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Belmont, NSW

Holiday destination and southern suburb of Greater Newcastle.

There is a complexity about Lake Macquarie. The towns-villages all blur together and dissolve into the suburbs of southern Newcastle. Belmont is a suitable case. It is a kind of southern suburb of Newcastle and also a tourist and holiday destination. There are boats moored near the shores on the eastern side of Lake Macquarie. Boating, fishing and swimming are popular. And nearby the beach at Redhead and the Belmont Wetlands State Park are magnets for visitors wanting to escape from the crowds on the Newcastle beaches.

Location

Belmont, a town on the shores of Lake Macquarie, is located 136 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Highway.

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Origin of Name

In 1863 an immigrant from the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland, Thomas Williamson bought 100 acres of land where, later in the decade, he built a weatherboard guesthouse which he named Belmont. It is said that he named the guesthouse after his birthplace.

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Things to See and Do

Anderson Point and Cane Point
Much of Belmont Bay is eddged by housing but there are two accessible points for the visitor. Andersons Point and Cane Point, to the south of the town, are small peninsulas which jut into the waters of Lake Macquarie on three sides, with a caravan park, a boat ramp, and fine views. They are ideal for leisurely walks and picnics.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Belmont Wetlands State Park
The Belmont Wetlands State Park, which lies between the town and the beach, is a 514 ha site which was sold to the State Government by BHP in 2002 after their sand mining operations stopped. It became a Wetlands Reserve in 2006. Today the area is known for its pleasant bushwalking tracks; mountain bike riding on the fire trails; camping, birdwatching, swimming and 4WD driving. The main appeal is walking and there are five tracks in the park. The website explains:
" Sand Plains Loop - A long walk through the central dunes, mostly sand, and a medium to difficult walk.
Wildflower Walk - This short walk runs parallel to the Fernleigh Track. The surrounding vegetation provides a beautiful display of flowers during parts of the year. This walk is flat and easy however it is sand.
Fernleigh Track - The famous Fernleigh Track follows a disused coal rail line. It is sealed and suitable for all users. The track is a dual use so bicycles and walkers share the track.
Gilbey Track - The short walk provides a beautiful close views of the Jewells Wetlands. It has a wide diversity of animals and vegetation. It is fairly flat and can be walked by all users.
Jewells to Dunes - this is a longer walk of moderate difficulty for walkers wishing to head to Nine Mile Beach. It extends from the Gilbey Track and heads up into the sand dunes surrounded by a variety of dune vegetation. It has excellent views of Nine Mile Beach." For more detailed information check out http://www.belmontwetlands.com.au/.

Redhead Beach
A quiet and impressive coastal gem, Redhead Beach offers superb views across the Tasman Sea, is rarely crowded, and has a unique lifesaving "shark tower" which is perched on top of the rocks in the middle of the beach.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans around the shores of Lake Macquarie the area was occupied by people from the Awabakal Aboriginal language group.

* In 1800 Captain William Reid became the first European to explore the shores of the lake. He had been sent from Sydney to collect coal from the mouth of the Hunter River. He mistook the channel into Lake Macquarie for the river estuary. Members of the Awabakal tribe directed him to some coal in the headland. When he returned to Sydney he realised that he had reached the lake and not the mouth of the Hunter River. The lake became known as Reid's Mistake until 1826 when it was renamed in honour of Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

* Lieutenant Percy Simpson was probably the first European settler in the Lake Macquarie area. He received a 2000 acre grant in 1826, was assigned six convicts who cleared the land, grazed cattle, and built a homestead and stockyards near a ford over Dora Creek.

* Simpson departed in 1828 but one of his convicts, Moses Carroll, stayed on as a stockman and was made constable of the area in 1834.

* In 1825 the Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld, an ex-actor and businessman, established a 1000 acre reserve for an Aboriginal mission which extended from Pelican north-west to Redhead and north-east to Croudace Bay. Threlkeld learned the language of the Awabakal (in order to translate The Bible for them) and built a mission house, called 'Bahtahbah' overlooking Belmont Bay. It was connected to Newcastle by a rough dray track.

* Around 1840 Threlkeld started the first coal mine around the lake.

* In 1842 Threlkeld acquired ten acres at Swansea Heads for coal-loading and storage.

* The first survey of the land around Belmont occurred in 1861.

* The third European settler in the area was Thomas Williamson, of the Shetland Isles off Scotland, who bought 100 acres of land around present-day Belmont in 1863. He built two cottages, established a farm and grew grapes and bananas.

* Fellow Shetlander John Anderson bought 40 acres of adjacent land and began farming and dairying.

* By the end of the 1860s there were groups of fishermen in the district and a steam-driven sawmill was built at Cardiff Point, at the north-western tip of the bay.

* In the 1860s Williamson built a weatherboard guesthouse which he named 'Belmont'  after his birthplace on the island of Unst. He subsequently built the Belmont Hotel.

* The first town allotments went on sale in 1868. They were sold at £6 per acre. They were purchased  by miners who worked at the collieries in the district.

* In 1868 Cornelius Moynahan began shipbuilding on the Lake Macquarie shore.

* By 1869 there was a bi-weekly coach to Newcastle.

* By 1871 a timber industry had emerged in the area.

* In 1872 the first timber sawmill opened in the district.

* Williamson named many of the streets after his children. Ada Street, Maude Street, Walter Street. Alick Street and Ernest Street are all named after his children and Thomas Street was named after Williamson himself.

* A private school opened on the Williamson property in 1873

* A church was built in 1874.

* A provisional school opened in 1875.

* A church building fand a post office opened in 1877. Williamson was the postmaster from 1877  until his death in 1880.

* The roads to the town were upgraded in 1883.

* In 1909 the main section of Thomas Williamson's estate was auctioned. It became the central business district of Belmont.

* By 1911 the population was 237 people.

*  The railway reached the town in 1916.

* In 1916 Robert D Lewers, the Sydney manager of the Bank of London, bought a large block of waterfront land and subdivided it. For many years the land was known as Lewers Estate.

* In 1925 Belmont Colliery opened. It was closed in 1980. That same year the John Darling Colliery, owned by BHP, started operations.

* The town got its water supply in 1929

* Belmont became popular with industrial workers from Newcastle and it became known as the 'sanitarium of the north'.

* By 1937 there was a regular government bus service from Belmont to Newcastle.

* As Newcastle has continued to spread south, the desirability of lakeside residences has seen the population of Belmont greatly increase.

* In the 1970s the smaller coal mines in the area began to close. The last to close was the Belltop Colliery.

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Visitor Information

Belmont does not have its own Visitor Centre but there is an excellent Visitor Centre at Swansea. Check out Lake Macquarie Visitor Information Centre, 228-234 Pacific Highway, Swansea, tel: 1800 802 044. Open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm

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Useful Websites

There is a detailed history of Belmont at https://history.lakemac.com.au/page-local-history.aspx?pid=1085&vid=20&tmpt=narrative&narid=8.

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