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History of Port Stephens and Shoal Bay Country Club




Time Line


11th May 1770 Captain Cook sighted and named Point Stephens and the small inlet to its north Port Stephens.   The name was chosen in honour of Sir Phillip Stephens, who was at the time secretary to the Admiralty.


1795 that further survey of the area was taken. It was Charles Grimes,  Deputy Surveyor, sent by  Governor  Paterson  who  carried  out  this  first  survey.  His  report,  however,  was  far  from favourable and so neither further official exploration nor survey of the area was taken until 1801.


Captain Broughton of the HMS Providence came to port to escape bad weather he discovered 4 escaped convicts.  Upon their rescue by Captain Broughton,  they told of the kindness  of their hosts who had protected, cared for them and even provided them with wives. Unfortunately  no personal  accounts  from these 4 convicts have been found.  Accounts  of this amazing  story of survival  vary  but  it  is  thought  that  5  convicts  (one  perishing  before  rescue)  escaped  from Parramatta  in  a  small  flat  bottom  boat  then  later  stole  a  sailing  boat  and  set  a  heading northward.  During their voyage, they encountered  bad weather that pushed them into our Port. They landed upon a beach and were discovered by a local Aboriginal tribe.


1801  when  a thorough  exploration  and  survey  of the Hunter  River  was  made  by the "Lady Nelson" a ship that would again visit our shores in


1812 carrying  Governor  Macquarie,  who was in search  of a suitable  location  for port north of Sydney.  It is thought  that on this visit Governor  Macquarie  named  Shoal Bay because  of its many sandy shoals.


1824 that Governor Macquarie granted Captain William Cromarty "more or less 300 acres" at Soldier's Point and Salamander Bay. During this same year the Australian Agricultural Company came  into being,  and by Royal  Charter  was granted  one million  acres  of land  in New South Wales, some of which was located in the Port Stephens area. Thus began the steady European settlement and development  of Port Stephens.


Black Marlin -The Elusive Catch


In search of satisfactory fishing grounds, game fishing's pioneers travelled the NSW coastline. It was during this time that Dr Mark Lidwell went north of Sydney trying first Seal Rocks and then afterwards  Port  Stephens.  During  his Port  Stephens  expedition  in 1913,  Dr Lidwill  landed  a number of Spanish mackerel and what they suspected to be a swordfish.


To confirm the identity of this last fish they sent the 120 pound  specimen  aboard the Karuah paddle  boat to the Australian  Museum.  Accompanying  the specimen  was a donor  schedule which shows that the catch was thought to be a sword fish. The specimen was later identified by the Museum to be a Makaira Indica or Black Marlin.


After a number of years, the skeleton of the Black Marlin was put on display at the Australian Museum, its origin mislaid. It was not until 1988 that through the dedicated research of Peter Silcock the historian for the Newcastle and Port Stephen Game Fishing Club that the significance of the skeleton was realized. Not only was it proved that this skeleton was the one sent on the Karuah to the Museum back in 1913 but it is now known that this was the first Black Marlin to be caught anywhere in the world on rod and reel.


Even before a number of Newcastle residents formed what is now known as the Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fish Club in 1929, the region had begun making history.


1934 when an advertisement  was placed in the Sydney Morning Herald requesting partners in a fishing venture at Port Stephens.  The venture began with three partners, Bob Elliott, Alex Kufner and Tony Raper, with its original base at Bundabah (located across the bay). The boats of the era were sluggish,  and made the journey out to the Broughton  Island fishing site a long and arduous  one. The search began  for a new site and on one of their fishing expeditions,  it was found to be too rough to head out to the usual fishing grounds  and anchor  was made in Shoal Bay. During their explorations  of the land, it was discovered  that Shoal Bay offered them a good place to build a club house, with the bay's close proximity to the Port's entrance.


The club approached  the land owners at the time,  Realty Realisations,  who offered the club the land  free  while  the  building  remained   in  the  hands  of  the  club.  When  the  venture  went commercial  some years later a payment of £345 was made.


1935 the building was completed,  a jetty erected and a dirt track from Nelson Bay was opened up.


The  building  soon  underwent   its  first  of  many  refurbishments   with  the  large  dormitories converted to private rooms making it a suitable destination for married couples. Some time later Pioneer Tours, who ran trips to Port Stephens, began utilising the building. It was, however, the years of The Depression  and due to a lack of patronage  this venture  soon came to a close. The Club remained closed until Alex Kufner re-opened the club and ran it for three seasons.




Then, in December  of 1941,  Japan entered  the Second World War and the tranquil  setting of Port Stephens  was shattered,  with the arrival of American,  British and Australian  troops. Alex Kufner  cancelled  all holiday  bookings  as the  club  was  requisitioned  by the  US  Military  and converted to the headquarters  for the amphibious  army training area known as J.O.O.T.S (Joint Overseas Operations Training Services).


Entry of the Japanese to the war highlighted the invasion threat to our major port and Steelworks of Newcastle and so within just two weeks of Japan's entry, a bitumen road replaced the dirt track that once extended between Shoal Bay and Nelson Bay.


The building which had been officially opened in 1935 as the club house for the Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fish Club at Shoal Bay was taken over as the headquarters  for the operation known as JOOTS (Joint Overseas Operation Training Services).


The area surrounding the Shoal Bay Club became the training ground for more than 20,000 military personnel in amphibious  maneuvers.  Tomaree became a Fort with a 6 inch land gun, an 8 inch naval gun, torpedo tubes and a radar stationed on top of Mount Tomaree. This military take over required the civilians of the area to carry papers to allow them to go in and out of town.


During the hostilities, the club house was used to plan three amphibious invasions in the Pacific, with marines transported directly from the shores of Shoal Bay to troop carriers such as the Mariposa and the Monterey that were anchored in the bay.


When the hostilities of WWII finally ended, the Australian Army returned the Shoal Bay Club in a state of disrepair to members Alex Kutner and R G Browne. With compensation received, the club was refurbished and opened as a guesthouse.


During  the war, more than 14,000 American  and British troops  were based  in the Shoal Bay area. Historians  believe that with maps of the Pacific War laid out, the plan for the Pacific War was made and taken to General Macarthur in Melbourne.

At the cessation of the hostilities, the Country  Club was  returned  to Alex Kufners  who  upon  his  discharge  from the AIF and together with R Browne, refurbished the     club     again     with compensation monies received from the military.   They   reopened   the   Country Club as a guest house.

1947 The Shoal Bay Country Club Hotel was purchased  by the Randall family , and so began a new era for this historic  site.  The club stayed in the Randall family for over 40 years,  with the business  growing  successfully  and  the  premises  evolving  from  a small  guest  house  with  a maximum  of 124 guests.


The Country Club Hotel was built and opened  on New Years Eve 1954-55.  These early days were, however, far from plain sailing -just 9 short months after the hotel opened,  a fire broke out and the building  sustained  extensive  damage.  It is thought  that the fire was  accidentally started by a client who was smoking in bed. Perhaps with fear of accountability,  they didn't raise the alarm that the fire had started and never came forward.


Gelignite Jack Murray


You quickly realize that even though his life is full of some of sport's greatest achievements,   it  isn't  these that made Jack Murray great

but the way he lived life.


Friends  describe   him  as  a man of greatness, a larrikin with   a  zest  for   life  and  a heart  of  gold,  the  glue  that kept them together.


Jack  wasted  no  time  in  his life. From a young charismatic  man  who  was  a cyclist,   champion amateur wrestler,  pioneer  water-skier, race car driver  and all round sportsman,   to  a  successful business  owner.   His celebrity status rose with his larrikin antics during what is still considered to be one of the toughest rally races, the Redex trials.


He captured  the hearts and minds of an Australian  public that had been battered by the Depression  and World War II and he reminded them of the lighter side of life. In the 1953 Redex  race,  he rolled  his Chrysler  Plymouth,  a news team  quickly  on the spot  asked  him to comment   regarding  the  state  of  his  car  and  his  accident.  What  was  recorded   was  one continuous censored bleep, enjoyed by thousands.


1954 belonged to him and so in a shower of gelignite explosions, good humour and gritted determination, he set out to win. Jack Murray and his co-driver Bill Murray made the 18 day endurance  race look like a picnic, while Jack earnt himself his nickname by tossing sticks of Gelignite out the window of his Ford V8 to liven up his entrance to towns.

We are lucky enough  to say that for many years, Jack Murray  and his crew considered  Shoal Bay a home away from home, spending  nearly two months here each year. Shoal Bay offered them the perfect place to relax, and gave Jack the perfect location to experiment  with his more sedate  activities  like  water-skiing  (see  the water  ski in the  Country  Club  Hotel)  - a sport  he helped pioneer in Australia and hang-gliding.


"Gelignite Jack Murray,  one leg or two, is still a step ahead of most of us" Evan Green.  1907-1983


December  1957  - The Randall  family  remained  committed  to the venture,  and the hotel was rebuilt  and  opened  again  fifteen  months  later  on  the  6th December   1957.  Additions   and alterations were made to both the hotel, bar and accommodation as the business expanded  and the area became more popular.


1989 - The current owners, Shoal Bay Property Corp, purchased the hotel in July 1989. This consortium has been dedicated to substantially improving  the hotels facilities and services.  Over 3 million  dollars  have been  invested  to revert  the location  to its legendary  status as a unique holiday destination.


2004- Renovations  were completed  including  the substantial  upgrades  of the unique Aqua Spa Facility


2008- Shoal Bay Resort & Spa cemented  its' reputation  as Port Stephens top award winning 4.5  star  Resort  winning  first  place  in  multiple  industry  awards  including  Best  Resort  in NSW (HMAA Awards of Excellence), Best Deluxe Accommodation (NSW Tourism Awards, Hunter Regional   Tourism  Awards),  Best  Tourism  Education  &  Training  (Hunter  Regional  Tourism Awards, Mid North Coast Regional  Tourism  Awards), Best Meetings  & Business  Tourism (Mid North Coast Regional Tourism Awards). In addition to these winning places, Shoal Bay Resort & Spa  earned  Finalist  ratings  for  Restaurant  &  Catering  Services  (Mid  North  Coast  Regional Tourism Awards) and festivals & Events (Mid North Coast Regional Tourism Awards)


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