Belmont is a suburban tourist resort on the eastern side of Lake Macquarie. The flotilla of bobbing boats and white, flapping sails which crowd the bay are a symbol of the town's central activity although fishing and swimming are also popular.
In 1800 Captain William Reid became the first European to make his way into the lake. Sent from Sydney to collect coal from the mouth of the Hunter River he mistook the channel for the river estuary, ventured inside and encountered some members of the Awabakal tribe, who then occupied the area from the bank of the Lower Hunter to the southern and western shores of Lake Macquarie. After he inquired about coal the Aborigines directed him to some embedded in the headland. It was only upon his return to Sydney that he realised his error. The lake was thus known as Reid's Mistake until 1826 when it was renamed in honour of Governor Lachlan Macquarie.
Reid's discovery excited no initial interest as Newcastle was, at the time, a penal settlement which the government wished to keep isolated from Sydney. Eventually pressure from settlers wishing to move into the Hunter Valley caused the penal settlement to be removed to Port Macquarie.
By far the most important of the early settlers was a missionary, the Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld, an ex-actor and businessman who, in 1826, established a 1000-acre reserve for an Aboriginal mission which occupied the whole northern peninsula, from Pelican north-west to Redhead and north-east to Croudace Bay.
Threlkeld chose the land after noting it was a gathering point for Aborigines, drawn by the living conditions and food around the lake. He held his Aboriginal friends in high regard and learned their language so as to communicate and to translate scripture (this work being an early landmark in Aboriginal studies). The mission house, called 'Bahtahbah', was located on a rise overlooking Belmont Bay. It was connected to Newcastle by a rough dray track. Threlkeld started the first coal mine around the lake at Coal Point, c.1840, and subsequently bought ten acres at Swansea Heads for coal-loading and storage around 1842.
Thomas Williamson, of the Shetland Isles, bought 100 acres of land around present-day Belmont in 1863. He built two cottages, established a farm and grew grapes and bananas. Fellow Shetlander John Anderson bought 40 acres of adjacent land and began farming and dairying. There was soon a small contingent of fishermen in the district and a steam-driven sawmill was built at Cardiff Point, at the north-western tip of the bay.
The town's name derives from a weatherboard guesthouse named 'Belmont' which Williamson built in the 1860s. It was named after his birthplace on the island of Unst. The first town allotments went on sale in 1868, taken up by miners who worked at nearby collieries. A private school opened on the Williamson property in 1873 and a provisional school in 1875. A church building followed and a post office opened in 1877. Williamson was the postmaster until his death in 1880.
The improvement of the roads in 1883 and the arrival of the railway later in the decade prompted more substantial development, the growth of the permanent population and the expansion of the tourist trade. Popular with industrial workers from Newcastle seeking a contrast to their working hours it became known as the 'sanitarium of the north'.
As Newcastle has continued to sprawl, the desirability of lakeside residences has become obvious and the population of Belmont has greatly increased since 1970.
Things to see
Cane Pt, Belmont South, is a small peninsula that juts out from the mainland at the end of Ethel St which runs to the west off the highway. It is a very pleasant little spot, surrounded by the waters of Lake Macquarie on three sides, with a caravan park, a boat ramp, and fine views.
Also at Belmont South, on the left-hand side of the highway as you are headed north, there is a strip of foreshore parkland at sea-level with a playground, picnic and barbecue facilities, a few trees and views over the lake: northwards to the flotilla of boats at the sailing and yachting clubs and north-east to Cardiff Pt on the other side of Belmont Bay.
To access the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club (tel: 02 4945 0022), continue north along the highway past the caravan park then turn left into Ada St. There is a boat ramp by the walkway.
The Belmont 16 ft Sailing Club (tel: 02 4945 0888) can be reached by turning off the highway into Macquarie St. At the end of the road turn right into Brooks Parade and continue past the rock pool and boat ramp. Gerald St, with its caravan park, is to the right and Ross St is to the left. Follow the latter and then turn left into The Parade and it is here that you will find the sailing club.
Belmont Golf Course
The club house is located at the end of a private driveway which runs to the east off the highway at the southernmost end of Belmont.
Squids Ink Boat Hire is located at 690 Pacific Highway (02 4947 7223).
The Macquarie Enterprise Cruise
The Macquarie Enterprise Cruise operates a four-hour luncheon cruise every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday which is intended to pick people up from Belmont Wharf, although the deterioration of the wharf has made this service problematic. However, ring (02) 4973 2513 for further information.
Lake Macquarie Visitor Centre
72 Pacific Hwy Swansea
Belmont NSW 2281
Telephone: (02) 4972 1172