Illawarra, Wollongong & Kiama

Kids jumping off the wharf and playing in the South Coast's Lake Illawarra

Jump, swim and play in the South Coast's Lake Illawarra. Photo: Tourism Australia

Head south from Sydney and explore what lies beneath the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. You'll uncover beach towns, rural towns and a whole lot of country hospitality. 

The Illawarra is a popular weekend getaway for Sydney-siders all year round. The most popular and well-known towns are Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama. Take the Grand Pacific Drive to Wollongong and enjoy 17 different beaches, national parks filled with hiking tracks and mountain bike trails, weekend markets and more.

Nearby is the charming town of Kiama. Here you’ll find the world-famous Kiama Blowhole, gorgeous beaches, farmers markets, national parks and bushwalking tracks, and the Jamberoo Action Park (which is the Illawarra’s theme park). 

a couple enjoying a scenic trike tour through the Illawarra

Take a scenic trike tour through the Illawarra. Photo: Destination NSW

Getting there: catching the train from Sydney’s Central station, or driving. If you don’t have your own wheels, I recommend a hire car so you can travel around the place. If you have limited time, book a day trip to the Illawarra. 

8 of the best things to do in the Illawarra

a couple doing the stunning Kiama coastal walk

Explore the stunning Kiama coastal walk. Photo: Dee Kramer Photography

The South Coast NSW is a unique blend of national parks and beaches all wrapped in one. So while you might intend on hiking, chances are you’ll be tempted to swim on the nearby beaches and swimming holes along the way.

1. Killalea beach – Shellharbour

Killalea beach is located in the Killalea State Park, which is a 250-hectare coastal reserve. The beautiful turquoise water is a haven for surfers. Locals and board-riders call Killalea Beach “The Farm” after its original owners and vast farming history. Killalea Beach has more than just great waves.  Pack a picnic or take a bushwalk through rainforest and wetlands. Along the way you’ll hopefully get a glimpse at the local wildlife and seabirds that breed in this area.

2. Bass Point Reserve - Shellharbour 

Head to Bass Point Reserve which offers something for everyone. Take a hike on one of the bushland tracks or enjoy the coastal walking trails. Stop off for a picnic along the way, and cool off with a swim or surf. Do some snorkelling or diving at the nearby Bushrangers Bay Aquatic Reserve. This is without a doubt one of Shellharbour's best dive and snorkel spots because it's sheltered so it acts as a nursery for all the local marine life. 

a couple hiking to Cascade Falls in Macquarie Pass National Park

Go hiking to Cascade Falls in Macquarie Pass National Park. Photo: Destination NSW

3. Macquarie Pass National Park – Shellharbour

Head to Macquarie Pass National Park for a picnic, a bushwalk or a bit of both. Walk along the sandstone cliffs pass by the beautiful waterfalls. Depending on which way you’re looking, you’ll get views over the ocean. Turn around and you’ll gaze over the rainforest filled with eucalypt trees. Do some birdwatching – this is home to lyrebirds, satin bowerbirds, tiger quolls, and long-nosed potoroos. 

Popular walks include:

  • Cascades Walk- 2 km circuit and takes about an hour. This walk features a stunning waterfall, and if you’re lucky, you might just see platypuses and lyrebirds. 

  • Clover Hill Trail - 6 km walk and takes around 2-3 hours to complete. This walk features running streams, a rainforest filled with eucalypts and Illawarra flame trees, lyrebirds and the occasional kangaroo.

the Kiama Blowhole

Marvel at the Kiama Blowhole. Photo: Destination NSW

4. The Kiama Blowhole – Kiama

The Kiama Blowhole is one of the world’s largest natural water spouts, with seawater blowing 20 metres in the air. How high the water spouts depends on the ocean swell that day. At night, the Kiama blowhole is lit up – making it a spectacular light and sound show.

  • If on blowhole isn’t enough, drive 10 minutes down the road to see the Little Blowhole. 

  • Next to the Kiama blowhole is the Lighthouse, and the Pilot’s Cottage Museum filled with the local maritime history.

the 'Dreaming Poles' on the Kiama coastal walk

Check out the 'Dreaming Poles' on the Kiama coastal walk. Photo: Destination NSW

5. Kiama Coast walk - Kiama

The 22-kilometre Kiama Coast Walk is one of the best walking trails in Australia. This walk has everything from views, stunning rock formations, and beaches. Between May and November you may even spot a humpback migrating north. The walk is best broken into three sections so you can choose to do a section or the whole 22 km.

  • The first section takes you from the Minnamurra River to Blow Hole Point and is about three hours. 

  • The second section is from Blowhole Point to Kiama Heights and takes about 90 minutes. 

  • The third section takes you from Kiama Heights past Werri Lagoon to Werri Beach in Gerringong. This walk takes about two hours and is filled with ocean views and signage explaining the area’s history and geology.

6. Swim, surf and play on the beaches - Kiama

Heads up, Kiama is blessed with beautiful beaches. Minnamurra Beach (also known as ‘Mystics’) and Werri beach (in Gerringong) are both excellent surfing beaches. Surf Beach in Kiama is popular with families and surfers because it combines great waves with parks and playgrounds.

a couple playing and frolicking on the South Coast beaches.

Swim, play and frolic on the South Coast beaches. Photo: Tourism Australia

7. Budderoo National Park – Kiama

Budderoo National Park has hiking and mountain bike tracks, waterfalls and lookouts, and is a great place to spot lyrebirds. Drop into the Minnamurra rainforest centre for maps, plus this is also the starting place for many of the walks. A few recommended walks are:

  • The Rainforest loop walk which part of the Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventure. This is Australia's highest zipline tour, and takes you high above the Illawarra rainforest. Take this gentle 1.6 km treetop walk and look down over the rainforest canopy and waterfalls as you walk on elevated boardwalks and over suspension bridges.

  • Minnamurra Falls walk is a 4.2km return walk and takes over an hour. This hike starts with the Rainforest loop and then takes you deeper into the bushland to see Minnamurra Falls from different angles and lookouts. 

  • Drive up to the mountain to Jamberoo lookout for incredible ocean views. If you’re keen for a hike or bike ride, this is the start of the 24 km Budderoo track. You can choose to do smaller sections of this walk.
 people doing the zipline treetop adventure

Do a zipline treetop adventure. Photo: Destination NSW

8. Jamberoo Action Park – Kiama

For the kids – head to Jamberoo Action Park (water park) which has heaps of rides, waterslides and attractions that the kids will love. Good luck getting them to leave.

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