Imagine this: you're cruising along the tranquil waters of Port Stephens, the gentle lapping of waves against the hull your only soundtrack. Dolphins frolic alongside the vessel, their playful antics adding a touch of magic to the journey. This isn't a scene from a movie; it's the reality of a day trip to Tea Gardens aboard the Original Tea Gardens Ferry, a delightful escape departing daily from the Nelson Bay Marina.

Nelson Bay to Tea Gardens map


A Step Back in Time: Embarking on a Historic Voyage

The Original Tea Gardens Ferry offers more than just transportation; it's a journey steeped in history. The first passenger ferry between Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens launched in 1904, with daily ferries operating up until the business closed with the commencement of WWII. A long hiatus ensued until 1987, when the ferry recommenced its journey between Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens four days per week, before returning to its former glory of running daily services.

As you board the MV Tea Gardens, the flagship ferry built in 1944 for the RAAF Marines division, you'll be stepping onto a piece of maritime history. This vessel, along with the MV Jesse (launched in 1955) and the MV Wallamba (launched in 1986), all boast unique stories, adding a fascinating layer to your day trip.

The Original Tea Gardens Ferry company, now operated by Kerrie Jeffreys the former manager who fell in love with the business and purchased the fleet in 2022, takes pride in the restoration of its iconic vessels to their former glory, ensuring these beauties remain a cherished part of the Port Stephens and Myall Coast community for generations to come.

MV Tea Gardens


Comfort and Convenience: A Ferry for Everyone

The Nelson Bay to Tea Gardens route utilises the flagship vessel, The MV Tea Gardens, for good reason. This ferry is the only one in the bay offering easy "wheel-on, wheel-off" access, making it a perfect choice for wheelchair users, travellers with mobility limitations, prams, bikes, and even if you simply wish to take your golf clubs onboard for a swing at the Hawks Nest Golf Club.

All vessels are well-equipped with amenities such as toilets and a friendly deckhand on board to provide insightful commentary and ensure your comfort throughout the journey.

Original Tea Gardens Ferry


A Feast for the Senses: Dolphins, Shipwrecks, and Worimi History

The hour-long cruise between Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens is a captivating experience in itself. Keep your eyes peeled for the resident dolphin population, known for putting on a playful show alongside the ferry. As the vessels sit low in the water, these magnificent creatures often swim remarkably close, offering an unforgettable encounter.

The knowledgeable deckhands will also point out historical sites and hidden gems along the way. Learn about the fascinating Aboriginal fish traps that dot the waters near Tea Gardens, remnants of a rich cultural heritage. You might even catch a glimpse of one of the several shipwrecks that lie beneath the surface, each with its own captivating story.

Tea Gardens Wildlife


A Culinary Adventure Awaits in Tea Gardens

Once you arrive in Tea Gardens, a charming coastal town nestled on the Myall River to the north of Nelson Bay, a world of culinary delights awaits. From waterfront restaurants boasting stunning views to cafes offering a relaxed atmosphere, there's something to tantalise every taste bud.

For a taste of fresh, local seafood, consider the Tea Gardens Boatshed or Hook N' Cook. For a relaxed riverside setting, Mumms on the Myall offers delectable breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. And for those seeking a classic pub experience, the family-friendly Tea Gardens Hotel is famous for its old-school "Fish & Chip" cone, with indoor and courtyard seating and a playground to entertain the kids.

Don't forget to indulge your sweet tooth at the Tea Gardens Ice Cream Shack, where their "Homemade Raspberry and White Chocolate Pancakes" are a must-try.

The Original Tea Gardens Ferry


Retail Therapy: Unearthing Treasures in Tea Gardens

Tea Gardens is also a haven for those who love a quick spot of retail therapy. Explore the delightful array of shops lining the streets, where you'll find everything from unique handcrafted artworks at Galleries in The Gardens to bohemian treasurers at Bohemian Spirit, Upbeat and Positive and Circle of Friends Tea Gardens waiting to be discovered, and community crafts at the Myall Community Art and Craft Centre.

Galleries in the Gardens Tea Gardens


Beyond the Ferry: Exploring Tea Gardens at Your Own Pace

The beauty of this day trip lies in its flexibility. The ferry journey offers a relaxing and scenic introduction to Tea Gardens, but the town itself has much more to explore. Once you've disembarked, take your time to wander through the charming streets, soaking up the relaxed coastal atmosphere.

For an easy walking route, take the Tea Gardens River Walk along Myall River. 

Tea Gardens Aerial 1


The Perfect Day Trip Awaits

Whether you're seeking a historical voyage, a chance to encounter marine life, or simply a relaxing escape with a touch of exploration, a day trip to Tea Gardens via the Original Tea Gardens Ferry has something for everyone. 

If a private voyage is more your style, ask Kerrie about a private charter!


Scheduled Ferry Times:


NELSON BAY to TEA GARDENS - 8am / 11.30am / 3.30pm

TEA GARDENS to NELSON BAY - 10am / 2.30pm / 5.15pm

(Times are subject to weather and daylight savings and may change without notice, so please check The Original Tea Gardens Ferry website for updates).



Taryn Blight

Written by Taryn Blight