Wollongong is a popular tourist destination very close to Sydney. It’s the gateway to the South Coast of New South Wales comprising of four geographic regions namely the Illawarra Coast, Shoalhaven Coast, Eurobodalla Coast and the Sapphire Coast. Easily reached by self drive or by catching a train from Sydney Central Station, which will take you through some of the most spectacular coastlines of the Pacific Ocean.
In Aboriginal language, Wollongong is believed to mean “Seas of the South” referring to NSW’s Southern Coast. Informally referred to as “The Gong” by the locals it’s the third largest city of New South Wales.
Driving from Sydney takes around an hour and thirty minutes via the Princes Highway. If you prefer a more scenic and leisurely route, exit at Helensburgh and take Lawrence Hargrave Drive up to Bald Hill and Stanwell Tops which will give you astounding views. Continue down and over the remarkable Sea Cliff Bridge through costal towns into the Gong.
There are plenty of places to take a break and wander around the lookouts, or even a dip at one of the many hidden beaches. These areas are bursting with Australian native wildlife and flora. This is a firm favourite day trip of ours, there is always something new waiting to be discovered along this spectacular stretch of coast.
There’s an abundance of restaurants and coffee shops along the way offering coffee, hot food and snacks many with pleasing views of the coast. I highly recommend a stop in one of them.
Gorgeous coastal suburbs with long stretches of beach, some have adjacent caravan parks for that overnight or weekend stay. You can find rock pools, picnic areas, restaurants, shopping, cafes and antique shops. The very popular North Wollongong is doted with hotels and residential high-rises offering a good selection of parks and recreation facilities with its own stunning beaches. It is also a foodie destination, for serious diners there are the specialist seafood waterfront restaurants, or the more humble but non the less fabulous fish and chips for a take away to the park or beachfront.
Some historical sites can be found in the vicinity of Flagstaff Hill Park depicting Wollongong’s history. Like the wrought-iron Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse, a heritage site built in 1871 and Wollongong Head Lighthouse, an electric lighthouse built in 1936 and still in use today. Overlooking the harbour is the Wollongong Vietnam War Memorial, a memorial dedicated to those from the Illawarra region who made the ultimate sacrifice during Australia’s commitment to the Vietnam conflict between 1962 and 1972. The vast open area of Flagstaff Hill park is perfect for picnics and basking in the sun, it has public amenities and plenty of car parking.
Just a few minutes drive from North Wollongong is the central business area. Offices, big shopping malls, speciality shops and restaurants are centrally located along Crown St. the teeming main thoroughfare. You can amble around the city centre by foot, check out Wollongong Town Hall, MacCabe Park, Wollongong Art Gallery and street art amongst others. If shopping is not on your list, have a seat and enjoy the culinary offerings of this modern city in the south.
Further afield, you can visit other exciting tourists hot spots. Port Kembla is the industrial suburb of Wollongong and fascinating in its own right. Lake Illawarra is very popular for water sports, fishing and has picnic areas if you just want to kick back. The water flow into the lake is both fresh (from the escarpments) and salt (from ocean tides). Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Temple is a grand Buddhist temple, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. A perfect place for the soul, it is peaceful, serene and provides a tranquil place for thought and relaxation.