Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Hawks Nest/Tea Gardens
One of the most popular dive locations in New South Wales is Nelson Bay. Nelson Bay is actually the town located on the southern side of Port Stephens and is not the area itself. The majority of the diving in this area is at Broughton Island or straight outside the entrance to Port Stephens. Therefore, it is probably inaccurate to describe this location as Nelson Bay, but this is the generic term that most people use when they refer to diving here.
Apart from the shore dives at Halifax Park, Fly Point or the Sewage Pipe Drift which are only accessible from Nelson Bay, you can dive all the "Nelson Bay" sites from the other side of Port Stephens at the twin towns of Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens. These towns lie either side of the Myall River on the northern shore of Port Stephens. To get to Hawks Nest/Tea Gardens from Sydney, drive up the F3 Freeway and then the Pacific Highway. Go past the Nelson Bay turnoff, past Raymond Terrace and past Karuah. The turn-off is about 10 kilometres or so north of Karuah. It is about seven kilometres from the highway to Tea Gardens. With the improvement in the Pacific Highway, it is now about the same travelling time from Sydney to Hawks Nest/Tea Gardens, say 2.5 hours or a little more, depending on conditions and where you live.
The only dive shop here is the Hawks Nest Dive Centre. This is not located at Hawks Nest, but at Tea Gardens. The dive centre can arrange accommodation at the Tea Gardens Hotel. This is very convenient, as the dive shop is right next to the pub and right opposite the wharf where the dive boat departs. The pub has small, but comfortable rooms, either twin or double. The hotel also has a great bistro and is fairly lively on Friday nights. You can also BBQ across the road from the pub if you like.
The dive shop has an aluminium single hulled vessel that is very roomy and powered by a 225 hp engine which means that it really gets along. It carries 8 divers and takes about 50 minutes to get to Broughton Island. I can certainly recommend the services of the dive shop. A weekend with two nights accommodation and four dives, second tanks and airfills costs $200 (in 2002).
Finally, the best reason to dive from here? It is so much quieter than Nelson Bay, with far less tourists on weekends, meaning not only can you park within 200 metres of the dive shop, you can park right outside the dive shop.
NOTE: IN DECEMBER 2006 I WAS TOLD THAT THIS SHOP WAS NOW CLOSED