Wollongong, an hour’s drive from Sydney, is a coastal city brimming with beaches, breathtaking natural landscapes, and ideas for day trips.
The sandstone Illawarra Escarpment, which rises to several hundred meters immediately inland, jolts the city into a natural coastal plain.
Some sites on this list use the escarpment’s panoramic vistas, whilst the Grand Pacific Ocean wanders down the coastline and might leave you speechless.
In the summer, Wollongong has 17 surf beaches available, all with parking facilities on the beachfront, and if the Pacific waves are too much, the city offers just a few saltwater springs right on the coast.
22 Amazing Things To Do In Wollongong
Wollongong is a rich cultural feast with two beautiful temples and plenty of exciting family activities near Sydney. It’s also an Instagrammer’s dream, with lots of photo possibilities all around.
We’ve compiled a list of 20 amazing things to do in Wollongong, and you’ll have a fun-filled day planned in no time.
1. Grand Pacific Drive
Wollongong is located on a 140-kilometer coastal road that begins in Sydney’s CBD and ends in the picturesque Shoalhaven.
The road winds through the Royal National Park (the world’s second-oldest), through cliffs, dramatic beaches, stretches of coastal rainforest, and up to innumerable viewpoints where you may get out of the car and enjoy the landscape.
One of the best things to do in Wollongong is; The Sea Cliff Bridge (2005), about half a kilometer long and twisting with the curves of the sandstone cliff-face, will steal your breath away.
You may walk or bike on the parallel routes, so there are watchtowers on the cliffs to catch this man-made beauty and its Pacific background from above.
2. Wollongong Botanic Garden
Next on the list of top things to do in Wollongong is the city’s world-class botanic garden is located in the highest area of Wollongong, on the lovely premises of Gleniffer Brae Manor House.
The Wollongong Botanic Garden is all centered around a creek that feeds a small lake and contains significant collections of both native and exotic flora.
There is a palm garden, a rose garden, a rainforest collection, a dryland garden, a succulent collection, and a yard for blossoming trees and shrubs, to mention a few, there are almost 800 unique and endangered species in the palm garden alone, while the rose garden has a wide range of kinds and varieties, from Hybridized Tea to Floribunda.
The Towri Bush Tucker Garden educates visitors about the diverse plant species utilized in Aboriginal culture for sustenance, shelter, and medicine. The Wollongong Botanic Garden is absolutely free to attend, features a massive children’s playground, and hosts a range of events and festivals for the local community and guests, ranging from guided walks to movie screenings.
3. Wollongong Harbor and Lighthouses
Next on the list of top things to do in Wollongong is this Harbour.
Wollongong Harbour is one of the most beautiful views along the coast, built on a basin initially excavated and carved out in the 1840s to export coal from nearby mines. The harbor, which is now heritage-listed, serves as a launching point for fishing excursions and mixes natural and man-made beauty.
The Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse, located on the eastern border of the harbor’s mouth, was erected in 1872 at the peak of the coal trade and retired in 1974. The functioning Wollongong Head Lighthouse (1936), perched atop Flagstaff Hill to the south, has ribbed arches and a range of 19 nautical miles.
To protect the harbor, a camouflaged artillery installation was established atop the hill in the 1880s. The three cannons on display now are the original 1861 68-pounders.
4. Nan Tien Temple
Next on the list of top things to do in Wollongong is, The largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere is located in Berkeley, a southern district of Wollongong.
Nan Tien Temple, a Tibetan-style architecture with soaring eaves, was erected in the early 1990s utilizing modern technology. The complex is set in beautiful gardens on a calm hillside and includes two large prayer halls designed in Tibetan style, as well as conference spaces, a museum, lodging, and a restaurant. Japanese-style gardens may be seen in the courtyards of this Buddhist temple.
You can visit to be awed by this largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere, relax in the quiet surroundings, and peruse an exhibition. Nan Tien Temple also hosts retreats and classes for mindfulness, doodling, meditation, Buddhism, and Tai Chi at the temple.
5. Symbio Wildlife Park
Next on the list of top things to do in Wollongong is Symbio Wildlife Park, located atop the Illawarra Escarpment near Stanwell Park Beach, is a family-run zoo set on 16 acres of native and exotic plants.
The Symbio Wildlife Park is a great spot to get up and personal with native Australian creatures and local wildlife like koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and dingoes, but there are also many exotic species here, including red pandas, ring-tailed lemurs, meerkats, and even cheetahs.
There are several safe and compassionate near interactions available, including purchasing animal feed for the park’s farmyard species, feeding kangaroos and wallabies, and snuggling koalas.
There will also be demonstrations for lemurs, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, cheetahs, and those koalas throughout the day.
6. Jamberoo Action Park
Amongst the many things to do in Wollongong is visiting this theme park in Jamberoo, which is quite a short drive south of Wollongong and has a lot to offer. The environment is a significant part of it, with its steep topography and several gravity-fed rides. The main attractions of Jamberoo Adventure Park are too long to list, but the massive cone of Perfect Storm stands out immediately away.
Jamberoo Action Park offers extravagant production standards for a water slide, sending you into a massive vortex encircled by darkness save for spectacular effects such as flashes of lightning and thunder crashes.
Jamberoo Water Park has a Funnel Web which is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s biggest spider sculpture, with peak speeds of 30km/h in a four-person raft. Smaller children will enjoy Jamberoo Action Park since it offers Banjo’s Billabong, which has four levels of slides, climbing structures, water cannons, cranks, and valves.
7. Science Space
One of the best things to do in Wollongong is, that the premier scientific education center in New South Wales is vital to the future of museums where children can learn by doing.
Along similar lines, there are over 100 odd and fascinating exhibits ranging from light to energy, dinosaurs to nanotechnology.
A show at “NSW’s best planetarium (destination NSW),” which features a super-crisp 4K projector and can blast off on a tour of the cosmos or drop to unexplored ocean depths, is central to every visit. The Illawarra Coal Science Theatre, which also puts on interactive and even explosive live science experiments, also has a lot of razzle-dazzle.
8. North Wollongong Beach
The city’s favorite area to swim or surf in the Pacific is the next beachfront up from Wollongong Harbour.
The North Wollongong Beach is the only neighboring beach that has lifeguards on duty all year with a variety of attractions and services for children. Stuart Park is a short walk away and has rock pools, picnic sites, eateries, large grassy areas, and a playground.
All of the facilities are maintained immaculately clean, as is customary in Wollongong, and a continual multi-use track runs behind them, which we’ll discuss later. South of the beach, you may go in the water without worrying about the current flow at the Continental Pool.
This is one of several outdoor saltwater pools located all along the Wollongong coast.
9. Port Kembla Beach
Amongst the many things to do in Wollongong is the, is bay about ten kilometers south of Wollongong which is unique even by Wollongong’s high standards.
Port Kembla Beach is bounded by a low cliff covered in vegetation, with a collection of rock pools visible at low tide at the southern end.
Port Kembla beach has a rich history as well, having been visited by surfers from the early twentieth century. The surf club atop the high foredune near the north end of the beach was created in 1910.
An Olympic-sized saline pool for swimmers is also located on the northern rocks and is refilled daily. Follow the beach to the headland to reach Breakwater Battery, which was constructed in 1939 to protect Port Kembla from submarines.
10. Australian Motorlife Museum
One of the major things to do in Wollongong is to visit this second-largest driving museum in Australia is conveniently located here in the Illawarra tourism area and provides a comprehensive overview of consumer technology development between 1880 and 1950.
Along with some exceptionally rare automobiles, there are motorcycles, gasoline stations, radios, record players, typewriters, tools, telephones, lawnmowers, and much more.
The Australian Motorlife museum has cars that are naturally popular, with a 1904 Australian-built Innes and one of only two surviving motorbikes by Brisbane builder David Spencer, dating from 1906. The museum contains so many vintage appliances that it was able to offer several of them for the production of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013).
11. Illawarra Light Railway Museum
Amongst the many things to do in Wollongong is this museum, which operates a narrow-gauge and miniature train, and maintains Illawarra’s industrial history as well as light railway legacy in general.
If you’ve had a train-obsessed youngster, there is no better outing! Here at the Illawarra Light Railway Museum, railway artifacts from the region are on display, along with a miniature railway including a signal box, the whole Yallah station structure, a fettlers’ shed, and a maintenance and carriage restoration shed.
The museum maintains a large collection of coal and diesel engines, as well as various passenger vehicles and other rolling equipment. A variety of static motors, boilers, generators, compressors, pumps, and winches are also available. The museum is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, however, it only operates on the second Sunday of each month.
12. Sea Cliff Bridge
Amongst the many things to do in Wollongong is the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge, which can be seen from Bald Hill Lookout, the second-best photographed bridge in NSW. Although it is possible to walk and drive across this sea cliff bridge, also there is a concealed vantage point that provides a distinct viewpoint.
Although the sea cliff bridge is not strictly forbidden, getting to the scenic overlook is a bit challenging. It’s not a well-traveled trail, and you will have to locate the secret way to get to it.
Take no children up there, and if you do go, be extremely cautious always and wear hiking boots since thongs or sneakers are not appropriate.
13. Illawarra Fly Treetop adventures
Amongst the many things to do in Wollongong, is the award-winning Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk is just a 35-minute drive from Kiama. It’s also one of the best Treetop Walk and Zipline Adventures in Australia.
The Illawarra Fly zipline tour is Australia’s highest zipline tour, taking you 35m above the earth on a succession of suspension bridges and overpasses.
The panoramas of the jungle and the ocean view are breathtaking. Combine the hike and the zip line adventure for an unforgettable Illawarra treetop adventure.
14. Visit the Scarborough Hotel
Next on the list of top things to do in Wollongong is The Scarborough Hotel.
The Scarborough Hotel undoubtedly offers Sydney’s greatest beer garden. It appears plain from the outside, but once inside, you’ll notice a beautiful garden out the backyard that rests on top of the hills. People sit on the lawn while their children play, and it’s the kind of place where you could spend all day lounging in the sun.
After spending the day seeing the Illawarra area and Wollongong, make a stop at The Scarborough before heading home.
15. Bald Hill Lookout
Since Wollongong is a coastal city, the thermals around the city are ideal for hang gliding, so there are hang gliding classes for all levels of expertise.
If you’re not sure whether to take the leap, go to Bald Hill in Stanwell Park and watch the hang gliders jump from the cliff. Bald Hill is located at the southern limit of the Sydney Royal National Park and offers spectacular views over the Royal National Park and the New South Wales coastline.
16. Early Start Discovery Space
An outstanding location for youngsters aged 1 to 10 and their families. They provide engaging, playful activities that spark the imagination as Australia’s first dedicated children’s museum – the ideal learning-through-play setting!
Act on theater, sail a boat, descend through a tunnel, play with rain, submerge yourself in the Lego blocks area, produce digital media, and so much more! Because the games are open-ended, it is up to everyone on each visit to make fresh and unique discoveries. Head over now to the Early start discovery space to get your kids to experience all things out of this world!
17. Illawarra Museum
The Illawarra Museum Wollongong is a two-story heritage building that has a significant collection of furniture and artifacts from the Wollongong region spanning the nineteenth century to the present.
The bottom level features a schoolroom where you may sit and reflect on the finest days of your life, as well as a display of the changes that have occurred in Wollongong through the years. Explore the courtyard and learn about life prior to power in the kitchen and laundry displays.
Our displays, which include the Stockman’s Hut, an Air Raid Shelter, and a Blacksmith’s shop, help us to feel rural and farming cultures. Their Farm Shed showcases agricultural, dairy, and farm implements, as well as a milk and bread cart and plows carried by horses.
18. Wollongong Art gallery
Amongst the many things to do in Wollongong is the art gallery.
Wollongong Art Gallery is a major regional art gallery with a diverse program of exhibitions, education, and public programming.
The gallery also maintains a collection of art of contemporary, Aboriginal, Asian, and Colonial artworks that are often displayed. The gallery is situated in a significant and distinctive structure that was conceived and established in the 1950s and is a local landmark.
The Gallery Gift Shop, situated on the bottom floor of the Wollongong Art Gallery, sells a variety of books, art journals, and unusual gift ideas. The business also sells postcards and greeting cards for a variety of events.
19. Lake Illawarra
Lake Illawarra is located on the NSW South Coast, an hour south of Sydney, between the Illawarra mountain and the Pacific Ocean. It receives equally fresh water (from the escarpment) and salty water (from ocean tides).
The Lake is 9.5 kilometers long and 5.5 kilometers broad, with a surface area of 33 square kilometers and a depth of 3.7 meters. The lake is surrounded by 13 boat ramps and is a common recreational destination. The lake is a great attraction for fishing, boating, and other water activities and hosts magnificent views.
20. Wattamolla Beach
Amongst the many things to do in Wollongong, visiting Wattamolla Beach is a must!
If you want to feel the sand under your feet, bring the family to Wattamolla Beach in Royal National Park near the southern highlands. This is a popular area to stay while touring the park, with many alternatives to keep everyone satisfied.
Wattamolla Beach has tranquil waters that are ideal for snorkeling, swimming, and lilting. Pack a picnic and unwind in the shelter of the cabbage palm, or stroll to the beach for some fishing.
After lunch, take a stroll along with one of the beach walks, with a reward for the first person to spot a sea hawk or oystercatcher.
21. Austinmer Beach
Austinmer Beach, located approximately 20 minutes north of Wollongong’s core business area, is one of the city’s most popular beaches.
Austinmer is well equipped to handle huge summer crowds and is guarded against September to April. It’s off Lawrence Hargrave Drive, with stores on the western side and a huge car parking between the beach and the Drive. The southern half of this 250-meter-long beach is occupied by the Surf Club and other facilities.
On the southern rock platform, there are two enormous rock ponds. The little beach is placed between two low cliffs with vast rock platforms. It gets waves with an average height of 1.4 meters, resulting in two strong persistent rips against the cliffs at either end.
22. Wollongong Market
One of the top things to do in Wollongong is visiting Wollongong’s markets which are extremely enjoyable to explore, whether you’re seeking a present or a memento to take home.
Eat Street Markets
Even if you don’t intend to buy anything, you should visit Eat Street Markets just once to experience how enthusiastic regional foodies are about cuisine.
While you browse for in-season and organic fruits and vegetables, sip on a fragrant fresh coffee from roasted coffee beans. Many of the farmers are staunch supporters of the slow food concept.
Eat Street Markets are held on Thursday nights (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.) in Crown St Mall.
Friday Forage Market
The Friday Forage marketplace is another enjoyable market to visit for its food shops and to buy bits and ends such as jewelry, clothing, and hand-made soaps.
On Fridays, the Friday Forage Market is held at Lower Crown Street Mall (9 am to 3 pm).
Wollongong is sometimes overlooked, but whether you want to add a few more nights to your Sydney holiday or plan a special Wollongong trip, there are several new things to do, and it’s always a good idea to check Wollongong what’s on to best plan your stay.
Be sure to visit Budderoo national park, the Illawarra region & its attractions, Sandon Point beach, and many more.
We recommend taking the time to drive south of Sydney to Wollongong if you are seeking a lovely beach, fantastic local food, or to visit a National Park. Wollongong boasts lots of attractions to satisfy families, couples, and lone travelers.
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Also read: Best Places to Visit in NSW