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Stockton Beach

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Stockton Beach
New South Wales
Stockton Beach - southern end.jpg
Southern end of Stockton Beach seen from Shipwreck walk
Stockton Beach - north eastern end.jpg
North-eastern end of the beach at Anna Bay
Stockton Beach is located in New South Wales
Stockton Beach
Stockton Beach
Coordinates32°49′54″S 151°54′4″E / 32.83167°S 151.90111°E / -32.83167; 151.90111Coordinates: 32°49′54″S 151°54′4″E / 32.83167°S 151.90111°E / -32.83167; 151.90111
Location32 km (20 mi) from Stockton - Anna Bay

Stockton Beach is located north of the Hunter River in New South Wales, Australia. It is 32 km (20 mi) long and stretches from Stockton, to Anna Bay. Over many years Stockton Beach has been the site of numerous shipwrecks and aircraft crash sites. In World War II it was fortified against a possible attack by Imperial Japanese forces.[1] During that time it served as a bombing and gunnery range as well as a dumping area for unused bombs by aircraft returning from training sorties.[2] The length of the beach, its generally hard surface and numerous items of interest along the beach make it popular with four-wheel drive (4WD) enthusiasts. Four-wheel drive vehicles are permitted to drive on Stockton Beach provided the vehicles are in possession of valid permits.[3] The beach is also popular with fishermen and several different varieties of fish may be caught.[1][2]


Stockton Beach, on the Tasman Sea, starts on the northern side of the break wall that protects the entrance to Newcastle harbour in Stockton, Newcastle's northernmost suburb, and stretches for 32 km (20 mi) in an approximate north-easterly direction to Anna Bay in Port Stephens. In some areas it is as much as 1 km (0.6 mi) wide and has sand dunes over 30 metres (98 ft) high although at the Stockton end it is at its narrowest with no dunes. Each year the dunes move north by approximately 4 m (13 ft).[1] The sand on Stockton Beach varies from hard to soft packed and changes daily with the changing winds and weather.[2] The dunes are the largest continuous mobile sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere.[4]

Beach endpoint coordinates

Worimi conservation lands

A large part of Stockton Beach lies within the Worimi conservation lands, which stretch from south-west of the wreck of the MV Sygna, north-east along Stockton Beach to just west of the end of the beach at Anna Bay.[5] The lands consist of the 1,826 ha (4,512-acre) Worimi National Park, 1,042 ha (2,575-acre) Worimi State Conservation Area and 1,568 ha (3,875-acre) Worimi Regional Park.[6][7][8] Day-to-day management of the Worimi conservation lands is undertaken by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.


Aboriginal history

External image
image icon Aboriginal middens

The earliest inhabitants of the Port Stephens region and particularly the land close to Port Stephens itself were the members of the Worimi Aboriginal tribe and their middens may be seen at many points along the beach.[1] These middens, which are up to 12,000 years old, consist mainly of the remnants of pipis and whelk shells.[2][9] As the beach is constantly reshaped by the winds some middens are concealed while new ones are revealed. A midden conservation area, where beach driving is not permitted due to the cultural significance of the middens, has been established on the beach.[10]

Tin City

Tin City

In the late 19th century shipwrecks on Stockton Beach were so common that two tin sheds were constructed on a part of the beach in what is now Bobs Farm near Salt Ash to hold provisions for shipwrecked sailors.[11] During the Great Depression of the 1930s a group of squatters constructed a series of tin shacks at the site which is approximately 11 km (6.8 mi) south west of Anna Bay.[12][13] During World War II the shacks were torn down to make way for an Army camp.[9] Today, eleven of the shacks, known collectively as "Tin City", remain but no new shacks may be built, nor can existing shacks be rebuilt if they are destroyed by the elements.[9] Tin City and the beach's sand dunes were used for several scenes in the 1979 movie Mad Max.[11][12][14][15][16]

Wartime history

Tank trap at the northern end of the beach in Anna Bay

World War II resulted in fortifications against a possible amphibious assault by Imperial Japanese forces being installed along the beach. Many of these fortifications, in the form of barbed wire entanglements and concrete pyramid shaped blocks, commonly known as tank traps, may be seen along the beach. Some of the tank traps from the northern end of the beach have been removed and relocated to near the parking area at Birubi Point in Anna Bay while most from the southern end of the beach may be found outside Fort Wallace in Stockton.[1][2][9][17] Some of the tank traps remain submerged and pose a hazard to swimmers.

During World War II the beach was used as a military bombing range and Air Force pilots used to regularly drop unused bombs on the beach before landing at RAAF Base Williamtown. To this day it is occasionally possible to see exposed bombs in the sand.[2][18]

Stockton Beach is less than 3.5 km (2.2 mi) from RAAF Base Williamtown and is subjected to many overflights by both RAAF and civilian aircraft. On 10 February 1960 a CAC CA-27 Sabre from RAAF Base Williamtown crashed on the beach after overshooting its approach. The pilot was killed.[19][20][21] The remains of this aircraft appear from time to time.[2]

Leigh Leigh

In 1989 Newcastle High School student and Fern Bay resident Leigh Leigh was brutally raped and murdered on a section of the beach at Stockton. The attack was so vicious that it was spoken about at length in the Parliament of New South Wales and referred to for years after the event.[22][23] A play, Blackrock (written by Australian playwright Nick Enright), and also a film of the same name, were both inspired by the event.

National park

A series of campaigns by local environmental groups and activists saw parts of the area declared a National Park in 2001.[24]


The MV Sygna on Stockton Beach in June 2009

Stockton Beach has been the site of numerous shipwrecks over the past 200 years but especially since the late part of the 19th century.[9][25] Wreckage from many shipwrecks continues to wash ashore periodically but the most well known, recognisable and permanent of the wrecks are the Uralla and the MV Sygna.

The Uralla was a 537-tonne (529-long-ton), 46.4 m (152.2 ft) long steamer that ran aground during a gale on 14 June 1928 approximately 9 km (5.6 mi) down the beach from Anna Bay. There was no loss of life but after the vessel was eventually refloated it drifted ashore and broke up. Its remains may be seen occasionally at low tide.[2][26][27]

The MV Sygna was a 53,000 t (52,163 long tons) Norwegian bulk carrier that ran aground during a major storm on 26 May 1974. Attempts to refloat the ship were unsuccessful. The ship broke its back and the stern now lies off Stockton Beach where it is slowly decaying in the elements.[28] The bow section was eventually towed to Taiwan and broken up. The ship is approximately 8.8 km (5.5 mi) from the southern end of the beach and usually easily visible from the Stockton breakwall. On a clear day the ship is easily visible from both ends of the beach.


The beach is a popular camping area, at times there can be 200 camp sites with 2,000 people camped along the dunes. During the day, up to 4,000 people and thousands of cars can be on the beach.[29]

Vehicular access

A 4WD vehicle heading toward the waterfront after entering Stockton Beach via Lavis Lane.

No vehicular access is possible at the southern end of the beach. Instead, all vehicles must enter the beach through the Worimi Conservation Lands in the Port Stephens local government area. Vehicle entry to the beach is via Lavis Lane in Williamtown or Gan Gan Road in Anna Bay. A permit needs to be purchased before entering the beach.[3] Drivers must ensure that they respect the natural habitat of the beach and refrain from driving on the plants and grasses on dune structure. Access to the recreational vehicle area is subject to restrictions.[30]

The beach is at its widest near the Lavis Lane entrance.

Sand mining

Sand mining is practised on Stockton beach.[31] This has led to a significant loss of tertiary vegetation in the hind dunes of the beach which has led to a noticeable decrease in the numbers of native species sightings, for example the eastern grey kangaroo and sugar glider.[32] There is considerable opposition to the controversial sand mining.[33][34][35][36][37][38]


The waters just off Stockton Beach form part of a larger nursery for great white sharks.[39][40] The Great white sharks in the nursery are thought to range in size from 1.5 to 3 m (4.9 to 9.8 ft).[39] Humpback whales can be spotted from the beach each year during the migration season.[41]

Big Beach Challenge

Since 2010, an annual event called the "Big Beach Challenge" is held which sees competitors travel the entire length of Stockton Beach from Birubi to Stockton Surf Club.[42] Some of the top runners manage to cover this in under three hours, whilst those who walk the distance finish in around seven. A shorter 16 km (10 mi) event from Stockton to the shipwreck of the Sygna and back is also held at the same time. The Big Beach Challenge helps raise money for local Stockton charity, Harry's House.


External images
image icon Aerial shot of Tin City
image icon Aerial shot of Tin City
image icon Shack at Tin City
image icon Wreck of the Uralla
image icon Various aerial photos of the beach
image icon A gallery of 72 photographs of the beach


  1. ^ a b c d e "Dunes at Stockton Beach". Port Stephens Council. Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Camping on Stockton Beach". Retrieved 28 August 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Worimi Conservation Lands – beach driving". NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  4. ^ "Stockton Beach Sand Dunes" (PDF). Newcastle City Council. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  5. ^ "Plan Your Visit". Worimi Conservation Lands. National Parks and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  6. ^ "Worimi National Park". Worimi National Park. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  7. ^ "Worimi State Conservation area". Worimi State Conservation area. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Worimi Regional Park". Worimi Regional Park. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Hunter Region – Sand Castles on Stockton Beach". NRMA. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  10. ^ "Midden Conservation Area". National Parks and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Tin City Sand Dune Adventure Tour". Archived from the original on 17 January 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  12. ^ a b "Stockton Beach Tin City". NSW Parliamentary Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. 31 August 2010. Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  13. ^ "So much more than just a beach..." (PDF). Port Stephens Council. 5 March 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Tin City Dweller". Ted Szukalski. Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  15. ^ Australia, Explore (1 January 2010). Holiday in New South Wales EBook. Hardie Grant Publishing. pp. 9–. ISBN 9781742734989. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  16. ^ Elliot, Tim (9 January 2014). "Welcome to Tin City, Stockton". The Newcastle Herald. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Stockton Beach". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  18. ^ "STOCKTON BIGHT NATIONAL PARK PROPOSAL". Parliament of New South Wales. 28 November 2000. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  19. ^ "ADF Aircraft Serial Numbers". Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  20. ^ "Commonwealth Sabre". 5 September 2002. Archived from the original on 27 October 2002.
  21. ^ "In Remembrance". Injured Service Persons Association Inc. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  22. ^ "Death of Leigh Leigh". Parliament of New South Wales. 15 October 1996.
  23. ^ "Death of Leigh Leigh". Parliament of New South Wales. 31 March 1998.
  24. ^ "Stockton Bight". NSW Parliamentary Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. 28 March 2001. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  25. ^ "National Shipwrecks database". Department of the Environment and Water Resources. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  26. ^ "National Shipwrecks database – wreck details". Department of the Environment and Water Resources. Retrieved 11 September 2007.
  27. ^ "SHIPWRECKS of the NEWCASTLE REGION including OYSTER BANK and the HUNTER RIVER". Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  28. ^ "Sygna Shipwreck Adventure Tour". Dawson Scenic Tours. Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  29. ^ Gregory, Carl. "Stockton dunes to introduce camping fee". Radio station 2NC (1233kHz). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  30. ^ "Recreational Vehicle Area". National Parks and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  31. ^ "$1.5bn sand mine, but none for Port Stephens council". The Newcastle Herald. 20 March 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  32. ^ Bragg, J.G.; Taylor, J.E.; Fox, B.J. (2005). "Distribution of lizard species across edges delimiting open-forest and sand-mining areas". Austral Ecology. 29: 188–200.
  33. ^ "The sand mining mayor who loves a deal". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 4 October 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  34. ^ "Bobs Farm and Williamtown sandmine proposals irresponsible". Newcastle Greens. 2 March 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  35. ^ "The sand mining mayor who loves a deal". Tomaree Ratepayers & Residents Association.Inc. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  36. ^ McCarthy, Joanne (15 February 2016). "Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie's family sand quarry stands alone in compliance audit". The Newcastle Herald. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ a b "Great white shark nursery". Great white shark nursery. Australian Geographic Magazine. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  40. ^ "Shark expert surprised by great white attack on woman". Shark expert surprised by great white attack on woma. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Newcastle). Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  41. ^ "Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park". Marine Parks Authority. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  42. ^ "Big Beach Challenge homepage". Retrieved 19 September 2011.

External links