Lake Illawarra

Lake Illawarra (Aboriginal Tharawal language: various adaptions of Elouera, Eloura, or Allowrie; Illa, Wurra, or Warra meaning pleasant place near the sea, or, high place near the sea, or, white clay mountain[1]), an open and trained intermediate wave dominated barrier estuary[3] or large coastal lagoon,[1] is located in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, situated about 100 kilometres (62 mi) south of Sydney, Australia.

The lake environment is administered by the Lake Illawarra Authority, a New South Wales statutory authority established pursuant to the Lake Illawarra Authority Act 1987 (NSW) with the aim of transforming the degraded waters and foreshores of Lake Illawarra into an attractive recreational and tourist resource.

Lake Illawarra
Illawarra Lake[1]
Lake Illawarra. View from Sublime Point lookout
Lake Illawarra, viewed from Sublime Point lookout, 2015.
Lake Illawarra is located in New South Wales
Lake Illawarra
Lake Illawarra
Location of Lake Illawarra in New South Wales
LocationIllawarra, New South Wales
Coordinates34°31′25″S 150°50′04″E / 34.52361°S 150.83444°ECoordinates: 34°31′25″S 150°50′04″E / 34.52361°S 150.83444°E[2]
TypeAn open and trained intermediate wave dominated barrier estuary[3]
Native nameAboriginal (Tharawal): various adaptions of Elouera, Eloura, or Allowrie; Illa, Wurra, or Warra meaning pleasant place near the sea, or, high place near the sea, or, white clay mountain[1]
Primary inflowsMacquarie Rivulet, Mullet Creek
Primary outflowsTom Thumb Entrance, Tasman Sea
Catchment area238 km2 (92 sq mi)
Basin countriesAustralia
Managing agencyLake Illawarra Authority
Surface area35.8 km2 (13.8 sq mi)
Average depth2.1 metres (6 ft 11 in)
Water volume74,275 ML (2,623.0×106 cu ft)
Surface elevation0.3 metres (1 ft 0 in) AHD
SettlementsWollongong; Shellharbour

Location and features

Sunset lake illawarra
Sunset over Lake Illawarra, 2008
Windang Aerial
Entrance to Lake Illawarra, at Windang, 2008
Albion NSW Aerial
Aerial photo of Lake Illawarra, Albion Park and Albion Park Rail

Located south of the city of Wollongong, north of the city of Shellharbour, and 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) northeast of Dapto, Lake Illawarra receives runoff from the Illawarra escarpment through Macquarie Rivulet and Mullet Creek, drawing from a catchment area of 238 square kilometres (92 sq mi). With an average depth of 2.1 metres (6 ft 11 in), the relatively shallow lake, brought about because of infilling by sand which has been eroded from the surrounding catchments,[6] covers a surface area of 35.8 square kilometres (13.8 sq mi). At an elevation of 0.3 metres (1 ft 0 in) AHD , the maximum volume of water held in the lake is 74,275 megalitres (2,623.0×106 cu ft).[5]

The narrow tidal entrance to the Tasman Sea of the South Pacific Ocean is located at Windang.

Located on the western shore of Lake Illawarra at Yallah is the natural gas-powered Tallawarra Power Station. The power station draws water from the lake for cooling purposes, and returns water to the lake via an onsite water management system that ensures water quality is maintained at levels above the catchment average.[7]

The lake's location within the sprawling Wollongong urban area means that Lake Illawarra is vulnerable to pollution and urban run-off.[8][9][10][11][12][13]


Lake Illawarra is popular for recreational fishing, prawning and sailing. On 12 January 2009, it is suspected a man was bitten by a bull shark whilst snorkelling at Windang, near the mouth of Lake Illawarra.

Birds found at the lake include pelicans, cormorants, musk ducks, hoary-headed grebes, black swans, black ducks, grey teal ducks, herons, ibises and spoonbills.


The traditional custodians of the land surrounding what is now known as Lake Illawarra are the Aboriginal Tharawal and Wadi Wadi peoples. Lake Illawarra was a valuable source of food and spirituality. Burial sites and middens (shell and camp rubbish heaps) discovered at Windang and surrounding areas indicate that the Wadi Wadi used the area extensively and performed various corroborees and ceremonies in the area.[14] The name Illawarra is derived from various adaptions of the Aboriginal Tharawal language words of elouera, eloura, or allowrie; illa, wurra, or warra mean generally a pleasant place near the sea, or high place near the sea, or white clay mountain.[1]

Matthew Flinders and George Bass called the lake Tom Thumb's Lagoon on Flinders' chart, named after their little boat the Tom Thumb, when they were there in March 1796.[15][14][16]

In Lake Illawarra: an ongoing history, Joseph Davis provides a wide-ranging environmental and historical biography of the lake and its foreshores. The book also contains many images and photographs depicting the lake.[17] Davis edited John Brown of Brownsville: his manuscripts, letterbook and the records of Dapto Show Society 1857-1904 that deals with the man who did most to protect the vegetation of the lake islands,[18] and he authored Gooseberry & Hooka: the island reserves of Lake Illawarra 1829-1947, the latter examining the records of John Brown and others and deals with the history of these two islands and how they survived to become nature refuges rather than recreation reserves.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Lake Illawarra". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 4 August 2013. Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ "Lake Illawarra (NSW)". Gazetteer of Australia online. Geoscience Australia, Australian Government.
  3. ^ a b Roy, P.S; Williams, R.J; Jones, A.R; Yassini, I; Gibbs, P.J; Coates, B; West, R.J; Scanes, P.R; Hudson, J.P; Nichol, S (2001). "Structure and Function of South-east Australian Estuaries". Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. 53 (3): 351. doi:10.1006/ecss.2001.0796.
  4. ^ "Place Names Search: Lake Illawarra". Geoscience Australia. Commonwealth of Australia. 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Lake Illawarra". Water: Coastal and floodplain management: Coastal zone management: Estuaries of NSW. Environment and Heritage NSW. 26 April 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  6. ^ Boyd, M. J.; Morris, C. E.; Armstrong, J. (1997). "Monitoring changes in water quality in urbanising catchment". In Bouazza, Abdelmalek; Kodikara, Jayantha; Parker, Roger J. (eds.). Environmental Geotechnics. Taylor & Francis. p. 233. ISBN 90-5410-903-3. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  7. ^ Mewett, Lyndsie (July–August 2009). "Tallawarra taking off in NSW". EcoGeneration. Australia. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  8. ^ Chenhall, BE; Batley, GE; Yassini, I; Depers, AM; Jones, BG (1994). "Ash distribution and metal contents of Lake Illawarra bottom sediments". Marine and Freshwater Research. 45 (6): 977. doi:10.1071/MF9940977.
  9. ^ Payne, M.; Chenhall, B. E.; Murrie, M.; Jones, B. G. (1997). "Spatial Variation of Sediment-Bound Zinc, Lead, Copper and Rubidium in Lake Illawarra, a Coastal Lagoon in Eastern Australia". Journal of Coastal Research. 13 (4): 1181–91. JSTOR 4298727. INIST:2846945.
  10. ^ Qu, Wenchuan; Morrison, R. J.; West, R. J. (2003). "Inorganic nutrient and oxygen fluxes across the sediment–water interface in the inshore macrophyte areas of a shallow estuary (Lake Illawarra, Australia)". Hydrobiologia. 492: 119. doi:10.1023/A:1024817912671.
  11. ^ Yassini, I; Jones, BG (1987). "Ostracoda in Lake Illawarra: Environmental factors, assemblages and systematics". Marine and Freshwater Research. 38 (6): 795. doi:10.1071/MF9870795.
  12. ^ Qu, Wenchuan; Morrison, R.J.; West, R.J.; Su, Chenwei (2006). "Organic matter and benthic metabolism in Lake Illawarra, Australia". Continental Shelf Research. 26 (15): 1756. doi:10.1016/j.csr.2006.05.007. INIST:18073428.
  13. ^ Sloss, Craig R.; Jones, Brian G.; Murray-Wallace, Colin V.; McClennen, Charles E. (2005). "Holocene Sea Level Fluctuations and the Sedimentary Evolution of a Barrier Estuary: Lake Illawarra, New South Wales, Australia". Journal of Coastal Research. 215: 943. doi:10.2112/03-0110.1.
  14. ^ a b "History of Lake Illawarra". Lake Illawarra Authority. Government of New South Wales. 2010. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  15. ^ Flinders, Matthew. A Voyage to Terra Australis at Project Gutenberg
  16. ^ Estensen, Miriam (2005). The Life of George Bass. Allen and Unwin. p. 53. ISBN 1-74114-130-3.
  17. ^ Davis, Joseph (2005). Lake Illawarra: an ongoing history. Lake Illawarra Authority. ISBN 978-0-9757249-0-3.
  18. ^ Brown, John (2011). Davis, Joseph (ed.). John Brown of Brownsville: his manuscripts, letterbook and the records of Dapto Show Society 1857-1904. Lake Illawarra Authority. ISBN 978-0-9757249-3-4.
  19. ^ Davis, Joseph (2011). Gooseberry & Hooka: the island reserves of Lake Illawarra 1829-1947. Lake Illawarra Authority. ISBN 978-0-9757249-4-1

External links

Balarang, New South Wales

Balarang is a suburb of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, located on the southern shore of Lake Illawarra. It is officially designated an urban place, and forms the eastern end of the suburb of Oak Flats.

The name is said to mean "place of swamp oak".

Berkeley, New South Wales

Berkeley is a suburb of Wollongong, New South Wales. The suburb is located in Wollongong's southern suburbs, on the northern shore of Lake Illawarra, and is one of the city's most populous suburbs. At the 2016 census, it had a population of 7,605.

City of Shellharbour

The City of Shellharbour is a local government area in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia. The City is located about 100 kilometres (62 mi) south of Sydney and covers the southern suburbs of the Wollongong urban area centred on Shellharbour and it had an estimated population of 68,460 at the 2016 census.

The area is bordered by the City of Wollongong to the north, with the boundary being the Lake Illawarra entrance (and the suburb of Lake Illawarra) and Macquarie Rivulet (Albion Park Rail). The Municipality of Kiama is to the south of the City of Shellharbour.

The Mayor of the Shellharbour City Council is Cr. Marianne Saliba, a member of the Labor Party.

Dombarton, New South Wales

Dombarton is a rural locality north west of Dapto in the Wollongong LGA, in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia, located on the western side of Lake Illawarra. It is also known for the uncompleted Maldon – Dombarton railway line.


Illawarra is a region in the Australian state of New South Wales. It is a coastal region situated immediately south of Sydney and north of the Shoalhaven or South Coast region. It encompasses the cities of Wollongong, Shellharbour and the town of Kiama.

The Illawarra region is characterised by three distinct districts: the north-central district, which is a contiguous urban sprawl centred on Lake Illawarra; the western district defined by the Illawarra escarpment, which leads up to the south-west fringe of Greater Metropolitan Sydney including the Macarthur and Southern Highlands regions; and the southern district, which is historically semi-rural (area undefined), yet now defined by increasing urbanisation.

Kanahooka, New South Wales

Kanahooka is a southern suburb in Wollongong City Council. It has a couple of shops and a playground.

Situated on Lake Illawarra is a Park with a playground. It has a public (Hayes Park Public School) and high school(Kanahooka High School).

Koonawarra, New South Wales

Koonawarra is a suburb of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. It is located on the western shore of Lake Illawarra. Koonawarra, or Exmouth, as it was then called, was one of the first five land grants located in the Illawarra. It was a grant of 1300 acres made to Richard Brooks in 1817. The grant faced Lake Illawarra and extended from Brook's Creek to Mullet Creek. Koonawarra was the aboriginal name for the area. "Exmouth" was later secured by Henry Osborne and became part of his central Illawarra estate, extending from Macquarie Rivulet to Mullet Creek, and from Lake Illawarra to the mountains. The name Koonawarra is from the aboriginal word "gkoonawarra" meaning "a high point of land with smooth, round stones". The word has also been said to mean "swan".

Lake Heights, New South Wales

Lake Heights is a coastal suburb east of Berkeley and south of Cringila in the City of Wollongong. At the 2016 census, it had a population of 3,845.The suburb gets its name from being above Lake Illawarra and most streets in the suburb enjoy views of the lake and escarpment.

Lake Illawarra, New South Wales

Lake Illawarra is a suburb of Shellharbour, New South Wales, Australia located on the southern side of the Lake Illawarra entrance.

Lake Illawarra High School

Lake Illawarra High School is a government-funded co-educational comprehensive secondary day school, located on Reddall Parade, which follows the shores of Lake Illawarra, in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia.

Established in 1972, the school enrolled approximately 519 students in 2018, from Year 7 to Year 12, of whom 18 percent identified as Indigenous Australians and eight percent were from a language background other than English. The school is operated by the New South Wales Department of Education; the principal is Tony Hicks.

Mount Warrigal, New South Wales

Mount Warrigal is a large suburb of Shellharbour, New South Wales, Australia. The population, according to the 2016 Australian Census, was 4,909. The suburb is in the Shellharbour City LGA.

Primbee, New South Wales

Primbee is a small suburb of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. It is located on the northern spit separating Lake Illawarra and the Pacific Ocean. Primbee is close to Windang and Warrawong in the Illawarra.

SS Lake Illawarra

SS Lake Illawarra was a handysize bulk carrier of 7,274 tons in the service of the Australian National Line shipping company. This ship is known for causing the Tasman Bridge disaster when she collided with pylon 19 of Hobart's giant high concrete arch style Tasman Bridge on the evening of 5 January 1975 at 9.27 pm, resulting in the deaths of 12 people.

Saddleback Mountain (New South Wales)

Saddleback Mountain is a mountain near Kiama in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia. The mountain rises to about 600 metres (2,000 ft) above sea level on the Illawarra escarpment and has views of Noorinan Mountain, 662 metres (2,172 ft) above sea level, and Barren Grounds Plateau to the west and south to Coolangatta Mountain and Pigeon House Mountain to Ulladulla, and north over Lake Illawarra, the Illawarra escarpment and to the Cronulla Sandhills and Kurnell Oil Refinery on a clear day.

Tallawarra Power Station

Tallawarra Power Station is a 435-megawatt (583,000 hp) combined cycle natural gas power station in the city of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. Owned and operated by EnergyAustralia, the station is the first of its type in New South Wales and produces electricity for the state during periods of high demand. It is located on the western shore of Lake Illawarra in the suburb of Yallah.

The station comprises a 260-megawatt (350,000 hp) gas turbine and a 160-megawatt (210,000 hp) steam turbine unit and has a total capacity of 435 megawatts (583,000 hp). It uses many of the previous power station's structures including the cooling system channels from Lake Illawarra. The power station is connected to the state grid via a 132kV switching station maintained by Endeavour Energy (Previously known as Integral Energy).

TRUenergy has also indicated that an additional power plant is being considered for the site, to be known as Tallawarra B.

Warilla, New South Wales

Warilla is a seaside suburb of the City of Shellharbour, Australia within the Wollongong urban area. It is one of the more established areas and is between the suburbs of Mount Warrigal in the west, Barrack Heights and Barrack Point in the south and Lake Illawarra in the north.

Warrawong, New South Wales

Warrawong is a suburb of Wollongong, in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia. It is situated on the northeast corner of Lake Illawarra.

Warrawong is home to Warrawong Plaza, one of three major regional shopping centres. Other facilities include the Port Kembla Hospital, Hoyts cinemas, and the Gala cinemas.

Windang, New South Wales

Windang is a suburb of Wollongong in New South Wales on the southern tip of the peninsula guarding the ocean entrance to Lake Illawarra. Windang is popular for its fishing, prawning, boating, windsurfing and yachting. Windang is about 103 km south of Sydney, approximately 20 minutes drive south of the Wollongong CBD and about seven minutes from Shellharbour city.

Windang has a carnival which comes every year near Lake Illawarra.

Yallah, New South Wales

Yallah is a western suburb in the City of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, located on the western shore of Lake Illawarra. It contains a mixture of rural, commercial and light industrial areas.

Lakes and other natural bodies of water in New South Wales, Australia
Coastal lagoons
and lakes
River systems and rivers of New South Wales, Australia


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