Savvy travellers like to zig when everyone else zags, which is why Kiama makes the ideal destination for a mid-week stay over autumn and winter, as Carla Grossetti discovers.
Walk along the main street of Kiama in the cool of the morning in autumn or winter and you will see locals gathering in cafes, immersed in conversation, others striding along the Kiama Coast Walk between Bombo and Blowhole Point along the craggy cliffs.
Further afield, there’ll be the occasional fisherman, pole planted firmly in the sand near Minnamurra River, a sprinkling of surfers out at ‘Boneyard’ beach, and a young family having a picnic under the canopy of pine trees overlooking the harbour.
In summer, the crowds on NSW beaches can resemble seagulls clamouring over a hot chip. Although Kiama offers the ultimate weekend getaway year-round, you can shake off the crowds and savour the charms without the crowds during autumn or winter. Or nab even more space to yourself by booking a mid-week break.
Oh the places you’ll stay in Kiama
It’s been quite some time since Kiama was considered simply a place to pop in for a quick detour during a lazy road trip up or down the South Coast. With the arrival of a range of boutique places to stay, Kiama is now considered the ideal destination for a weekend or midweek getaway.
Although part of Kiama’s draw is its laidback appeal and prime coastal location, it’s also become a sophisticated place to check in: choose between the Dunoon Farmhouse, which has undergone an imaginative conversion, or stylish, beach-chic apartments at The Bellevue Kiama, Oceanview Kiama and Surf Beach Dreams.
Getting out of town is almost instantaneous in a small village such as Kiama and you can easily swap the coastline for the hinterland and a few days living like a yogi at Ananda Wellness Retreat. Families with kids can get the jump on Jamberooo Action Park as the wellness spa and resort is just seven minutes away from the theme park.
Top-notch Kiama food
Fraternise with the locals for a few days mid-week and you will get a snapshot of the Kiama lifestyle as you rub shoulders with rugged-up surfers inhaling mouth-watering burgers at Stacks Eatery or have coffee in your ugg boots at Little Earth Roasters, a boutique roaster with water views.
The Hungry Monkey is located in a Heritage-listed building 100 metres from the sea. It’s where you will find the local Boho brigade enjoying Purple toast with Beetroot Relish and Persian Feta and tradies chowing down on the Bad Boy burger with local ground Angus beef, beer-battered onion rings, bacon and American cheese and chipotle aioli.
The Brooding Italian is another top-notch spot for casual bites for breakfast, brunch or lunch: the ham, cheese and tomato wrap is a real treat.
Head to The Grand Hotel Kiama, established in 1891, in the evening for midweek dinner specials such as steak and chips on Wednesdays and schnitties on Thursdays ($15). Miss Arda is the sister venue of Otis Deli, opened by chef Emily Herbert (ex-head chef at Ottolenghi Belgravia in the UK) and both establishments offer fab food, drinks and service.
Take advantage of the Gerringong Bowling & Recreational Club free courtesy bus ferrying diners back to Kiama from Wednesday through to Sunday; plump for the chicken parmi.
The Kiama great outdoors
The Kiama coastline is like an oil on canvas, all Ken Done colours and yachts flitting to and fro.
But there’s a lot more to the place than its sunny disposition. One of the perks of having a holiday in a place like Kiama is the ease and accessibility of getting from A to B.
Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the proximity to a network of waterways, waterfalls and pristine hiking trails and the fact you can outsource the action to Land’s Edge Foundation, which offers snorkelling, SUPing, kayaking, surfing and mountain biking expeditions. There are also long stretches of coastline around Kiama for surfers to choose their perfect break.
Blessed as it is with beautiful beaches, beginners can sign up for a learn-to-surf session at Gerringong Surf School, Surf Camp Australia or Land’s Edge Surf School, while more experienced wave-riders can paddle out to Boneyard, off the North Bombo peninsula, or Mystics at Minnamurra Beach, a swell magnet that forms part of the National Surfing Reserve at Killalea State Park.
The calm, shallow waters of Lake Illawarra and Minnamurra River are glassy and flat at dawn, which is when SUP Shellharbour prefers to schedule its paddles. Keen anglers will also get a stunning perspective of the Kiama coastline with a deep-sea fishing trip with Kiama Charter Service, which heads about 15 kilometres offshore.
Kiama workshops and markets
Fans of accidental content creators @TheInspiredUnemployed may have noticed a lot of love letters to Kiama filmed by the larrikins who call the South Coast town home.
Visitors to Kiama are also being asked to tap into their imaginative powers and get creative by participating in a range of workshops that will give you a sense of the town’s community feel. The Terra Art Gallery has designed activities for adults and children that range from making driftwood creations, lino and printmaking to learning the art of origami.
Attending an oil-painting class at Kiama Art Workshops is another way of painting yourself into the local picture. Alternatively, tuck yourself away at a painting retreat with local artist Kerry Bruce. You will also find a sense of calm when you breathe the scented air in Willowvale Road, which offers candle and diffuser workshops as a meaningful way for friends, family (and strangers) to connect.
After harnessing your creativity with community activities, it’s time to munch and mingle.
The Kiama Farmers’ Market, held every Wednesday, is another worthy reason to book a midweek stay. And as for unsung heroes? It’s worth dropping a pin in your maps to find Minnamurra General Store; Bouquiniste, a bookstore, café and wine bar in Kiama; and Zoobs Woodfired Pizza Restaurant, which locals unhesitatingly recommend for its pizza.