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Wollongong is a vibrant coastal city on the South Coast of New South Wales and is famous for its excellent surf, amazing beaches with rock pools, and being the gateway to the rocky Illawarra Mountain range.
There are so many things to do in Wollongong, we quickly discovered it was the perfect destination for a weekend break away from Sydney.
With stunning hiking trails encircling the coastline and ancient coastal forest, to the numerous outdoor activities that keep our young kids entertained, this is a city that can keep you occupied for more than a week.
It was also our first stop on our 18-month road trip around Australia, so we were eager to get out there and start exploring the best that Aus had to offer.
If you’re not sure what to do in Wollongong and need some ideas for attractions to add to your itinerary, then keep reading to see what we did when we visited.
- Is Wollongong worth visiting?
- How To Get to Wollongong
- Things to Do in Wollongong
- 1. Take a Bike Ride Around the City
- 2. Drive the Grand Pacific Drive
- 3. Visit North Wollongong Beach
- 4. Check Out The Nan Tien Temple
- 5. Visit the Science Space Centre and Planetarium
- 6. Go Indoor Rock Climbing
- 7. Dine at Illawarra Brewery
- 8. Check out the Lagoon at Wattamolla Beach
- 9. Check out Wollongong Botanic Garden
- 10. Splash Around at Jamberoo Action Park
- 11. See Local Art at Wollongong Art Gallery
- 12. Visit the Australian Motorlife Museum
- 13. Take a Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk
- 14. Visit Port Kembla Beach
- 15. Visit Wollongong City Beach
- 16. Go Whale Watching at Stanwell Tops
- 17. Walk to Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse
- 18. Take a Day Trip from Wollongong
- 19. Visit The Eat Street Markets
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Wollongong
- More South Coast NSW travel tips
Planning your trip to Wollongong last-minute?
Don’t leave your planning until the last minute! Be prepared for your visit to Wollongong with these top tours and hotels…
Top Experiences and Tours in Wollongong
- Tandem Skydiving in Wollongong from Sydney (perfect for adventure seekers!)
- Hangliding in Wollongong (one of the top things to do in Wollongong)
- Deep seafishing tour from Wollongong (for fishing enthusiasts!)
Top Family-Friendly Accommodation in Wollongong
Is Wollongong worth visiting?
Wollongong is NSW’s third largest city, but despite being a large city, it is anything but the concrete jungle you see in Sydney.
And that’s what attracted us to Wollongong. To be honest, I really didn’t want another concrete jungle, I wanted a hammock by the river in the bush where broadband signals could not reach.
The mountains loom over the cityscape and the ocean shrouds the concrete in a mist of peace. It has a vibrancy of youth and health, without the frenetic pace and aloofness of other big cities.
I was completely taken by surprise when in the twilight hours, I exhaled contently and said, “You know I really like this place.”
It’s a city, yet doesn’t feel like one.
Wollongong welcomed us back into nomadic travel life so effortlessly, offering us the freedom to be remote and enjoy nature, but have the facilities around us in order to work (good wifi and a decent coffee shop is all we need).
And to think I was quite nonplussed about visiting.
I was grounded and feeling like we had made the best decision to go on this crazy adventure. Wollongong gave me just what I needed. And for that reason, it’s definitely worth visiting.
How To Get to Wollongong
Wollongong is located in the Illawarra region just 82 kilometres south of Sydney. If driving, we recommend you take the scenic route from Sydney via Royal National Park and the Grand Pacific Drive. (Click here for rental car prices and availability)
By train, jump on the South Coast Line from Central Station in Sydney heading towards Port Kembla.
Things to Do in Wollongong
If you’re thinking of visiting Wollongong but you’re not sure what there is to do, then be sure to add the following attractions to your list.
1. Take a Bike Ride Around the City
We were taking an afternoon bike ride on the foreshore past City Beach and North Wollongong Beach. We rode around the lighthouse, past boat harbour and along the special track just for cyclists, joggers and afternoon strollers that followed the cliff face walls.
The scenery was beautiful and we are relaxed and smiling. Wollongong is a very easy city to cycle around and it has plenty of cycle paths and safe routes to take if you’re cycling with children.
Kalyra rode beside me chattering away, the joy radiating from her face and beaming into my soul. Already my little girl was tasting why Mummy and Daddy have taken this trip – so we can spend our days doing things like this together.
“Isn’t this fantastic? It’s 5.00pm and nobody is screaming or arguing. I’m not racing around getting dinner organized and a house cleaned. We’re just out riding and enjoying the close of the day together.”
“Yep. I love these holidays Mummy!”
2. Drive the Grand Pacific Drive
If you are driving from Sydney to Wollongong, you must go via the Grand Pacific Drive, which is one of the best road trips in Australia.
If you’re not driving from Sydney to Wollongong and you’ve come from the South, then be sure to add a quick day’s drive up this coastal road and check out the breathtaking scenery.
Along the way, make a stop at the following:
Bald Hill Lookout
One of the top things to do in Wollongong is go hangliding, and this is the spot where the hangliders launch off the cliff.
If you aren’t that daring there are pretty great views along the coastline and a nice grassy patch for people watching, nature gazing rest.
Symbio Wildlife Park
We have visited plenty of wildlife parks in Australia and Symbio is pretty good.
You can hand feed the kangaroos, koalas, and emus and there are plenty of farm animals and birds the kids will love. Our visit corresponded to our unit of work on bones for Kalyra’s distance education.
So she was excited to race around taking photos of living things that had bones and no bones.
I don’t think anyone could ever get sick of feeding and patting kangaroos. Don’t you?
Sea Cliff Bridge
The sea cliff bridge is a pretty impressive structure when you look at it from one of the viewpoints. When you drive on it, you can’t really see much due to the high barriers. Hop out of your car and walk back along it for some cool photos.
The meals at the Scarborough, although tasty, were small and overpriced. But the views out to the ocean are worth a stop, at least for just one drink.
There is a huge grassed beer garden making it perfect for families. You may be lucky, like we were, and have whales leaping and pirouetting out of the water in front of you. Magic.
3. Visit North Wollongong Beach
Head to North Wollongong Beach early in the morning for sunrise over the rocks and the lighthouse, and take an early morning stroll along the beach.
It’s a great place to go for a surf or pack a picnic and enjoy the views from one of the picnic areas.
Grab breakfast or a coffee at Diggies Cafe right on the beach.
4. Check Out The Nan Tien Temple
Bucket list check off! The Nan Tien is the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere and well worth a visit.
We were fortunate to have a guide take us around the temple grounds and explain a lot of the symbolism within the design and the stories behind Buddhist philosophy. I found it fascinating.
Make sure you pay a visit to the Museum which is on the lower level. The original foundations form a rock wall, which has been turned into a Buddhist garden with flowing water, lotus leaves, and numerous statues of various Bodhvistas.
Take a minute to step into the mirror gallery and reflect upon the Buddhist philosophies such as nothing is as it seems, we are all interconnected, the impact of illusion and delusion upon our lives, and how removing ourselves from the middle of the Universe offers a more enlightening perspective. I loved it!
I also loved the food in the Dew Drop Inn, a teahouse on the grounds of the temple. Cheap, delicious, vegan food.
Try a pot of lotus leaf tea, some dumplings, curry puffs, and the most popular dish: Veggie mince and ham noodle soup.
5. Visit the Science Space Centre and Planetarium
The science centre is where the great minds of our future go to experiment and learn by doing. It’s run by the University of Wollongong and has interactive exhibits that kids will love.
As I walked around interacting in activities that helped me to understand levers, how tornadoes are formed, engine mechanics, and sound and light energy, I couldn’t help but think why our classrooms don’t teach like this? If they did, children would not only learn the concepts quickly, they would have a ball doing it.
The children raced from station to station, squealing with joy, blissfully unaware they were learning amongst the fun. I’ve never seen a student of mine that enthusiastic in the classroom.
We thoroughly enjoyed the bubbles and balloons live show. Craig walked out saying it was hilarious – and we all learned a little more about how bubbles are formed and which balloons can win a race – the rocket balloon was awesome.
One other show worth seeing, which you pay extra for, is the planetarium. It was so great to lie back and have someone point out the constellations and project huge picture forms of them on the roof.
There’s a little alien movie that goes with it as well, which is awesome for teaching your children about the planets.
Earth looks so beautiful when you compare it to the others. What about how perfect it is to allow life to thrive like it does? I love movements that help me to feel that awe and wonder.
6. Go Indoor Rock Climbing
Indoor rock climbing is not something I ever would have considered doing when travelling. The outdoor kind, I’d embrace for sure.
The Hangdog climbing gym was such an enjoyable activity for us to do as a family. It made me realize the importance of team building, especially when you travel.
Kalyra had a ball.
She loved pushing herself a little out of her comfort zone, yet having the security of us supporting and encouraging her. It was also great for strengthening trust between Craig and I – he was more than a little nervous when I was belaying for him. Do my skinny calves not give you faith in my strength?
Even little Savannah had fun – and looked so cute – all harnessed up. She was happy to try and climb the wall, she was just so terrified of the rope when it was attached and pulled her up a little so she chose to help us belay instead.
Top tip: If you are visiting with toddlers, come by on a Tuesday morning at 9.00am when under 5s can climb for free.
7. Dine at Illawarra Brewery
Illawarra Brewery has a lovely outlook out to the beach. It’s attached to the football stadium. Craig was happy to try a decent beer, and the girls were excited to get their free ice-cream with their meal.
We used a coupon here to buy one get one meal free. We found it in the Wollongong tourist brochure. Love a bargain!
8. Check out the Lagoon at Wattamolla Beach
Located in the Royal National Park is Wattamolla, a secluded beach which is most famous for its lagoon, which sits behind the sandy beach and connects to the Wattamolla falls.
Because the lagoon is cut off from the ocean, the water is very gentle which makes it a great swimming spot for young children.
You can also bring a kayak and paddle on the lagoon, or bring a surf board and his the waves from Wattamolla Beach.
If you’re looking for a beach near Wollongong that’s quieter and peaceful, this is a great place.
9. Check out Wollongong Botanic Garden
The Wollongong Botanic Garden is a great place to visit if you love nature and the beauty of the outdoors.
This tranquil paradise showcases native species of plants, trees and fauna that are indigenous to Wollongong.
There are plenty of walking paths, picnic areas and special events taking place throughout the year, such as like workshops for kids and art installations.
It’s hard not to be enchanted by the beauty of Wollongong Botanic Garden, and it’s the perfect place to relax in when the city feels a bit much.
10. Splash Around at Jamberoo Action Park
The Jamberoo Action Park is a huge water park and one of the top things to do in Wollongong with kids.
It’s one of the largest family-owned theme parks in NSW and has everything from rollercoasters to water slides.
If you’re finding the Australian summer weather a little stifling, then this is a great place to cool off and enjoy some family fun.
11. See Local Art at Wollongong Art Gallery
The Wollongong Art Gallery is a great place to admire local artworks by artists from the Illawarra region.
The gallery is managed by the city council, and is an important part of Wollongong’s heritage.
It’s the largest regional art gallery in Australia and contains work by Australian, Aboriginal and Asian artists.
In its permanent collection, you can discover art that takes you through the history of the Illawarra region and its people.
12. Visit the Australian Motorlife Museum
If you’re looking for indoor things to do in Wollongong for a rainy day, then a visit to the Australian Motorlife Museum is a must.
The museum is a charity organization that has been operating since the 1990’s, and started out as a group of veteran and Vintage motoring enthusiasts who wanted to a place to showcase their collection.
Over the years, more exhibits have opened up and the museum has expanded. Today you can see not only vintage cars and motorbikes, but see exhibits from times of old, including tools, gramophones, old typewriters, and household appliances.
This is a great place to visit in Wollongong for those interested in classic cars.
13. Take a Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk
Located outside Wollongong in the Illawarra escarpment area near the Budderoo National Park, is the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk, which is a gentle 1.5km walk through the canopies of the forest.
It’s known for its 500 meters of steel cable bridges, which take you up into the canopy of the trees some 20-30 meters above the ground.
If you want to up the adventure, you can also take a zipline adventure here, which is the highest zipline in Australia.
14. Visit Port Kembla Beach
Of course, no trip to Wollongong would be complete without a trip to the beach. One of its best beaches is Port Kembla, which is 11 km south of the CBD.
It’s a well-maintained beach with soft white sand, and turquoise blue waters.
It’s a great beach for surfing, and you’ll find the Port Kembla Beach Surf Club offering lessons and surf rentals.
The surf club is located on the high fore dune at the northern end of Port Kembla Beach. There is a parking lot next to the club where you can park your car.
The beach is patrolled during the summer months from September to the end of April.
15. Visit Wollongong City Beach
Wollongong City Beach, of just City Beach for short, is located just south of the lighthouse on Flagstaff Hill.
It’s a small beach with gentle waves and a rock pool to the north, which is a great place to go snorkelling or rock pool fishing.
The beach is also patrolled during the summer months and has a lovely grassy area behind it where you can unpack a picnic.
16. Go Whale Watching at Stanwell Tops
If you drive along the Great Pacific Drive towards Sydney, you’ll reach Stanwell Tops, which is one of the best places to see humpback whales on their migration from the shore.
The rugged headland sits on natural hills that have unparalleled views of the ocean and surrounding sea cliffs. It’s also a popular hang gliding jump point.
If you’re looking for things to do in Wollongong in June to November, this is an unmissable activity.
17. Walk to Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse
Located in Wollongong Harbour is the Wollongong Head Lighthouse, a historic lighthouse which has been protecting the harbour since 1871.
The lighthouse is a heritage-listed building and was restored in 2002 to be fully operational again.
The lighthouse is an iconic landmark in Wollongong and a must-see for any first time visitor to the city.
18. Take a Day Trip from Wollongong
We haven’t scratched the surface of what the Wollongong area offers. It’s somewhere you can park up for a week or so and use it as a base to explore other parts of the South Coast region of NSW.
While you’re there, be sure to visit the following areas on a day trip.
- Kiama Blowhole
- Minnamurra Rainforest
19. Visit The Eat Street Markets
The Eat Streets Market is a pop up farmers market where local artisans can sell fresh produce and boutique crafts. There is also live music and street food.
The vibrant atmosphere is what brings people to the Eat Street Markets, not to mention the delicious food you can find while you’re there.
Since the market only happens on occasion, it’s best to follow their Facebook page to see when the next market is happening.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Wollongong
Whether you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway from Sydney or you’re on a South Coast road trip, there is no doubt that Wollongong is a great destination to add to your itinerary.
As you can see, there’s so much to see and do here, from thrill-seeking adventurous activities to laid-back and peaceful.
We hope this guide helped you plan your trip to Wollongong and gave you some inspiration for what to do.
More South Coast NSW travel tips
- 2 Weeks in South Coast NSW – Travel Itinerary
- 11 Best Beaches in South Coast NSW – Photo Essay
- The Different Views of Narooma – a south coast NSW gem
- If you want to see wild kangaroos in Australia come here
- Chasing chooks at Crystal Creek Meadows, Kangaroo Valley
- What a day at famous Hyams Beach looks like
- Why visit Kangaroo Valley in NSW
Do you have tips on things to do in Wollongong? Let us know in the comments.