Tea Gardens

Tea Gardens
Small holiday resort town adjoining Hawks Nest
Tea Gardens is a small township of 850 people located adjacent the northern head of Port Stephens 219 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Highway, 77 km north-east of Newcastle, 10 km off the Pacific Highway and 16 m above sea-level. It is separated from the town of Hawks Nest by the mouth of the Myall River, which runs from the Myall Lakes down to Port Stephens, and joined to it by the 'Singing Bridge', named for its tendency to act like a wind harp in a strong south-westerly breeze. Despite their proximity there is quite some difference between the two towns. With the exception of the strip along Marine Parade, adjacent the river, Tea Gardens is something of a poor cousin to the rather more attractive Hawks Nest, both in terms of environment and housing which appears more slapdash and simply imposed upon the bushland rather than reconciled with it.

The local economy has traditionally revolved around seafood and timber. While there is still a fishing co-op, and woodchip mills still work the forests, BHP's sandmining operations are probably the principal source of local income if not the predominant employer. Tourism no doubt plays a role of some importance too.

The area was occupied by the Worimi Aborigines prior to white settlement. The first Europeans to work in the area were timbergetters who took an interest in the forests (mostly red cedar) along the Myall River early in the 19th century. The timber was hauled by bullock train to mills, then carted by punt downriver. Ships bound for Newcastle and Sydney picked up the timber, unloading the stone they carried for ballast on the banks of the river, much of it being used in the construction of the rock walls which can still be seen today.

The Australian Agricultural Company arrived in the area in 1826 and it was reputedly their failed attempts to grow tea there which underscored the name Tea Gardens, although another account suggests it was the tea-tree in the area. At any rate it seems Chinese assistants were employed as advisors in the endeavour and they also acted as gardeners growing vegetables for the company settlements. The mouth of the Myall was traversed by punt until a ferry service was established in 1928, replaced by the bridge in 1974.

A quilt and patchwork show is held at the Myall Arts and Crafts Centre in Myall Rd every second October.

Things to see:

Lions Park Lookout
2 km north-west of Tea Gardens, and 6.4 km off the highway, along Main Road, a blue sign denotes a rest area. This is Lions Park where there is a lookout at the apex of a hill with parking, picnic and toilet facilities. From this vantage point you can gaze over the two towns, the bridge, the offshore islands and the two enormous headlands at the mouth to Port Stephens.

Marine Drive
Head down the hill into town. 2.2 km beyond the park turn left into Coupland St which will take you to the riverbank of the Myall River where sometimes dolphins can be seen. Marine Drive runs along the riverbank south to the bridge. This frontage is Tea Gardens' most impressive feature. The streetscape is pleasant and at the end of the road there is a childrens' park, a swimming pool (open from October to April), a noticeboard with information for anglers and pedestrian access to the bridge.

Visitors Information Centre
Over the road from the pool is the visitors' centre in Myall St, just before the bridge, where you can obtain a comprehensive account of attractions, activities, tours, cruises, accommodation and bookings, tourist maps, tide charts and fishing guides. Visitors can pursue a range of activities, mostly relating to the proximity of water: boating, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, water skiing, diving, fishing and canoeing.

On the wharf opposite the Tea Gardens Hotel-Motel are the departure times for the ferry to Nelson Bay, on the southern peninsula of Port Stephens. There are two caravan parks and three boat ramps along Marine Parade and it is from this location that you can hire a boat or houseboat, and join the various river, lake, fishing, deep-sea fishing and dolphin-watch cruises.

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Pindimar and Bundabah
If you wish to visit the small seaside villages of Pindimar or Bundabah the turnoff is just south of the Pacific Highway on the Tea Gardens road. Pindimar was once proposed as the site for the establishment of a major port city. A design plan was drawn up and, the following year (1919) Viscount Jellicoe suggested it should be converted into a naval base for the Pacific fleet. Nothing came of either plan (thankfully). See the entry on Hawks Nest for further information on the area.

Tea Gardens Visitors Centre
Myall St
Tea Gardens NSW 2324
Telephone: (02) 4997 0111

Club Inn Tea Gardens Motel
Yarinbah St
Tea Gardens NSW 2324
Telephone: (02) 4997 0911
Rating: ****

Tea Gardens Hotel/Motel
Marine Dve
Tea Gardens NSW 2324
Telephone: (02) 4997 0203

The Bell Buoy Bed & Breakfast Studios
117 Marine Dve
Tea Gardens NSW 2324
Telephone: (02) 4997 1688

Lone Pine Caravan Park
93 Marine Dve
Tea Gardens NSW 2324
Telephone: (02) 4997 0207
Rating: **

Tea Gardens House Boats
22 Marine Dve
Tea Gardens NSW 2324
Telephone: (02) 4997 0555
Facsimile: (02) 4997 1981
Rating: ***

Club Inn Tea Gardens Motel Restaurant
Yarinbah St
Tea Gardens NSW 2324
Telephone: (02) 4997 0911

Tillermans Seafood Restaurant
77 Marine Dve
Tea Gardens NSW 2324
Telephone: (02) 4997 0138

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