There she blows. With a thunderous roar, the waves hit the jagged rocky wall below, catapulting a plume of sea spray as high as 20 metres into the air. Almost in unison, cameras snap away, budding photographers hoping to capture the ocean’s fury at its best. Photographing the Kiama Blowhole is probably the most popular of the many Kiama attractions but there are plenty of other things to do in Kiama too.
Kiama attractions span from the beaches and fishing trips to the heritage walks, to the centuries-old buildings dotting the town and the scenic drives to the north, west and south. Here are eight things to do on in Kiama to get you started.
1- Visit the Kiama Blowhole
Long before Europeans settled along the NSW South Coast to quarry blue metal (basalt) and graze dairy cattle, the Kiama Blowhole had already made plenty of noise.
To the generations of indigenous locals who spent much of their time fishing for their next meal, the blowhole was a spot to be revered. They named the area Kiarama – “place where the sea makes a noise” – and a derivation of the name has remained to be synonymous with the naturally carved hole which today attracts international tourists by the coachloads.
To have the blowhole functioning at its most breathtaking best requires a strong south-easterly wind. When the wind blows in from the west, and there’s barely a breath of spray, the focus moves to the many other attractions which make the town a popular holiday spot.
2- Explore Kiama’s colonial past
For a good insight into Kiama’s colonial past, when horse and cart was a main mode of transport, don the walking shoes for a leisurely stroll through the coastal town’s heart.
You are sure to be intrigued by the architectural treasures, majestic examples that were indicative of the town’s importance in the 19th Century.
Shadowing the blowhole on the headland is the 130-year-old lighthouse, its light a constant warning to ships of the rocky dangers which lie 36 metres below.
Nearby is the beautifully restored 1881-built Pilots’ Cottage, appropriately a Heritage and Maritime Museum. While next door is the Kiama Information Centre with its ample stock of maps and free guides to ensure the walk is more informative.
Look out for such fine churches as Christ Church, near Kiama Showground, and the Presbyterian Church, circa 1863-1898, along with the 1925-built fire station which today houses an art gallery of local works. It’s easy to spot as the building is fronted by a colourfully decorated life-sized model of a cow.
Perhaps the town’s prime landmark is the lovingly cared Post Office which opened nearly 140 years ago and is familiar for its clocktower which doesn’t seem to miss a beat, like Kiama itself in drawing a holiday crowd.
3- Hike the Kiama Coastal Walk
To combine sightseeing with much-needed exercise, lace up the serious boots for the Kiama Coastal Walk. And make sure to bring along the camera as well as the essential water supply.
It’s 10 years ago since the green light was given to allow trekkers to pass through privately-owned farmland on a lushly green section of coast linking the southern outskirts of Kiama with Werri Beach, Gerringong to the south.
The initial section of the scenic Kiama Coastal Walk actually begins as far north as Minnamurra, passing Bombo Beach before rising to Kiama’s Pheasant Point, around Kiama’s historic harbour to Blowhole Point and onwards across the fronts of Kiama’s main Surf Beach, Kendalls Beach and East’s Beach.
En route, trekkers are given an opportunity to view Kiama’s Little Blowhole before descending on East’s Beach.
Overall, the walk spans 22 kilometres and takes most sightseeing walkers a few leisurely hours to complete. Like many walkers, though, the section between southern Kiama and Werri Beach is preferred for its whale watching, bird gazing and, of course, the ocean views.
4- Take a Kiama camping trip down memory lane
As a child who spent family holidays camped at the family-owned East’s Beach, on the southern outskirts of Kiama, the scent of freshly barbecued fish was almost as commonplace as bacon and eggs first thing in the morning.
To wake to the mouth-watering aroma and the sounds of waves crashing against the shore remains as welcoming as it was so many years ago, although the park has far many more attractions to meet today’s holidaying demands.
These days the camping ground is known as BIG4 East’s Beach Holiday Park, the site boasting a wide range of self-contained cabins and villas in addition to the permanently positioned privately-owned caravans and the grassed powered sites for tents and camper trailers.
Children are spoiled for choice of activities with a palm-fringed 25-metre resort-style pool, and undercover “jumping pillow” and a themed playground and games room. For parents, there’s the communal kitchen and barbecues, to name a few more facilities.
East’s Beach isn’t the only waterfront campground in the area as there are attractive holiday parks at nearby Kendalls Beach and the Kiama caravan park at Surf Beach as well as Kiama Harbour Cabins and Gerringong’s Werri Beach.
5- Go on a scenic drive
Whether you take the high road or low road, the drives in and around Kiama are as scenically breathtaking as some of the sign-posted names indicate. And all lead to hotspots within 30 minutes of your hotel or camping ground address.
Some of the views are worth dying for, especially if you visit Gerringong. Expect to see a cemetery with one of the most specular outlooks imaginable.
Drive inland for 10 minutes, and you will come across the sleepy village of Jamberoo, in the heart of lush dairy country, the imposing escarpment of National Budderoo Park shadowing it. Here you can pop into Tudor-style Jamberoo Pub for thirst quencher while admiring the sporting memorabilia to decorate the walls.
Another five-minute drive beyond the village is Minnamurra Rainforest where you can stretch the legs on an elevated loop walk which spans 1.6km and is wheelchair friendly.
Also within an easy drive of Kiama is Saddleback Mountain Lookout and a bird’s eye view of the coast and hinterland which unfolds from the newly-opened southern platform.
For most, the short but winding highway that links Kiama with Gerringong is rewarding on the eye, as is the drive along motorway conditions to the quaint historic town of Berry, famous for its pubs, cafes, and quirky shops which line the main street. Make sure to bring along the credit card as the temptations are many.
6- Hit the Kiama shops
While on the heritage walk, make a beeline to the row of heritage-protected Terrace houses on Collins Street which were originally built in 1886 to house the workmen from the quarries.
Within the weatherboard designs of these quaintly restored cottages are stores selling art and craft, collectables and clothing you wouldn’t find in mainstream department stores.
There’s also an interesting mix of cafes and restaurants, including the ever-popular Amaki Café, where guests have the choice to dine inside or outdoors.
Behind the cottages is a pleasant detour which will take you past another scattering of interesting stores, ultimately leading you to the large park which hosts the Kiama Seaside Markets, held on the third Sunday of each month.
7- Eat FISH ‘N’ CHIPS at Werri Beach
Such is the popularity of fish and chips in and around Kiama, even the pelicans are known to queue for a bite.
No-one holidays on the NSW south coast without sampling the traditional fare, Werri Beach Fish Shop a favourite among locals as well as the sun-seeking holidaymakers.
Here, across the street from the beach, the store is kept busy serving the catch of the day and other tantalisingly fresh seafood along with burgers and coffee, to be consumed in a small outdoor courtyard fronting the shop. Then again, you do have the option to take away – back on the beach.
On the eastern edge of Kiama Harbour, patrons line up to put their orders in, the resident pelicans and seagulls watching in anticipation of a drop chip or corner of fried snapper.
For restaurant diners, head to Gerroa, at the northern end of Seven Mile Beach, and sample the quality of the seafood at the Blue Swimmer at Seahaven.
8- Make a splash at Jamberoo Action Park
While Queensland’s Gold Coast has some of the country’s most famous and popular theme parks, the south coast has one to rival their thrills and spills.
Unlike the sleepy village of the same name, the Jamberoo Action Park offers, as the name suggests, action aplenty, and much of that action centres on water.
There’s a new ride known as the Perfect Storm, not for the faint-hearted as it is billed as one of the longest, biggest and most exhilarating water thrill rides of its kind in the world. “It’s like being in the middle of three tornadoes,” is how one young visitor described the ride.
When you have other aqua rides with names such as Funnel Web and the Taipan, expect a few screams to spread across the park.
Set on 40 hectares of landscaped gardens and parkland, Jamberoo Action Park doesn’t just cater thrill seekers as there are activities and attractions for all ages and sizes.
For parents with youngsters, Billabong Beach and Kiddies Cove are perfect enough.
Kiama is 35km south of Wollongong and is an easy drive on the Princess Highway. Here are some things to do in Wollongong and more ideas on what to see in Sydney.
A room with a view
Ideally located in the heart Kiama, overlooking the historic harbour and the Pacific waters beyond, is a hotel which prides itself on its warm welcome and service as much as its views.
The Sebel Harbourside Kiama is not only within an easy walking distance of the Kiama Blowhole and the historic Terrace shops, cafes and restaurants. It offers a feel of being at home the moment you check in and unpack the bags.
The Kiama hotel’s “around the clock” reception is matched by the tastefully decorated and furnished self-contained guest rooms (there are 80), room 302 a favourite for its large balcony which looks directly across the harbour, perfect spot for early evening G&Ts.
Perfect for longer stays are the one and two-bedroom apartments, the latter found on the ground floor and featuring a full kitchen and laundry facilities, separate living and dining area with an outdoor courtyard.
One of the delights of staying at The Sebel Harbourside Kiama is the setting for the buffet breakfast, inside the Quarry Room with its stunning 180-degree view of the harbour.
One floor below is the relaxed Blue Diamond Bar and Bistro, open for lunch and dinner seven days week and popular for its gourmet pizzas and tapas. Diners can choose between dining alfresco style in the courtyard or indoors, preferably near the window for yet another chance to view the harbour.
Fitness fanatics aren’t forgotten either with the hotel boasting a fitness centre to beat all – One Fitness Gym – which has attracted celebrities as well as major sporting teams.
A centrepiece of the hotel is the 1871-built heritage-listed former school which has been beautifully restored to its glorious best as a conference and meeting centre as well as an outdoor backdrop for garden wedding receptions.
Michael Smith stayed courtesy of The Sebel Harbourside Kiama