Lake Macquarie History

How We Grew - the 1800-1820

photo: william reids ship martha

White settlement began when Captain William Reid mistook what we now know as Swansea Heads for the Hunter River back in early July 1800. Under orders to sail to the Hunter River for a cargo of coal, he instead found a new source of the valuable commodity.

Although this European 'discovery' of Lake Macquarie occurred in 1800, it took about 25 years for the first settlers to arrive in the area. There were several reasons for this:

  • The rugged terrain of the Hawkesbury River was prohibitive to moving stock northwards.
  • As the Penal settlement at Newcastle was for the most hardened criminals, settlement in the Hunter was strongly discouraged by the government of the day to ensure a seclusion zone between Newcastle and Sydney.
  • As the harbour at Newcastle meant that transport of coal from the area was never difficult, the formation of roads (which was rapidly taking place to the south and west of Sydney) was delayed to the north. An easily navigable route north was eventually marked out around 1821.


Clouten, Keith 1967, Reid's mistake : the story of Lake Macquarie from its discovery until 1890, Lake Macquarie Shire Council, [Speers Point, N.S.W.]

Nilson, Laurie & Leis, Susan & Noble, Rodney & Lake Macquarie (N.S.W.). Council 1985, Lake Macquarie : past and present, Lake Macquarie City Council, [Boolaroo, N.S.W.]