Destination: Eden, South Coast Regional Harbours, NSW

Chris Whitelaw — 11 April 2019

The historic whaling port of Eden is the last major town on the way down the New South Wales south coast, almost as far from Sydney (480km) as it is from Melbourne (550km). It enjoys an idyllic location on a headland (Lookout Point) that juts into Twofold Bay, the third-deepest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere, and is surrounded by Ben Boyd National Park to the north and south and Nullica State Forest to the west. 

Eden’s strategic location and deep-water harbour have made it one of the most important and active ports in the state – as a major whaling base, commercial fishing harbour, export hub, customs clearance port, naval warship depot, and a springboard for eco-tourism charters. Historically, the Port of Eden has been recognised as a ‘port of refuge’ to coastal shipping and currently presents as a safe haven for Sydney-Hobart ocean racers as well as enjoying a significantly increased profile amongst ocean cruise liners and the growing Super Yacht market.


In 1798, George Bass and Matthew Flinders entered Twofold Bay in the sloop Norfolk and moored in a small inlet they named Snug Cove, because it was “a snug and safe anchorage for any ship in a blow.” Thirty years later, Captain Thomas Raine established Australia’s first shore-based whaling station in the cove and he was soon followed by the Scottish-born Imlay brothers, who founded a competing operation. By 1837, the Imlays' boats were taking two or three whales a day during the height of the season, producing whale oil in quantities that were triple that of the entire New Zealand industry. 

The arrival of Benjamin Boyd in 1843 broke the Imlays’ dominance and plunged the local industry into an era of fierce rivalry. Boyd created the settlement of Boydtown in the south-west corner of the bay and, from this base, launched a coastal shipping enterprise between Sydney and Hobart. He also established his own whaling station at East Boyd using nine whaling ships and an imposing sandstone tower for whale spotting at Red Point, which still stands today.

Within five years of arriving in Eden, Boyd suffered a complete reversal of fortune that left him bankrupt. His properties and fleet of steamers and whalers were sold, Boydtown was closed and, in 1849, he returned to England. Eight years later, the Davidson family arrived from Scotland and established what would become Australia's longest running shore-based whaling station, involving three generations over almost 70 years. The Davidson Whaling Station is now an Historic Site managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service on the southern shore of Twofold Bay.

Local Industry

As whaling declined (and eventually ceased here in the late 1930s), other industries rose to fill the vacuum – cattle, dairy, timber and brick-making – only to recede over time from the district’s economic landscape. Three industries that have survived and become well-established in Eden are wood-chipping, fishing and tourism.

For over 100 years, sawmilling and the export of wattle-bark has been a major local industry. Today, Allied Natural Wood Exports Pty Ltd (ANWE) is Eden’s main employer, directly or indirectly providing 115 jobs at its mill and in harvest and haulage throughout the region. From its mill at Jews Head, on the southern side of Twofold Bay, ANWE exports wood-chip to the Asia Pacific region, the Middle East and Europe. These products are loaded from a T-head jetty capable of berthing vessels up to 235 metres in length and displacement of 100,000 tonnes. 

Nearby in East Boyd Bay, the multi-purpose (navy) wharf is used principally for naval operations, general cargo and the loading of logs for export. The wharf is licensed to handle Class 1 Dangerous Goods (explosives) and can accommodate vessels up to 185 metres in length and 35,000-tonne capacity. 

The Commercial fishing industry has survived in Eden from the early days. A tuna cannery opened in the town in 1949 but closed in 1999, at the cost of many jobs. Nevertheless, a significant fishing fleet continues to operate from Snug Cove and their catch is still vital not only for Eden but for the fish markets at Sydney and Melbourne.

The Eden region receives 550,000 visitors annually, contributing about $180-million to the shire’s economy. Many people come to Eden for the seasonal whale migration along the East Coast (northbound in June-July, southbound in September-November), and a booming charter boat industry has grown up around this natural phenomenon. 

The Port of Eden

Eden is the southernmost “declared port” in NSW, occupying the western part of the isthmus that connects Lookout Point to the town’s CBD. This is the working heart of Eden’s maritime industry and NSW’s largest fishing port, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Port Authority of NSW manages three wharves for commercial vessels at Eden: the privately-owned ANWE wood-chip terminal at Jews Head, the multi-purpose wharf in East Boyd Bay, and the Breakwater Wharf in Snug Cove. The Authority provides a harbour master, 24-hour pilot services, port security functions and a range of services including harbour tugs, launch services, stevedores, marine engineers and ships chandlers. 

Approaching Twofold Bay from any direction is free of hazards, keeping a respectable offing when rounding the north and south headlands, Worang and Red Points respectively, and their fringing reefs. Except for a few isolated rocks close to shore, the Bay itself is also clear of navigational hazards. 

Within the Port of Eden, pilotage is compulsory for boats of 30 metres or longer. Although recreational vessels are generally exempt, the harbour master may require a pilot to conduct the vessel on its movement into, out of or within the port, and superyacht masters may request this service for any passage within the Port limits if they feel it necessary.

East Boyd Bay is the best anchorage during winds from the southern quarter in good holding south of the naval jetty. Note, however, that a waterside exclusion zone of 500 metres exists around any naval ship moored at the multi-purpose wharf, which means that any yachts anchored in East Boyd Bay must clear the area should a warship arrive. Nullica Bay, off Boydtown, is generally a satisfactory anchorage but subject to near-constant rolling in all but the lightest conditions. In the northwestern corner, Quarantine Bay is a popular mooring for small craft under its single breakwater (with launching ramp and jetty) at Murrumbulga Point, and useful anchorage can also be found to its west during northerly winds. Snug Cove is the only anchorage close to the town of Eden and, while well protected in northerly winds, is exposed to south-westerly gales that can be severe.

There are no public mooring buoys available in Twofold Bay. Visiting private vessels and yachts may moor at the 150-metre mooring jetty on the northern side of Snug Cove, but it will often be necessary to raft up alongside other vessels. In times of peak congestion, visiting yachts may moor at the main jetty, but priority is given to the fishing fleet and the visitor must move without delay if requested to do so by a fishing vessel. Without express permission from the harbour master, yachts and private vessels must not moor at the Breakwater Wharf, which is principally used for fishing, general cargo, bunkering and small cruise vessels.

With the large fishing fleet working out of Eden, the harbour facilities are generally good: fresh water is available at all jetties in Snug Cove; 240V power outlets are fitted at the Mooring Jetty; 240V and 415V (3 phase) power outlets are fitted at the main jetty; diesel fuel is available by road tanker and deliveries can be arranged; a slipway is available for vessels up to approx 25 metres and 150 tonnes gross; boat repairs, chandlery and engineering services are also available.


The Port of Eden, and Snug Cove in particular, are undergoing a major transformation, with two publicly-funded construction projects currently underway - the Eden Breakwater Wharf Extension and the Safe Harbour Project – and the proposed Port of Eden Marina (POEM), a private development awaiting finalisation of the Safe Harbour Project.

Breakwater Wharf Extension Project

While the Port of Eden is ideally situated between Sydney and Melbourne to benefit from the growth in the cruise ship industry by attracting cruise vessels in transit between the two state capitals, it does not currently have adequate infrastructure to take full advantage of that trade. Restricted by draft and length, cruise ships are currently unable to berth in Snug Cove and land access for passengers is by tender, contingent on favourable weather conditions. 

To overcome these deficiencies, funds totalling $44-million is being contributed by State, Federal and local governments on extending the existing Breakwater Wharf by about 110 metres, deepening the adjacent berth pocket and approach channel, and installation of mooring dolphins and dockside utilities. Work commenced in August 2017 and is expected to be completed and fully operational for the beginning of the cruise ship season in September 2019. Cruise ships up to 325 metres in length will then be able to berth alongside the upgraded wharf so that passengers can embark/disembark via a gangway onto the dock.

Eden Safe Harbour Project

The port is officially described by NSW Maritime as unsafe for small vessels due to its exposure to south-westerly gales. Faced with a continuing decline in its traditional fishing and forestry industries, Eden needs a safe harbour and marina in Snug Cove to stimulate growth and employment and achieve its full potential as a port.

To that end, the NSW Department of Transport (Roads and Maritime Services) has allocated $10-million for the Eden Safe Harbour Project, which will see the construction of a wave attenuator to reduce the risk of damage to vessels moored in Snug Cove or berthed at jetties. Pre-construction works have been completed, and the attenuator design and alignment have been settled to meet the project objectives and ensure safe navigation by cruise ships accessing the Breakwater Wharf. A construction tender by Waterway Constructions is currently under consideration and work is expected to commence in about mid-2019.

Port of Eden Marina (POEM)

The Snug Cove and Environs Master Plan (2013) incorporates an extended breakwater wharf and wave attenuator (both currently in progress) and a Snug Cove foreshore development that includes a marina. The POEM project proposes the construction of a marina of between 150 and 170 berths (protected by the attenuator) and onshore development of accommodation, retail space, a restaurant and a range of facilities for marina users and visitors. The project will cost an estimated $8.4-million of private investment. After resolving some inconsistencies between the public works and the proposed POEM concept, the preliminary processes for the marina development should commence as soon as the attenuator project is finalised.


Eden is a busy working port, focused on commercial fishing, wood-chip export and naval support. Publicly-funded development projects will not only enhance these activities but expand the port’s capacity to better accommodate the lucrative cruise ship industry. Although Eden is a ‘port of refuge’, it has limited ability to cater for recreational boats and cruising yachts on a casual or permanent basis. Perhaps that will change and Eden’s other major industry, tourism, can achieve its full potential, if the POEM project goes ahead.


Outback Travel Tourism New South Wale Adventure Boat Fishing


Chris Whitelaw and Ellen Dewar