Karuah » Visit Karuah
Karuah is a small town on the banks of the Karuah River, 15 m above sea-level. It is 205 km north of Sydney and 51 km north of Newcastle via the Pacific Highway. Occupied by the Worimi Aborigines prior to European settlement the area was initially known as Sawyers Point. Lachlan Macquarie named the river the Clyde. However, the indigenous place-name, thought to mean 'native plum tree', was later adopted for both waterway and township.
Today Karuah is considered the gateway to the northern arm of Port Stephens. There is a holiday resort in town and beside the river, a boat ramp, tidal pool, picnic spots and Longworth park. Just turn off the highway on the western side of the bridge. Fishing is a popular pastime for residents, day visitors and holiday makers alike.
Things to see:
15 km south-west of Karuah is Swan Bay a major centre of oyster cultivation at Port Stephens which is the single largest oyster-producing area in Australia. Moffat's Oyster Barn Restaurant at the Fishermans Village resort allows visitors to sample the local produce, tel: (02) 4997 5433.
North Arm Cove
7.2 km east of the Karuah bridge is another signposted departure road which will take you south. After 1 km a branch road appears to the left signposted for North Arm Cove. At the end of World War I proposals were made for the development of the area as a major industrial port city ('the New York of Australia'). Walter Burley Griffin, responsible for the layout of Canberra, put forward one design. When his company went into liquidation wealthy realtor Henry F. Halloran bought up the land and subdivided it in expectation of the sales and the linkage of the 'city' to the main railway line but nothing came of the proposal. Today it is a very attractive little settlement amidst forest on the shore of Port Stephens. The Aboriginal name for the point was Weepi.
Carrington and Tahlee
Carrington and Tahlee have strong historical associations with the Australian Agricultural Company (AAC), formed in 1824 to take advantage of a report recommending that wealthy settlers should be given land and convict labour in order to develop the local economy. Sensing an opportunity of obtaining cheap land and labour the company aimed at producing fine wool for English mills and crops for the English market.
They were granted half a million acres on the northern side of Port Stephens in 1826 and a base of operations was established at present-day Carrington with 80 settlers, 720 sheep and some horse and cattle. Over 200 acres were quickly cleared, vineyards were established and, by 1830, an extensive settlement was in place with 300 employees, 11 permanent houses, workshops, military barracks, a smithy, a school, a shearing shed and slaughter house and a number of temporary buildings.
Tahlee House, at Tahlee, 600 m beyond Carrington, was built by convict labour in 1826 for the AAC's first manager, Robert Dawson. A fine example of colonial architecture the sandstock brick homestead, impressive reception and ballroom wing and outbuildings are beautifully situated upon extensive grounds which run from the shoreline up the eastern side of the hill on which the house is located.
Additions to the original structure were made by subsequent occupants in 1832, the mid-1830s and, most notably, in the 1880s when Robert White rebuilt the verandahs, erected the large timber, late Victorian billiards room and ballroom and did much of the landscaping and planting of exotic species.
A stone and brick slipway below the house, known as the Boat Harbour, was used to build the steamer 'Karuah' under the direction of AAC superintendent Sir Edward Parry in 1831. The wharf which was once attached has been demolished. All that remains of an early signalling platform is a stone on the crest of the hill above the house. There is also a cottage reputedly dating back to 1825. The company sold Tahlee House in 1853. The complex is currently owned by a bible college who are happy for visitors a look around on weekdays.
Church of the Holy Trinity
The other prominent remnant from the AAC's days is the old church which was erected in 1846-47 as the Church of the Holy Trinity. It was closed in the early 1860s but was restored and reopened in 1888 by R.H.D. White. It ceased its life as a church in 1949 and is now privately owned and not open to the public.
Other leftovers include a kiln (1834), used for making the settlement's building bricks, the boat harbour, tarring pits, claypits and the company bell. Garden Island lies just offshore. About halfway between Tahlee House and the church, on elevated ground, is the old AAC cemetery.