Soldiers Point Marina is located in scenic Port Stephens, NSW and has been developed from an old fixed structure to a state of the art, marina of the year, floating structure. Initially a boat shed, this 60 year old marina has been transformed into a boutique resort marina.
With a focus on customer service, Soldiers Point Marina is now a high end operation. “We have facilities and benefits which you probably won’t see at other marinas. We started off with just 20 berths and after two expansions, now have 99 floating berths. They are all state of the art and made from 316 (marine grade) stainless steel, which is another unique feature about Soldiers Point.” said Darrell Barnett CMM, General Manager.
We speak with Darrell to learn more about this sought after marina. “Soldiers Point Marina’s facilities and services have grown exponentially over the years. The marina is equipped with workshops that are able to lift and haul out boats for maintenance, detailing or anti-fouling. If that doesn’t “float your boat”, then perhaps their floating coffee shop or two award winning restaurants may. It doesn’t stop there, the marina also has a sauna facility, beautiful Italian marble ensuite bathrooms, a massage and beauty centre as well as a customer lounge complete with books, television internet, printing and of course, complimentary red and white wine.
“As a luxury marina, we offer a wide range of complimentary services. We have two courtesy cars, a Lexus and a Nissan Nivara Ute for customers to explore the town or pick up some groceries from the nearby shopping centre. For those who stay to enjoy our facilities, we also offer complimentary chess, pushbikes and even your newspaper of choice as well as coffee, tea or hot chocolate delivered to your boat every morning throughout the summer months. If that’s not enough cocktails are delivered every afternoon to your boat for you and your guest” says Darrell.
“We also have a boat brokerage on site and kayak and trailer boat storage, to help locals from having their boats parked on the street.” says Darrell. Already an issue in Sydney, local boat owners in Port Stephens are also looking for safe storage space, due to the increase of high-rise apartments.
Soldiers Point Marina also introduced a sailing school at the marina. “We actually donate all the lessons to all the schools in this program and we also offer sailing lessons on weekends as well” explains Darrell. Completion of this program will leave you with a certificate from Yachting Australia as well as basic boating skills, which could be developed further. Soldiers Point Marina continues to contribute to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the local community. “We are a Platinum sponsor of the Real Futures Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps students; the Port Stephens Community Arts Centre as well as local Mayoral Academic Scholarships.” advises Darrell. In addition, Solders Point Marina has recently sponsored a whale shark, to help conservationists in Australia with their research.
The marina also holds events to get the community involved and boat owners to use their vessels. Events such as “Music on the Water”, where bands play on the bay for visitors to enjoy free of charge. The marina even provide the opportunity for guests to purchase fresh local prawn and oyster platters. “We work with the local marinas, so everyone can come together and enjoy the day.” says Darrell.
A major attraction is the “Sculpture Walk” dotted around the marina precinct, which includes contemporary sculptures from well-known Australian artists.
A purpose built floating and well-appointed lounge for the benefit of marina guests has been built on “B” arm with weddings held there on a regular basis.
“We are an ISO 14001 accredited marina, meeting the international standard. This is not only hard to achieve but it is also constantly monitored. We are also members of the MIA (Marina Industries Association) and are part of the Clean Marinas Program.” explains Darrell.
Soldiers Point Marina holds the highest level of accreditation in this program, with a Level 4. They are also hold the marina rating of 5 Gold Anchor also monitored by the MIA. They have been awarded the Australian Marina of the Year Award again for 2015-2016 and have entered the MIA Hall of Fame.
The marina takes on casual staff members in the peak of the tourism season. The expansion of the restaurants and their floating shop has incorporated additional staff. The marina also likes to offer job and industry training, working closely with St Philips Christian College to offer graduates job experience in marina operations. “I hope that we can help students develop their training into a career. I am a member of the education board in the MIA, which also helps us find staff from casual dock staff right up to marina management.” says Darrell. The marina recently sent its staff to an international marine conference in Queensland. “We are considered to have the most sought after marina management structure in Australia. Our mission statement is to exceed expectations of our customers, who we define as guests, partners and fellow employees. We want to achieve the highest level of customer satisfaction.” advises Darrell.
“We initiated the ECLAT Club and work together with other like-minded marinas on the Eastern Coast of Australia. We offer complimentary membership to permanent guests at each participating marina. With this membership, guests have the opportunity to travel to other marinas, who we are affiliated with and stay there for no additional charge and take advantage of the marina benefits. We interact with these businesses to benefit our guests, as we are a tight knitted community that work together as opposed to competing with each other.” explains Darrell.
As times change in Australia, so does the time we have. Working in a typically leisure industry, Darrell has noticed that the biggest issue they face is a simple matter of time. “Customers are spending more time at work and less time enjoying what they have purchased. This is the hardest battle at the moment. Port Stephens holds the NSW Interclub Fishing Tournament, the biggest game fishing competition on the Eastern seaboard. It has been dwindling with participation over the years, which I don’t think is a money issue but more of a time issue. As a marina, we are working heavily with tag and release events and getting people out to enjoy themselves. At Soldiers Point Marina we offer our game fishers a complimentary hot breakfast each morning of the competition and heavily discounted fuel” Darrell said.
Darrell moved to Australia from the UK in 1994 when his dads business relocated. He took on a casual job in a marina owned by the d’Albora Group. Initially just looking for something to do, he realised his passion and found that he loved working in the marina industry. Getting a permanent position, he quickly moved up the ranks. “At that time, a marina manager was moving on with his career to a separate business and I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to prove myself.” says Darrell. Being only 18 at the time, Darrell did prove himself and became the operations manager of the d’Albora Group, which at the time had 5 marinas in its portfolio. “Later, I moved back to work with Jeff, who was running Soldiers Point Marina, back when it had only 14 berths and there was not a lot going on. We worked closely and he offered me a lot of opportunities.” states Darrell. Prior, Darrell studied in Seattle, Washington to become a Certified Marina Manager. At the time, he was one of 165 in the world and as of 2015, is one of just over 200.