Different ways to play at Wollongong’s best beaches
From snorkelling underwater worlds to picnics by a clifftop lighthouse, there are many extraordinary ways to experience Wollongong’s incredible coast beyond swimming and surfing.
For nature lovers
Framed by the Pacific Ocean to the east and a lush escarpment to the west, Wollongong is naturally blessed and there are many ways to experience its incredible beauty. One of the most exciting times of the year is between May and November, when the coast becomes prime whale-watching territory. There are vantage points all along the coast, including Stanwell Tops, and the rugged headland around the
To get closer to the underwater wildlife, swim among tropical fish in the crystal-clear waters of Bushrangers Bay Aquatic Reserve in Shellharbour. This sheltered snorkelling spot is nestled within Bass Point Reserve, 72 hectares of rare coastal rainforest. Delve into the Aboriginal history of the region, stretching back at least 20,000 years (one of the oldest Aboriginal sites on the east coast), on a self-guided cultural walk (download the Tread Shellharbour app on your phone to follow it). Also near Kiama, is Boneyard, another snorkelling spot with turquoise biodiverse waters that will make you feel like you’re in paradise.
For adventures out of the water, turn to the 500-metre-tall Illawarra escarpment that has bordered the coast here for 30 million years. A stone’s throw from both the city and beach, it forms part of Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area, where you can bushwalk through lush green rainforest, eucalypt and towering cedars. Keep an eye (and an ear) out for lyrebirds who are known for mimicking the sounds around them. South of Shellharbour there’s Killalea Regional Park, a National Surfing Reserve home to world-class beaches, massive Morton Bay fig trees, blue-tongue lizards, echidna, wallabies and hundreds of bird species.
For thrill seekers
Surfers won’t have to go far to find waves, with Wollongong’s City Beach an all-round star for swimming and surfing. Neighbouring North Wollongong is a great spot to learn with
Boneyard also has sublime conditions to launch a stand-up paddleboard, as does Shellharbour, which is the setting for an annual festival dedicated to the sport. All other times, you can book a lesson, hire a board or feel zen with paddleboard yoga or pilates classes with Stand Up Paddle Boarding Shellharbour.
From paddle to pedal - Wollongong is a city for cyclists with more than 40km of cycle tracks. The Wollongong to Thirroul track follows the coast for 14km and is a relatively easy and scenic cycle, it’s also a good path for joggers.
Or take the adventure up a notch and feel the exhilaration of gliding above the Pacific Ocean with Hangglide Oz, which operates tandem hang-gliding flights from Bald Hill Lookout in Stanwell Park, or Skydive Sydney - Wollongong, which land on Wollongong’s North Beach.
For chill seekers
For a relaxing outing, head out for a morning or sunset stroll along Blue Mile, the city’s promenade that stretches from North Beach to the harbour. You can also delve deeper into local history here on a guided tour that takes you to sites including Flagstaff Hill and the Old Courthouse. For a weekend adventure, the Kiama Coast Walk is a 20km hike from Minnamurra River to Gerringong that passes a dramatic coastline of volcanic rock, blowholes and includes beach walking, grassy tracks and gentle hills. The walk can be divided up into smaller sections if you can’t commit to the full seven-hour walk.
Sea bathing is ingrained into Wollongong’s history, with dozens of ocean pools carved out of the coastline such as Gentlemen’s Pool, a former men-only pool set into a rocky platform where all genders are now welcome. Hidden beneath Flagstaff Hill, the former women-only Nun’s Baths are a little trickier to get to but feel like a hidden oasis.
Beyond the city, there are ocean pools at Bulli, Coledale, Austinmer, Towradgi and Coalcliff, which has sheer cliffs for incredible views. At Port Kembla, a seemingly endless stretch of sand at 6.6km long, you’ll find three saltwater pools in the northern corner.
Post dip, pack a picnic and relax on the grass at Lang Park on the city’s foreshore. Or enjoy views of lake and ocean at Windang Beach, which has a large park located at the entrance of Lake Illawarra with barbecues and covered picnic areas. Up at Bald Hill Lookout, you can sit back and watch the hang gliders and paragliders take the leap as you relax at the picnic tables.
For travellers who seek out the most photogenic scenes, Wollongong is a paradise of scenic coastal views. After you’ve snapped Wollongong’s breathtaking beaches and ocean baths, capture the 665m Sea Cliff Bridge in Clifton, a snake-like bridge that curves out over the water and forms part of the scenic Grand Pacific Drive that hugs the coast from Sydney. Or test out your photography skills at Bombo Headland, striking basalt columns on Kiama’s coast that are a remnant of the mining history here. When in , seek out the street art or the white concrete pyramids that were built during WWII, both of which make unique additions to your grid.