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The Illawarra City Where Everyone Feels at Home - It’s Wollongong
A seaside city fondly known as The Gong, Wollongong is situated 90 miles from Sydney in the Illawarra Region of New South Wales. While the city is well known for its heavy industrial activity, tourists are more interested in its sweeping beaches, its vibrant arts scene, and the seemingly endless opportunities for adventure. Accommodation options here range from backpacker hostels to plush hotels, so there’s somewhere that everyone can call home during their stay.
As outdoor settings go, Wollongong is pretty impressive and never is this more apparent than when enjoying the city’s beaches. There are 17 to choose from, so it shouldn’t prove too difficult to find the perfect sandy spot. If you’re travelling with younger children, heading to North Wollongong Beach is a good bet. This beach is patrolled daily and features a barbecue area as well as easy access to a nearby park. If, on the other hand, you’re all about the surfing, either Scarborough Beach or Sandon Point should likely be your beach of choice. Explore all the area’s beaches by hiring a car and heading off along Grand Pacific Drive, a scenic road trip running south from Sydney and taking in the Royal and Heathcote National Parks on the way to Wollongong.
Wollongong offers many opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Aside from the city’s beautiful beaches, there’s a good choice of parks to explore. Some of the most popular green spaces include the Wollongong Botanic Garden, the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area, and Towradgi Beach Park, although most offer some form of amenities such as BBQ grills or play areas. If you seek a greater degree of wilderness, the Macquarie Pass and Dharawal National Parks are both within a short drive of the city. Make the most of your time outdoors by taking part in one of the many activities on offer. You might hire a bicycle and explore the Blue Mile boardwalk, kayak in the waters of Koong Burry Bay, or paraglide from the Bald Hill Lookout to Stanwell Park Beach.
Shopping & Dining
Although you’ll find shops dotted throughout the city, much of the retail scene here is clustered around the Crown Street area. It is here that you’ll find the Wollongong Central Shopping Centre and the Crown Street Mall, both of which offer a decent mix of big box stores and smaller independent offerings. Shellharbour Square, situated 20 minutes south of Wollongong, offers an additional choice for shoppers. Dining in the city is also varied, likely because of the city’s diverse population. As with the shops in the area, many of the restaurants are found around Crown Street, although there’s a decent choice of waterfront restaurants too. Foodies will also want to visit the Eat Street Markets on Thursday and the Friday Forage Markets, both of which offer an excellent selection of locally grown produce.
Arts & Culture
If you’re looking for a culture fix, Wollongong delivers and then some. Visitors can spend time at the city’s Arts Precinct; situated in the Burelli Street area, this precinct is home to the Wollongong Town Hall, Wollongong Art Gallery, and the Illawarra Performing Arts Complex. On nearby Market Street, the Illawarra Museum is housed in a pre-federation Post Office and features several locally themed exhibits. The museum is one of several stops on the City Centre Heritage Trail, a self-guided walk that also takes in cultural sites such as the Old Wollongong Court House and St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. A highlight in the wider area is the Nan Tien Temple. Situated within a short drive of Wollongong, it is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Buddhist Temple.
Exploring Further Afield
Take time to explore the wider area and you’ll find some of the state’s best loved attractions. Before you check out of your hotel, you might head to the nearby Budderoo National Park, which offers several attractions to offer curious visitors. Kick things off by exploring the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre before heading off along the Falls Walk, the latter providing the opportunity to enjoy stunning views of waterfalls, canyons, and lush rainforest. More adventurous types can conclude with a trip to the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk. Within a 20-minute drive of the Budderoo National Park, and just 40 minutes from Wollongong, is the Kiama Blowhole. This is the world’s largest blowhole, attracting almost one million visitors each year. And, of course, with Sydney located within a 90-minute drive, a trip to the state’s capital is very much on the cards.