Lake Macquarie History

Mawson Hotel, Caves Beach

During the halcyon days of the pub-based live music scene of the 1970s and 80s, the former Mawson Hotel at Caves Beach rocked!

photo: mawson hotel, 1968

Situated on a ridgeline overlooking the ocean, 'The Mawson' as it was colloquially known, reportedly hosted early gigs by iconic Australian bands including Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel and The Angels.

During this era the Mawson acquired a varied reputation. Although beloved by locals, and by default, many in south east Lake Macquarie, Gaye Sheather’s thesis "Rock This City" cites a Newcastle based source describing a territorial scene dominated by "pretty heavy surfie guys".

However, most contemporary nostalgia pieces published online recall a more personable atmosphere as the hotel became increasing family friendly. Noise complaints may have also forced the hand of the hotel.

A story in The Post newspaper published in September 1986 states management were increasingly in favour of opting out of hosting live bands, replacing them instead with more genteel acts comprised mostly of duos.

The site on which the hotel came to be build was far more sedate some thirty years earlier, bordering an area so sparsely settled that it was simply referred to as 'The Plains'.

The original idea for building the hotel came about in the 1950s as part of a broader plan for a seaside township by Caves Beach founder Arthur "Art" Mawson.

In the decade previous, Mawson had invested in neighbouring mining leases, including Wallamaine, before coming to see the potential for subdivision in the area.

On 20 March 1958, The Newcastle Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported that the Newcastle Licensing Court had approved plans for a new hotel at Caves Beach, and was transferring the license from another Newcastle based premises.

The plan as published in The Herald appears rather more grandiose than the structure which eventually fronted Caves Beach Road, depicting a building with multiple storeys and provisions for up to 44 bedrooms.

The article also appears to infer that the original applicant for the licence was a Mr John Gibson although over ensuring years, former boxing promoter Mrs Martha Mawson (wife of Art) was arguably the hotel’s most prominent publican.

The Mawsons eventually sold the hotel for a reported $1.2million and on 9 October 1981, The Herald reported Martha's retirement. Ownership was transferred to a Newcastle consortium associated with the Saddington family.

Following the sale, the business was renamed and the pub once known as The Mawson was rebranded as the Caves Beach Hotel-Motel.

Although much of the former site is still evident, in 2009 the hotel ceased trading in this format. A new licensed facility was incorporated into the newly developed $110million Caves Beachside Resort, a 6.5ha site further east of the former site and just 100 meters from the beach.