The town is named for Major James Thomas Morisset, who camped here in 1823 while making the first overland journey from Newcastle to Sydney.
The earliest settlement in the area was at Cooranbong in 1826, about 5 kilometres west of the town and near the foot of the Watagan Mountains.
Initially, various kinds of agriculture were conducted, and before long forestry became an important industry. Most of the transport to the area at the time was by river boat on Dora Creek meaning that Cooranbong was the most accessible part of town.
The town of Morisset itself was essentially non-existent until 1887, when the Sydney-Newcastle railway was built. Morisset sprang up as a sawmill town clustered around the train station, and the township was proclaimed on 3 December.
In 1908, a psychiatric hospital opened on a large estate along the lake shore. At its height in the 1960s, Morisset Mental Hospital had 1,600 patients.
In more recent times, the Morisset Peninsula to the east of the town has become the main residential area. It has experienced a high rate of growth since the construction of Eraring Power Station in 1986. Most of Bonnells Bay is now what long-time residents quaintly refer to as "high-density housing", although by city standards it is decidedly low-density. Several retirement villages have been built, most of them only in the last decade. Subdivision of larger blocks has come close to saturation in many suburbs, with only a few hobby-farms still remaining, although the majority of the Morisset district and peninsula remain bushland and National Park and Aboriginal reserves.