History of Port Stephens and Shoal Bay Country Club
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)