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The 2018 Ultimate Guide To Wollongong

Wollongong is known for being a bustling coastal city just an hour’s drive south of Sydney. So what does “the Gong” have to offer? Read on to hear our recommendations for 20 things to do in Wollongong (and nearby!).

1. Botanic Garden

It’s not a visit to Wollongong without a trip to the Botanic Garden.  From the rose garden, the duck pond and the sculptures, this is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle and easily spend a few hours leisurely strolling. Bring a picnic and set up under a nice shady tree for a well-spent afternoon. The wee ones will love feeding the ducks and learning about the local plants and wildlife.

Other key activities include:

  • The All-Abilities Children’s Playground, which has a maze suitable for children aged 2-12
  • The Kawasaki Bridge, a Japanese ornamental bridge which renowned for being a great photo opportunity
  • A variety of garden types, including roses, herbs, woodlands, an azalea bank, succulents and a variety of rainforests.

2. Grand Pacific Drive

If you are the type who loves to take in a good drive with scenic views and unique places to stop, this day trip idea is for you. This 140km drive runs between the Royal National Park, just south of Sydney all the way to Bomaderry in the Shoalhaven Region. Hit the road and enjoy endless views of the sea as you pass through rainforests and charming seaside towns. Make sure to look out for the Sea Cliff Bridge, which is a highlight along the drive. We suggest going for a walk across the bridge to stretch your legs and take in the picturesque views and winding stretch of road.

sea-cliff-bridge-aerial
Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

In addition, The Scarborough Hotel is a great lunch spot nearby, that offers sweeping ocean views from a top-notch beer garden.

Tip: Great spot to be during the whale migration season (late April-August)

3. Nan Tien Temple

Did you know Wollongong is home to the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere? Known for its peace and tranquillity, Nian Tien Temple is the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon. Stroll the grounds and gardens to take in the incredible architecture and serenity, take part in health and wellbeing retreats or excursions offered, dig into a wholesome and unique vegetarian culinary experience, check out frequent Buddhist festivals and exhibitions held at the temple and so much more.

4. Check Out the View from Our Magnificent Lookouts

Wollongong is known for being a coastal city where the sea and mountains meet. Which is why we have so many incredible lookout spots. If you are looking for the best views, check out Bald Hill Lookout, a world-renowned hang gliding spot; Southern Gateway Centre Lookout on the escarpment; Sublime Point Lookout for a bush walk and 180-degree views of the coast; Hill 60 for a scenic look south at Port Kembla Beach and some World War 2 history; and Mt Keira Lookout for stunning views over Wollongong. Bring a picnic and spend lunch overlooking the beautiful coastline. If you’re lucky (and visiting at the right time of year) you may even see a whale breaching out to sea!

5. Science Space

What better way to spend a Saturday with the kids than at Science Space, New South Wales’ only dedicated science experience. With interactive exhibits, hands-on activities and experiments and school holiday shows, your kids will be busy discovering and learning about the world of science for hours.

For those who love their astronomy, Science Space is home to the DIGISTAR 6, Australia’s #1 most digitally advanced Planetarium.

6. Visit 17 Surf Beaches and 9 Rock Pools

Believe it or not, the Wollongong area is home to 17 stunning surf beaches and 9 amazing rock pools for swimming. Austinmer Beach + Little Austinmer Beach are two of the more popular beach spots in the region, with large rock pools and decent waves, it is approximately 25 minutes north of the Wollongong City Centre.

The Towradgi Beach Park is another great spot for the family, just north of the city centre. With its main feature – a saltwater rock pool, as well as a patrolled beach and plenty of areas for the little ones to play, it is an easy place to spend a Sunday afternoon in the summer. You’ll also find a magnificent walking track that leads to central Wollongong and further on if you feel like stretching the legs.

Port Kembla Beach is known for being one of the cleanest, safest and best-maintained beaches in the Illawarra, thanks to its pristine soft sand and crystal-clear water. Port Kembla is also home to a large Olympic pool which provides fantastic views.

port-kembla-pool
Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

7. Australian Surf Tours

For those who are ready to take on the beloved Aussie past time of surfing, spend a day with Australia Surf Tours. This specialised surf school will teach you all you need to know to leave you feeling like a pro. They offer both private and group lessons for the adults, special programs for the kids, and surf camps for all the backpackers who pass through the area. They can be found at three different spots in Wollongong – North Wollongong Beach, The Farm Beach and Bulli Beach. Check out their website for more information.

8. Endless Cycling Pathways

If you want an alternative to driving along the coast, grab your bike (or rent one!) and enjoy over 60 kilometres of on and off-road cycleway with views of the beach and escarpment. Grab the family and bike the 15km track from Wollongong to Thirroul – this stretch is flat, making it an easy and enjoyable ride for riders of all ages. Beautiful beach views, refreshing sea breezes, cafes and parks for rest stops – cycling is the perfect activity for a family day out in Wollongong.

Bike Riding
Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

9. Skydiving

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, why not cross skydiving off your bucket list at Skydive Sydney-Wollongong. As the only spot to beach skydive near Sydney, you’ll freefall at speeds of up to 220km p/h for up to 60 seconds, while taking in some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. You’ll see the beaches of Wollongong below and the beautiful New South Wales coast stretching as far north and south as the eye can see. If you are looking for a bit of adrenaline and the best views around, skydiving in Wollongong is for you.

10. Stuart Park

Stuart Park is a spacious, grassed park right next to the North Wollongong Beach. It provides ample covered eating areas, plenty of cafes nearby. Laze away near the inlet from the beach while you listen to the ocean waves and watch skydivers land, as this park is also home to the landing pad for Skydive Sydney-Wollongong. The kids will be happy for hours with a bike and scooter track, a big playground with massive slides, accessible swings and of course, a flying fox. Stuart Park is a great place to relax and is close to central Wollongong.

11. The Australian MotorLife Museum

This automotive museum is a true hidden treasure for all automobile enthusiasts. Check out the vast collection of vintage cars, vans, and many other types of vehicles. They are even home to a very rare collection of some of Australia’s earliest manufactured motor vehicles. Walking through the museum, it is evident that a great deal of hard work has gone into the restoration and presentation of the vehicles. Well worth a visit to learn more about Australia’s motoring history.

12. Early Start Discovery Space

Another great spot to take the kids on the school holidays is the Early Start Discovery Space, an interactive children’s education centre. In fact, it is Australia’s only dedicated children’s museum! With so much to see and explore, kids will spend hours imagining, dressing up, experimenting, and playing with all the sensory learning opportunities that this attraction has to offer. Highlights include the large Lego area, caves to explore, a mini marketplace with mini trolleys, the HMAS discovery, and outdoor space to dig up dinosaur bones. Don’t worry parents, there is also a great café to keep you busy as well.

13. Illawarra Performing Arts Centre

The Illawarra Performing Arts Centre is easily the area’s most loved place for the arts, located in the middle of the city’s arts precinct. It plays host to a wide variety of shows, from renowned theatre to music and dance, and even comedy. It also hosts a number of community-focused events. The size of the venue makes for a very personal, intimate experience, making you feel like part of the show, which is always a favourite for the audience. There is always something for everyone, from the kids to the adults, so check out their website here to see what is on throughout the year.

14. Hang Gliding at Bald Hill

If jumping out of a plane isn’t for you, perhaps hang gliding at the Sydney Hang Gliding Centre is. Take in the views as you glide through the air at Bald Hill, a world-renowned hang gliding location. You’ll be strapped in with an instructor from the team who together holds over 100 years of gliding experience. This experience of a lifetime is a great way to make your trip to Wollongong a memorable one.

hang gliding
Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

15. WIN Sports and Entertainments Centre

If you’re looking for a place to catch a sporting match or concert, the WIN Sports and Entertainment Centres is where you want to be. This multi-purpose facility has staged some of the world’s top artists, including Elton John, Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga. You can also catch major national sporting events, both indoor and outdoor, including NRL, basketball, soccer, and local rugby league.

The local home teams include:

  • St George Illawarra Dragons (National Rugby League)
  • Illawarra Hawks (National Basketball League)
  • Wollongong Wolves (National Premier League – NSW Soccer)

Upcoming events and ticketing information can be found on the WIN Sports and Entertainment Centres website.

16. Wollongong Art Gallery

A must-visit while exploring Wollongong is the local Wollongong Art Gallery. The gallery features the work of both local and Australia wide icons in the art world, from photography and painting to music, and so much more. They regularly host new exhibits and displays so there is always something new to check out at the Wollongong Art Gallery. Located in the heart of the arts precinct, it is easy to access and even easier to spend many hours enjoying all the incredible Australian art that the gallery has to offer.

17. Visit the Famous South Coast Markets

For all the foodies and art lovers out there, the Wollongong area has plenty of markets just for you. You’ll find the Coledale Markets, Puckeys Night Market, Foragers Market, Friday Forage Market and the Eat St Market. Browse the stalls, grab a bite and sit back and enjoy the music. Stock up on fresh local produce, handmade jewellery and organic products. The food markets are bustling with food stalls hosted by the region’s food producers who are passionate about the quality of the food they produce. From truffle infused burgers to the paella, with plenty of vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options, there is a huge range of food for every taste bud. These markets run on different days across the week so be sure to check what is on when you’re in town.

18. Illawarra Light Rail Museum

For a truly unique experience, head over to Albion Park to see the historical Illawarra Light Rail Museum, just a short drive south from Wollongong. Have a look at old steam locomotives, rolling stock and learn about the history of the railway in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. The kids will love learning about the history of local trains as they go for a ride on the steam train or the miniature railway. An incredible experience that will feel like a blast from a past!

19. Aquilla Fishing Charters

Head out on the water for a day with Aquilla Fishing Charters, as they take you on an incredible adventure through some of the best fishing areas off the New South Wales coast. No fishing license is required and they provide all gear and tackle on board. With over 40 years of history fishing in the area, the team will take you out from Wollongong Harbour, show you the best spots around, and be sure to provide you with a unique and unforgettable experience. Learn more about their guided fishing excursions the Aquilla Fishing Charters website.

20. Indulge in Wollongong’s Best Cuisine

Last but not least, we thought would shine the spotlight on all the incredible places to eat in Wollongong. From Friday night spots to those slower paced Sunday breakfasts, the city has something for everyone. Lee and Me is a local favourite for brunch and coffee, located on Lower Crown Street. For your next date night, check out Bull & Bear – Wollongong’s best Spanish tapas bar. This unique spot has an edgy vibe and serves up the best Spanish classics suited to the Australian palette, such as croquetas, churros and sangria to top it off. If you’re feeling adventurous, just go for a stroll down Crown Street in the centre of the city and see what you come across – we can assure you that you can’t go wrong.

Destination Wollongong Grand Pacific Drive
Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

We hope this list has provided you with some great ideas to get out and explore all that Wollongong and the surrounding areas have to offer. From the endless beaches and coastline to the incredible museums and arts centres, you’ll never run out of unique things to do in Wollongong.

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