What a long few months it has been here in The Gong. Lockdown conditions have been at the forefront of most of our conversations, mostly centered around sadness and (rightful) self-pity. But the good news is starting to flow with new regulations beginning this month that allow you to enjoy a bit of human contact with vaccinated friends. Emotional contact that is, not hugging or anything of the physical nature that we used to get away with in the olden days. That would just be silly now, wouldn’t it?
I couldn’t help but think that this convergence of the warm spring weather and the legality of limited social connection called for a re-vamp of our top parks to visit in the Wollongong LGA. Let’s look at ten of our favourite picnic spots in Wollongong to get your family enjoying the outdoors and don’t forget to check out the map at the end for clarity on the Wollongong LGA.
Lang Park can be found on the coastal fringe of Wollongong where the city meets the ocean. The park offers an expansive grassy area right across the road from the beach. With a playground, ample parking, beautiful sunshine, and the crisp breeze coming off the ocean, Lang Park is a great place to bring the family together for a little fun.
If you are looking for a little spot further away from the hustle and bustle of newly-lifted restrictions, then Cataract Dam might be just what you are looking for. Take a walk along the Dam wall, enjoy the Playground, make use of the BBQs, or settle down with your own food from home in the picnic area. Cataract Dam is an out-of-the-way haven for your family to enjoy.
High in the hills above Austinmer, lies the local favourite, Sublime Point Lookout. Boasting spectacular views over the northern Illawarra, Sublime Point Lookout has a spacious grassy area for picnics and a cafe on-site for light meals.
Picnic Tables and a nice mix of shade and sunshine make the Byarong Park Picnic Area perfect for the weekend get-together. Nestled in the trees of the surrounding mountains, this is a great spot to get in touch with nature and away from the city below without travelling too far at all.
Walking distance to the beach, stunning views, and a fun, family atmosphere that you can enjoy, what more could you want from a picnic spot? Stanwell Park Beach Reserve is a wonderful place to relax with the family by the playground or lounge around with friends listening to the waves and watching the hang gliders circle above.
Hidden in the highlands above Balgownie is the Illawarra Rhododendron Gardens. A popular spot for weddings and birthdays, the garden area can be booked for special occasions or used casually by locals. The undercover picnic tables look out over the beautiful pond and surrounding gardens where you can explore the winding pathways into the hills after lunch.
Take a walk around the 15-minute looped walkway with views all around the Wollongong area. Mount Keira Summit has free-to-use electric BBQ’s and public toilets to accommodate your family with multiple bushwalking tracks to enjoy as well.
Flagstaff Hill Park is arguably one of the most iconic areas in all of Wollongong. Perched on the edge of Wollongong Harbour, the sloped areas around the Lighthouse look back towards the beaches of Wollongong both North and South. For a real local experience, indulge in some Fish and Chips from one of the nearby takeaway shops and just let the afternoon pass you by.
Only a few steps from Wollongong’s North Beach is Stuart Park. At the Northern end of this long, coastal park is one of our favourite playgrounds. The extra-long zip line and multiple play areas make it a great place to keep kids moving and stretch their legs.
Of course, number one on our list has to be the beautiful and peaceful Wollongong Botanic Garden. Whether you enjoy moseying around different areas of the gardens or prefer to park your picnic blanket by the pond, the Botanic Garden in Wollongong can give you hours’ worth of enjoyment including lots of space to keep moving if you prefer not to sit and mingle just yet.
In any of these locations, be sure to take precautions in accordance with health and safety advice with hand sanitiser (especially if visiting parks with kids), and masks. Wherever you end up, take a moment to inhale a deep breath; hold it for a few seconds, and release. Change is as good as a holiday, they say, and this little step in the right direction brings us closer to the normality of social interaction that we love. Be sure to enjoy the moment.
Zoë Wood is an international travel writer from the local Illawarra area.