With a population of almost 304,000 people, Wollongong is New South Wales’ third-largest city. Better known to the locals as “the Gong, it’s history stretches back to when it was founded for its port and coal mining industries.
The local Thuruwal indigenous translation of its original name “woolyungah” is believed to mean "five islands", although several other meanings have been suggested – including "great feast of fish", "seas of the south", "hard ground near water", "song of the sea", "sound of the waves" and "many snakes".
One indisputable fact about “the Gong”, as the locals call it, is the spectacular beauty of its surrounding landscape, a place where the city meets the sea and draws families from all around. If this sounds attractive to you, you may want to consider this list of things to do in Wollongong as part of your travel plans.
Grand Pacific Drive
Wollongong’s natural beauty is best witnessed as part of the iconic Grand Pacific drive. This scenic route starts at the Royal National Park, 45 minutes south of Sydney and winds its way down the coastline passing through Wollongong along the way. Discover some of the most spectacular views along Australia’s eastern coastline on this drive and don’t forget to pack your camera!
Symbio Wildlife Park
The Symbio Wildlife Park is a 16-acre, family-owned property housing a large collection of Australian, exotic and farm animals - including cheetahs, meerkats, lemurs, and red pandas - just north of Wollongong. In summer, the Splash Park installation becomes the perfect place for kids to cool off and play within the supervised water feature. If you are looking for something fun but educational, Symbio is an experience you should consider during your visit to Wollongong.
Minnamurra Rainforest Centre
Located about 40 minutes from Wollongong within the Budderoo National Park, is a network of elevated walkways, walking trails and tranquil waterfalls at its Minnamurra Rainforest Centre. During the hour-long walk, visitors can immerse themselves in a full rainforest experience while keeping an eye out for lyrebirds in full mating display from April to August. Between late summer and early autumn are recommended as the best times to visit when waterfalls come alive with the increased rainfall. Best of all, the entire experience is open daily and free for all to experience.
North Wollongong Beach
North Beach is an ideal location for families looking for a day out by the water. As the name suggests, it is located just north of the city centre, and lays claim as the only beach with a year-round patrol. Take a dip in one of the rock pools or bring something for a barbecue by one of the best beaches south of Sydney.
Featuring over 90 interactive exhibits, Science Space is Australia's most digitally advanced Planetarium and only dedicated immersive science experience in New South Wales. For over 30 years, this space has wowed and delighted locals and visitors of all ages, helping them to learn more about the world beyond the stars. If you’re planning on visit the Science Space, plan enough time to also watch one of its live science shows - it’s a must-do!
Nan Tien Temple
You wouldn’t guess it, but Wollongong is home to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Buddhist temple. The Nan Tien Temple is a Chinese-styled palace structure purpose-built on the city’s outskirts near Mount Kembla. The complex and its adjoining Nan Tien Institute has become a regular weekend retreat for visitors, offering classes in calligraphy, mindfulness, and tai chi.
Australian Motorlife Museum
Motoring heritage comes to life at the Australian Motorlife Museum in Kembla Grange. Founded in early 1992 as the Illawarra Motor Museum, the museum is just a short 15-minute drive from central Wollongong. It is home to a large collection of vehicles from prolific car collector Paul Butler and motorcycle racing legend Wayne Gardner, who grew up in the area. For motoring enthusiasts, the museum hosts several regular events including its Annual Expo every October long weekend, and the National Motoring Heritage Day in May.
Wollongong Harbour and Lighthouse
The historic Wollongong Lighthouse stands 12 metres (40 feet) high above the heritage harbour below. While inactive since 1974, the structure is locally noted for its significance as Australia's first prefabricated steel lighthouse.
Fun fact: Wollongong is the only point along the east coast of Australia to have two lighthouses located in proximity to each other - the other being the Wollongong Head Lighthouse.
Wollongong City Beach
If you’ve only got a short amount of time in town then Wollongong City Beach is worth a visit. It is ideally situated between Flagstaff Point and Port Kembla and bordered by the Wollongong Golf Club which provides a pretty incredible 3km long backdrop. Go for a swim, ride a bike, or just take a leisurely walk at your own pace along the beach path. Surfers are also advised to take advantage of great surfing conditions with waves averaging up to 1.5 metres.
Bald Hill Lookout
No trip to Wollongong is complete without a visit to one of its iconic scenic lookouts – especially to the Bald Hill Lookout at Stanwell Park. This spot provides some of the most picturesque views of Wollongong and is a must-do for any tourist. From here, visitors can see the Sea Cliff Bridge, a highlight of the Great Pacific Drive, as it wraps along the coastline. Hang gliders are also welcome to Bald Hill with the area attracting many aerial thrill-seekers over the years.
Did we miss any suggestions on this list? Let us know, we would love to hear from you! Contact the Southern Phone team today.