A road trip to Wollongong and beyond

8 February 2016

Lighthouse on Flagstaff Hill, Wollongong

Lighthouse on Flagstaff Hill, Wollongong. Image credit: Tourism Wollongong

The third largest city in NSW, Wollongong is home to a world-class university, incredible beaches and cafés, and no shortage of culture. In recent times the coastal city has become a haven for students and young families looking for a lifestyle that lies somewhere between a cosmopolitan city and a laidback beachside town.

A drive to Wollongong from Sydney makes for an enticing journey. While only 80 kilometres away, travelling on inland roads turns what could be a one stop drive into a road trip that weaves through historic towns and beautiful scenery.

Returning to Sydney on the Grand Pacific Drive will give you a chance to recuperate from what is sure to be an eventful weekend.

Getting there

Couple exploring Fitzroy Falls at Morton National Park, Southern Highlands

Morton National Park, Southern Highlands. Image credit: Tourism Southern Highlands

From Sydney, head south and visit the towns of the Southern Highlands, Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale. They’re full of antique stores, vintage clothing, beautiful historic buildings, and a dining scene reinvigorated by the influx of young chefs and restaurateurs looking for a life outside the city.

It’s in Moss Vale that you’ll find the ideal road trip lunch spot, Bernie’s Diner. After time spent learning the restaurant trade in Sydney and abroad, the owner bought a site once owned by his grandfather. He’s turned it into a cross between an Australian corner store and an American diner, with house-smoked meats, burgers and shakes.

From Moss Vale, drive through mountains, into the Morton National Park, where you’ll find the Fitzroy Falls, home to an 80-metre waterfall. In the Kangaroo Valley you can drive over the Kangaroo River on Australia’s oldest suspension bridge, the Hampden Bridge, built in 1898.

Before you reach Wollongong, stop and visit the waves in Kiama. If you’re not into surfing, you can always check out the blowhole, which sends water spraying 25 metres into the air.

In Wollongong

View of Flagstaff Point Wollongong beach, Illawarra

View of Flagstaff Point Wollongong beach, Illawarra. Image credit: Adam Taylor

With so many bars, restaurants, activities and stores in Wollongong, there’s no shortage of action in the city, and with 17 beaches there’s an abundance of sand to nurse a tender head after a night of fun. You couldn’t fit it all in one blog, so we’ll cover some of the essentials.

If you’re looking for coffee, start at Sandygoodwich, a café and dinner spot where New York diner meets Middle Eastern market. Think Ottolenghi in the big apple.

At night, find a cocktail at one of the cities many small bars, like The Throsby, The Little Prince or Dagwood. If you’re keen to keep going, the cities live and electronic music scene is alive and well, and there are plenty of stages and nightclubs to be found, offering world class DJs, local musicians and international rock heavyweights.

Getting back

Long view of car driving along Sea Cliff Bridge, Grand Pacific Drive, with coastal views in background, Illawarra

Sea Cliff Bridge, Illawarra. Image credit: Tourism Illawarra

One of the countries most scenic routes, the Grand Pacific Drive takes you into a national park, along cliffs perched high above the ocean and through idyllic coastal suburbs before arriving back in Sydney. There’s plenty of signage to guide the way.

The first such suburb you’ll pass through is Thirroul. For a period, Thirroul was home to English author DH Lawrence. With its ever-growing artistic community there’s a good selection of café options and interesting boutique stores.

The next section of the drive takes you over the beautiful Sea Cliff Bridge between Clifton and Coalcliff and then above the beach to Stanwell Tops.

After this you can choose to stay on the Southern Freeway back to Sydney, or travel through the Royal National Park. Find a picnic spot or a swimming hole for one last meal or adventure before you’re back in the city.

There’s plenty to see and do in Wollongong!