Page 19


28th September 1800. Proposed settlement at Port Stephens

Should this spirit of restlessness still exist , which I shall do my utmost to prevent , it will become necessary to remove a great part of the insurgents to another establishment which may-be formed at Port Stephens, that place being in the vicinity of the Coal River , but as a small civil and military establishment would be necessary for that purpose , which our numbers will by no means admit of, I humbly beg leave to apprize your Grace of what may be necessary , that it may be provided for if it should meet your approbation. I have done myself the honour of stating my ideas on this head in a separate letter, which I humbly submit to your Grace’s consideration. I have, &c., PHILIP GIDLEY KING. – (HRA, p. 614) From: ACTING-GOVERNOR KING TO THE DUKE OF PORTLAND. (General despatch No. 2, per H. M.S. Buffalo ; acknowledged by the Duke of Portland, 19th June, 1801.) Sydney, New South Wales, My Lord, 28th September, 1800.)

28th September 1800. Settlement at Port Stephens Proposed

If more people are sent here for sedition, or a much greater number of convicts, or that the refractory Irish still continue their restlessness, I respectfully beg leave to submit to your Grace’s wisdom the propriety of another settlement being formed at Port Stephens,* about thirty-five leagues to the northward of this place. The harbour is safe, and the land about it good, but its greatest recommendation would be the vicinity to the places where there is such an abundance of coal. Unless I find it absolutely necessary I shall not take this step without your Grace’s approbation, and if approved of, I respectfully beg leave to submit the following as a proper civil and military establishment for
that place, viz.:-

A captain of the New’ South Wales Corps, to have a Colonial appointment as commandant; and as his attention to the public duties of the settlement would be an extra duty, I should recommend his having at least 10s. a day.

To be added to the establishment of the colony.
A surgeon’s assistant at £91 p. annum.
A deputy-commissary £91 p. annum
Two superintendants £50 each p. annum
A company of soldiers from the New South Wales Corps which cannot be detached from hence until an augmentation takes place, and about 300 convicts, if a great number are sent out here, which I presume will be the case when a peace takes place. I have, &c., PHILIP GIDLEY KING. – (HRA, p. 667) From: ACTING-GOVERNOR KING TO THE DUKE OF PORTLAND. (Despatch marked ” Military No. 1,” per H.M . S. buffalo ; acknowledged by the Duke of Portland , 19th June, 1801.) Sydney , New South Wales, My Lord, 28th September , 1800.

Note. 273, page 667. Another settlement being formed at Port Stephens ) HRA p.752
Port Stephens had been sighted, and named by Captain Cook, on the 11th of May, 1770. In February, 1795, it had been visited and examined by Deputy-Surveyor Grimes in the colonial schooner Francis; in August of the same year, H.M.S. Providence sheltered there and found four runaway convicts ; and in September, 1797, it was entered by Lieutenant John Shortland in a whaleboat. A settlement was not established there by King, but one was located at Hunter River.

Monday, 22 June, 1801. (Lieutenant Grant)

We observed a stranger making up to us, which we could perceive was none of our party. It proved to be a man named John Loft, who had been unfortunately wrecked out of a boat belonging to Underwood of Sydney. She was cast on shore to the norw’d of Port Stephens. They were three in number, and he had been 32 days in travelling to this place from where she was wrecked. His other two companions, one he said was killed by the natives, the other eat a toad fish-which he complained of for some days-and died. He had a bag with a few small shell-fish on which he had chiefly subsisted. It was fortunate we were here, as I think it would have been impossible for him to have reached Sydney on foot. The emotions that he felt on meeting are much better imagined than described ; the laugh and the tear had their repeated place in turns, and his first utterance was, ” I am starving with hunger.” – HRA p.171 From: LIEUTENANT GRANT’S JOURNAL AT HUNTER RIVER. REMARKS, &c., on board His Majesty’ s armed surveying vessel, Lady Nelson , in Hunter ‘s River, 1801.

14th August 1804. Character of land in Illawarra on the north coast. (Governor King)

Of the appearance of the land to the northward of Port Stephens, I believe, from the various information I have received, that if it is totally unfit for agricultural purposes, at least the want of safe harbours is at present a great objection to settlements being extended farther northward. – HRA. Vol 5  p.7 From: GOVERNOR KING TO LORD HOBART. (Despatch marked ” General Letter No. 1,” per whaler Albion ; acknowledged by Viscount Castlereagh, 13th July, 1805.) Sydney, New South Wales, 14th August, 1804.)

15th June 1804. Adventures of runaways from Port Jackson (Lieutenant Menzies)

They made this place in three days got the boat into a Creek and decked her with Cedar slabs which occupied a week , came down the Harbour at night, and passed a Schooner at Anchor, shaped their Course to Port Stephens, remained there three days, left that Port with an intention of reaching Timor, proceeded about a hundred Miles further to the Northward when a heavy gale came on, the boat was drove on shore and dashed to pieces, they however got safe on shore and saved every thing that was in her, and remained there a week in hopes of repairing her; at the end of which, all expectations vanished; they then determined to return to Sydney and give themselves up; with this intention they were packing up their provisions when the Natives came suddenly upon them and threw a number of spears, one of which mortally wounded Broadbent, Johnson received six wounds and died five days afterwards in great agony, Field also received several; they were then stripped of everything, but he (Field) found the Natives more friendly afterwards, generally supplying him with a little fish and fern root, by which means he was enabled to crawl to this place. – HRA Vol 5 p.113 From: LIEUTENANT MENZIES TO GOVERNOR KING. King’s Town, New Castle, 15th June, 1804.


17 November 1812 (Governor Lachlan Macquarie)

He (Paterson) encouraged exploration by sending Charles Grimes, the surveyor, in the colonial schooner Francis to make an examination of Port Stephens ; but he made no attempt to control the evil practices which were developing amongst the officers of the New South Wales Corps. – HRA, Vol 7. Introduction, p.viii – Macquarie’s tour of inspection to Tasmania, Newcastle and Port Stephens. 1812 17 Nov.

3rd February 1814. (Governor Lachlan Macquarie)

Newcastle in Hunter’s River, and Port Stephens to the Northward of that Settlement, I returned again to, and Landed at Sydney on the 6th of January last; – HRA, p.582 From: GOVERNOR MACQUARIE TO EARL OF LIVERPOOL. (Despatch marked ” No. 6 of 1812,” per ship Isabella ; acknowledged by Earl Bathurst , 3rd February, 1814.)

Examination of Port Stephens

On Friday, the 20th of December, the Governor proceeded from Lagoon-beach on His return to Sydney, with the intention of previously informing himself regarding the extent and Value of Port Stephens, with a view to the forming a Settlement to the Northward of Newcastle at some future period. The Harbour He found very good although a Bar runs across the entrance of it, but this Bar has at all times four and a half fathoms of Water upon it, so that a Vessel of any size may enter this Port with Security assured of a safe Anchorage well Sheltered from all Winds. Port Stephens is formed into two Capacious basins. The inner Basin is however unsafe from its numerous shoals for any Vessel to enter. From the head of this Basin the Governor proceeded five Miles up a large river in the North West Quarter of the Bay where He landed, and from the summit of a Hill obtained a view of the interior of the Country to a considerable distance, and was much disappointed in finding that neither here nor on the other side of the Bay any inducement offered for a more minute Survey being made of it, the ground appearing throughout of an unproductive and barren nature.

From Port Stephens, the Governor proceeded to Newcastle, where he viewed the Coal Mines, and those parts of the river where Lime is made. Proceeding to the first branch at the distance of Twenty Miles from the town, He was much gratified to find that this useful Settlement already furnishing the Colony with Cedar, Coals and Lime, also promises from the fertility of the Soil higher up the river, to provide for the increasing Population of the Country, being fit for the Purposes of Agriculture and grazing.

On Sunday, the 5th of January, 1812, The Governor departed from Newcastle…

HRA p.622

2 thoughts on “Port Stephens as it looked on 16th March 1795

  1. Grimes’ colour map of Port Stephens 1795 is printed in HRNSW Vol 2 p286 (print version only, not in the CD version).

Leave a Reply