When you think of Australia, most people immediately think of Sydney, but for those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, an hour’s South drive will lead you to the charming coastal city of Wollongong, affectionately known as “the Gong” to locals.
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You can head south for more fun to enjoy attractions like the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk, Wollongong Botanic Garden, Symbio Wildlife Park, Royal National Park, Budderoo National Park, and Jamberoo Action Park. There is so much to explore in Wollongong.
Best Time To Visit Wollongong
Since Wollongong follows an oceanic climate pattern, you can visit it any time of the year. Summers here are not too hot, and winters are cooler than cold. No matter what time of year you visit, there are plenty of things to do around Wollongong.
However, if you’re looking for a lazy day on the beach, the best advice is to visit Wollongong from September to February during spring and summer.
The low season is generally in the winter months from July to August, with temperatures around 17C. Summer is the most popular time when visiting Wollongong, as it makes for a perfect weekend escape to the beach.
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Top Things To Do In Wollongong, New South Wales
Start at Bald Hill Lookout in Royal National Park
Make Bald Hill Lookout your first stop when considering places to visit in Wollongong, Australia. It’s an excellent picnic area with spectacular views of Sea Cliff Bridge and Stanwell Park Beach.
You can hike in the Royal National Park just up the road along the lush tracts of the coastal rainforest and scenic beauty of Wattamolla Beach. It’s only a 30-40 minute drive from Wollongong to the Royal National Park.
For an additional stop, visit the Royal National Park’s Figure 8 Pools, but be sure to time it with the tide.
Relax at North Wollongong Beach
The Bondi of Wollongong, Austinmer Beach draws in large crowds in the summer, and with shops and local eats located close by, it makes for the perfect lazy beach day.
Wollongong City Beach
This city’s largest beach stretches for 3.1 kilometers along the coast, offering enjoyable waves for swimming, bodyboarding, and surfing. The sandy area is super wide and long, and it’s ideal for sunbathing or leisurely walks.
During weekends, the city beach comes alive with locals engaging in sports and playing music.
If you are looking for more active things to do in North Wollongong Beach, the town also features surf beaches such as Sandon Point Beach, Wattamolla Beach, Bellambi, and Port Kembla Beach. The waves here are small and relatively easy, so it’s a great place for beginners. Bear in mind only the local beach that is patrolled by lifeguards.
Just be sure to check out the surf reports. Magic Seaweed provides a free and current surf report. There are also street markets near the beach to satisfy your hunger.
North Beach Rock Pools
The local rock pools in North Wollongong are a must-see. At low tide, they’re serene and peaceful, while at high tide, you can watch the wild waves crashing over the edges.
There are some deeper rock pools called the Gentlemen’s Baths located just to the south of North Wollongong Beach. There is also an official swimming pool with lanes for swimming laps near North Wollongong Harbour. You can also stroll along its seamless sands lined by pretty parks and lush vegetation.
Wollongong is an adrenaline destination. Thrill seekers will find plenty of things to do in Wollongong with an adventure list featuring everything from bushwalking to skydiving and everything in between.
One of the best attractions near Wollongong is skydiving. From 14,000 feet, some would say you’d get an alright view of Wollongong Coastline and Grand Pacific Drive. Jokes, it’s amazing and terrifying at the same time! You’ll be free-falling for 60 seconds at speeds of 200 km/hr. The views will be epic, and Skydive Sydney-Wollongong is the only beach skydive in Sydney!
Go for a Run or Bike Ride Along the Cycleway
If you’re more of a beginner adventurer and wondering what to do in Wollongong, check out some of the walking tracks on offer, like the Sublime Point walking track. The Sublime Point Lookout is a steep hike around Bald Hill Lookout, but it offers a panoramic view of the entire Wollongong area.
This pedestrian-friendly sidewalk stretches from Wollongong Harbour to Flagstaff Hill along the coast of Thirroul. It’s a 17 km trail in total, a great way to get some exercise and check out the small towns along the way.
Visit Nan Tien Temple
For culture vultures wondering what to do in Wollongong, heading to the Nan Tien Temple is the perfect fit. Situated just 10 minutes from Wollongong City or a 20-minute drive to the town of Berkeley, New South Wales, it offers a variety of experiences and is worth a visit.
The temple is the largest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere and features grand architecture and landscaped gardens, unifying traditional and modern practices of Buddhism.
Additionally, the temple often plays host to various festivals and ceremonies throughout the year, so no matter when you visit, you’ll always have plenty of attractions in Wollongong.
Experience Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures
Just a 35-minute drive from Kiama, you’ll come to the award-winning Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk. Here, you can try Australia’s best Zipline Experience in the Illawarra region. But if that’s not your thing, you can still enjoy stunning views of Lake Illawarra from the Treetop Walk. They even have sunrise and after-dark tours.
Stroll Through Wollongong Botanic Garden
This massive green space is free to enter, so even if you are not interested in the plants, you can still chill, read, or have a picnic in the gardens. Wollongong Botanic Garden also hosts Sunday Sounds, Sunset Cinema, and Garden Discovery Tours.
You’ll find tons of beautiful sights, like rainforest, desert sections, or go to Towri Bush Tucker Garden, which is filled with native and exotic plants. It also has a Japanese bridge over a pond, along with a stunning rose garden.
Board The Wollongong Harbour Cruise
For those nature lovers or history enthusiasts, we recommend taking a day trip cruise package. You might have options for different durations, ranging from short sightseeing trips to longer excursions.
You can enjoy the stunning views of the Southern Hemisphere, the surrounding hills, and the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
During the cruise, you might pass by various points of interest, including Wollongong Head Lighthouse, the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge, Bald Hill, Port Kembla Beach, The Five Islands, or the scenic view of Wollongong’s south coast.
Drive Around Grand Pacific Drive
When driving from Sydney to Wollongong, take the scenic route Grand Pacific Drive along the coast. Enjoy beautiful lookouts like Bald Hill Lookout, with its stunning views of Stanwell Park beach. Keep going through the beautiful beaches until you reach the famous Sea Cliff Bridge, a massive white bridge curving along seaside cliffs over the Pacific Ocean.
If you are travelling with kids, you can go to Stanwell Park for a playdate or visit the Symbio Wildlife Park nearby, with incredible animals and a cool splash park for warmer months.
Visit the Illawarra Light Railway Museum
Travelling with family? Everyone will enjoy cheering and waving from the steam train as it passes by the station and through the coastal bushland of the Illawarra region. The Illawarra Light Railway Museum offers tram and miniature train rides for kids to experience historical fun.
Check out the Wollongong Art Gallery
Whether you’re into art or not, visiting the Wollongong Art Gallery is a must-do. This local art gallery only takes about an hour to explore, making it a fun activity to do in Wollongong CBD.
This city centre art museum showcases paintings, photographs, and other pieces from featured local artists. The art often captures scenes from the surrounding areas, giving you a cool glimpse into the local culture, scenery, and wildlife.
Shop at the Forager’s Market
If you’re in town on a Friday, the weekly street markets are one of the top things to do in Wollongong. You can shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, desserts, homemade pastries, bread, clothes, accessories, and a whole bunch of other local products on the main pedestrian street.
Another fun market to visit is the Thursday nights Eat Street Markets. You can show support to the community and find unique souvenirs by shopping from beloved local vendors.
Hike The Mount Kiera
It’s surprising that this coastal city has two mountains, so outdoor enthusiasts and hikers will not be disappointed here. The Mount Kiera Ring Track is a 5.5km loop, taking 3 to 5 hours to complete, depending on your fitness level.
If hiking isn’t your thing, you can drive to the top of Mount Kiera for a lookout over the Grand Pacific Drive landscape.
Explore Puckey’s Estate
Just north of Stuart Park is Puckey’s Estate, a nature reserve near Fairy Meadow. Spend a couple of hours on a day trip exploring woodland trails for walking, running, or biking. Stroll around the forest to walk the inlet or see the ocean’s lined sand dunes.
Watch The Sunrise at Wollongong Head Lighthouse
One of the best things to do in Wollongong is catching the sunrise at the lighthouses. There are two in the city, the biggest on Flagstaff Hill and the smaller one at Wollongong Harbour. You’ll get incredible sweeping views of the local beach and the mountains in the background.
Alternatively, you can witness a beautiful sunrise from Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse. There are lots of big grassy spaces and picnic areas to relax and enjoy.
Other Things to do in Wollongong
Anyone seeking where to stay in Wollongong will be happy to know that there are lots of sustainable options available. There are some luxury hotels located super close to the beach, while the mid-range accommodation options are more limited, with an average weekly stay of A$100 per night, but there is at least one great budget-friendly hotel.
Here are some sustainable accommodation options to consider:
Novotel Wollongong North Beach
Novotel Wollongong is a popular choice for families. It offers luxe, spacious modern rooms, many with stunning ocean or mountain views, and just a few steps from the beach, with heaps of facilities such as an outdoor swimming pool, 5 restaurants and bars, and a fitness centre.
We loved the stunning restaurant views, where a daily buffet breakfast was served every morning.
Novotel is taking impactful environmental and social steps, including water-efficient amenities, no single-use plastics, recycling facilities, and green spaces.
It’s also a great place to stay if you rent an electric vehicle, as the hotel is equipped with an EV charging station.
Argo Apartments offers a pleasant stay with a lower impact on the environment. The rooms vary in size and layout, but all guest rooms come with AC, seating, TV, kitchen, dining, safe, shower, toiletries & hairdryer. Suitable for families.
This hotel provides guests with info on local ecosystems, heritage, culture & visitor etiquette. Argo Apartments have a number of eco-friendly practices, like providing water-efficient amenities, banning single-use plastics, and soft plastic recycling programs.
Boat Harbour Motel
The Boat Harbour Motel is located across from Wollongong Harbour and the foreshore promenade. The hotel has 42 units, including 12 with ocean-facing rooms, each featuring air conditioning, a kitchenette, tea/coffee facilities, a bathroom with shower and eco-toilet, a hairdryer, toiletries, free WiFi, and Foxtel.
This hotel implements several eco-friendly practices, such as banning single-use plastics and locally sourcing ingredients used in their restaurant.
Budget Friendly Hotel
Nightcap at the Charles Hotel
The rooms in Nightcap at the Charles Hotel are trendy, stylish, and bright inside, with a panoramic view of the city below. Suitable for young travellers, all rooms are air-conditioned and feature a TV. You can play pool at the hotel or dine in the on-site restaurant.
We were happy to see a focus on sustainable operations through the owners’ commitment to the environment. Eco-friendly products are used throughout the hotel, and locally-sourced produce can be found on the restaurant’s menu.
Pilgrim Lodge at Nan Tien Temple
Staying at Pilgrim Lodge was a completely different experience. This 100-room hotel is open all year round and is perfect for a weekend retreat where you can stay on the grounds of Nan Tien Temple, offering serene views of the lotus pond, temple, gardens, rolling hills, and the famous Illawarra escarpment.
It is a great and basic place to stay and meditate. With no TV and WiFi in the room made the retreat was extra quiet and peaceful. The meals at the dining hall are all locally sourced and vegetarian.
What To Eat And Drink In Wollongong
Like the rest of New South Wales, Wollongong has a strong cafe and coffee culture. Be sure to take a stroll on Crown Street and its side streets, where you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a breakfast or brunch spot. It’s the perfect spot to take in the atmosphere as you wonder what to do in Wollongong next!
Here are a few sustainable options to consider:
Lower East Cafe
Lower East Cafe offers a warm and welcoming ambiance breakfast spot; excellent food is served in a cosy setting, with a wide selection of beverages.
The staff gladly packs leftovers if you have any. This funky cafe embraces sustainable products, promoting “Green Caffeen” reusable coffee cups and using compostable paper cups. They offer water in cartons. Plus, they sell BeesWax Wraps to replace plastic food wraps.
The Living Room
Simple, tasty food done well. It is located in the centre of town and is a great spot to have delicious Mediterranean food and vegan-friendly options. The Living Room has a number of eco-friendly practices, like the ban on single-use plastics and the use of vegan bathroom products. If you are here on a Sunday, do try their Bottomless Roast.
Lettuce B. Frank
This health-conscious cafe serves freshly baked food made from fresh, organic, and locally sustainable ingredients. You’ll find plenty of vegan and gluten-free breakfast and lunch options. The overall experience left us well-fed and proud to discover a restaurant with passion and a strong ethos.
Rehal’s Divine Indian Restaurant
Rehal’s offers a tasty Indian menu in a laid-back restaurant setting. They have plenty of vegetarian and vegan options; the naan bread in particular, was wonderful. The first thing we noticed was that the majority of customers appeared to be Indian.
A little Italy vibe in the busy city. Most of the menus are affordable and made of ingredients from their organic, sustainable garden. Try their garlic bread, squid ink pasta, or chicken scaloppini.
From wine to dessert it was overall a very good experience, and they even have vegan and vegetarian options too. The place is a little noisy, but that adds to the ambience.
How Much Time Do You Need In Wollongong
You won’t need more than 1-2 days to explore all of the Wollongong attractions. The city is relatively small, and all the things to do in Wollongong are within close proximity.
We would recommend planning on one beach day and another day for exploring the surrounding areas of Wollongong.
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Author’s Bio: Olivia Bourke is an adventurous traveler who simply wants to explore this incredible world we call home. Originally from the States, she now call Australia home and is loving every minute exploring this ever so scenic country, one city at a time. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Great Lost.