Lake Macquarie History

Wangi Queen

Written and researched by Bonnie Murdoch

Boats on the lake were once a common sight, and were one of the earliest forms of transport in Lake Macquarie. Initially these were used mainly for transporting goods - primarily coal and timber - but passenger services gradually developed.The earliest passenger services began in the mid 1870s and were advertised heavily in newspapers of the day to attract tourists. Residents also used these commercial services or provided their own private transport into the 1890s. Even when roads were provided, most people still caught the train to Toronto and then a ferry to Wangi.

photo: original wangi queen

Early ferry transport started 1876 at the northern end of the Lake at what’s now Edgeworth. William Walker Johnson and ‘Fisho Jack’ Richardson ran one service which was later taken over by the Ayar brothers. These early ferries often had beautiful names - Phoenix, Rose, Auroka, Azile, Thistle, Little Pinafore, Big Pinafore, Wangi Pioneer, Palm Beach, Swansea, Toronto and Maggie Johnson.

Above: The original Wangi Queen

Early ferry transport started 1876 at the northern end of the Lake at what’s now Edgeworth. William Walker Johnson and ‘Fisho Jack’ Richardson ran one service which was later taken over by the Ayar brothers. These early ferries often had beautiful names - Phoenix, Rose, Auroka, Azile, Thistle, Little Pinafore, Big Pinafore, Wangi Pioneer, Palm Beach, Swansea, Toronto and Maggie Johnson.

The Wangi Wangi Ferry Company was an extension of David Israel's Wangi Wangi Development Company in the 1890s, and had three ferries. These delivered groceries, mail, papers, meat and bread. They were:

  • The Wangi Wangi which could accommodate 250 passengers;
  • The Wangi Pioneer: This was originally owned by "Fisho Jack" Richardson and later by the Agar Brothers. It catered for the increasing number of visitors to Pulbah Island and could carry 50 Passengers
  • The Wangi Queen This was a single deck boat which could carry 100 passengers. This was not the Wangi Queen of iconic showboat fame which ran on Lake Macquarie from 1975.

Les Cox took over the Wangi Ferry Company about 1930. His ferries were Joclyn, Wangi Pioneer and Awa. He would have special Saturday night trips to the Belmont Melvic Theatre. A piano was on board and a sing-along happened to and from the movies. The barber, Peter Adrill, was the regular pianist.

Boats, including the ferries, were removed from the lake during World War Two. The larger boats and ferries initially were impounded at Cockle Creek. Many were sent to Sydney or other places “as part of the Navy’s complement or to supplement ancillary service” (Lee).

Lake Macquarie Ferries was formed in 1946-7. The naval pinnacles and workboats brought and converted into ferries. “A porpoise used to meet the ferry out in the bay at Belmont and escort it to the wharf” (Lee). The last service it provided was charter trips for 10 years but then it discontinued.

The Wangi Queen Showboat

The Wangi Queen was built in 1922. George Beattie built it for Norman D. Hagarty at Brisbane Water. Its’ original name was Ettalong. In 1938 it was registered as the Ettalong Star. In the 1940s to the 1970s, the ferry was used in Sydney Harbour and changed companies twice. The name was changed again to Profound in 1951. The ferry was brought to Lake Macquarie in 1975 and its name was changed to the now iconic Wangi Queen.

photo: wangi queen showboat

In September 2012, the Wangi Queen left Lake Macquarie to return to Sydney Harbour. It’s now berthed at Campbell’s Cove, The Rocks. A floating restaurant has been planned to replace it on the Marmong Point Marina pontoon. More than 900 weddings have been held on the Wangi Queen. The SolarSailor, a solar and wind powered vessal, replaced it.


References:

Darren, C. (2012). Big plans for Wangi Queen. Newcastle Herald. [online]

Lake Macquarie City Council. (1985). Lake Macquarie : past and present. Boolaroo, N.S.W: Lake Macquarie City Council.

Lee, Nola, Myra Burgess and Lorna Pearson. (1987). Wangi Wangi and its people:a local history. Wangi Wangi, N.S.W.: Southlakes Christian Women's Group.

Phillips, Doreen. (2008). Ferries of Lake Macquarie. Swansea, N.S..W : East Lake Macquarie Historical Society, 2008.