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MW3 - Wanda Wanda Headland

Located around Wanda Headland on water edge. Turn off Soldiers Point Rd into Randall Drive (at roundabout near shops) and drive approximately 20 metres where on your left there is limited room for parking on grass roadside. From your parked car you will see a pathway that leads down to the waterfront. The pathway veers off to the right at waterfront where a well maintained, flat and even  bush /gravel path follows the waterline around the headland. You will see the signs approx 100m to 150m apart if you continue along this pathway.

This rocky headland at Salamander Bay in 1910-1913 was the focus of the naval planners when the recommendation was made to build a new naval base at Port Stephens. The proposed base at Port Stephens was to be initially for the harbouring of the Royal Australian Navy submarines. In 1913, land was made available for that purpose.

The initial managerial and survey workforce arrived on site at Salamander Bay, just near the Wanda Wanda Headland. This was closely followed by about 250 locally available labourers who were to set down access roads, construct buildings and a wooden jetty.

Australia’s first two submarines arrived on 24 May 1914. World War 1 was declared on 5 August 1914. These new submarines, AE-1 and AE-2, first saw action off New Britain, north of New Guinea within the month - having been sent there to prevent a surprise attack by the German East Asiatic Cruiser Squadron. On 14 September 1914, AE-1 vanished with its entire crew, never to be found to this day.

AE-2 sailed for Europe in early 1915 and on reaching the Mediterranean, joined other forces involved in the attempt to force a passage to the Dardanelles in Southern Turkey. On 25 April 1915, following the Gallipoli troop landings, she became the first Allied Unit to enter the Sea of Marmara. Two days later she was severely damaged, then scuttled and her crew taken prisoner-of-war. Australia’s only submarine capability was then totally neutralised nine months into the War.

Work on the Naval Base near Wanda Head came to a halt shortly thereafter and stopped completely in 1922 when all improvements were dismantled. The Naval Base Land was eventually sold to the Port Stephens Council in 1955.

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The Wanda Wanda headland landscape deteriorated between 1922 and the end of the 20th century. A pathway around the rock-face had been in use but became eroded and untidy with undergrowth. The Soldiers Point-Salamander Bay Tidy Towns Group sought support in 2001 and re-established the pathway, carrying out anti-erosion measures as well. This signage updates and replaces an earlier map erected to define the headland’s features.

The above information and research has been undertaken by the Port Stephens Historical Society.