The city of Wollongong (or the Gong to locals) may be best known for its many beaches, but there’s plenty more to do in this city and its suburbs, tucked in between the escarpment and the sea. Whether you’re visiting for the day or longer, or are a local looking for something new to do, tick off this list of the best things to do in Wollongong.
#1 Take in the View from Mt Keira
Due to its location at the bottom of the escarpment, there’s plenty of vantage point offering up beautiful views across the whole of Wollongong. One of the best lookout points close to the city centre is Mt Keira Lookout. Situated at the top of the flat topped peak overlooking the city, the lookout is accessed by a turn-off just before descending Mt Ousley, or by driving up Mt Keira Road.
Other top lookouts you may want to stop at if driving into Wollongong from the north include Sublime Point, Bulli Lookout and the Southern Gateway Centre. Alternatively, don’t miss stopping at Bald Hill Lookout if approaching from the Royal National Park and Stanwell Tops.
#2 Skydive onto the Beach
For even better views over Wollongong, not to mention one of the biggest thrills possible on the South Coast, book an adventure with Skydive the Beach. Your tandem skydive will start with views right above the sparkling coastline from up to 15000 feet high, before you parachute and land at North Wollongong Beach.
Free transfers can be provided from the centre of Sydney in combination with your skydive, but it’s worthwhile spending longer in Wollongong, taking advantage of the many other attractions of the city, or just relaxing at a nearby cafe next to the sand.
#3 Cycle along the Coast
The Gong is home to long stretches of terrific cycleways, including many right along the coastline. Is it any wonder then that after recently hosting the UCI Road World Championships, Wollongong has now been named a UCI Bike City?
Check out the guide and map that can be downloaded from the above page, showing you all the cycleways throughout the city, from shared paths to separated cycle paths next to roads. One of best options is the shared path that runs from Thirroul in the north to the centre of Wollongong, passing countless beaches.
Don’t have your own bike? Hire a bike from Boomerang Bikes, with four self-service locations scattered through the Wollongong region.
#4 Swim in a Rockpool
While Wollongong is home to many wonderful sandy beaches, the region is also home to a delightful collection of rock pools, many dating back to the 19th century. Perched on the rock platforms of the region right next to the sea, they’re best visited at low tide, whether to swim laps or just float around in their saltwater surrounds.
One of the most popular spots is Austinmer Beach, where there’s not just one but two rock pools, adjacent to the historic pavilion. For a complete listing, check out the council website.
#5 Walk across the Sea Cliff Bridge
Ever since it opened in 2005, the Sea Cliff Bridge has been an icon of the Wollongong region. With its sweeping curves soaring out over the sea below, right next to towering cliffs, the bridge has starred in countless car commercials.
As well a must do on a road trip along the Grand Pacific Drive through Wollongong, it’s also possible to walk across the bridge, with a shared pathway on the eastern side of the bridge. The easiest spot to park is just south of the bridge after crossing it, or alternatively see if there is a free spot in the carpark just up the hill, near the Clifton School of Arts.
After walking across the bridge, at the northern end turn and walk down the pathway to the rocks below, for a surprisingly different view of the bridge.
#6 Hang Glide at Bald Hill
Another must visit spot while driving along the Grand Pacific Drive is Bald Hill. Located at the top of the escarpment before the drive descends into Stanwell Park, the hill offers beautiful vistas stretching south past the many headlands to Wollongong proper.
The hill is also an ideal spot to experience the sport of hang gliding, soaring in the updrafts in front of the hillside, before landing next to the beach below. For an exhilarating adventure book into a tandem hang glide.
#7 Feed the Kangaroos at Symbio
Symbio Wildlife Park has long been a popular location to visit on the northern edge of Wollongong. The park is these days home to meerkats, cheetahs, monkeys and a reptile house, but probably the favourite animals are still the many kangaroos, with the chance to feed them on the wide grassy lawns.
As well as animals to see, there’s plenty more to keep young visitors entertained, thanks to its excellent playground and the recent addition of a splash park. Don’t forget your swimmers on warm sunny days!
#8 Visit the Buddhist Nan Tien Temple
One of the most surprising attractions in Wollongong is the Nan Tien Temple. Who would have thought that the biggest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere would be located just off the freeway passing through Wollongong!
The temple is a fascinating place to visit, even if you are not familiar with Buddhism. There are multiple shrines, as well as beautiful gardens and a stunning pagoda. During your visit, stop at the Tea House, where you can enjoy traditional teas or a vegetarian meal. For a longer visit, classes and retreats are offered.
#9 Or the Hindu Sri Venkateswara Temple
The Nan Tien Temple isn’t the only spectacular temple in the Illawarra region, with the northern suburb of Helensburgh home to the Sri Venkateswara Temple, a significant Hindu temple. The temple is particularly colourful to visit during the many regular festivals.
The temple is best visited on the weekend, due to the limited opening hours during the week, with the canteen serving Indian food also open on the weekends. Make sure you are respectful of the temple etiquette and wear conservative clothing.
#10 Pick the Fruit at Glenbernie Orchard
Up on the escarpment, close to the top of Bulli Pass, lies the small enclave of Darkes Forest. Home to multiple riding stables, it is also home to Glenbernie Orchard, the last remaining orchard in the area.
During the harvest season, make a booking to enjoy picking your own fruit, whether stone fruits or apples. Alternatively, stop by the cafe and farm shop and choose from the local produce for sale, including their own award-winning cider. Afterwards, enjoy a walk to the nearby waterfall.
#11 Visit the Lighthouses
Wollongong Harbour is usual for having not just one, but two, lighthouses. The older lighthouse is located on the southern breakwall, right next to the harbour mouth, while the newer lighthouse was built on top of Flagstaff Hill in the 1930s. It’s also notable as the first fully automatic lighthouse in NSW.
The Flagstaff Hill Lighthouse is still active, helping guide ships into the nearby busy Port Kembla Harbour. While neither lighthouse is currently open to the public for visits, the green lawns surrounding the newer lighthouse are the ideal spot for a picnic, with an ice cream van never far away on busy days.
#12 Fish on Lake Illawarra
There’s countless fishing spots dotted along the Illawarra coast, but one of the top spots to head out, particularly if you have a boat, is Lake Illawarra. This large lake is situated just south of Wollongong, and is also popular for prawning and crabbing.
Make sure you have a license and follow all the safety regulations, particularly if you’re considering rock fishing. There’s multiple fishing shops located just north of the Windang Bridge, near one of the most convenient boat ramps.
#13 Hike up to Sublime Point
One of the best short hikes in the Gong is the Sublime Point Track. While just a short walk, clocking in at only 700m each way, it’s a tough climb, including up some ladders, as you ascend to the lookout point located over 400m above the sea below. Allow at least 30 minutes in each direction.
At the top you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the coastline below. At times a cafe has operated at Sublime Point, the perfect spot to enjoy lunch or just a coffee while you rest your legs, but it is sadly closed at the moment. It’s also best to check in advance that the walking track is open, as it closes occasionally due to inclement weather washing out the track.
Another hike up to a lookout point in the northern suburbs of Wollongong is on the southern side of Stanwell Park. Start by following the Wodi Wodi Track, but then branch to the left, following the Forest Walk up to the sandstone boulders at the clifftop. It’s possible to continue further south to Sublime Point, but for a shorter walk just enjoy the views, then descend to your starting point.
#14 Stroll through the Botanic Garden
For a gentler walk, head to the Wollongong Botanic Garden. These extensive gardens are tucked in away below Mt Keira and feature a rainforest section, a rose garden, a bush tucker garden and a collection of succulents. Perhaps follow the Go Slow for a Mo nature wellness trail, with seven short sensory exercises to add to the experience.
If visiting with children, a popular destination is the duck pond, particularly the rotunda. Signs advise which food can be fed to the ducks, with frozen peas an easy option. Close by is the All Abilities Playground.
#15 Visit the Grevillea Park
Another beautiful garden to visit in the Wollongong region is the Illawarra Grevillea Park, a 2.4 hectare park in Bulli, home to a fantastic collection of Australian grevilleas and other native species.
These volunteer-maintained gardens are only open a handful of weekends per year, usually about six weekends per year in Autumn, Winter and Spring, with a small entry fee charged. Check in advance and put it in your calendar!
#16 Mountain Bike in Cringila
Cruising along on the cyclepaths isn’t the only option when it comes to bike riding in Wollongong. If you’d prefer something with a few more hills and rougher terrain, instead head to the Cringila Hills Mountain Bike Park. This recently opened park is just 10 minutes south of the Wollongong CBD and open daily from sunrise to sunset.
At Cringila Hills there’s almost 12km of trails, ranging in suitability for beginner to advanced riders. Plus, there’s also a bike skills playground, jumps track and asphalt pump track located near the carpark.
There are also plans to launch a network of mountain bike tracks on the escarpment – keep an eye out during 2023 for their planned opening!
#17 Visit Minnamurra Rainforest
The Illawarra region was once home to extensive stands of rainforest. Unfortunately, these days only remnants remain, with the Minnamurra Rainforest one of the best places to visit. Located in the Budderoo National Park, behind Jamberoo to the south of Wollongong, this reserve makes for a great outing.
Explore the displays at the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre, before completing the shorter Lyrebird loop walk, or the longer walking track to Minnamurra Falls. Information boards dot the boardwalks, but also take the time to stop and quietly listen out for the resident lyrebirds. Note that a parking fee applies per vehicle.
#18 Walk (or Zipline) on the Illawarra Fly
Not far away from the Minnamurra Rainforest is another attraction that takes you up close for a unique view of the region’s beautiful rainforest. The Illawarra Fly is home to a treetop rainforest walk, including a 500m section of steel walkway that ascends to 20 to 30 metres above the ground.
You can just book a ticket to the treetop walk, or for more excitement, book a Zipline tour. The highest zipline in Australia, the zipline tour includes 3 flights, and is suitable for the whole family, from ages 4 and up.
#19 Visit the Wollongong Art Gallery
The city of Wollongong is home to one of the largest regional art galleries in Australia. Situated in the historic council chambers, there are a number of exhibitions on at any time, including exhibits of their permanent collection, featuring some fascinating Aboriginal artworks.
The gallery is located in the Arts Precinct of Wollongong, close to the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre (IPAC) and the strip of restaurants and cafes on lower Crown St. Check in advance to find out exhibits are on show, plus for talks and school holiday workshops.
#20 Stroll through Puckey’s Estate
Just north of Wollongong is Puckey’s Estate. The nature reserve contains a rare remnant of littoral rainforest in the region, along with coastal dunes and a lagoon. A 1.5km walking track passes through the reserve, starting with a boardwalk next to Squires Way, near Stuart Park, and ending at Fairy Meadow Beach Park. The park also contains the historic remains of early saltworks.
The track is flat and easy to walk, and is suitable for even warm summer days, thanks to the many shady stretches. Dogs are permitted to join you, as long as they are kept on a leash. Make the walk into a loop by walking one way along the beach adjacent to the reserve, where dogs are allowed off leash.
#21 Hike to Burning Palms
The northern edge of Wollongong abuts up against the Royal National Park. One of the most spectacular walking tracks that starts from the southern edge of the park is the walking track through the Palm Jungle to Burning Palms.
Starting at Otford Lookout, where there’s a small section of parking, follow the trail along the top of the high cliffs, before branching to your right (signposted North Era) to descend through the dense growth of the Palm Jungle to Burning Palms Beach.
Burning Palms is a great spot to relax with a picnic lunch, and perhaps enjoy a paddle or swim. Just be warned only experienced swimmers should enter the water when it’s not patrolled, outside of summer weekends. Alternatively, if it’s low tide and the sea is calm, it’s possible walk along the rock platforms to the beautiful Figure Eight Pools, a 900m detour.
Afterwards, continue heading north for a short while, until you reach a track branch to the left, the Burgh Track. Head up to the ridge to Garawarra Farm, then take the Garawarra Ridge Trail, a fairly flat fire trail, back to join up with your original track and return to Otford Lookout. The total length of the hike is about 12 kilometres.
#22 Visit Kellys Falls
For a shorter hike (and the chance of a refreshing dip!) in the northern suburbs of Wollongong, head to Kellys Falls. These falls are located in a small section of the Garrawarra State Conservation Area in between Helensburgh and Stanwell Tops. The short access road is unsealed, but suitable for all vehicles, and no entry fee is charged.
There’s a picnic area and multiple lookouts at the top of the falls, but for the best views and the chance to enjoy a swim, follow one of the paths to the bottom of the falls. There’s multiple options available – follow these directions for the easiest route, which is 320m each way and should only take 10-15 minutes, although make sure you have good footwear and be up for a scramble.
#23 Visit the HARS Aviation Museum
On the southern side of Wollongong is located the small Shellharbour Airport. While you are unlikely to fly into the airport (only occasional regional flights operate, thanks to the areas close proximity to Sydney Airport), there is another reason to visit the airport: the HARS Aviation Museum.
This museum is open daily and entry includes a guided tour through the hangars and displays, home to a range of historic aircraft and even a former Qantas 747. For the ultimate experience, book in advance for a tour of the 747, with Wing Walk, Cockpit and Premium tour options available. Also check when the next Wings Over Illawarra Airshow is happening.
#24 Enjoy a Local Beer
While the Wollongong area isn’t home to any vineyards (you’ll have to head further south to the South Coast wine region), there are an increasing number of breweries located in the area, brewing up local beers, perfect to cap off a day of explorations.
Five Barrel Brewing is located in the heart of Wollongong on Keira Street, with 12 taps offering their range of craft beers, all brewed onsite. Their taproom is open daily, or else time your visit for when the food truck opens, between Thursday and Sunday.
Alternatively, head to Resin Brewing in Bulli. This brewpub is located in the former Bulli Railway Guest House and is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Choose from their wide ranging menu of food to complement their beer, or grab a growler for later.
On the southern edge of the Illawarra region are the idyllic rolling hills of Jamberoo. This patch of green countryside is prime dairy country, but is also the perfect place for a relaxing weekend getaway.
#25 Relax in the Countryside at Jamberoo
Book a country house big enough for your family for the weekend, ideally located on an active farm so that you can take a stroll through the paddocks and visit the farmyard animals. Then spend the evening enjoying a glass of wine on the verandah or in front of the fireplace, before cooking up a feast.
#26 Go Wild at Jamberoo Action Park
For a far more action packed time in Jamberoo, head to Jamberoo Action Park. This theme park is open seasonally over the warmer months, generally Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, plus daily over the summer and Easter school holidays.
There’s a growing list of water rides at the park, from the Taipan to Velocity Falls, one of Australia’s largest wave pools and the ever popular bob sled rides down the hillside. For younger visitors, head to Kiddies Cove at Banjo’s Billabong and Billabong Beach, then take a ride on the Jamberoo Express train at the end of the day.
#27 Snorkel at Bushrangers Bay
One of the best snorkelling spots on all the South Coast is Bushrangers Bay at Bass Point, part of Shellharbour. This marine sanctuary is popular for both snorkelling and diving, thanks to its diverse marine life, including sea dragons, gropers, stingrays and even grey nurse sharks.
To get to Bushrangers Bay, follow the Bass Point Tourist Road to its end, where there’s a carpark just metres from the bay. Just be warned that the road can be a bit rough, so take it slow. It’s also worthwhile doing the Indigenous Cultural Walk while in the area, which starts from the other carpark.
#28 Smell the Rhododendrons
Tucked away at the edge of the rainforest beneath Mt Keira is another stunning garden to visit in the Wollongong region, the Illawarra Rhododendron Gardens and Rainforest Garden. While at its best during springtime, when the rhododendrons and other flowers burst into bloom, the gardens are still enjoyable year round.
A wonderful spot for a picnic, the gardens also feature a lake and walking tracks. Try to spot a water dragon or echidna, both regular visitors to the gardens. Note that a small entry fee is charged.
#29 Gaze at a Glow Worm Tunnel
In the northern suburb of Helensburgh lies the abandoned Metropolitan Tunnel, better known as the Helensburgh Glow Worm Tunnel. This tunnel is not only home to a disused station platform, but also a large colony of Fungus Gnats, better known as glow worms.
Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to venture inside the tunnel. The entrance was firstly fenced off during the breeding season in 2019, and since 2020 has been closed to the public. It’s only possible to view the tunnel from outside the fence. Hopefully once the population of glow worms recover, the tunnel will again reopen, although likely with restricted access.
#30 Hit the Surf
While visiting Wollongong, don’t just visit the beaches and enjoy a swim, but consider having a surf. From Sandon Point in the north to “The Farm” at Killalea Regional Park in the south, the region is home to some great surfing breaks.
If you don’t have your own surf board or don’t know the first thing about surfing, don’t let that stop you. It’s possible to book surfing lessons at multiple locations in the Gong, check out both the Illawarra Surf Academy and Pines Surfing Academy.