Nobbys Headland was logged by Captain James Cook in 1770 when it was twice its present height. It was an island separated from the mainland by a narrow channel and between 1820 and 1858 it was cut back to the current shape and a lighthouse was lit there.
To enter the harbour was a perious undertaking. In the early 1800s a breakwater connecting the island was commenced using the rock cut from the top of the island. As time went on further breakwaters were built using stone from Braye Hill Quarry, Waratah, as well as off loaded ballast.
Numerous ships sunk in the early days frequently to the north off Stockton. The Oyster bank on the north side of the entrance to the harbour claimed a succession of ships. A lifeboat and tugs became essential and took some getting. Coal and rich cedar timber were exported.
The coaster Maianbar, in tow for Sydney broke away and went aground on this same beach in 1940 right near the seawall above and became a total wreck.
Many heroic stories about dangerous and stormy conditions are recorded.
The Susan Gilmore sailed the Pacific and the American Captain Carver brought his wife and young son along in 1884. From Sydney to Newcastle they were towed by a tug to save time. A gale set in and the towline parted and the Susan Gilmore could not beat out to sea, helpless, all she could do was signal for assistance. Another steamer attempted a tow without success and the anchors failed to hold and in darkness the Susan Gilmore was driven ashore near Bar Beach. Seven of the crew got ashore but the small boat filled with water with Mrs Carver in it and her husband managed to get her back to the ship.
At daylight the Newcastle lifeboat and the Rocket Brigade fired a line over the wreck and hauled Mrs Carver and her son and crew ashore as well as two dogs, a cat and a canary. Within a short time the wreck became a total loss. Susan Gilmore Beach is a memorial. (Bar Dangerous by Terry Callen, Newcastle Region Maritime Museum, 1986)