History of the Tilligerry Peninsula

History of the Tilligerry Peninsula

The area known as the Tilligerry Peninsula covers five major townships – from Salt Ash and Oyster Cove to the west and Tanilba Bay; Mallabula; and Lemon Tree Passage to the east. The peninsula is generally depicted as all the land from Nelson Bay Road at Salt Ash to the eastern extremity of Lemon Tree Passage at the end of Lemon Tree Passage Road.


Salt Ash

Salt Ash was originally established as a “port” to cater for those wanting access to other Port Stephens townships via a ferry along the Tilligerry Creek. The township was accessible by horse coach travel to the Salt Ash Wharf off what is now known as Lemon Tree Passage Road. The town also included a timber mill and the local school was established in 1883. It is still recognized today as a “stopping or meeting” place along the way for travelers on their way to Nelson Bay and / or Newcastle.


Oyster Cove

From family feuds to once being the location of the largest Oyster farming operation in the Southern hemisphere, Oyster Cove's response to the massive changes in the oyster industry was to diversify into the largest marine service centre in Port Stephens. Oyster Farming in the general area is slowly being re-established albeit by fewer operators with further tourism developments underway. Oyster Cove is considered to be part of the “Tilligerry Peninsula” which constitutes the areas of Salt Ash, Lemon Tree Passage, Tanilba Bay & Mallabula;


Lemon Tree Passage

Originally called “Kooindah” or “clear water” (now the name of one of the shopping centres in Tanilba Bay), Lemon Tree Passage was renamed because of the lemon groves, found by early visitors to the area. The word “passage” in the name refers to the use of the water ways for travel north of Salt Ash. The first houses in Lemon Tree Passage were the fishermen's huts along the foreshore and in the area known as “The Gibbers” along the banks of Tilligerry Creek where all roads began. Many small subdivisions were then developed throughout Lemon Tree Passage - like the “Tilligerry Estate” dated 1920 that planned John Parade and Beach Road.

Lemon Tree Passage has an enclosed tidal pool, new boat ramp, boat hire, marina, police station, restaurant, bowling club, motel, parks, post office, Tilligerry Community Centre, real estate agents and takeaway food outlets.


Tanilba Bay

Tanilba means “place of white flowers” - assumed to be flannel flowers that used to thrive everywhere. The land was extensively cleared for mixed farming for the Caswell land grant of 50 acres and used to pasture cattle and grow wine grapes. Henry Halloran, a surveyor and real estate agent, bought the land in 1920 and planned a subdivision that would repeat elements of Walter Burley Griffin's plan for Canberra based on a central “Avenue of the Allies”. This design included, as a “centre-piece”, all street names from events or persons involved in the first World War conflict.

More recently, LANDCOM has developed a residential subdivision between the townships of Tanilba Bay and Mallabula; encompassing approximately 25 hectares (60 acres) of land. This land was originally zoned for residential purposes (with school; open space and other community purposes) in 1979 by the then State Government. It was only “transferred” to the land development department of the State Government (LANDCOM) in the 1990’s.

After huge public consultation and a number of public meetings, LANDCOM created this 288 lot estate and started selling the land in 1999. The 4th stage was released on the 15th March, 2008 and a further 2 Stages are to be sold over the following few years.



Meaning “three swamps”, Mallabula was a collection of fishing huts on the foreshore and near the existing jetty on the southern shores of Port Stephens until the 1960s. Then the flat was cleared for sand-mining and trees were not replanted so that a housing estate could be developed. The township of Mallabula now adjoins the “Koala Bay” estate at Tanilba Bay.

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