At 73, Benjamin Hill is a retired electrician. He is married, has two children, two granddaughters and one great grandson. He has lived in Salamander Bay, a suburb of Port Stephens in New South Wales, Australia, for 21 years. He and his wife fell in love with the place from the moment they laid eyes on it. He describes it as a ‘blue water wonderland’.
Describe your town in a couple of sentences:
“In the 1970s when we lived at Manly, my wife and I decided to have a weekend holiday to Shoal Bay. We stayed at the old Shoal Bay Country Club; the recent renovations have taken away the charm of the old club. As we entered Shoal Bay from Nelson Bay the first view of both headlands and Shoal Bay was breathtaking and still today we admire this scene. Well, we were so taken by the area we decided then and there to live here when we retired, which we did. The old Country Club was excellent value, three huge meals a day, no nouve cuisine here, comfortable rooms, and entertainment in the Cane Lounge every Friday and Saturday nights.
“In 1996 we bought a block of land in Salamander Bay and built a house on it, we moved here the following year. Our home is in the perfect location, walking distance to the Salamander Bay Shopping Centre, a leisurely stroll down to the beach at Salamander Bay, close to Tomaree High School and close to the bus stop to catch a bus to Newcastle or Sydney. We have travelled around Australia a lot and when we tell someone where we live usually we get: ‘Oh you lucky things’ or ‘Why are you here, you live in a lovely area’.
“A few years ago there was an advertisement campaign on television for the local tourist board, when they declared ‘Port Stephens, the secret is out’. It certainly has, because of the close proximity to Newcastle and Sydney, at holiday time the tourists flock to the area and most hotels/motels have the ‘No vacancies’ sign up.”
An interesting thing people might not know about your town is…
“Port Stephens is located in the Hunter Region of NSW and is around 2.5 hours’ drive north of the state’s capital, Sydney. Most people would be surprised to know Port Stephens was once earmarked for the nation’s capital. Thank goodness that didn’t eventuate. Nowadays there is a steady walking path with stairs to the top of Tomaree Mountain, yet back then you had to climb up the steep hill, but when you got to the top the pain was worth it, the view is absolutely stunning.”
What are the best events that take place in your town throughout the year that you’d really recommend to visitors?
“The New Year’s Eve fireworks, the annual game fishing competition and whale watching season are perhaps the best events that take place in the area throughout the year.
“There are numerous dolphin watch boats in the bay and twice a year the boats go out to see the migrating whales, there is also a couple of good viewing areas to see the whales, at Boat Harbour and Fingal Bay.”
Best thing for every first-time visitor to do in your town?
“Doing a dolphin watch cruise is a must. Moonshadow Cruises offers a number of cruises and probably your best bet for seeing dolphins. Their Twilight Dinner Cruise offers a buffet of seafood, meats and other options, and once you’ve indulged you can dance the night away.
“For the energetic there is the internationally acclaimed Horizons Golf Course as well as a few par three small courses and a toboggan ride at the Salamander Swimming Pool. You can even have a horse ride or camel safari at the famous Birubi sand dunes, where you can four-wheel drive all the way to Stockton. For scuba divers there are two unique sites, at Cabbage Tree Island where there is sunken ship and Broughton Island where there is underwater caves. There is also a marine sanctuary at Fly Point for snorkelling.
“You can take a ferry over to the north side of the bay and visit Hawks Nest and Tea-Gardens where you can sample the famous fish and chips in a cone at the pub.”
Best place for a walk?
“We regularly walk along the breakwater at The Anchorage, Corlette, where over the years we have seen lots of dolphins, an occasional turtle, once we had a fairy penguin, sting-rays, and king-fish which had escaped from the fish farms outside the heads. There is also a lovely walk from Dutchies Beach to Nelson Bay along the Bridle Path. There are numerous walking and cycling tracks on the waterside.”
Best place to look out over an amazing view?
“Gan Gan Lookout or atop Tomaree Mountain.”
Best thing to do at night?
“D’Albora Marinas Nelson Bay at night. It’s a picturesque bay popular with holidaymakers and boaties. It’s no surprise that d’Albora Marinas also organises a few fishing competitions throughout the year, including the famous big game fishing competition that attracts fishermen from all over the world.”
Best place to have breakfast?
“The Little Nel at Nelson Bay is a favourite haunt. They do great food and coffee. The menu changes with the seasons and highlights local produce.”
Best thing to do in your town that costs nothing?
“The reserve at Nelson Head Lighthouse Cottage and Rescue Station Reserve are located just as you enter Port Stephens. The Lighthouse Cottage is a historic lighthouse keeper’s cottage and offers visitors some spectacular views of the port, as well as history, photographs and information on marine rescue. It’s like a local history museum.
“The Coastal Patrol radio base is also open to visitors. This is staffed by volunteers.
“Here we have some great beaches, for safe swimming as well as wild surf.”
Best thing to do in your town for less than $20?
“Head to Saltmines on Soldiers Point Road, Salamander Bay and get yourself some fish and chips. If there are better fish and chips than the ones served at Saltmines in the old Salamander Bay shopping area, we have yet to find it.”
Best place to eat a meal with a view?
“You won’t find anything better than the Shoal Bay Gamefishing Club.”
Best restaurant in town?
“There are numerous restaurants, clubs and pubs catering for all tastes and value. However, in my opinion the best restaurant is L’il Buddha at Salamander Bay. It has traditional Asian cuisine and they use the freshest ingredients.”
Best place for visitors to pick up something special?/strong>
“Bargain time at Sunday markets, Fly Point or Neil Carroll Park at Salamander Bay.”
Best place to visit on a hot day?
“On a hot day try any of our beautiful beaches or the swimming centre at Salamander Bay.”
Best place to visit do when it’s cold?
“On a cold day stroll around the Salamander Shopping Centre.”
Best place to go for visitors to learn more about your town?
“Visit the Visitors information centre at Nelson Bay.”