Of all the different places I’ve lived, Wollongong may be my favorite.
I’ve never felt so at peace somewhere, and so excited to see absolutely everything in and around this little city.
Wollongong doesn’t feel like a city because the town center is small and welcoming, yet there’s always something to do. Stunning beaches sit on the east side of the city, and towering mountains sit on the west. The overwhelming presence of nature and the laid back lifestyle make this city feel relaxing and comforting, and Sydney is only 1.5 hours away if I really want some big city vibes.
But for now, I am perfectly content living in a tiny apartment, bartending at a busy beachfront restaurant, and soaking in the beautiful surroundings on my days off. This is really the first time that I’ve felt like I could live somewhere forever and be happy.
So for anyone traveling around New South Wales in Australia, I highly recommend visiting Wollongong. Just take the South Coast Train line from Sydney, and spend some time enjoying this gorgeous yet humble coastal city.
Here are 12 things to do in Wollongong, for anyone lucky enough to visit.
1. Go To The Beach
Any city that has its own beach is automatically a superior city in my eyes. Wollongong even has two beaches, both with long stretches of soft sand and fun, refreshing waves. City Beach is huge, and North Beach is a bit smaller but has a nicer view so it gets more crowded when the weather is nice. I love both of them, and they’re great for chilling, swimming, and surfing.
2. Dine Out In A Restaurant
Australia is a very multicultural country, and the city is full of amazing international food choices. There are plenty of Thai and Indian Restaurants on Kiera Street, and you can easily find goo Turkish kebabs and falafel wraps for a cheap meal. There are also a few fancy beachside restaurants for a lavish night out, like Steamers Bar and Grill. This is the where I work, and they have delicious fresh seafood options and interesting cocktails. Also for those who like craft beer, the Illawarra Brewery has countless options.
3. Swim In The Rock Pools
The rock pools are definitely my favorite part of Wollongong, because you can swim in the cold, salty ocean water in a less crowded, more relaxed setting. I also think the rock pools just look so beautiful, as they are slightly protected yet still united with the powerful Pacific. There is one small rock pool situated between the Lighthouse and City Beach, and there’s another one called the Gentlemen’s Baths in between City Beach and North Beach.
4. Visit The Art Gallery
The Wollongong Art Gallery is free to enter and open 10am – 5pm Tuesday through Friday, or 12pm – 4pm Saturday and Sunday. It has three floors of interesting paintings, sculptures, digital art displays and exhibitions, and it’s a nice stop when walking through town. The artists are often local and create artwork representing local areas and wildlife, so this is actually a cool insight into the culture here.
5. Search For Street Art
Even outside of the Art Gallery, Wollongong bursts with creativity. You can’t walk a few blocks without seeing some form of street art, and there are even some giant murals showcasing incredible talent. Literally all you have to do it walk around and you’re guaranteed to find some artwork in the city.
6. Bike Along the Cycleway
For an active afternoon, take a bike ride along the Cycleway. The bike path begins at City Beach and goes all the way up to Thirroul, passing through eight small coastal towns on the way. The path hugs the coastline, giving you amazing views of the ocean, and sometimes winds inland to bring you through shady neighborhoods. The whole track is roughly 17km, and it’s mostly flat and easy except for a few hills in Bulli and Thirroul.
7. Visit The Street Markets
Wollongong has two wonderful street markets located on Crown Street, the main pedestrian road in the center of town. Every Thursday night from about 5pm – 9pm is Eat Street, where there are too many delicious food trucks to count. Every Friday from roughly 8am – 2pm is the Forager’s Market, where you can find local vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, vintage clothes, woodwork, homemade candles, crystals and essential oils, and plenty of other interesting things. Both markets always have live music playing as well.
8. Hike Mount Kiera
Take advantage of the nature located on the outskirts of Wollongong by venturing up to Mount Kiera. You can simply drive to the lookout at the top or hike all the way up; either way you can witness an amazing view over the city, ocean, and surrounding greenery. You can also hike all the way around Mount Kiera along the Ring Track, or hike to the Robertson Lookout which gives you a side view of Mount Kiera.
9. Drink Tea In A Teahouse
Ziggy’s House of Nomms has the true feel of an authentic teahouse, with heartwarming decor and an extensive menu of loose leaf teas. This place is perfect for a rainy day, and you can also order food like sweet or savory dumplings and noodles.
10. Explore Puckey’s Estate
Along the Cycleway just north of Stuart Park lies Puckey’s Estate, a nature reserve full of trees, bush, sand dunes, and a little creek. There is one main wide dirt path that you can bike along, and a few smaller paths branching off into the bush. Running here is great on a hot day because it’s shaded by trees, just be sure to watch out for lizards and snakes on the path.
11. Tour The Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens of Wollongong are very impressive, and free to enter. After passing through the front entrance, you’ll be greeted by a spacious park with a pond and the silhouette of Mount Keira in the background. There are a few different sections of plants here, including a colorful rose garden, a dense, misty rainforest section, and a desert-like area for cacti and succulents. The gardens are open daily from 7am to 6pm.
12. Visit A Lovely Cafe
Australians love their coffee, and Wollongong has no shortage of cozy cafes for chilling out. Quay Canteen has a nice view over the Crown Street Plaza, The Green Room is conveniently located right next to City Beach, Sifters is a hidden, trendy cafe with outdoor seating, and Opus Coffee Brewers serve their coffee in gorgeous handmade mugs.
These are all my favorite things to do in Wollongong, though there are other exciting things that I haven’t tried yet. Skydiving in Stuart Park is a popular activity among thrill seekers, and for health enthusiasts there are a few places to get holistic treatments like Cryotherapy or Cocoon Floating Therapy.
Another great thing about Wollongong is all the beauty that lies just outside of it as well. On days off, it’s so easy to venture up to Sydney or south to Kiama, enjoying the vibrant coastal scenery on the way. Driving inland leads to the Southern Highlands and numerous National Parks, where you can find waterfalls, natural pools, cliff jumping, hiking, wineries and vineyards, and honestly endless things to do.
I have loved every second of living in Wollongong, and am eager to see more as soon as possible.