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A Guide to Wollongong - An Outdoor Vacation Between the Mountains and Ocean

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Mention Wollongong, and what springs to mind for many is the heavy industry based around the Port Kembla steelworks. Yet this laid-back multicultural city is also a thriving commercial and academic centre. With miles of unspoiled beaches, a pristine rain forest backdrop, and dazzling coastal views from the mountains, Wollongong is a great outdoor vacation destination as well.

Go exploring on the Free Gong Shuttle

 

A ride on the free bus that circles the centre of town is a good way to get a feel for Wollongong. It runs every 10 minutes and you can hop on or off at 19 stops. There are great ocean views as the bus takes you along the beaches and via the university and botanic gardens to Wollongong Central, the shopping hub. You can hop off at the harbor and stroll to the lighthouse for sweeping coastal views, before eating fish and chips at the fish market, or a meal at one of the fine harborside eateries.

 

Beaches in Wollongong

 

The city whose name comes from the Dharawal Aboriginal word for “sound of the sea” has 17 beaches, from Stanwell Park in the north, to Windang in the south. All are lifesaver-patrolled, so you can stay safe. North Beach is a city favorite, the place to watch the sun rise over breakfast at the kiosk-café, or picnic under the trees. Austinmer nestles in a small cove, and has natural pools if waves aren't for you. City Beach has good surf breaks, and at Windang Beach you can take in view of the Five Islands nature reserve.

 

  • North Kiosk, North Beach, Wollongong NSW 2530; Tel: +61 4226 2688; Website: North Kiosk
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  • Austi Beach Cafe, 104 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Austinmer NSW 2515; Tel: +61 2 4268 5680; Website: Austi Beach Cafe

 

Wollongong's mountain lookouts

 

Wollongong’s location “where the mountains meet the sea” means you’ll be able to enjoy some spectacular coastal scenery from the top of the Illawarra Escarpment. At Stanwell Tops lookout, you can watch hang gliders take the plunge while you soak up the sweeping view south to Port Kembla. Ice-cream from Gelato Emporium makes a yummy accompaniment to the 180-degree panorama from the Southern Gateway at Bulli. Mount Keira casts its afternoon shadow over Wollongong, and from the lookout here you'll have the city and the ocean spread out at your feet.

 

  • Gelato Emporium, Southern Gateway Centre, Princes Highway Bulli Tops 2516 NSW; Tel: +61 02 4268 1118 ; Website: Gelato Emporium

 

A walk across Sea Cliff Bridge

 

If you don’t mind heights, a walk across Sea Cliff Bridge is a must. The offshore bridge is near the start of the Grand Pacific Drive that snakes along the coast through Wollongong and further south. You can drive or cycle across, but the best way to take in the views is on foot. At the highest point you’ll be 40 meters directly above the ocean - you should bring your binoculars during whale-watching season.

 

 

Excursions from Wollongong

 

If you have a car, there are lots of great things to see within easy reach. To the north, Royal National Park has walking trails winding through wild bush and rugged coastal scenery. In Kiama you can watch water spout from a famous blowhole. An hour’s drive from Wollongong takes you to the rich green pastures of Kangaroo Valley. And Sydney is only around an hour away. No matter which way you head, you’ll find lots of places for a great meal with a picturesque backdrop.

 

  • Bistro One46, 146 Moss Vale Rd, Kangaroo Valley NSW 2577; Tel: +61 2 44652820; Website: Bistro One46
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  • The Palms Cafe, 111 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Stanwell Park NSW 2508; Tel: +61 2 4294 3371; Website: The Palms Cafe