Sydney’s southern little sister is often overlooked in the rush to get further down the coast, but there are plenty of reasons to go no further than Wollongong and the Illawarra. You can horse ride, ‘fly’ above the treetops, catch some water park action, get close to some cuddly critters, or simply stroll along beaches far less hectic than those in the city and further north. A range of bush walking and trails offer beautiful views of the mountain surrounds and coastline.
Lead image © Dee Kramer Photography, Destination NSW
Nan Tien Temple
This beautiful Buddhist temple complex is located just outside Wollongong, its tall peaks visible from the highway as you drive in from Sydney. Its name means ‘Southern Paradise’, and you’ll quickly see why upon visiting. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere, with stunning views of Mount Keira, and offers tai chi lessons and delicious vegetarian food.
Bald Hill Lookout
This peak is the destination of choice for hang gliders from all around the country, giving an opportunity to snap shots of graceful daredevils gliding through the air—or to get that bird’s eye shot of the coastline yourself if you’re feeling brave!
Symbio Wildlife Park
This award-winning wildlife park in Helensburgh is owned by the Radnidge family, all of whom work in the park. From the moment you enter the pride and delight they take in running this attraction is obvious. Their motto is “getting you closer” and the park offers plenty of interactive shows with everything from koalas to snakes, and exhibits have been carefully designed to allow you to get as close as is practical to the many animals, including a pair of rare and endangered Sumatran tigers. If you come on a warm day, remember to bring your swimmers as there are two swimming pools to cool off in.
Best time to go to Wollongong
Wollongong’s long, sandy beaches make it a surfer’s dream come true. Visit during summer to make the most of those beautiful waters, although Wollongong has plenty to offer year-round.
During summer, average temperatures are a maximum average of 26 degrees Celsius.
During winter, average temperatures are a maximum average of 17 degrees Celsius.
Wollongong is approximately an hour and a half from Sydney by car. Take the slow road along the Grand Pacific Drive and stop to marvel at the undulating curves of the Seacliff Bridge as it hugs the cliff face. Opened in 2005, this makes the drive from Sydney an absolute pleasure; be sure to stop off and stretch your legs at the lookout points and enjoy a cuppa and a browse at the seaside towns of Austinmer, Wombarra or Scarborough.
Regular trains run from Sydney to Wollongong. You can find timetabling information here.
Food and drinks that kids will love
Wollongong’s city centre is home to a wide array of retail outlets, and its mall provides open-air shopping options so you don’t have to sacrifice that ocean air. Wollongong Central is the local hub for a range of retail, supermarkets and other services.
Tipping is appreciated, but not expected in Australia.
What to wear
In warmer months, Wolongong can be fairly warm. Pack thongs, singlets and swimmers to take to the beach. If visiting in winter, be sure to pack a few warmer layers, as Wollongong is a little more chilly than Sydney.
Australia is renowned for its laid-back, egalitarian culture. By and large, friendliness is equated with good manners.
Mains voltage in Australia is 230V AC, 50Hz. Use a three-pin adaptor (different to British three-pin adaptors).
No special immunisations or vaccinations are required to visit Australia unless you have come from, or have visited, a yellow fever infected country within six days of your arrival. However, regulations and medical advice can change at short notice, so check with your doctor and the Australian Department of Health before you leave home.
Tap water is generally safe to drink in Australian cities.
By and large, Wollongong is considered a safe destination, although still exercise regular safety precautions as you would at home.
Sea Cliff Bridge
Starting at the entrance to the Royal National Park, the 140-kilometre Grand Pacific Drive snakes its way through coastal rainforests, quaint seaside villages and past pristine surf beaches. The Sea Cliff Bridge is quickly becoming the iconic snap of this gorgeous drive – jutting out above the crashing waves and hugging the coastline – it is a sight to behold.
Wollongong Botanic Garden
With its extensive gardens, All Abilities Playground and duck feeding area, plus an array of child-focused activities including holiday programs, workshops, theatrical tours and story time, Wollongong Botanic Gardens make for the perfect family day out. The lush location, network of paths and collection of plants from around the world also make it a photogenic spot for some happy snaps.