Wollongong is at once grand and gritty and we’ve stitched together some of the best things to do on a weekender.
Besides lounging on one of Wollongong’s beautiful northern beaches, which so inspired author D.H. Lawrence, or wallowing in a rock pool, the Greater Wollongong region offers a host of fun and fabulous things to do. Expect the unexpected in the Gong, as it is affectionately known, which has forged a new path for itself. Here are some of the top things to do in Wollongong.
Cycle or drive the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge
The 665-metre long Sea Cliff Bridge is a highlight along the Grand Pacific Drive, which snakes its way from the Royal National Park, just 45 minutes south of Sydney to Loftus and down to Nowra. The serpentine road traces the curves of the coast and has a shared path on the side, which is popular with cyclists. Roll the windows down and let out a few yee-haws along the drive, which is the scenic route to the Gong from Sydney and stretches between the towns of Clifton and Coalcliff.
The Friday Forage is a weekly artisan food and farmers market that embodies the spirit of creativity that has become synonymous with the Gong. Take a gentle walk through the markets, which brings together local producers all in the one place celebrating the farm-to-plate scene. Rub shoulders with rugged-up farmers and find yourself surrounded by an array of honey, pastries, potatoes, dairy products, and more. Make plans to return to the Bulli Forager’s Market on the second Sunday of the month.
Swim at one of the Gong’s beautiful beaches
Greater Wollongong stretches from Stanwell Park in the north in a continuous sprawl all the way to Shellharbour in the South. The rock pools, ocean baths barnacled onto this stretch of coastline are firm favourites for families and picnickers, as are the stunning beaches. Some of the best places to swim include Thirroul’s free, Olympic-sized ocean pool, where you can churn out a few laps, Wombarra’s hidden baths for a private swim, Austinmer’s sea pools for a dip with a view. Suit up for a surf at Bombo Beach.
Stop for a brew with a view
Stop for a brew with an ocean view at the Scarborough Hotel, which has been perched like an eyrie on a Scarborough cliff edge since it was established in 1886. From the region’s oldest licensed venue to the newest in nearby Austinmer where the Headlands Hotel follows suit with its orientation toward the horizon and providing another top spot to get on the beers. The pubs are emblematic of the position the Greater Gong finds itself in: looking toward the past, with an eye firmly on its future. Cheers.
Sublime Point Walking Track
The next spot on your Illawarra itinerary should be a hike to the top of the escarpment to check out the view of the northern villages and beaches. The steep climb up a series of ladders through emerald rainforest is for experienced walkers only. You can also drive to Sublime Point Lookout where you will be rewarded with magnificent views. Look out for yellow-tailed black cockatoos or giant falcons and kestrels and whales during the migration season. Download the NSW National Parks app before you go.
Browse antiques, art and homewares
Start fossicking for antiques, art and homewares in Thirroul, which is lined with boutiques, galleries and cafes. Try the Egg & Dart for local and international art, or the Wombat in Thirroul for upcycled furniture and oddities. The Shop of Things in Crown St, Wollongong, is also a treasure trove of vintage clothes, random collectables and art. The Wandering Merchants is another atmospheric store that looks like a hispter caravan has pulled into town and exploded its glittering contents.
Enjoy fish and chips by the sea
Bombora Seafood Restaurant in Wollongong looks out over the bobbing boats, the faraway escarpment and flocks of seagulls pecking away on the shore. It’s the ideal foreground for a family feast of fresh oysters, crumbed calamari, salt ‘n’ pepper squid followed by fish and chips. You can also join the barefoot crowds at Diggies’ North Beach Kiosk for battered barra and chips, one of the best places to eat in the Gong.
Scarborough-Wombarra Bowling Club
The Scarborough-Wombarra Bowling Club is one of a handful of excellent bowlos in the Greater Wollongong area that offers tantalising ocean views that may well distract you from getting your bowl as close as you can to the jack. Give your bowling arm a rest during your game of barefoot bowls by sinking a few schooies and then tucking into the signature ‘bowlo duck’ at the Black Duck Bistro. Reservations are required.
Go hang gliding at Bald Hill Lookout at Stanwell Tops
Bald Hill Lookout is one of the best spots for hang gliding in Australia. Those who are not trained to take a solo running jump off the 300-metre-high cliffs, can harness up with a tandem flight instructor from Hang Glide Oz so they can relax and enjoy the ride. Stanwell Tops is often the first place Sydneysiders stop on their way down south to the Gong as it provides eagle-eyed views over Stanwell Park Beach and onto the Sea Cliff Bridge. Watch your step if you’re snapping a selfie.
Wander the Illawarra Fly Tree Walk
You will hear the wind whisper through the trees and the constant chorus of bird song at the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk, which travels along to the edge of a bony ridge of the Illawarra Escarpment. There are many points of interest dotted around the park, where you can also take a zipline tour over Fern Gully. Those who aren’t afraid of heights should definitely spiral their way up the 45-metre high Knights Tower Lookout for breath-taking views over the Illawarra.
Tour the galleries, museums and temples
For a change of pace, pull into the slow lane at the Nan Tien Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere and detour to the Dew Drop Inn Tea House for a rejuvenating pot of lotus tea. You should also add a visit to Wollongong Botanic Garden, Wollongong Art Gallery, and the stunning Illawarra Museum Wollongong, housed in the former Post and Telegraph Office built between 1865 and 1882. And trainspotters and plane spotters can unite at HARS Aviation Museum.
Find more great travel tips and itineraries in our Ultimate guide to Wollongong holidays.