A delicious long weekend in Wollongong
Swap the city for a coastal chill out with a long weekend in Wollongong, exploring glorious beaches, top-notch eateries and cultural hotspots.
A getaway to Wollongong is the perfect antidote for the city weary and it’s just a 90min drive south of Sydney.
The beaches in the ‘Gong’ are known for being some of the best in NSW with great waves and rugged coastline – but this region is also making a name for itself as a gourmet escape with exceptional coffee, modern cocktails and innovative dining. For nature lovers, Wollongong also offers plenty to do from bird-spotting to cliffside hikes and ocean lookouts. There’s also a cultural slant to this bustling coastal hub, too – take a stroll through a Buddhist temple or one of Australia’s largest regional art galleries.
- Start the day off with an ocean dip at North Wollongong Beach
- Taste murray cod at hatted eatery, Babyface Kitchen
- Soak up the rich culture and tranquillity of Nan Tien Temple
- Try a unique bubble cocktail at Night Parrot Bar
- Catch live tunes at La La La’s
- Stock up on seasonal produce at the Foragers Market
Day 1: Friday
Nature walks, but first: coffee
An excellent cup of coffee will get you off to a great start. The team at Opus Coffee are serious about their beans – they do a daily rotation of Single O roasts. The hip eatery also offers an edited menu of fresh and healthy delights – tuck into a Nourish Plate with roasted sweet potato and beetroot hummus or coffee-cured salmon on a bagel with perfectly poached eggs.
It’s time to immerse yourself in nature to work off that delicious breakfast and breathe in some fresh, rainforest air. Puckey’s Estate Nature Reserve has important connections to the traditional custodians of the land and is a heritage site home to more than 130 different species of birds and rare, endangered plant life. Meander along the paths and boardwalks and spot fairywrens, herons or rainbow lorikeets.
Lunch is at one of Wollongong’s most popular burger joints, His Boy Elroy, for fresh tasty burgers, craft beers and cool tunes in a contemporary industrial space. Soak up the vibe as you tuck into inventive burgers or His Boy Elroy’s original fried chicken with a side of chilli cheese fries. After fuelling up, get a hit of culture with a visit to the Wollongong Art Gallery, housed in a landmark 1950s building and boasting an impressive art collection spanning early Australian and Indigenous art to Asian and contemporary selections.
Dial up the flavour factor for dinner with a share-style meal at recently hatted restaurant, Babyface Kitchen – a unique take on Modern Australian cuisine with a focus on produce from local farms and small-batch producers. They have a seven-course degustation with everything from Murray Cod to trout roe, house-made ricotta, Ranger’s Valley Wagyu rib and charcoal-cooked local vegetables. Bring the evening to a close with a revitalising Margarita with a twist at speakeasy Black Cockatoo – the entrance is hidden behind an unassuming door in a shop. The ever-changing craft beer is on point, with a bunch of limited releases and local favourites.
Day 2: Saturday
Beach dips & a Buddhist temple
Hit refresh with a dip at North Wollongong Beach and a takeaway coffee. Dry off and walk up the sand to North Beach Kiosk for a huge breakfast feast in a 1930s heritage building overlooking the ocean. North Beach Kiosk is a local favourite known as ‘Diggies’, boasting fast eats such as classic breakfast rolls, eggs every way imaginable and the ubiquitous beach breakfast burrito along with epic seaside views.
Immerse yourself in a peaceful environment with an enlightening walk through the iconic Nan Tien Temple and its surrounding scenic gardens. Nan Tien is the largest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere – admire the intricate architecture rising up beside the lotus pond and step inside the peaceful meditation room for some quiet time. Linger for a delicious vegetarian Asian meal in the garden, have a pot of fragrant Lotus tea in the Dew Drop Inn with tranquil garden views or wander through the museum to see Chinese artefacts and the mirrored gallery.
The magnificent Wollongong Botanic Garden is your next stop and it’s a natural paradise with beautiful green open spaces, ponds teeming with ducks and even quirky insect ‘hotels’, hand-made shelters for insects (such as native bees). Take a stroll along the wellness walk, see a huge array of different plants and spot wildlife such as bower birds, kookaburras and ringtail possums.
Wollongong’s food scene is buzzing and tonight you’ll dine at a local Italian favourite Kneading Ruby, where the pizzas, cocktails and modern appetisers are bursting with flavour. There’s a huge blackboard menu with dishes designed to share and the room is inviting with timber touches, leather, lamps and greenery. After dinner, have a night cap at the buzzing Night Parrot Bar and Kitchen – a petite bar with cosy teal-hued booths. It’s not bedtime yet – pop into Wollongong’s live music mecca, La La La’s, for everything from hard rock to ‘90s throwback nights, comedy performances, burlesque and punk.
Day 3: Sunday
Sunday morning markets & sweeping views
The best place to pick up souvenirs before you go is at local community markets, and the Foragers Market at the Showground in Bulli, is packed with loads of fresh produce, cool artisan treasures and fashion labels you won’t find anywhere else. Grab a fresh juice and browse for jewellery, clothing, plants and more. Afterwards, take a scenic walk up to the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge – this walkway sweeps out over the ocean as it hugs the coastal cliffs, garnering spectacular views and vantage points for whale and dolphin watching. Make sure you travel all the way up to Bald Hill Lookout – you'll be greeted with a bird’s eye view of the ‘Gong and might spot the skydivers floating through the air, too.