It’s hard to believe that so close to Sydney, that you can find a city so picturesque and really not very touristy. To enter Wollongong you have to descend down one of the 4 main roads and it’s from there you can see the stunning views and 40kms of beaches that Wollongong contains. Wollongong is one of Australia’s hidden gems, and touristically off the beaten track. So when you first visit you will wonder why.
Your Wollongong experience starts the moment you wind downhill on one of the mountain passes and you view all the beaches and the green hills and suburbs ahead of you. It’s worth a visit to one of the lookouts before you descend one of the mountain passes. After that you can drive down some of the main roads fringing the coast and check the views and the beaches, some of the old pubs right by the sea, or stop by the city centre.
Wollongongs charm definitively derives from a gift that was created by nature. Consistent rainfall means that Wollongong is always green. The rainfall provides a haven for the beautiful rainforest areas around the city. From the beach on a nice summers day it looks like you could be in Hawaii, with the rainforest climbing the slopes of the escarpment that hem the city in its small coastal plain. The backdrop though, the wide Pacific Ocean provides many views of the beautiful blue ocean, from hill tops all around the city.
The northern most part of Wollongong is called Stanwell Park. The main road Lawrence Hagrave Drive, hits a bend before dropping down the hill. It is here you can visit Bald Hill to take in a view of the whole city to the south. Hang gliders take off from the same lookout. Down the hill is beautiful Stanwell Park beach, which has a large grassed parkland, behind it where many day trippers from Sydney picnic on the grass, and then jump in the ocean on a warm summers day. After here you can drive south through the scenic northern beaches Coalcliff, Scarborough and Wombarra. Just south of Coalcliff is the new Sea Cliff bridge a major tourist attraction, which is a bridge suspended above the ocean. You can stop here and walk along the bridge to various view points. A bit further south on the same road you will come across Austinmer, Wollongongs most beautiful beach, Austinmer has a narrow park by the sand and large Norfolk Island pines, which top off the beautiful beach. The next suburb Thirroul is the first of the major suburbs to the south. The long beach has a large grassed park for picnickers and a large ocean salt swimming pool right on the beach.
Wollongong CBD area has the Crown Street Mall where you can take a quick stroll. It has a few quaint cafes and bars tuck away in it. Closer to North Wollongong beach, the closest to the CBD, are also many good cafes tucked aw ay to cater from the Sydney day trippers. From the beach you can walk down to Wollongong harbour, where the fishing fleet is moored to protect it from the heavy ocean swells. Just beyond that you can walk up to the lighthouse on the point of South Wollongong beach, and check out the views from the point.
Surf destinations start at Stanwell Park in the north. This beach comes up from deep water and for this reason has consistent waves, which gets the most out of the remaining small swells. Thirroul and McCauleys to the south is basically one large beach which have various shifting peaks, that give the locals surfers consistent fun waves. Just at the end of the beach, is the premier big wave spot in Wollongong called Sandon Point. The reef here can be dangerous and for that reason is not for beginners. Depending on swell direction the wave can wind up to 200 metres down the point (southerly swell is the best for this).
After this other good surf beaches are Bulli, the point at Bellambi is quite good, Corrimal is quite consistent, and North Wollongong to name a few other consistent waves. Many Wollongong beaches have attached concrete swimming pools (attached to the rocks), that get filled up by ocean water with the high tides.
Previously Wollongong had a great pub band circuit and many cool pubs by the ocean side like Headlands Hotel, and a few others in the northern suburbs where you can have a pub lunch and look at the beach and ocean below.
Wollongong is also the gateway to the equally stunning South Coast of New South Wales.