Lying only 9NM north east of Port Stephens Broughton Island and its neighbours have a prehistoric look about them; untouched, wild and verdant green they look like your classic pacific island, rising up out of the deep blue. They are a place of rugged natural beauty and can only be visited by boat, which makes them extra special.
There was a gentle northerly wind blowing the day we set off towards the island so we slowly motored out between the isles of Cabbage tree and Boondelbah with their towering cliffs, surging coast line and wave-battered rocks. As well as soaking up the islands, our eyes focussed on the water…we were looking for whales.
We saw a number of pods of whales who were happily enjoying themselves breaching and blowing off in the distance, but it was as we entered Esmeralda cove on Broughton Island that we were had our first up close and personal encounter with a humpback! Only 20m from Vega, the huge whale surfaced, its wide back calming the motion of the waves, before it exhaled and dove down below Vega. A couple of minutes later it surfaced nearby again and then as we moved to give it some distance it started an incredible display of tail slapping. We have since learnt that this can be a sign of aggression, but is more commonly communication and we hope we didn’t upset it!
Its an incredible, humbling experience being on your own boat, in the natural habitat of these huge animals and have them come and pay you a visit. Needless to say Milly and Ben were simply aghast and one of the rare times in life that Ben has been speechless J
Where to anchor?
There are three anchorages on Broughton Island. Esmeralda Cove, Coal Shaft bay and Providence beach.
Esmeralda Cove. This is a narrow inlet leading to two white sand beaches and a number of fishing shacks. There are also a number of mooring buoys closely packed at the head of the bay. Two of the buoys furthest from the beach are suitable for cruising yachts, but the remainder seemed too closely spaced to accommodate anything other than a small fishing boats.
It is incredibly open to the south-east and would not be suitable with any weather from this direction. The day we visited there was a reasonable southerly swell which was wrapping into the bay, but it was still fairly calm inside. We tried to anchor a couple of times but, couldn’t get out anchor to set (weed over sand), so we headed around to Coal Shaft bay.
Coal Shaft Bay. This is large anchorage with a beautiful sandy bottom. The entrance needs a bit of care as there are a couple of groups of rocks/reefs to navigate, but once inside, it is an excellent anchorage. We spent 2 glorious days here with a gentle northerly blowing first, then a gentle westerly. The bay is exposed to the west, but the fetch isn’t huge and the bay remained calm. There are a number of shale beaches and a magnificent white sand beach in the north corner.
The fishing here was great and if you take the dingy to the surrounding reefs you can catch sweet lip, wrasse, bream on almost every cast. The water is so clear you can see them nibbling your bait!
Providence Beach. On the north side of the island, is clearly only suitable in a southerly wind and swell. There is a single mooring bouy here, but its close to the beach and only suitable for shallow draft vessels. There are also a number of navigational hazards including submerged rocks and reefs. Once safely anchored providence beach is spectacular, the white sand that squeaks as you walk on iy and you could easily think you were in Tahiti! For those with Dive gear there is a resident school of Grey Nurse Sharks that congregate around North Rock and as with the rest of the island, the water is crystal clear.
The island has a number of short trails (shown in dotted lines on the map) and its well worth a walk over the island. The seabirds are prolific. As the sun slipped down over Port Stephens we saw two separate families of white bellied sea eagles swooping and soaring over the island.
In the right conditions the Broughton Islands are a must visit destination. We will be back!