Are you looking for a place to escape from Sydney, with amazing ocean views, fabulous beaches and delicious food? Wollongong is the 10th largest city in Australia and is only a 1.5-hour drive from Sydney. You could easily visit Wollongong as a day trip from Sydney but there’s enough to do if you plan on staying longer.
This lovely seaside city has an alluring mix of culture and nature-based attractions as well as cool cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs. Here are some of the best things to do in Wollongong.
- 20 things to do in Wollongong
- 1- Surf Or Sunbake On A Wollongong Beach
- 2- Visit Nan Tien Temple
- 3- Have Fun At Jamberoo Action Park
- 4- Hangout With Wildlife At Symbio Wildlife Park
- 5- Hang Glide Like A Daredevil From Bald Hill
- 6- Drive The Sea Cliff Bridge
- 7- Go On A Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk
- 8- Discover the Wollongong Science Centre
- 9- Explore Minnamurra Rainforest
- 10- Visit Trainworks
- 11- Explore the Illawarra Museum and Marketplace
- 12- Take a helicopter flight
- 13- Photograph the Wollongong Lighthouse
- 14- Explore Helensburgh Tunnel
- 15- Visit the Kiama Blowholes
- 16- Visit the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Museum
- 17- Go shopping in Wollongong’s markets
- Eat Street Markets
- Friday Forage Market
- 18- See the plants in Grevillea Park
- 19- Visit the Australian Motorlife Museum
- 20- Go skydiving and land on the beach
- How to visit Wollongong
- Wollongong accommodation
- Best restaurants in Wollongong
- What’s on in Wollongong
- 20 things to do in Wollongong
20 things to do in Wollongong
1- Surf Or Sunbake On A Wollongong Beach
As it is a coastal city, there are many beautiful beaches in Wollongong.
North Wollongong Beach and the Wollongong City Beach are fun and relaxing.
There’s something earthy about feeling the sand between your toes and the flow of the ocean around your feet.
There are numerous things to do in Wollongong, however, going to the beach would have to be high up on the priority list of most visitors.
Take a surfing lesson or a beach fishing tour with a professional.
For an adventure you will always remember, try skydiving over Wollongong’s beaches for an adrenalin rush with a splendid bird’s-eye view.
2- Visit Nan Tien Temple
Of all the Wollongong attractions, this Buddhist temple is one of the most impressive.
Wollongong’s NanTien Temple is also known as “Southern Paradise” because it is the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere.
Most visitors to Wollongong would not expect to visit a Buddhist temple but, trust me, this temple is worth the trip.
The Nan Tien Institute has a programme of regular activities like meditation, retreats, excursions and art seminars.
Tourists are welcome at this Wollongong Buddhist temple and participating in the activities is a serene experience.
3- Have Fun At Jamberoo Action Park
Jamberoo Action Park is full of fun-packed activities for families and kids of all ages.
If you are travelling with your family, you can’t go wrong in Wollongong and Jamberoo always delivers loads of family fun.
Jamberoo recreation park is one of the largest theme parks in New South Wales and has attractions like mini-golf, speed slides, wave pools and an exciting funnel-web water slide that is part of the new Kangaroo Island development at Jamberoo water park.
4- Hangout With Wildlife At Symbio Wildlife Park
Symbio Wildlife Park is in Helensburgh and if you’re visiting Wollongong, then this is the place to see wildlife.
Spend the day checking out the Sumatran tigers, meerkats, red pandas and tamarin monkeys. And of course, Australian icons like koalas and kangaroos.
Symbio has a decent range of animals to attract wildlife lovers and families.
The park is also active in koala conservation and is a great place to learn more about what’s happening to Australia’s koala population.
If you’re looking for a day trip from Sydney that incorporates a visit to Symbio and other attractions like Grand Pacific Drive, check out this tour.
5- Hang Glide Like A Daredevil From Bald Hill
Being a coastal city, the thermals around Wollongong are perfect for hang gliding, and there are hang gliding lessons for all levels of experience.
However, if you are undecided about whether or not to take the plunge, head to Bald Hill in Stanwell Park to watch the hang gliders throw themselves off the edge of the cliff.
Bald Hill is near the southern boundary of the Sydney Royal National Park and has a splendid view of the Royal National Park and New South Wales coastline.
Hang gliding is a fun activity when travelling with friends.
For more things to do in NSW, read:
6- Drive The Sea Cliff Bridge
Just south of Sydney, at the entrance of the Royal National Park, Grand Pacific Drive is an impressive 140 km route through rainforests and seaside villages.
The star of the drive is the 665-metre Sea Cliff Bridge.
The balanced cantilever bridge cost $52 million and links the coastal villages of Coalcliff and Clifton.
Rent a sports car, put the roof down, crank up the music and head across Sea Cliff Bridge for a drive to remember.
The bridge is an impressive Australian landmark worth exploring.
Not keen on driving?
7- Go On A Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk
Take the Illawarra Fly treetop walk through lush rainforests.
The steel walkway sways gently as you meander beneath the forest canopy 50m from the ground.
The Illawarra treetop walk brings you close to nature and is suitable for all the family.
However, adventurous travellers will love the range of Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures offered.
The Illawarra Fly zip line is the highest zip line tour in Australia and involves soaring 35m above the ground on a series of cable spans and suspension bridges.
The views of the rainforest and coastline are stunning.
Combine the walk and the zip line experience for an Illawarra treetop experience to remember.
8- Discover the Wollongong Science Centre
Wollongong Science Centre and Wollongong Planetarium is an interactive, hands-on science centre with experiences for all ages.
There’s a science theatre and plenty of exhibits to captivate the entire family, especially if it is a rainy day!
Don’t miss the free science shows and planetarium shows.
From dinosaurs to space travel, this is the place to hide away for a few hours to stimulate the mind.
The facility is part of the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus.
9- Explore Minnamurra Rainforest
Explore the Minnamurra rainforest in Budderoo National Park, for gushing waterfalls and lookouts with jaw-dropping views.
It is the place to get away from the city and go bushwalking and bird watching.
Spend some time soaking up the energy of Minnamurra Falls.
The national park has decent facilities, including the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre, with riverside picnic areas and well-marked walks along raised boardwalks.
Alternatively, glide along the Minnamurra River in a canoe or kayak.
There are several spots to launch a kayak on your own, but if you are unsure of the Minnamurra tides, a guided tour is a less stressful way to experience the river.
Book this personalised Erupting Blowholes and Ancient Rainforests tour.
10- Visit Trainworks
Trainworks is Australia’s top railway museum.
The Thirlmere train museum is home to a significant rail heritage collection.
It has more than 100 historical items associated with the history of New South Wales’ railways.
Of all the places to visit in Wollongong, the Thirlmere railway museum is the place that will impress railway buffs.
Thomas the Tank Engine fans will love visiting on Sundays for the heritage train ride between Thirlmere and Buxton.
It is a fabulous day out for families.
Bring a picnic and enjoy some time in the sun after learning about railway history at Trainworks Thirlmere.
Keep an eye out for the Thirlmere Steam Festival, which is in March each year.
11- Explore the Illawarra Museum and Marketplace
Illawarra Museum is housed in the former post and telegraph office.
The historic building (1876-92) is a fitting place for the museum’s 19th-century displays.
Here you’ll get insights into the domestic Wollongong history and the Mt Kembla mining disaster.
The museum is next to Market Square, the historic town hub, which has a charming bandstand and old lamp posts.
Besides exploring the museum, a great way to learn about history is to go on this Wollongong Scavenger Hunt.
12- Take a helicopter flight
The region around Wollongong is stunning from the sky.
Take a scenic flight over the Jamberoo Valley and you’ll be wowed by spectacular Carrington and Gerringong Falls.
The bird’s-eye view of mountains, ocean and rainforests reveals the stunning cliff faces and gorges of the Great Dividing Range in NSW
13- Photograph the Wollongong Lighthouse
Did you know that Wollongong is the only point on Australia’s east coast that has two lighthouses?
The historic breakwater lighthouse in Wollongong harbour was restored in 2002 and is not active.
The white lighthouse sits on Flagstaff Hill and was built in 1936. It has white and red lights light.
14- Explore Helensburgh Tunnel
Helensburgh Tunnel is a hidden treasure near Wollongong. The tunnel was constructed in the 1800s and is a photogenic spot.
The tunnel is sandwiched between two rock cliffs and is home to glow worms and, according to some, ghosts.
The tunnel was part of the railway line, which was abandoned in the 1920s. The tunnel was recently fenced off so you may or may not be able to get in to see the glow worms.
15- Visit the Kiama Blowholes
A 40-minute drive south of Wollongong lies the sleepy seaside town of Kiama, where seeing the Kiama blowhole is one of the top things to do in Kiama.
First sighted in 1797 by George Bass, when he anchored his whaleboat in Kiama harbour, the Kiama blowholes are a wonder of nature.
The blowholes were formed over 250 thousand years ago and even if you don’t have time to explore Kiama, the blowholes are worth the effort.
The larger blowhole has an opening of 2.5m and allows the sea to gush through the opening and up into the air for 30m.
16- Visit the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Museum
Discover the secrets of Australia’s intriguing aviation history at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Museum.
Aviation fans will not be disappointed at the displays of historical aircraft, which include a Connie Lockhead Super Constellation that dominated the 1950s.
There are Neptune Bombers, World War II C47 Dakota troop carriers and an F-111.
Visiting the museum is a reminder that we live in an age where aircraft technology is leaping forward rapidly.
17- Go shopping in Wollongong’s markets
Whether you’re looking for a gift or to buy a souvenir to take home, Wollongong’s markets are fun to wander around.
Eat Street Markets
Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, make sure you go to Eat Street Markets at least once just to see how passionate local foodies are about food.
Sip on an aromatic coffee made from roasted coffee beans while you shop for fruit and veggies that are in season and, where possible, organic.
Many of the producers are passionate believers of the slow food movement.
Eat Street Markets happens on Thursday nights (5 pm to 9 pm) in Crown St Mall
Friday Forage Market
Another fun market to visit is the Friday Forage market, for its food stalls and to buy odds and ends such as jewellery, garments and hand-made soaps.
The Friday Forage Market is at Lower Crown Street Mall on Fridays (9 am to 3 pm).
18- See the plants in Grevillea Park
Keen gardeners will want to keep an eye out for the displays at Grevillea Park, which has special gardening shows around Australian natives 12 times a year.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting when there’s an event happening, you’ll get the chance to buy some of the most amazing native plants as well as learn all about them. Check out more here.
At other times, the park is a lovely place for a stroll or a picnic, as paths are accessible to those with prams or wheelchairs.
19- Visit the Australian Motorlife Museum
The Australian Motorlife Museum is a magnet for anyone who loves old cars.
With a range of historic motor vehicles and motorbikes as well as other machinery, such as pumps, radios, sewing machines and lawnmowers, this is the place to lose yourself in the past.
From the 1904 Innes motorcar, which was built in Australia, to Australian manufactured motorcycles, it’s worth visiting the Australian Motorlife Museum for a walk down memory lane.
20- Go skydiving and land on the beach
Being a quieter coastal city, Wollongong is the perfect place to try a tandem sky diving adventure.
It’s even better when you can jump out of an aircraft, free fall from the sky at 220 kilometres an hour and land on the beach!
It’s an experience you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life.
How to visit Wollongong
Getting to Wollongong
Getting from Sydney to Wollongong by car is an easy one hour drive along the Princess Highway and freeway. However, if you have more time, the Bulli Pass is the more scenic route.
If you’d rather not do the driving, book a private tour to Wollongong here.
Getting around Wollongong is easy if you have a car and if you don’t, good public transport is available by bus and train.
There’s a free shuttle bus around the Wollongong CBD (route numbers 55A and 55c), which travels in a loop between Wollongong Station and Wollongong University. The bus operates every 10 minutes (7 am to 6 pm) on weekdays/every 20 minutes (6 pm to 10 pm) and every 20 minutes (8 am to 6 pm) on weekends.
There are train services to Wollongong’s suburbs and coastal towns. See the train timetables here.
Here’s a map of Wollongong to help you get your bearings.
Hotels in Wollongong range from top international brands to apartment-style stays. There are eight internationally branded Wollongong hotels and plenty of B&Bs. If you are on a road trip, there are some caravan parks in Wollongong to choose from too.
Best restaurants in Wollongong
You will not go hungry in Wollongong as there are hundreds of eateries to choose from and a range of cuisines. Here are three suggestions:
Altitude 1148 is a contemporary restaurant that serves up modern Australian cuisine in Bulli Tops. The restaurant has impressive floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open onto a balcony with fantastic coastal views.
Caveau was awarded a chef hat in the 2017 SMH Good Food Guide Awards. Treat yourself to the seven-course French degustation menu for a dining experience you will not forget.
Looking for a cool multicultural treat? Samba Brazil is the place for a traditional Brazilian barbecue and a Latin dancing show.
What’s on in Wollongong
Wollongong nightlife is buzzing hidden bars, quirky cafes and new nightspots.
The bar and club scene is hopping in Wollongong, and places like His Boy Elroy, Howlin Wolf and The Throsby are fun spots to have a cocktail or a beer with friends.
There are many festivals and events in Wollongong throughout the year, including theatre festivals, art exhibitions and charity walks.