Cocoon yourself in Kiama for a week (or several) and you’ll discover there’s a lot more to this seaside destination than just its beaches and blowholes.
The vibrant, fun-loving town of Kiama on the NSW South Coast is gaining a reputation for everything from its markets and makers to Kiama art, artists and artisans. There are also awe-inspiring Indigenous-led tours that touch on the area’s rich cultural heritage, while a burgeoning culinary scene provide further reasons to visit.
There’s even more to enjoy a short drive away. The Illawarra region of the NSW South Coast extends inland to Jamberoo and along the Grand Pacific Drive to Minnamurra, Bombo, Gerringong and Gerroa.
Here are 10 of the best new and iconic things to do in the Kiama Region, just 90 minutes from Sydney.
Even the natural Kiama art is spectacular.
1. Take in Kiama art displays
There are a multitude of ways to get creative on the Kiama Coast. Start with a visit to Seven Marks Gallery on the outskirts of town to see the latest exhibitions featuring works by emerging and established local artists, as well as its artists in residence, Chick Butcher, Cobi Cockburn and Cesar Cueva. It also includes Courtesy of the Artist at Seven Marks, the second offshoot of the Strand Arcade jewellery store in Sydney’s CBD.
Meanwhile, Fern St Gallery shows works that have been inspired by the craggy Illawarra escarpment; drop a few pins in your map app to visit local artists Robyn Sharp and Kerry Suttonberg at their studios, too.
Visit Kerry Suttonberg at her studio.
2. See the Kiama blowhole
The sound of Kiama, on the lands of Dharawal and Wodi Wodi, is the sound of water. Its name is derived from the Aboriginal word kiarama, which means ‘place where the sea makes a noise’.
You can experience this at Kiama’s iconic blowhole, which showcase nature at its best: theatrical and wild. To get your best view of the Kiama Blowhole, walk along the pathway that curves down to a platform built into the sandstone.
The best time to see this natural phenomenon is when there’s a southerly swell running on a high tide; get the timing right and you’ll be rewarded with the spectacle of water blasting into the sky amid rocks cemented into position by the elements.
Listen to the iconic Kiama Blowhole as it erupts.
3. Swim at Kiama’s best beaches
Take surfing lessons, watch for dolphins and whales, or jump in a crisp ocean pool even on cool, sunny winter days. There are nine beaches that necklace the Kiama coastline, meaning you can pick your own path.
Wriggle into your wetsuit at dawn to watch the sunrise from the surf, where pro surfer Sally Fitzgibbons grew up, build sandcastles with the kids or wander along the cobbled coastline. There are also four tidal ocean pools glittering like pieces of beach glass set into the rock shelf; remember your mask and snorkel, as they’re brimming with marine life.
Werri, Easts, Kendalls, Surf and Seven Mile beaches are some of the best-patrolled beaches in Kiama, while Boneyard Cove is great for snorkelling.
Take a refreshing dip (even in winter) at Werri Beach.
4. Learn about local Indigenous culture
Kiama’s rich cultural landscape is very accessible due to the compact nature of the region, and a great way to learn about it all is with Gumaraa Aboriginal Experiences.
Conducted on the banks of Minnamurra River, the tours celebrate the culture, traditions and history of the Dharawal and Yuin Nations. Gumaraa means ‘wise old man’, and founder Richard Campbell has taken on the role of sharing the knowledge that was passed down to him by his elders.
Take part in spear-making and art workshops, didgeridoo programs, canoeing and fishing tours, and listen to talks focusing on everything from bush tucker to boomerangs and Dreamtime stories.
Learn more about local Indigenous culture with Gumaraa Aboriginal Experiences.
5. Join Creative workshops in Kiama
Want to tap into your creative side? The Kiama region is overflowing with art workshops for those who want to swim a little away from the mainstream.
Visitors to Soul Clay Studios in Gerringong can try their hand at making pottery; find yourself fully immersed, elbow-deep in clay, for the Friday night Clay Date or Saturday Soul Sessions.
Luxury Clay Experiences are for those who don’t want to leave the comfort of their coastal chic Kiama accommodation, as the Gerringong-based potters specialise in bringing all-inclusive luxury classes complete with floristry, catering and beverage packages.
Willowale Road will guide you through the art of candle making with workshops that include bubbles and grazing boxes.
Get creative (and messy) at Soul Clay Studio. (Image: Sol Flare Photography)
6. Book brewery and winery tours
Gerringong has a lot of street cred. It’s where the social media stars Inspired Unemployed hail from, and it forms the backdrop to a lot of their reels.
A pop culture tour of the Kiama region should also include a tour of Stoic Brewing, where drinking beer and cider amid the towering vats is a vibe; expect live music on the weekend and exciting flavour-forward brews.
Crooked River Wines is also a popular destination for day trips, weekends away and events in the Kiama region. The family-run winery has been making carefully crafted wines for more than two decades and is tucked into the rich verdant folds of a valley overlooking the sea. Soak in more of the views by staying in their onsite accommodation.
Take a tour of Stoic Brewing.
7. Find Kiama’s best bars
Kiama really lights up for a few bar bites and drinks on weekends after dark. The small-bar scene here is very compact, which makes it easy to get from A to B.
Wait for the sky to turn velvet before stepping out for considered cocktails or small-batch local beers on tap. If it’s fancy drinks and tapas you’re after, make a beeline for Bar Padres. Finding Fillmores, Little Betty’s in Kiama or The Hill Bar & Kitchen in Gerringong are three of the best bars to bounce between around the area.
Have a tipple at Bar Padres.
8. Follow hike and bike trails
Base yourself at The Lodge in Jamberoo before heading for an outdoor adventure with a difference: an elevated walk through the rainforest at Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures.
On your way to Kiama, take a detour to the Saddleback Mountain lookout. From here, you can follow the signs and walk to the summit of Mt Noorinan, where you’ll hear birdsong symphonies from crimson rosellas, eastern bristlebirds and golden whistlers.
Soak in the area’s natural beauty on the Kiama Coast Walk. (Image: TDA Images)
Back in town, hire a bike from Kiama Cycles and take the 24-kilometre return ride along the shared path from Jones Beach. The 20-kilometre-long Kiama Coast Walk is also an adventure.
You can also get your heartrate going by bouncing between Bombo Clothing, Sara Handmade Jewellery and The Retro Room in Kiama. The Collective Beat in Gerringong is also a one-stop shop for up-and-coming local designers and artists.
Get your heart rate up and find treasures walking through Kiama’s best stores, like Retro Room.
9. Indulge at Kiama restaurants
Let brunch or lunch at a local cafe be your motivation to do a few laps in a sea pool to loosen your limbs and work up an appetite.
Kiama (and its surrounds, for that matter) has you covered when it comes to casual eats, such as the most excellent Little Earth Cafe (which won an International Coffee Award for its Chasky blend). For a sophisticated date night, your best bet is The Blue Swimmer at Seahaven.
If it’s a party you’re after, make a beeline for Bar Padres, while those seeking to spice it up will enjoy the Southeast Asian cuisine at Wildginger. You could also grab a juicy burger from The Hungry Monkey, the hottest franchise on the NSW South Coast.
Enjoy the Southeast Asian cuisine at Wildginger. (Image: annamul)
10. Time your trip for Kiama events and festivals
Keep an eye on the weather and wait for the Kiama sky to form a canopy of blue before heading to the weekly Kiama Farmers Market.
Kiama also gets points for taking cues from the views for its whimsical Kiama Winter Festival at the harbour foreshore in July; expect six days of an authentic ice rink and more. The Winter Wine Festival at Crooked River Wines and its epic musical lineup – watch Matt Corby and The Cat Empire – is also worth marking in your 2023 calendar.
Pull up a rug and enjoy live music at the Winter Wine Festival.
For more ideas and inspiration, visit kiama.com.au.