Smiths Lake Field Station


Update 16/11/2021: The field station is open to fully vaccinated groups. Groups external to UNSW require a COVID-safe plan, lease contact to obtain a copy of our template.

You can not visit if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, if you are a close contact, or if you live in an area declared a stay-at-home area. Stay home and get tested.

You must be fully vaccinated and should wear a mask in indoor areas and where it is difficult to maintain 1.5 m separation.

There are no booking cancellation fees during the pandemic.

The site capacity varies depending on the NSW Gov and UNSW guidelines.

Please read through the updated User Guide which covers extra requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are changes to the number of people allowed, cleaning requirements, bedding requirements and many more. **Please note, the field station could be shut at any time if needed to ensure people's safety**

Email as usual for booking enquiries.

About the Smiths Lake Field Station

The Smiths Lake Field Station is located on the shore of Smiths Lake in the Myall Lakes National Park, ~100 km north of Newcastle. The Station is used by UNSW Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences as a research and teaching zone, allowing students to study coastal and marine ecosystems. Other groups within the University and local communities can also access the Station for their own research and teaching purposes.

Since 2003, Smiths Lake Field Station has accommodated 3,000 students each year. Today, it’s in the trusteeship of UNSW for the promotion of the study and preservation of native flora and fauna. Students undertaking a course with UNSW Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences may conduct fieldwork at the station as part of their study.

Available Habitats

The Smiths Field Lake Station is an extension of the Myall Lakes National Park. The Lake comprises of three zones: a general use zone, a habitat protection zone, and a special research zone adjacent to the field station. Smiths Lake is a saltwater lake, which periodically opens to the sea and varies in salinity from 20-35 ppt. The neighbouring coastline offers sandy surf beaches with rocky headlands and a range of lakes varying from almost freshwater in the upper lakes to saline conditions in the lower lakes and Karuah estuary.

North of Smiths Lake is Wallis Lake, an extensive system on the estuary of Wallingat. Adjacent terrestrial habitats include vast tracts of sandy coastal heath, swamps, sclerophyll and rain forests. Over the last 30 years, sand mining activity and subsequent rehabilitation programs have provided an additional range of habitats in various stages of regeneration.

Recreational Visits

The UNSW Smiths Lake Research Station (the facility) is available for recreational visits by current UNSW staff members (group leader/s) and
their immediate family under the following terms:

  • An “immediate family” is defined in this case to mean a spouse, de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of the group leader/s;
  • Immediate family members must be accompanied by the group leader/s at all times during the visit;
  • Recreational group size is limited to 8 persons;
  • Recreational use of the facility extends only to accommodation dormitories, the kitchen and outdoor cooking areas, the ablutions block, and the covered group area. It does not extend to the boatshed nor any on-site water-craft;
  • The cost of visiting the facility is set out below and is to be paid via the UNSW OneStop online payment system with credit card. No cash will be accepted:
    • Adults: $18 per night each
    • Children (16 & Under): $9 per night each
  • Recreational groups take the lowest priority if bookings clash with research or teaching groups – your booking may be moved or cancelled at short notice;
  • The Smiths Lake Users Guide (see below) is to be read by the group leader/s;
  • For risk management purposes, it is compulsory the group leader/s accurately complete/sign the table in the Smiths Lake User Guide, and complete and sign the Safety signoff sheet – all the forms are in the appendix of the Smiths Lake Users Guide. The booking will not go ahead should these completed documents fail to be emailed back to the Smiths Lake Admin Team at least one week before the visit.