Lake Macquarie History

Mount Sugarloaf

photo: mount sugarloaf

Sugarloaf was sighted by Captain James Cook on 10th May 1770, when his ship Endeavour sailed northwards along the east coast of Australia. His journal entry for that date reads:

"At Noon we were by observation in the Latitude of 32.53 S, Longde 208.00 West and about 2 Leagues from land which extended from N 41 E to S 41 W. A small round rock or Island laying close under the land bore S 82 West dost 3 or 4 Leagues… In the Latitude of 33.2 S a little way inland is a remarkable hill that is shaped like the Crown of a hatt which we passed about 9 oClock in the forenoon.".

There is no record of who named the mountain Sugarloaf, but there are a number of mountains of this name worldwide which are named for their conical shape. The name derives from Brazil where sugar for export was shaped into conical mounds called "sugar loaves".

The mountain is part of the Sugarloaf Range. It is 412 meters (1,352 feet) high.

Aboriginal history

Mount Sugarloaf provides a vantage point for the areas that belong to the Awabakal people, making it an important teaching place. The Awabakal also have a creation story about Mount Sugarloaf, and it is a place where sacred ceremonies are known to have taken place.

Mt Sugarloaf is shaped like a wedge-tailed eagle, a totem of the Awabakal people. The mountain known as Warrawelong, is the setting for a dreamtime story about the fate of two children at the hands of the monster Puttikin - a cautionary tale about children wandering off alone.

The name Warrawelong is included in Threlkeld's List of Common Places in his work An Australian Language (1834), with the meaning "The name of a high mountain. West of Lake Macquarie; which has been partly cleared of timber by order of the Surveyor General as a mark, which is seen from a considerable distance. The name appears to be derived from Wol-lung, the human head from the appearance of the mountain".

The name Keemba Keemba is also associated with Mt Sugarloaf

White settlement

The earliest settlers in the foothills of Sugarloaf were Richard and Bridget O'Donnell who had sixty acres of land there in 1863. The settlement grew with additional houses for other members of the family, eventually becoming known as O'Donnelltown. West Wallsend followed in the 1880s, Holmesville and Seahampton in the 1890s. The small hamlets of Mafeking and Ladysmith, named after Boer War battles, were established in 1888.

West Wallsend was a thriving town in it's heyday as men and their families flocked to the area to work in the local coalmines. The population reached it's peak just after the turn of the century when all four of the area's mines were operating and some 6000 people were resident in the district.


photo: mount sugarloaf coal mine

There have been many mines around the Sugarloaf area, some of them mining into the mountain itself

  • In July 1888 the West Wallsend Coal Co. colliery commenced production. It closed c.1925
  • Seaham Colliery in 1891-92.
  • West Wallsend Extended (Killingworth) opened in 1892.
  • Seaham No. 2 was opened in 1905 - 1945
  • Mount Sugarloaf Colliery was situated at West Wallsend in the shadow of Sugarloaf mountain. It operated from 1949-1978.


With coal mines comes the need for timber. The eastern side of the mountain was heavily timbered with ironbark, grey gum, blue gum and spotted gum, and many timbercutters worked the sides of the mountains using bullock teams to haul the timber down to West Wallsend where it was distributed to the local mines. Sawmills were also established in the town to process the timber from the mountain and sell it to other users.


photo: snow on mount sugarloaf

At a height of around 413 m high the mountain has experienced snow several times over the years. Although snowfalls in the Hunter region are usually confined to Barrington Tops and parts of the Upper Hunter , in July 18, 1965, snow not only fell on Mount Sugarloaf but also in some Newcastle and Lake Macquarie suburbs. By sunrise the slopes of Sugarloaf were covered with about 10cm of snow and more than 16cm lay on the hills around Maitland, Cessnock, Singleton, Muswellbrook, Denman, Scone, Aberdeen and Barrington Tops. Near Cessnock the snow also fell at Mount View, Millfield and Quorrobolong. Snow was also reported at New Lambton, Waratah and Windale. By mid-morning the police had to close the road to the summit of Sugarloaf due to severe traffic congestion.Snow again fell on Mount Sugarloaf on Thursday, June 12, 1975.


photo: cars on the road to mt sugarloaf

The first roads on the mountain Would have been the bullock tracks made by timergetters. In 1924 Bert Young from Young & Green was the first person to drive a car up the mountain. This was done to prove the capabilities of a 4 cylinder Maxwell sedan the company were selling. The drive was made using the existing tracks on the mountain as no formal roads were yet established. The first road was built by Vi and Jo Taylor in early 1930s.


photo: refreshment rooms at sugarloaf

Vi and Joe Taylor were the first settlers on the summit in the early 1930s. They built the first road up to the summit in only a couple of months, in order to move things up and down the mountain enabling people to have access. They built a shop to service the needs of picnickers, hikers and other visitors to the mountain. They lived at the back of the shop in a shed with a lean to kitchen and kept a herd of cattle. This developed over the years to a sizeable business with a large 3 room house with large kitchen, dining room and a dancefloor. They leased the land from Lake Macquarie Council. Many wedding receptions and other events were held there in the 1940s, until the venue closed in the mid 1950s.

Transmission towers

NBN - Built 1961

ABC - Started building October 1962 - Went to air 3rd June, 1963

The mountain has two broadcast transmission towers. Since the 1960s their main function has been to transmit analogue television on VHF. In the 1990s two UHF analogue stations began to transmit from there. Since 2003, they have also been transmitting digital television in the UHF band (all digital television in the lower Hunter is on UHF). The analogue television transmitters (VHF and UHF) were switched off in November 2012. One tower, built to transmit the original VHF analogue television services of NBN Television on VHF Channel 3, transmits NBN and two government digital TV services. It is commonly referred to as the "NBN Tower". The second tower is transmitting the other two commercial digital (UHF) TV stations. The second tower is controlled by Broadcast Australia, being formerly run by the National Transmission Authority. There are many other radio antennae on these towers, including those belonging to Amateur Radio repeater and beacon stations.

There is a third smaller tower that has many directional antennae, mainly used for telecommunications, but also for two way radio for emergency services and other similar purposes. It has Telstra markings on much of the equipment and sheds.


The bushranger Edward Davis aka Jew Boy is reported to have had a hideout in a cave in the Sugarloaf ranges. He was an escaped convict who made raids on properties and bailed up travellers in the New England, Hunter Valley, Maitland & Gosford areas from 1839 till his capture in 1841


1911 'LAKE MACQUARIE SHIRE.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 23 May, p. 3. , viewed 26 Mar 2019,

1912 'MOUNT SUGARLOAF.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 26 March, p. 7. , viewed 26 Mar 2019,

1924 'Maxwell Climbs Sugarloaf', The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), 3 December, p. 8. , viewed 26 Mar 2019,

1924 'HISTORIC ASCENT OF SUGARLOAF', The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), 6 December, p. 8. , viewed 26 Mar 2019,

1931 'HOLIDAY TOURISTS.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 10 June, p. 8. , viewed 26 Mar 2019,

1932 'MT. SUGARLOAF', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 10 June, p. 10. , viewed 26 Mar 2019,

1936 'JOINT PROTEST', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 26 February, p. 11. , viewed 26 Mar 2019,

1936 'TO-DAY'S NEWS', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 26 February, p. 1. , viewed 26 Mar 2019,

1937 'MT. SUGARLOAF', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 4 August, p. 6. , viewed 26 Mar 2019,

1951 'Attractions For Tourists "Whittled"', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 30 November, p. 3. , viewed 26 Mar 2019,

Roope, Colin & Gregson, Patricia 2002, "An organised banditti" : the story behind the 'Jewboy' bushranger gang, Colin Roope and Patricia Gregson, Lake Macquarie, N.S.W

Umwelt (Australia) & Newcastle (N.S.W.). Council 2003, Minmi Corridors assessment : maintaining and enhancing natural and cultural heritage values, Umwelt (Australia)], [Toronto] N.S.W

Acknowledgement of Country

We remember and respect the Ancestors who cared for and nurtured this Country. It is in their footsteps that we travel these lands and waters. Lake Macquarie City Council acknowledges the Awabakal people and Elders past, present and future.

Council acknowledges traditional custodians throughout Australia. We commit to listening deeply to and collaborating with First Peoples in our work.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website and Council's cultural collections may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material.

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