History of Lake Macquarie

First inhabitants

Aboriginal people of the Awabakal nation have lived in the Lake Macquarie area for more than 8000 years. The name Awabakal is derived from the lake, meaning people of the calm surface.

Traditional art and shell middens can be found around the lake, evidence of a nation who thrived on the area's rich shores and woodlands.

Arrival of the Europeans

The first European to discover the lake was Captain William Reid. In 1800, Reid sailed his 30- tonne schooner Martha into the narrow entrance, at what is now Swansea, mistaking it for his intended destination of the Hunter River.

It was only when he arrived back and returned to Sydney that Reid discovered his error. Until 1826, the lake was known as Reid's Mistake, then it was officially changed to honour Governor Lachlan Macquarie. The name of the southern headland of the entrance to the lake is now known as Reid's Mistake. Reid's Mistake by renowned local historian Keith Clouten contains the first reliable and connected account of the early years of European settlement in the Lake Macquarie region.

Captain Reid's discovery sparked little interest in Sydney. No further exploration took place for 20 years, partly because of the difficulty of getting overland to the area across rugged rocky unexplored terrain, but largely because King's Town - as Newcastle was known in those times - was a penal settlement, which authorities wished to keep isolated.

It was only after pressure from free settlers eager to move into the Hunter Valley that the days of settlement began.

Birth of the City

Lake Macquarie was proclaimed a Shire on 6 March 1906; it became a Municipality on 1 March 1977, and a City on 7 September 1984.

Lake Macquarie History Online

The Lake Macquarie History website contains information on the social, cultural, industrial and environmental history of the area, with individual narratives covering people, places, recreation, Aboriginal and industrial history.

The resources now online include:

Heritage Strategy for Lake Macquarie City

The management of the City’s diverse and important history and heritage needs to be a combined effort by Council, the community and land owners. The Heritage Strategy for Lake Macquarie City draws on Lifestyle 2030, Council’s Community Plan, the Aboriginal Heritage Management Strategy and the Aboriginal Community Plan and outlines specific objectives and strategies for heritage management in Lake Macquarie.

Office of Environment and Heritage

The NSW Heritage Online Database allows you to search the NSW State Heritage Register to find out which places in Lake Macquarie are listed as Aboriginal Places, State-heritage listed items and local-heritage listed items. The database includes statements of significance, short histories and photographs of listed items, where available.

Developing a heritage property

Certain restrictions and considerations apply when developing a heritage propery.


NSW Government Heritage grants and funding 2019-2021

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the Heritage Council of NSW are offering the following grants through the Heritage Grants Program:

2019-21 round is now open for applications. Applications can be submitted at any time up until midday (12 noon) on Friday 8 February 2019. More information can be found on the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website.

Local Heritage Places Fund

Owners of heritage-listed properties in Lake Macquarie are invited to apply for annual small grants, on a dollar for dollar basis, to assist with the maintenance of their properties. Applications for grants up to $5000 will be considered. Applications for the 2018/2019 round of the Local Heritage Places Fund closed on Monday 30 April 2018. We anticipate opening the next round of the Local Heritage Places Fund in late May 2019.

Page last updated: 21 December 2018