Point Lonsdale is a coastal town on the western side of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, 62 km in a direct line south-west of Melbourne. It is part of Queenscliffe borough and postdates the town of Queenscliff by about 20 years.
Point Lonsdale’s first European inhabitant was an escaped convict, William Buckley, who lived among Aborigines in the area from 1803 to 1836. Buckley’s cave, his supposed occasional shelter, is near the lighthouse on the actual point named after Port Phillip’s police magistrate, Captain William Lonsdale.
In 1863 a lighthouse was constructed at Point Lonsdale after it was realised that the lighthouses at Queenscliff, further inside the bay, were not enough to guide ships. In 1876 land sales began at Point Lonsdale, but it took the opening of a railway in 1879 from Geelong to Queenscliff to spur on development. In 1883 the Point Lonsdale bowls, tennis and croquet club was formed, and two years later the Terminus guesthouse opened. It was the first of several.
The present lighthouse dates from 1902. It was followed by a Presbyterian church (1904) and a State primary school (1905). Among early visitors to Point Lonsdale were the family of Alfred Deakin. Their holiday house, Ballara (1902), is heritage-listed and is near the Point Lonsdale war memorial.
There was only a small commercial area, facing the sheltered western beach. In the 1920s the post office directory recorded refreshment rooms, four boarding or guest houses, an Anglican church, a school teacher and a cab proprietor to convey visitors from Queenscliff. There was also a public hall (1912).
In the 1920 the Lonsdale golf club was formed on land immediately west of Queenscliffe borough’s boundary. A surf life saving club was formed in 1947.
Unlike Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale has had room to physically grow. Its housing has followed the golf club across the municipal boundary, and at the 2011 census Point Lonsdale had 2466 residents compared with Queenscliff’s 1418.
There is a wide foreshore reserve along the Bass Strait beach and another wide reserve past the school on the way to Queenscliff. The school grounds host a monthly market, and visitors can walk to the Marconi memorial where the first overseas wireless message was sent from Australia in 1906. The Point Lonsdale primary school had 170 pupils in 2014.
Point Lonsdale has not been immune from development ambitions. In 2011 the Stockland group proposed a residential development The Point consisting of 580 residential allotments, aged care facilty, retirement village and associated watercourses and open space.
Plans to develop a luxury hotel and thermal spa at the Point Lonsdale lighthouse reserve and additional eco-accommodation were opposed in 2014 by Friends of the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse Reserve.
Point Lonsdale’s census populations have been:
At the 2011 census, the median age of residents was 55 years (Australia 37 years). Most dwellings are separate houses and on census night in 2011 55% were unoccupied. Point Lonsdale continued its holiday reputation.
N.A. Dunn, A history of Point Lonsdale, Melbourne, 1970
Ian Hawthorne, Queenscliffe 1838-2000: a souvenir album of historic photographs, Queenscliff, 2000