There’s no shortage of things to do on the NSW South Coast. Whether you’re looking for adrenaline-filled adventures or a relaxing time at the beach, a museum to visit on a rainy day or something to entertain the kids, add some of these South Coast activities to your plans for your next South Coast getaway.
#1 Swim with the Sea Lions at Montague Island
One of the most magical wildlife experiences I’ve ever enjoyed is swimming with seals. These lively, frisky animals love to encounter humans in the water, and will frolic all around you. And there’s no need to head overseas for this experience, with the chance to swim with seals at Montague Island on the South Coast.
Located just off Narooma, Montague Island is a 20 minute boat ride away and home to the largest seal colony in NSW. Choose between just snorkelling with the seals, or also land on the island for a guided tour. The best conditions are during the morning in summertime. Book with Montague Island Adventures or Montague Island Discovery Tours.
#2 Skydive onto the Beach
The South Coast is the ultimate place to finally tick skydiving off your bucket list, with one of the most scenic skydives on offer anywhere. The name says it all, with Skydive the Beach Wollongong taking place in the skies above the beautiful North Wollongong Beach, landing next to the beach at their Stuart Park headquarters.
It’s possible to complete this South Coast adventure on a day trip from Sydney, with free transfers offering with all skydives from the centre of Sydney. However, it’s worthwhile spending longer in Wollongong, with plenty of things to do in Wollongong.
#3 Learn to Surf at Mollymook
With hundreds of kilometres of coastline, the South Coast is not surprisingly home to some awesome surf breaks. So if you don’t already know how to surf, why don’t you take a surf lesson or two while visiting the South Coast?
There’s multiple surfing schools on offer in the region. At Mollymook, book into a Private VIP Surfing Experience for two people, with all gear included.
#4 Climb to the Top of Pigeon House
One of the best shorter walks along the South Coast is the climb up to Pigeon House Mountain. Named by Captain Cook for the peaks resemblance to what else but a pigeon house, while the walk isn’t that long it’s still a tough climb.
Also known as Didthul, the peak is located in the Morton National Park, close to Ulladulla. Allow about 3 hours for the 5km walk. It’s best hiked during dry weather, due to the steep climbs and ladders along the final section.
#5 Explore Historic Tilba
Just south of Narooma are the historic villages of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba. Originally settled by dairy farmers, the district experienced a short-lived boom during the late 1800s and early 1900s when gold was discovered nearby. These days the villages are still home to many historic buildings and plenty of charm.
Central Tilba is the larger of the two and has many shops and cafes to visit. Take a stroll along the main street and browse the shops selling leathercrafts, gifts and even local chocolates. Don’t miss visiting the ABC Cheese Factory, one of the best cheese factories on the South Coast.
#6 Relax on the White Sands of Hyams Beach
By far the most famous beach along the South Coast of NSW is Hyams Beach. This beach on the southern shoreline of Jervis Bay is renown for its beautiful white sand, arguably one of the whitest beaches in Australia.
Hyams Beach is best visited on weekdays or early in the morning. Only limited parking is available in the adjacent carpark and nearby streets, and it quickly fills up on warm sunny days. Alternatively, consider visiting one of the other nearby beaches with sand almost as white, such as Nelson Beach at Vincentia.
#7 Walk Along the Kiama Coast
One of the best coastal walks anywhere in Australia is the Kiama Coast Walk. Extending from Minnamurra in the north south to Gerringong, the 20km walk hugs the coastline and passes across many of the area’s beaches.
Choose to walk the entire length of the walk (and then return by train to your starting point), or just walk a shorter section. One of the most scenic stretches is the southernmost section of the walk, starting at the northern end of Werri Beach, following the cliffs to the north. Just be warned sometimes the lagoon at the northern end of the beach joins to the ocean, so be prepared to take off your shoes!
#8 Learn the Legend of Old Tom
Sadly, back in the early days of settlement along the South Coast, one of the key industries was whaling. Many whales were captured and killed during the annual migration past the coast. Fortunately, this practice has long since finished, and the number of whales has started to recover, with the focus now on whale watching (see above).
One of the most fascinating aspects of the former whaling industry around Eden was the involvement of killer whales, or orcas. Killer whales helped alert the whalers to the presence of whales, and helped herd them into shallower waters. In return, they expected to be fed the tongues and lips of whales.
The most famous of the killer whales was Old Tom, and when his body was discovered in the 1920s, it was preserved and his skeleton later put on display in the Eden Killer Whale Museum, which opened in 1939. Visit the museum to learn more about Old Tom and the whaling industry.
#9 Feast on Local Fish and Chips
There’s no shortage of fish and chip shops all along the South Coast. And given the many local fishing fleets, the fish on offer, whether battered, crumbed or grilled, is some of the freshest and tastiest you’ll try anywhere.
My pick for the best fish and chips on the South Coast? Make sure you stop at Bluewave Seafood, at the Bermagui Fisherman’s Wharf, then enjoy your feast on the wharf while watching the fishing boats come and go.
#10 Watch the Kiama Blowhole
If you visit the Kiama Blowhole on a calm day, you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. But visit the Blowhole Point during big seas, and you’ll soon understand why this blowhole is so famous!
Located on the point at the end of Kiama’s main street, with plenty of nearby parking, the blowhole regular blows during higher seas, a boom sounding and spray flying high, drenching unwary visitors.
#11 Go Glass-Bottom Kayaking
One of the top adventures on offer on the South Coast is going kayaking. There’s multiple places where it’s possible to rent kayaks or book in a kayaking tour, including the beautiful waters of Batemans Bay.
There’s multiple kayaking tours available at Batemans Bay, including a Batemans Bay Kayak Tour in a glass-bottom kayak. The glass bottom means you can easily spot the marine life as you kayak through the Marine Park Sanctuary. Just a two hour long tour, this is ideal for all the family.
#12 Visit the Nan Tien Temple
One of the most surprising attractions on the South Coast 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.
#13 Enjoy a Glass of Local Wine
Did you know that the South Coast is home to its own wine region, the Shoalhaven Wine Region? Stretching from Kiama south to Durras, the region is home to a handful of vineyards and cellar doors that are open to the public for visits.
Many of the cellar doors feature an onsite restaurant, perfect for tasting the local produce highlighted by a glass of wine produced onsite. Or just stop by for a tasting, then choose your favourite wines to purchase by the bottle or the case.
Check out my guide to the best South Coast wineries to visit.
#14 Watch the Sunrise at Mystery Bay
With its many east facing beaches, there’s plenty of superb spots along the South Coast to watch the sun rise. One of the favourite places I’ve enjoyed the sunrise is Mystery Bay, a 10 minute drive south of Narooma.
Home to the council-run Mystery Bay Campground, with basic facilities including pit toilets and cold showers, the campground is right next to the beach. Set your alarm to rise early and head to the beach to enjoy the sunrise colours over the rocky shore.
#15 Swim in an Historic Rock Pool
While the NSW South Coast 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 rock pools in the Wollongong area is Austinmer Beach, where there’s not just one but two rock pools, adjacent to the historic pavilion. For a complete listing in Wollongong, check out the council website.
Further south at Bermagui, don’t miss the Bermagui Blue Pool, nestled on the cliff below Pacific Drive. With a carpark and toilets at the top, follow the stairs down to the pool that is a sparkling blue. For something different, bring along a snorkelling mask.
#16 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.
#17 Visit Minnamurra Rainforest
The South Coast 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 near Wollongong. Located in the Budderoo National Park, behind Jamberoo, 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 Watch for Whales
If visiting the South Coast during the winter and spring months, there’s a high chance of spotting whales from the coastline. You’ll most likely spot whales migrating north during June and July, then heading back south to the Antarctic during September and October, but keep your eye out either side of these months as well!
There’s a number of great headlands from which to watch for whales. In Tathra, keep watch while following the path around Tathra Headland, with an information board showing the species of whales usually seen. Further south, stop at Eden Lookout or Short Point in Merimbula, while to the north head to Warden Head in Ulladulla, the Gerringong Whale Watching Platform or the cliffs to the north of Wollongong.
If visiting Jervis Bay, consider heading out on a whale watching cruise. These two-hour long seasonal cruises operate both in the morning and afternoon. Most magical are the cruises during the southern migration, when mothers and their new born calves enter the bay.
#19 Or Go Dolphin Watching
Whales aren’t the only wildlife you can encounter on the South Coast. The beautiful crystal clear waters of Jervis Bay are also home to countless bottlenose dolphins. There’s a chance of spotting them while walking along the shoreline or while swimming at a beach (I once encountered some while swimming at Hyams Beach!), but the surest way to see them is on a dolphin watch cruise.
Climb on board a comfortable catamaran at Huskisson and go cruising around Jervis Bay for 1 1/2 hours. Your captain will keep you entertained with plenty of commentary, and the dolphins are fans of riding along with the boat.
#20 Stop at the Berry Donut Van
Although the historic town of Berry has now been by-passed, it’s still worthwhile detouring via the town during your drive south, whether to enjoy a bite to eat or browse the shops. One of the must visit spots is the Berry Donut Van.
A fixture in Berry for over 50 years, join the inevitable queue to order their piping hot cinnamon donuts by the half dozen or singly. Enjoy onsite or during the drive south!
#21 Meet the Kangaroos of Pebbly Beach
The South Coast is home to many places where there’s a chance of spotting kangaroos in the wild. One of the best locations is Pebbly Beach, in Murramarang National Park in between Ulladulla and Batemans Bay. A photo of a kangaroo on the beach here led to rumours of surfing kangaroos!
Pebbly Beach is home to a national park campground, ideal for spotting the kangaroos when they’re most active at dawn and dusk, or it’s possible to just visit the picnic area during the day. Access is along a 8km gravel track, plus park entry fees apply.
#22 Go Ziplining in the Rainforest
Head to the mountains behind Kiama to discover the highest zipline in Australia, at the Illawarra Fly. Visitors to the Illawarra Fly can choose between just experiencing their treetop rainforest walk, with a breathtaking 500m section of steel walkway up to 30m above the ground, or also adding on a zipline tour.
The Zipline tour lasts 60 to 90 minutes and includes three zipline flights, as well as two suspension bridges and four cloud stations. It’s a fun adventure for the whole family, with children from ages four and up able to join in.
#23 Spend the Day at Magic Mountain
If visiting the Far South Coast with your family, don’t miss spending the day at Magic Mountain Merimbula.
This amusement park has plenty of fun attractions, from a rollercoaster and water slides, through to a jumping castle and mini golf. One of the newest rides is the Magic Cup and Saucer. There’s also a Tree Climb Challenge located next to the main amusement park, which is separately ticketed.
Pack a picnic and take advantage of the BBQ and picnic facilities onsite, or make use of the onsite cafe. The park is open daily during the Spring, Summer and Easter school holidays, plus from Thursday to Sunday over the warmer months. Note that it closes most days during winter.
#24 Sample the Local Beer
The South Coast is home to many boutique breweries, no matter what part of the coast you’re visiting. Some of the best places to kick back and enjoy a local brew, from north to south, include:
- Resin Brewing in Bulli, a brewpub open daily for lunch and dinner in the old Bulli Railway Guesthouse
- Five Barrel Brewing in the heart of Wollongong, with 12 taps offering their range of beers
- Jervis Bay Brewing in Huskisson, with their spacious beer garden and food trucks on selected days
- Flamin Galah Brewin’ Co, just around the corner from Jervis Bay Brewing – perfect for a short beer crawl!
- Camel Rock Brewery at Wallaga Lake, also home to a restaurant with a menu focused on laidback Americana – think burgers and wings
- Longstocking Brewery, just south of Pambula in the Oaklands complex, also serving up wood-fired pizzas and with an oyster bar
#25 Spot the Camel Rock
If visiting Camel Rock Brewery, don’t also miss visiting the nearby Camel Rock formation, after which the brewery is named. This rock formation is located at the northern end of Haywards Beach at Lake Wallaga.
Park in the nearby carpark and walk down to the beach for a close-up photo. It’s not the most obvious formation, but if you view it from the right angle, it clearly looks like a camel with a single hump!
#26 Meet the Animals of Mogo
Just south of Batemans Bay is the Mogo Wildlife Park. Rather than focusing on Australian wildlife, this zoo is instead home to the largest collection of endangered and exotic animal species in Australia, with animals in their collection including African Lions, Sumatran Tigers, Western Lowland Gorillas and Southern White Rhinos.
Open daily, there’s also the chance to get up close and personal with many of the animals. Special tours are available with advance bookings to feed the tigers and lions, or play with the meerkats. It’s also possible to pay an additional fee to feed the giraffes, with no advance booking required.
#27 Hang Glide at Bald Hill
If you’re interested in experiencing the rush of flying, but not at quite so high an altitude, consider going hang gliding on the South Cost of NSW.
One of the best places to go hang gliding is at Bald Hill, the hill above Stanwell Park in the northern suburbs of Wollongong. Enjoy soaring in the updrafts in front of the hillside, before landing next to the beach below. Investigate booking into a tandem hang glide, the perfect way to experience flying for the first time.
#28 Head to Jamberoo Action Park
Love to visit theme parks, especially those with lots of water rides? The best spot to head to on the South Coast is Jamberoo Action Park, close to Kiama. The park is open seasonally over the warmer months, including daily during the summer and Easter school holidays.
There’s a growing list of water rides at the park, from the Taipan to the Perfect Storm to Velocity Falls, plus one of Australia’s largest wave pools and the ever popular bob sled rides down the hillside.
#29 Stroll on the Merimbula Boardwalk
An easy walk to do on the South Coast, suitable for all the family include dogs on a leash, is the Merimbula Boardwalk. Situated on the northern side of Merimbula Lake, on the western side of the bridge, access the boardwalk by either parking next to the bridge or in the carpark on Lakewood Drive.
Largely a flat boardwalk, along with a few short lengths of footpath connecting some sections, the walk is about 2km in each direction. Allow about 1-2 hour to stroll both directions. Along the way, check out the local oyster farms plus keep an eye out for the local marine life.
#30 Taste the Local Oysters
Merimbula Lake is just one of the many lakes along the South Coast whether oysters are grown, and naturally there’s plenty of places to sample the locally grown shellfish.
On the southern side of the lake is Wheeler’s Seafood Restaurant, open daily for lunch and dinner except on Tuesdays. Wheeler’s is also home to an Oyster Bar and takeaway outlet, plus has previously run oyster farm tours, which hopefully restart soon.
If you’d prefer takeaway oysters, instead drop into McKay’s Oysters, a little further down the road. It was cash only when I visited, but I rated their oysters the most highly out of any on the coast. There’s also oyster shops in Narooma and Batemans Bay.
#31 Go Shopping in Berry
The historic town of Berry, in between Kiama and Nowra, is one of the best shopping destinations on the South Coast. A stroll along the main street, Queen Street, has been enhanced by the recent bypass of the town.
There’s a wide range of boutiques in the many historic buildings lining Queen Street, including some exquisite homeware shops, plus a wide range of gifts. Make sure you check out the Berry Tea Shop and the Berry Chocolatier.
#32 Visit Kangaroo Valley’s Pioneer Village
To explore what the South Coast was like during its early days, head to the Pioneer Village Museum in Kangaroo Valley. Located just across the historic Hampden Bridge, the museum is open daily during school holidays, plus weekends and selected weekdays the rest of the year.
Take a wander through the grounds and visit the settler’s hut, machinery sheds, dairy, forge and school house. There’s plenty of hands-on experiences for kids, from ringing the school bell to listening to running on the fun barrel. Afterwards, go for a bush walk on the tracks in the surrounding grounds.
#33 Get a Photo at Australia Rock
One of the must-visit photo spots on the South Coast of NSW is Australia Rock at Narooma. This “window” through the rocks that looks like a map of Australia has been a popular photo spot for many years.
Located at the southern break-wall, with car parking adjacent, while in the area it’s also worthwhile heading up to Bar Rock Lookout. There’s beautiful vistas out towards Montague Island, plus keep an eye out for seals visiting from the seal colony on the island.
#34 Visit Cathedral Rocks
Another spectacular coastal feature to the north is Cathedral Rocks. These rocky outcrops are located just north of Kiama, at the southern end of Jones Beach.
It’s best to explore and photograph Cathedral Rocks at low tide with low seas, from the end of the beach. When the seas are higher, instead glimpse the rocks from the southern side, at the southern end of Cliff Drive near Boneyard Beach.
#35 Go Kayaking on Jervis Bay
The calm, crystal clear waters of Jervis Bay are perfect for a kayaking adventure. Not to mention there’s also a greater chance of meeting many of the bays residents, from whales to dolphins to penguins.
This Half-Day Sea Kayaking Tour supplies all the equipment you need for kayaking, plus a delicious snack break, and is restricted to small groups, making for a relaxing experience. No wonder it has only five-star ratings!
#36 Walk Along the Mill Bay Boardwalk
A stroll along the Mill Bay Boardwalk at Narooma is also sure to give you glimpses of the local marine life. The boardwalk is located on the northern side of the Wagonga Inlet, in between the Apex Park and Riverview Road.
A flat 350m long walk in each direction, take the time to spot and look out for glimpses of giant stingrays and fish. At Apex Park, it’s also worthwhile wandering over to the New Boat Ramp. It’s a popular spot with the pelicans and cormorants, especially when fish are being cleaned, plus it’s regularly visited by one of the local seals.
#37 Visit the Bundanon Art Museum
Bundanon is these days an art museum, located on the northern banks of the Shoalhaven River, west of Nowra. However, it was originally the home and studio of the painter Arthur Boyd, who then gifted it to the Australian government, along with an extensive collection of works both by himself and other prominent Australian artists.
In early 2022, the new art museum, embedded into the landscape, was opened. The museum hosts a changing program of contemporary exhibitions, along with events and concerts. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday, while the original homestead site and Arthur Boyd’s studio is open on weekends.
#38 Cycle Along the Coast
The South Coast is home to long stretches of terrific cycleways, including many right along the coastline, perfect for bike riding for the whole family.
Just recently, Wollongong hosted the UCI Road World Championships and has now been named a UCI Bike City. In Wollongong, cycle along the shared path that runs from Thirroul in the north to the centre of Wollongong, passing countless beaches.
At Narooma cycle along the Dalmeny to Narooma Shared Path. The 9km path runs from Dalmeny Campground south to Bluewater Drive in the heart of Narooma, and is entirely paved or boardwalk.
Don’t have your own bike? In Narooma, it’s possible to hire an E-Bike, the easier way to cycle. Hire periods start from 2 hours and include a bike helmet.
#39 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.
#40 Visit the HARS Aviation Museum
Just south of Wollongong is 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.