While its holy trinity of sun, sand and sea makes this NSW South Coast hamlet a perennial favourite of day-trippers and summer holidaymakers, it has managed to hold onto its delightful Halcyon-days charms. Leigh-Ann Pow explores the seaside appeal that landed Kiama at no.21 on your list of Top 50 Aussie Towns.
Find the complete list of the Top 50 Aussie Towns here.
Why Kiama is a summer hotspot
The town of Kiama has stood in silent witness to the famed Sydney summer holiday exodus (similar to Africa’s mass migration of wildebeest only with SUVs and boogie boards) for decades. A scenic two-hour drive from the city centre, the town is at the top of ‘must-book’ lists year in and year out.
Kiama is a scenic two-hour drive from Sydney. (Image: Destination NSW)
But while other coastal hotspots have suffered from such adoration, with high-rise developments and smashed avo holiday price hikes, Kiama has retained a laid-back aura and sunny disposition reminiscent of the sun-bleached halcyon days of the ’70s and ’80s. Albeit with some seriously good cafes, bars and restaurants thrown in for good measure.
While the first arrivals here were the Dharawal people and the nomadic Wadi Wadi tribes, holidaymakers began arriving in earnest in the late 1800s, drawn by the salty sea air, the lush coastal countryside and the famed blowhole (the name of the town is derived from the Aboriginal word kiarama, meaning ‘the place where the sea makes a noise’).
The Kiama blowhole is a must-see. (Image: Destination NSW)
It’s a town for the whole family to enjoy
The experience remains largely unchanged even today, but Kiama has managed to add to its offering in a considered way, ensuring the essence of the town remains the same.
For visitors that translates to city-quality coffee served up from hole-in-the-wall cafes (choose from Little Earth Roasters, iv coffee, Diggies and the like) and destination eateries and bars where having sand between your toes is not looked down upon (try Penny Whistlers, Silica Restaurant and bookshop cum-bar Bouquiniste).
Coastal walking tracks will take you to Blowhole Point. (Image: Destination NSW)
There are also the coastal walking tracks and unique experiences that allow access to nature without encroaching on it (set off on the 20-kilometre Kiama Coastal Walk that passes Minnamurra River, Cathedral Rocks, Bombo Beach, Blowhole Point and on to Gerringong’s Werri Beach; keep your eyes peeled during winter and spring for whales; hang out among the rainforest canopy at Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures) and events like the annual Rugby World Class Sevens and KISS Arts Fest that imbue a convivial festival atmosphere.
And, of course, there’s always the allure of doing nothing more than hanging out on one of the area’s picturesque beaches, eating top-notch fish and chips on the sand with the ultimate water views, and catching a wave or two on those aforementioned boogie boards. It’s truly the stuff that classic summer holidays are made of.
Hang out among the rainforest canopy at Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures. (Image: Destination NSW)
A big little attraction
Absolutely everyone has stood in open-mouthed wonder at Kiama’s much-celebrated blowhole, where, when the conditions are just right, the swell is pushed up through the 2.5-metre hole in the rock ledge to create plumes of frothy white water that can reach up to 30 metres.
But not as many people know about the Little Blowhole, the mini-me version spectacular.