Budget day trips near Wollongong
Wollongong is a city surrounded with incredible natural beauty. Take a breather from work and explore the outdoors on foot, bike or from above with these adventures that cost little but deliver big.
The national parks surrounding Wollongong are dotted with waterfalls and hidden water holes, perfect for a weekend dip. For those without a car Kellys Falls is the easiest trip, a pretty waterfall with a swimming hole surrounded by forest. To get there, hop on a train (just under 40min) north to Stanwell Park, then follow a short bushwalk to the waterfall.
For those with a car, a single-day trip towards Robertson, just under an hour southeast of Wollongong, can uncover three spectacular spots. Option one: take a short drive to Morton National Park for Belmore Falls, an epic waterfall off a sandstone cliff. Option two: head to Carrington Falls in Budderoo National Park for a waterfall over a forested valley with a beautiful picnic spot and the fairy-glen-like Blue Pool. Option three: check out the Clover Hill Trail in Macquarie Pass. It’s an old logging route that takes you past multiple waterfalls with crystal-clear swimming spots and rainforest scenes. Once you’re back in Robertson, drop into Robertson Pie Shop for a classic Australian steak pie.
A 30-minute walk or a short bus ride from the centre of town gets you to the Botanic Garden of Wollongong, 30 hectares of trails, flowers and manicured gardens. If you’re looking for a bigger challenge, continue for another 7.5km past the Illawarra Rhododendron and Rainforest Gardens, to the top of Mount Keira for an incredible bird’s-eye view of the entire Wollongong city. The other option for travellers without a car, is to take the train to Stanwell Park for the Wodi Wodi Track, a 6.5km hike through classic Australian bush scenery with epic views and the occasional wildflower patch.
For those with a car, one of the most incredible views lies just an hour away (four if you want to cycle), Drawing Room Rocks within the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. The hike is just 3km but includes a steep climb to the lookout – a unique set of table-like rocks with views of the ocean. Before you head back, check out the treats of Berry, a local foodie destination.
Wollongong’s coast is famous for its with beach beauty, but driving in a car means whizzing past it without much time for appreciation. Slow down and take in the views by cruising the coast by bike. North of Wollongong you can ride over the Instagram sensation Sea Cliff Bridge. The ride south to Thirroul is one of the most popular in the state. Mountain bike adventurers should instead ride to Cringilla Hills Bike Park (a short train or cycle from the centre), a former landfill that’s been transformed into a 12km network of urban mountain biking. Alternatively, drive 25min out of Wollongong (two hours by bike) to Greenvalleys Mountain Bike Park for one of the best mountain bike experiences in the area. For more ideas, check out this guide to exploring Wollongong by bike.
From above (the splash out option)
For those hunting the ultimate thrill – jumping out of an aeroplane 15,000 feet above the ground – book into Skydive Wollongong. You’ll free-fall for a pulse-quickening 60 seconds before deploying your parachute for a gentle five to seven-minute descent above idyllic coastal scenery.
If that sounds a little frightening, try out a lower stakes version by strolling and then zip lining through a rainforest canopy. Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk has a platform for 1.5km strolls amid the rainforest rooftop, including two 25m-high adventure-movie-style bridges and a 45m high spiral tower. A zipline tour sees you shimmy into a harness and take flight between four lofty ‘cloud stations’ (platforms hoisted high in the forest canopy), from which you can admire the vast landscape below.