Smiths Lake Field Station

The UNSW Smiths Lake Field Station, about one hectare in area, is located on the south-western shore of Smiths Lake, near the village of Bungwahl. It is approximately 100km north of Newcastle and 35km south of Forster.

The station started life as a Field Camp of the Department of Zoology, University of NSW and was located in tents on the banks of Wylie Brambles Creek, near Horse Point, in 1961. This location was used until 1966. In September, 1966 the present site of the Field Station was gazetted under the trusteeship of UNSW for the promotion of the study and the preservation of native flora and fauna.

In January, 1980 an area of land surrounding and including the Field Station was proclaimed as an extension of the Myall Lakes National Park.  The University now leases the Field Station from the National Parks and Wildlife Service.  Similarly, the Port Stephens – Great Lakes Marine Park was declared on 1 December 2005, and this now includes Smiths Lake and the nearby coastal areas.  The Lake itself comprises three zones – a general use zone, a habitat protection zone and a special research zone adjacent to the field station.


The Field Station is on the shores of Smiths Lake, a saltwater lake which periodically opens to the sea and varies in salinity from 20-35. The neighbouring coastline offers extensive sandy surf beaches with rocky headlands. The Myall Lakes system offers a range of large lakes varying from almost freshwater in the upper lakes to saline conditions in the lower lakes and Karuah estuary.

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


The Field Station is mainly used by the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science, UNSW for the purpose of teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students and for research purposes. Other groups within the University use the station, as do many other institutions, ranging from local community groups, primary and high schools to other universities.

Over the past 15 years the occupancy rate of the Station has been about 2000-3000 person - nights per annum. Nevertheless there is ample opportunity to accommodate outside research and educational groups as long as required times do not conflict with existing large groups.

To lodge a booking request complete the Smith's Lake Field Station Booking Form. E-mail completed forms to

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;
  • A 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: $15 per night each
    • Children (16 & Under): $7 per night each
  • Recreational groups take 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 and sign the table in the Recreational Visits Terms, and complete and sign the Smiths Lake General Use Safety Documentation sign off sheet – the last page 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 at least two weeks before the visit.

Smith's Lake Field Station Booking Form


For a complete list of Services and Instructions please read the Smiths Lake Users' Guide