Point Lonsdale was first discovered by European explorers in 1802. It is named after Captain William Lonsdale, the first Police Magistrate of Port Phillip .
In April 1803 three convicts escaped from the newly-formed British settlement at Point King. The convicts made their way around to the Bellarine Peninsula but starvation loomed and two of the men vanished while attempting to return.
William Buckley (who had been transported to Australia for life in 1802 for being in possession of a roll of purloined cloth) remained on to the western side of the bay where he was discovered by the Wathaurong people who thought he was a reincarnation of a dead tribal chief. He learned their language and customs, married, had a daughter and lived in the Point Lonsdale area until 1835. One of his dwellings is thought to have been this cave.
In 1835 Buckley allegedly overheard the Aborigines plotting to attack a party of whites at Indented Head. He gave himself up to the party of John Wedge who had followed in the wake of John Batman. It was some time before he regained enough English to communicate his experiences. He received a pardon and acted as an intermediary and interpreter between the whites and Aborigines but he was divided in his loyalties and felt he lacked the trust of both sides. Disillusioned he went to Tasmania, obtained employment, married and later received a government pension. He died in Hobart in 1856.
Permanent European settlement began at Point Lonsdale in the latter half of the 19th century with the construction of a lighthouse in 1863 and the extension of the railway line from Geelong to Queenscliff in 1879.
After a stone lighthouse was constructed at Queenscliff in the 1860s, the old wooden structure it replaced was rebuilt at Point Lonsdale in 1867. It was superseded by the current structure in 1902.
Little development occurred at Point Lonsdale until the first land sales proceeded in 1876. In the early 20th century, a shell-processing works was established at the southern end of Lake Victoria, just west of Point Lonsdale. Here shellgrit was removed and processed for commercial usage in glass-making and the poultry industry.
Since settlement numerous ships have been wrecked here on the rocky reefs at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay.
Real estate and design
Point Lonsdale is a popular but relatively peaceful holiday resort located on an outcrop which forms the western head of Port Phillip Bay with Point Nepean 3 km to the east. In between is the entrance to Port Phillip where the calm waters of the bay meet the turbulent waters of Bass Strait. This stretch of water is, for good reason, known as ‘the rip’ which, with its turbulent cross-currents and variable depths, is recognised as one of the most dangerous stretches of water on the Australian coastline.
Point Lonsdale is home to about 2500 people and like many of the coastal towns, it swells to over double that number during the summer months when thousands of holiday makers call the town their home.
The town’s commercial centre is situated near the southern end of Point Lonsdale Road, overlooking a grassy foreshore which extends down to the front beach. Over the last few years a few major developments have transformed the township from a fairly sleepy place to a more cosmopolitan centre. Although only small and non intrusive the main shopping strip offers some great outdoor dining and is a great place for the favorite past time of people watching overlooking the beautiful Rip waterway.
Distance from the CBD and transport
Point Lonsdale is 101 km south of Melbourne and 28 kilometres south-east of Geelong at the south-eastern tip of the Bellarine Peninsula. It is a twin town to Queenscliff which sits at the eastern end of Lonsdale Bay. Point Lonsdale is approximately 1.5 hours from Melbourne on the Princes and Bellarine Highways.
Famous landmarks and attractions
The major landmark in town is the lighthouse situated at the tip of Point Lonsdale, which was built in 1902. Walking tracks circle the lighthouse and extend down the rocky headland to the beach below. Just north of the lighthouse is the Point Lonsdale pier which is a popular spot for fishing and a good vantage point for taking in views of the lighthouse and surrounding coastline.
Next to the town is Lake Victoria a shallow saline lake that is part of the Lonsdale Lakes nature reserve and an important site for the waterbirds and migratory waders.
Along the open coast there are regular sightings of threatened marine mammals such as humpback and southern right whales.
The front beach, in Lonsdale Bay, is a fine sheltered beach for swimming and fishing while the back beach, on the other side of a series of large sand dunes, is ideal for surfing (it is patrolled in the holiday season). There are plenty of opportunities for walking along the beaches, cliff-tops and through the abundance of ti-tree. Salmon, barracouta and mullet can be caught from the rocks at Point Lonsdale while snapper, whiting and salmon inhabit the waters off Point Lonsdale jetty.
The foreshore around the headland is very pleasant, particularly at low tide when there are plenty of exposed rock pools and caverns.
Rip View Lookout offers fine ocean views over The Rip – a 3 km stretch of water dividing Point Lonsdale and Point Nepean – the two headlands at the mouth of Port Phillip Bay. With its turbulent cross-currents and variable depths it is recognised as one of the most dangerous stretches of water on the Australian coastline. The lookout is on the water’s edge and is signposted off Point Lonsdale Rd. It affords the opportunity to observe the ships entering and leaving Port Phillip Bay.
Another cliff walk from the base of the lighthouse leads to Buckley’s Cave, which is said to be escaped convict William Buckley place of residence while living with the Wathaurong tribe in the early 1800’s.
A memorial to Marconi, the first successful inventor of the wireless telegraph, is located on the foreshore in Royal Park, just off the Point Lonsdale Rd, opposite Anderson St and adjacent the oval. It was from this point that the first radio transmission from mainland Australia to Tasmania was made in 1906.
The Harold Holt Marine Reserve includes Mud Island, Pope’s Eye, The South Channel Fort, gannet nesting sites and coastal reserves. The southern reach of Port Phillip bay is one of the best diving areas in Australia. The Lonsdale Wall, a reef covered in coral and sponges, is a very popular diving destination.
Thousands of scuba divers have already experienced the majesty and adventure of diving and exploring the ex HMAS Canberra artificial reef and dive wreck since the site was opened in December 2009.
The ex HMAS Canberra dive site is the first artificial reef specifically created for diving in Victoria. It lies in approximately 28 meters of water, with the top of the mast about 5 meters below the surface at low tide.
Restaurants and cafes
Point Lonsdale is well serviced by retail and most items you’d need are available. There are some wonderful cafés and top quality restaurants in the main shopping strip. Brunch and al fresco dining are Point Lonsdale’s signature activities.
Schools & education
Point Lonsdale’s only primary school is located in Bowen Road.
The Rip View Swim Classic is held every year in December.
The second Sunday of each month, Point Lonsdale holds the Sunday market at the primary school, here is a great place to pick up some homemade and gourmet goods. There is something for everyone, fresh baked goods, fruit and veggies, hand crafts and plants. The market is one of the most popular in the region.