Discovering Broughton Island
If you are looking for a full day of cruising, snorkelling, swimming, exploring and eating, you can’t go past the Broughton Island National Park Cruise. Take in the spectacular island and coastal scenery as you make your way by boat to Broughton Island. Departing from Nelson Bay, the sea journey is a kaleidoscope of sea cliffs, swells, terns, flying fish, dolphins, whales and salt spray.
Port Stephens’ offshore islands have a prehistoric look about them, untouched and wild. About 14km north-east of Port Stephens, Broughton Island is a part of Myall Lakes National Park. Broughton is an island of sandy beaches, volcanic peaks and stunted, wind-swept vegetation. Explore ashore on an island discovery guided walk to wildlife breeding areas, secluded coves or multiple beaches. Bring your snorkelling equipment and enjoy the crystal clear turquoise waters with swimming, fish feeding or just relaxing on its smooth sands.
Greek and Italian fishermen established the original settlement on north beach at the end of the 1880s as a commercial fishing operation supplying ships going to Sydney. They soon moved to more-protected Esmerelda Cove, with their seven huts now used by recreational fishermen.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service gazetted the 114-hectare island into Myall Lakes National Park in 1972, with The Broughton Island Conservation Society paying a licence to continue to use the huts. Each hut resembles a school demountable equipped with solar power and water tanks. They’re surrounded by manicured lawns adorned with deck chairs and barbecues.
Broughton is packed with life. In the warm months of the year thousands of shearwaters (or muttonbirds) enter their underground burrows at night, firstly to hatch and then to care for their single chick. Growing up, the young birds are left alone for long periods while their parents feed.
Chicks in the nest make a lot of noise at night, like babies crying. Muttonbird parents arrive on silent wings after dark. Swooping low, they alight on the springy vegetation and run straight down the burrow. Each year they will fly up to twenty thousand kilometres around the Pacific, but, for this colony, Broughton is special. Here they were born, as were their parents and their parents and so on, for thousands of years. This island, and the food supply around it, are a vital link in the life cycle of the muttonbird.
Broughton Island is part of the Myall Lakes National Park. It is essential that it stays free of predators such as dogs, cats and foxes. A torch and the willingness to walk about the island at night are all you need to observe yet another bird that breeds and sleeps underground.
This island is close to the northern limit of the range of the little penguin. As soon as it is completely dark these diminutive black-and-white birds pop out of the surf and walk up the beach to their underground homes. By early summer their chicks are big and confident enough to wait outside the burrow or at the edge of the beach for the homecoming and welcome food. Adult penguins are sleek and glossy from a day’s fishing, in contrast to the chicks, which resemble soft, downy footballs with a beak and flippers.
On the southern side of Broughton is a rocky isthmus known as the seagull rookery. Just after winter silver gulls lay their eggs upon the rocks, shells and pebbles. A little later in the spring, terns use the same site, laying a creamy, brown-specked egg on the ground. At any approach the birds take flight, screeching and swooping until the threat is over. Chicks and eggs are well camouflaged-this is no place for careless feet. Rugged, wind-swept Broughton is a green oasis of safety set in a sparkling blue sea, sufficiently far from human society to preserve its timeless life cycles.
Visiting Broughton Island
Access is by boat only. For a guided tour, including food and gear, Imagine Cruises offer a two night camping experience. Other tour operators leave from Nelson Bay marina who will drop you on the island. If travelling by private vessel, you’ll need to register your movements with Marine Rescue Port Stephens on marine radio prior to travel.
When to go:
Whale watching season is between May and November, or you can see dolphins between November and April if you prefer the warmer weather.
The campground is basic with three timber camping platforms and two grassy sites to choose from. If you’re not on a guided tour you’ll need to be self sufficient and bring all your equipment and supplies, including water for drinking and cooking. Bring some extra rope to assist in securing tents to anchor points if you decide to camp on a timber platform. $30 per night, for two people only. $10 per additional adult and $5 per additional child per night.
Find more info: www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/broughton
Groups wishing to day trip or camp on Broughton Island in the Myall Lakes National Park can now get delivered to the Island directly on to the beach at Esmeralda Cove via a comfortable 12 metre fast cat ‘Envision’.
Chartering Envision, departing from C dock at d’Alboras Marina, Nelson bay, we can have your group (max 12) with all your camping gear on the island usually within 45 minutes of departure in reasonable sea conditions.
Please insure you have your campsite bookings in place with NPWS first as this is a requirement to travel.
Broughton Island Swim & Offshore Dolphin Watch:
2.5-3 HOUR TOUR – OPERATES FROM DECEMBER – APRIL
TIME: 10am (Mon, Tues, Thur, Fri, Sat)
The Common Dolphins are fun, curious and interactive. We’ll be keeping our eyes out for them as we head towards Broughton Island onboard ENVISION. We’ll enjoy a scenic cruise before anchoring at picturesque Providence Beach for a swim or snorkel in the clear and protected waters. With a maximum of 12 guests, your experience will be relaxed, personalised and crowd free! Below are some of our perks:
Qualified Dive Master/ Snorkel Guide
Mask, fins & snorkel equipment available
Complimentary bottled water
Friendly & knowledgeable crew
Location: Dock C d’Albora Marinas, Teramby Road, Nelson Bay, NSW 2315
Phone: (02) 4984 9000
Take in the spectacular island and coastal scenery as the boat makes its way to Broughton Island. Enjoy a fabulous ploughmans style buffet lunch* on board (or take it onto the island) plus morning and afternoon tea. After lunch explore ashore on an island discovery guided walk to wildlife breeding areas, secluded coves and beaches or enjoy your time relaxing on the beach or in the water.
Bring your snorkelling equipment and enjoy the crystal clear waters of Broughton Island or enjoy swimming, fish feeding or just relaxing on the beach. On the return journey (time permitting) enjoy boom-net rides and bonus dolphin watch.
Vessel: Moonshadow III, 19.5 metre motor vessel, ocean going
Cruisers are AVAILABLE from NSW September School Holidays until the end of the NSW Easter School Holidays on Sundays at 10.00am. Additional cruises are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays during NSW Spring, Christmas and Easter School Holidays.
Booking office location: Shop 3, 35 Stockton Street, Nelson Bay New South Wales 2315
Phone: (02) 4984 9388
Full Day Cruise to Broughton Island. Cruise to beautiful Broughton Island on the fast and stable power cat – MV Spirit. Get there fast and have more FUN time on the island for Guided Island walks. Enjoy a buffet lunch, go snorkelling, boom net riding try our exciting water slide the biggest in the bay or just relax in the on board spa with your favourite drink.
DEPARTS: 9:30am Saturdays (Nov to May)
Full Day Broughton Island Cruise and water slide on MV Spirit
Location: Cruises depart from Wharf 1, Victoria Parade – Nelson Bay
Phone: (02) 4981 1959