Among Australia’s myriad of sun-kissed coastal towns and cities, Wollongong is one of the lesser known. And yet those who come here inevitably depart with the same sentiment – namely, that this is one of the jewels in the nation’s crown. Situated south of Sydney along the Grand Pacific Drive, the city draws visitors with its idyllic surfing beaches and dramatic rock pools, while numerous hiking and biking trails encircle forests and rocky cliffs.
All of these attractions are augmented by the city’s youthful energy and vigour, provided by a large university population that calls Wollongong home. Indeed the distinguished seat of learning here is considered one of the best modern universities anywhere in Australia. But if you really want to learn something new, you may want to check out our list of the 12 most unique things to see and do in Wollongong.
Explore the rocky shoreline at Bellambi Beach
Surfers, boating lovers and dog owners flock to this under-the-radar beach, located a short coastal drive north of Wollongong. At its most beautiful at low tide, among the highlights are the endless figure-of-eight shaped pools along the rocky shoreline, all awash with crustaceans, anemones, starfish and other exotic sea life. There’s also an ocean pool for swimming laps and a splash pool and playground for younger visitors.
Marvel at the intricate designs of Helensburgh Hindu temple
The Grand Pacific Drive may not be an obvious setting for a Hindu place of worship, but nestled a 30-minute drive north of Wollongong is a beautiful Hindu temple featuring intricate details that are more than a match for the region’s natural wonders. Situated in the small town of Helensburgh, the temple is a hugely impressive architectural landmark that catches the eye of all who encounter it. There’s also a great canteen selling authentic Indian food.
LOCATION 1 Temple Road, Helensburgh
Take a tour of Port Kembla Steelworks
There’s little that will make you feel more insignificant in or around Wollongong than the giant, awe-inspiring mounds of steel that loom large at Port Kembla Steelworks. Visitors can take tours of the facility which transport you deep inside to observe the inner workings of a fully operational steelworks. You’ll get to see raw material stockpiles, blast furnaces, heavy machinery and plenty more. Tours last around 2.5 hours.
LOCATION Springhill Road
Admire striking sculptures at Breakwater Battery Museum
A 10-minute drive south of Wollongong lies one of the region’s most eye-catching landmarks – dozens of white concrete triangles that populate a heritage park at the Breakwater Battery Museum. The structures are actually beach tank traps left over from World War II, but today serve only as a visual spectacle that grabs the attention of all who see them.
LOCATION Gloucester Boulevard, Port Kembla
Join a food and wine tour
Wollongong is within easy reach of several renowned vineyards and wine lovers have the chance to join a dedicated tour that introduces you to stunning scenery, award winning boutique wines and gourmet local food. Among the most popular tours of this kind is the Wollongong Wine Tour and Dinner Experience by Kenny Escapes, offering an afternoon of wine tastings from two acclaimed South Coast cellar doors, followed by a dinner at a popular local restaurant or winery.
Visit the home of craft beer at Illawarra Brewery
Positioned across from Wollongong’s South Beach overlooking the ocean, Illawarra Brewery benefits from an idyllic setting. But venture inside and you’re likely to quickly forget about your surroundings as you’re thrust into the enchanting (and often intoxicating) world of craft beer. Featuring a wide range of award winning handcrafted beers, many brewed locally, this is one of the city’s finest entertainment venues, as well as being a fully operational brewery. There’s a Grill restaurant here too, along with DJs and live music over weekends.
LOCATION Harbour Street
Take some snaps at atmospheric Cathedral Rocks
Perched at the southern end of Kiama Jones Beach, south of central Wollongong, this beautiful and distinct rock formation is a jewel in the region’s crown. Part of the geologically fascinating coastline, it is a popular spot with local photographers thanks to its stunning lines, moss-covered rocks and atmospheric light that help makes it a snapper’s paradise. The rocks may be viewed from Cliff Drive or studied from close range by approaching from the north.
Catch an al fresco flick at Sunset Outdoor Cinema
One of the benefits of living in a country with great seasonal weather is the chance to transport indoor activities outside. During the summer months in Wollongong, one of the most popular things to do is head to the Fig Lawn at the Wollongong Botanic Garden which plays host to an outdoor cinema. Movie screenings range from time-honoured classics to the latest Hollywood blockbusters. There’s an on-site bar plus plenty of your favourite cinema treats including popcorn, crisps, and lollies. Full length loungers are provided.
LOCATION Wollongong Botanic Garden
Attend a fun-packed Wollongong festival
Every year Wollongong plays host to a rich and diverse assortment of festivals and fairs, many of which are themed around dance, music and art. Among the hugely popular annual events that draw visitors from and wide are Yours and Owls, Viva La Gong, Folk by the Sea, and – the most recent addition to the city’s cultural calendar – Sculptures of Killalea.
Sample some great grub at Eat Street food markets
Wollongong has a rich foodie landscape and nowhere is this more apparent than at the city’s weekly food market. Held every Thursday from 5pm to 10pm in the Crown Street Mall, the Eat Street market sees a huge mix of exhibitors showcasing their gastronomic wares, including plenty of samples. Much of the produce on display is Fair Trade, with a strong focus on the ever-growing Slow Food movement too.
LOCATION Crown Street Mall