Here in the Illawarra we have some of the most beautiful, accessible and cleanest beaches on the coast. Clear blue waters, incredible escarpment views, golden sands and some very respectable surf breaks make this piece of Dharawal Country a beach lover’s paradise.
So whether you’re looking to cool off on a hot day, get in some open water swimming, exercise your pup, build a sandcastle, snorkel, SUP board or surf — there is a beach in Wollongong you are sure to fall in love with. Read on for our picks of some of the best beaches in Wollongong and the Illawarra… (Including the best secluded and secret beaches only the locals know about!)
Famous for a reason, the iconic and super friendly North Gong has everything you’re looking for in a city beach. Ideal for families, North Gong has rockpools, shallow sandy areas perfect for wading and good surf too!? Plus, it is also the only beach in the area that is patrolled all year around, so you’re set for that cheeky June dip when the currents are nice and warm!
There are plenty of grassy, shady spots for picnics, as well as BBQs and picnic shelters dotted around. And unlike the street parking to the south, North Gong parking is free! There are public loos and cafes around too — and the whole beautiful beach is located along the famous coastal walking and cycling track!
North Wollongong Beach itself is not a dog friendly beach, but north of the lagoon is off-leash! Dogs are welcome on-lead on the cycle track too. (And they love it, of course)
As a bonus, the adjacent playground in Stuart Park is widely considered to be the best in town. (Giant slides and a real flying fox? Kids drool for this place – check out our breakdown of the best local playgrounds for more details!)
Austi is like a little microcosm of the best of the Coal Coast. It was always my favourite as a kid and it’s fast becoming my kid’s most requested beach too! Here, in one spot, you’ll find a semi-protected strip of patrolled beach, two ocean pools (plus a little natural tidal pool on the rock platform to the south), a fully fenced playground, a heritage bather’s pavillion, a good bit of flat grass to lay a picnic rug — Oh, and two cafes. The beach is usually pretty chill, with a gentle slope into the water and no deep channel or strong undercurrents that can make other our northern illawarra beaches so fun… I mean… rough going?
Only downside is that Austi gets super popular on good weather weekends. If you arrive later in the day don’t be surprised if you have to park way up in the residential streets behind the school and walk down. Worth it though. A good spot to set up for the day.
Beloved Stanny. My childhood local. Due to its length and geography, Stanny operates more like two beaches. At the North end you have Stanwell Park Beach Reserve, a picturesque parkland in the valley with a playground and the Bostin Brew Co. Kiosk. North end beach has timed doggy access, and fantastic views of the hang gliders coming off Bald Hill above. Hargraves Creek runs into the ocean here, constantly carving a different route through the sand and making brilliant landscapes for kids to scramble up and down.
The south end is usually (not always!) where the flags end up – it’s closer to the Surf Club. And this is a beach where it really pays to swim between the flags. Stanny can be a wee bit, shall we say… wild? There is often a channel at the shoreline which makes for shore dumpers that can ring your bell! You’ve got to keep your eye on the rips too. But it’s part of the adventure and the charm of Stanny, to immerse yourself in the power of the ocean!
About 10kms south of Wollongong you’ll find the excellent Port Kembla Beach. Something for everyone here – at 6.6kms, it’s easily Wollongong’s longest beach. You never feel overcrowded here, there’s plenty of room to spread out. The waters are usually shallow with a gentle gradient into deeper waters. The beach is patrolled and overlooked by the Surf Club on the hill. (This beach is another to stick to the patrolled sections when swimming — lots of rips that don’t always stay in one spot!)
South of the Surf Club is a section that is dog friendly — and south of that, way down, you may stumble upon the only (unofficial) nudie beach in the Illawarra! Decent beach breaks here for surfers, the swell can get big at times. The north end is popular in the summer when an offshore wind is blowing.
There’s plenty of parking, and a little cafe beside the ocean pool. Oh, did I mention the Olympic ocean pool? It’s amazing! I go into detail in our guide to Wollongong ocean pools here….
Bulli is another lovely ‘all in one’ kind of beach. It’s got cafes, a modern playground, bathrooms, an ocean pool and lots of grass for picnics. It’s patrolled and boasts great views from the top of Sandon Point. Plus, it’s one of the best breaks around for learning to surf. The waves are uniform and the swell is usually mellow in the mornings. A very special place, and especially beautiful to walk along the cycle track in the morning or evening and breath the salt air.
(This might not be exciting to anyone but me – but there are also clothing donation bins in the Surf Club carpark. I’m always on the lookout…)
Big favourite among fur-parents and surfers alike, Sharkies Beach is becoming more popular every year. This unpatrolled beach is open to doggies all day long, off leash — and boy do they love it here. The beach itself is a nice long 500m, with rock platforms at either end and a quiet boat ramp to the south. There is a little old fashioned loo at the end of the gravel carpark.
For Surfers, the northern reef can produce good lefts and rights even if the swell is small-ish. At the south end, there is a large rock platform off the point where you’ll find a steep right reef break called, you guessed it, Headlands! (Get it – the Headlands Hotel?) This break is really only for experienced surfers, because the swell needs to be decent before it’s worth it.
We love Sharkies because it has a good free feeling – free dogs, free kids running and swimming everywhere. Just keep an eye on the strong rip at the centre of the beach.
Bellambi Beach is sits about 7 kms north of Wollongong — and has been kind of overlooked by non-locals for a while, despite being kind of awesome? The ocean pool here is lovely and well maintained, the little playground is lots of fun and the rolling grass down to the sand makes for perfect picnicking. It’s a decently long beach too, stretching for 2kms in a gentle curve. At the south end is the famous Bellambi boat ramp which is very popular and terrific fun for the kids to see the big-boy sting rays who come in close to eat the scraps from fishers cleaning their catch. At low tide Bellambi beach becomes a great place to explore with hundreds of rockpools created on the platforms. It’s also a popular spot for fishing, since its flat rock platforms make for easy access. The beach is patrolled (and if you’re looking for the best breaks for surfing they’re at the south end).
On-leash pups are welcome at certain times during the day, so check the signs. The cycleway runs the length of the beach too and makes for a tranquil walk. All in all, a terrific slice of coastal goodness where you can still find a parking spot even on a hot day.
The secret of Wollongong having the most beautiful beaches in the world (Author’s bias?) might be out by now… Locals have definitely noticed more traffic on the weekends these last few years! But there are still some spots that are ‘less travelled’. Here is my little round up of our most secluded beaches in the Illawarra.
East Corrimal beach is the less frequented section of coast to the north of Corrimal Beach — a lovely, quiet long beach that is open for doggies to run off leash at all times! (Once you’re north of the lagoon, set them free!) This section of beach is unpatrolled, so a healthy wariness for rips is recommended. East Corrimal is not very popular, so you’ll likely only ever see the odd local or fisher here.
The best surf is usually at Corrimal Beach to the south, but when the bars are right East Corrimal can be worth the trek!
Scarborough is very much a local’s spot. You would never guess there was a big beach driving past, the turn-off looks like a little residential side street! Just north of Wombarra ocean pool you’ll find this lovely, flat beach — stretching for about 500m between rock platforms. You can easily walk from Wombarra to Scarborough along the sand. The Surf Club is up on the hill and the beach is patrolled during daylight hours. It’s a bit of a steep walk down a concrete driveway to get from the tiny carpark to the sand, but well worth it. A quiet, ‘local’s only’ type spot, with a mix of sand and reef breaks (in the right conditions) for surfers.
Looking back up at the escarpment from the water is a treat for the spirit. Those mountain views!
Bushrangers Bay is located inside the Bass Point Reserve, south of Shellharbour Village. Oh this place. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful and hardly anyone knows about it!
Locals know it as a boss spot for snorkelling and scuba diving — sheltered by cliffs that rise up from the water. The reserve prohibits any kind of fishing, so the thriving plant and marine life is abundant here! The visibility is usually excellent and conditions are usually calm. Though it’s popular with divers (and especially novice divers) I would consider Bushrangers Bay to be probably the best ‘secluded’ spot on the coast… but I suppose the secret is out now…!
Bit of a hike from the ‘Gong, but I had to include Boneyard. This secluded beauty is well known by locals, but comes as a total surprise for those of us who just think Kiama = Blowhole. It’s an awesome spot for snorkelling and SUP boarding — the beach is pebbly and sheltered by the Bombo peninsula. The right-hand reef break is decent for surfers.
Being a Coal Coaster, I actually only found out about this incredible spot from doing the Kiama Coastal Walk (see this little article on bushwalks with swimming for more info)
Bonyard is backed by the stunning Cathedral Rocks, which are worth the visit on their own. Besides the odd local and some walkers, you’ll likely have this slice of heaven to yourself on weekdays.
Car access to Boneyard is off Cliff Dr in Kiama Downs, or you can walk from North Bombo. 10/10 paradise. Apart from my endorsement of Boneyard, you’ll find that the whole coast south of Kiama is pretty unpopulated in comparison to our northern beaches.
When you’ve got little ones there are always more details to consider. You want adventure for them and peace of mind for yourself! And bathrooms… close parking… away from main roads… nothing dangerous… phew! Did I miss anything? Luckily there are a handful of beaches in the area that fit the bill beautifully. Where your bubs can be really free to explore and you can ‘relax’ – well, sort of!
My top picks include the perfectly kid friendly Wollongong Harbour Beach (no waves, and right next to a playground and a cafe!) Port Kembla Beach and pool (with the best kid’s ocean pool around and lots of room to run around) and the exquisite Windang Beach (Calm, turquoise waters and lots of picnic spots – it’s easy to see why its so popular with families!) Check out Best Family Friendly Beaches for the lowdown on all the top spots for little ones to play and cool off in Wollongong.
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These lands, waters and skies are a true paradise, and a gift to experience. We offer deep respect and gratitude to the traditional custodians, the Dharawal nation, whose sovereignty was never ceded. We pay our respect to elders past and present.