The ultimate travel guide toWollongong

Lush rainforest trails that lead to breathtaking lookouts, pumping surf breaks and adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities combined with a thriving cultural and foodie scene makes Wollongong, affectionately nicknamed The Gong, one of NSW’s most enthralling cities.

Getting to Wollongong

The coastal city of Wollongong lies 80 km south of Sydney and can be reached in just under 1.5 hours by car. For a truly spectacular view of the coastline, abandon the most direct route down the M1 and take the scenic drive from the Royal National Park along the Grand Pacific Drive to wind through rainforest and over the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge. Wollongong is also connected from Sydney via the train network.

Top Things to Do in Wollongong

Wollongong combines the best of the outdoors with a burgeoning cultural scene to deliver activities and attractions to suit everyone from the nature lover and adventurer to the refined diner and art lover, with plenty more thrown in for the kids.

Attractions

Nan Tien Temple, which means paradise of the south in Chinese, is the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere. Since its opening in 1995, the temple continues to draw a steady stream of tourists, intent on walking through the serene gardens and admiring the sheer scale of the temple. Dine at the onsite café for authentic Asian cuisine and a steaming hot cup of tea before you hit the road.

 

Standing proudly on the northern side of the headland is the historic Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse. Constructed from wrought iron in 1871, the local heritage site was restored in 2002 but has been inactive since 1974. Not to be confused with its slightly more modern neighbour, the electricity-powered Wollongong Head Lighthouse to its right, was built from reinforced concrete in 1936 and is still in operation today.

 

Take a self-guided or host-guided walk around the winding paths of the Wollongong Botanic Gardens. There are a large variety of gardens to explore, from the rainforest and the flowering trees and shrubs to the succulents and the Australian open forest and more. There is a playground to keep the kids entertained with maze and climbing net, as well as plenty of green spaces to relax in.

 

Views don’t get much better than the one you’ll find at Bald Hill Lookout in Stanwell Tops at the northern tip of Wollongong. Not only will you see expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge, but you’ll also watch hang-gliders and paragliders launch themselves off the edge to glide over coastline. The lookout is an internationally acclaimed area for the sport, and is the very spot where Australian aeronautical pioneer Lawrence Hargrave first flew his box kite in 1894.

Activities

Wollongong and its surrounding suburbs are home to some of the coast’s best beaches. If it’s a surf you seek, Sandon Point and Windang Island are two of the best spots in Wollongong and the winter months deliver the most consistent swells.

 

For those more interested in swimming, relaxing on the sand, or picnicking in a reserve, then head to either Wollongong City Beach or North Wollongong Beach. Nearby Stanwell Park Beach, Coledale Beach and the rock pools at Austinmer Beach are also great alternatives. Swimmers can also get in some early morning laps at the Continental Pool right on Wollongong beach.

 

There are plenty of hiking trails to explore around Wollongong, but the Sublime Point walking track is one of the most iconic. The steep 45-minute climb to the top will reward you with far-reaching views over the city and the Pacific Ocean.

 

If you’re itching to throw a line in the water head to Wollongong City Beach and fish around the boulders or off the rock platform for tailor, salmon, bream and drummer. The breakwall in Wollongong Harbour is another great option.

For kids

Once they’ve had enough of the beach, kids can burn off all that extra energy at MagicZoom. The indoor family play centre is kitted out with soft play, climbing structures, slides and an arcade.

 

Flip Out is another high-energy activity guaranteed to get your child’s approval. Several of the highlights at the indoor trampoline park include the foam pit, wall running, a human pinball trampoline and the basketball trampoline court.

 

Take little ones to the Early Start Discovery Space to visit Australia’s only dedicated children’s museum. The life-sized exhibits provide interactive, play-focused experiences that include crawling inside a giant stomach, designing and building a house, acting on the stage, crawling through a cave and much more.

Best Places to Stay in Wollongong

Hotels & Motels

Sage hotel is your go-to for a four-star stay on the foreshore of Wollongong City Beach. Breathe in the fresh ocean air from your balcony, take in the views of the ocean or Mount Keira – depending on the location of your room, and make use of the lap pool on days when you feel like a change from the beach.

 

The Novotel Wollongong Northbeach has an equally enviable position on the coastline right across from North Wollongong Beach and a stones-throw from the city’s restaurants and cafes. The spacious, light-filled rooms deliver ocean-views or mountain-views and guests have access to the hotel’s spa, sauna, pool and gym.

 

If you’re looking to set up a home away from home for an extended holiday at The Gong, then check in to The Mantra Wollongong and make use of their large one or two bedroom apartments.

Caravan & Holiday Parks

Just south of Wollongong in the coastal town of Kiama lies Big4 Easts Beach Holiday Park. The pool complex complete with Sunny’s Adventure Park easily makes this every kid’s dream destination, and they also have an impressive games room, jumping pillow and playground. Camping and caravan sites are available in addition to luxury cabins.

 

Nearby, Surf Beach Holiday Park also packs a punch in the caravan park stakes with whirlpool tubs, a clubroom and playground, and cabins with balconies – all within a few steps from the beach. You can also pitch a tent or park your van and bring your pets along for the holiday.

 

Bulli Beach Tourist Park is located to the north of Wollongong and offers one, two or three bedroom cabins in addition to powered camping sites with ensuites. Enjoy a scrumptious breakfast at the park’s Ruby Café – or have it delivered to your door (or tent).

Camping

Coledale Beach Camping Reserve is ideally positioned just off the Grand Pacific Drive next to the ocean in the small beachside village of Coledale about a 30-minute drive outside of Wollongong. The local surf club manages the campsite and on-site amenities include hot showers, toilets, laundry facilities, camp kitchen in addition to the electric BBQs on the grass promenade nearby

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Restaurants & Bars in Wollongong

As the fourth largest city in NSW, behind Sydney, Newcastle and the Central Coast, you’d expect nothing less than a stellar bar and restaurant offering.

 

Order a quality cup of coffee, a delicious brunch spread and watch the surf roll in over North Wollongong Beach as you sit back and soak in the coastal vibes at Diggies. The seasonal menu is chock full with mouth-watering breakfast favourites, including fluffy buttermilk pancakes served with fresh strawberries, maple syrup and optional additions of sweet ricotta and crispy bacon.

 

You’ll find Lee and Me café inside a charming old heritage terrace house. Cosy on up alongside the fireplace in winter, soak in the sun on the outdoor terrace with friends in summer or order from the takeaway menu for days when you can’t linger. Try the Prana sticky chai latte with steamed milk and honey, the porridge topped with roasted apple and cinnamon crumble or the pork toastie stuffed with slow cooked pork, relish, cheese and pickles.

 

The Brewery is the home of Illawarra’s craft beer and also a top notch place to grab a hearty feed. Try the Big Brewery Burger with Black Angus beef, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, caramelised onions all drizzled with chipotle aioli and a side of fries. They also have a menu jam-packed with tasty quick bites, a selection of mains on the a la carte menu and a kids menu for the little ones.

 

The Scarborough Hotel is well worth the 25-minute drive outside of Wollongong to experience the clifftop beer garden with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Sit on the grass, soak up the sun and dine on your choice of share plates, seafood, hearty modern Australian mains or classic pub fare such as the market fish and chips or cheese burger and chips.

 

Start your night at 1796 Wine Bar for ocean views, delectable share platters and your pick from the vast range of exceptional Australian wines and a stellar international selection from France and New Zealand.

 

For a truly exceptional meal you can’t go past Babyface Kitchen on Keira Street in Wollongong. Dine with a group and splash out on the set menu or tasting menu to ensure you get to experience as many dishes as possible. Order the Moreton Bay bug schnitzel in salt and pepper sauce and a small of the smoked cauliflower with cream, barley and miso butter sauce.

 

The award-winning fine dining restaurant Caveau, partners with producers, wine makers and artisans to bring patrons a meal made with the finest organic, sustainable and locally-sourced products with a decidedly native Australian flair. Think wallaby tail and potato pie, barramundi cooked over smoking paperbark and lemon aspen custard with native thyme meringues drizzled in honey.

Tours and Packages in Wollongong

Thrill seekers can freefall from a plane at over 200 km per hour in 60 seconds with Skydive Sydney. You’ll drop from Australia’s highest altitude of up to 15000 feet with North Wollongong Beach directly below.

 

Take a scenic cycle around Wollongong with a rental from South Coast Bike Hire. Bikes can be delivered direct to your accommodation, which means you’ll have more time to explore Wollongong’s 42 km of shared paths.

 

Book at horse riding lesson or ride with experienced, fully accredited instructors at Otford Farm. Set on over 300 acres of vast tropical rainforest with bubbling rivers and ocean views from coastal trails to explore on a one, two or three-hour ride.