By guest writer Paula McInerney ~ Located an hour south of Sydney, Wollongong is nestled between the mountains and the sea. Affectionately known as the Gong, the city is very diverse due to the University of Wollongong, which has the largest amount of foreign students of any university in Australia. There are also many free things to do in Wollongong.
The appeal of Wollongong, which is situated in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, lies in its very beautiful location nestled between the beach and the mountains. Here are a few of my favorite free things to do in Wollongong:
Wollongong’s awe-inspiring coastline features 17 surf beaches, which are patrolled from September to April. North Wollongong beach is patrolled all year-round, which makes surfers and swimmers a very happy part of the community. The beaches of Wollongong are much more accessible and a lot less crowded than the Sydney beaches and the climate is very good for year-round swimming.
Walking along the Blue Mile Boardwalk, which runs along the shore of central Wollongong, provides a panoramic view of the ocean both up north and down south.
The ocean rock pools are spread along Wollongong’s coastline. These are terrific to swim in when you don’t want to catch a wave.
2. Wollongong’s escarpment
The mountains that line Wollongong are part of the Great Dividing Range and known as the escarpment. Both Mt Kembla and Mt Keira are a mecca for bushwalkers, cyclists and dirt bike riders. There are endless trails that challenge all levels. The views from any of these walks are stunning and the likelihood of seeing some unique Australian flora is guaranteed as is seeing some of more unique fauna. Lyre birds abound, which are lovely, but you could also see a snake or two so due care is needed. They are more scared of you remember.
3. Nan Tien Buddhist Temple
Wollongong is home to the largest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. The Nan Tien Temple means “Southern Paradise” and is from Guang Buddhism, which is based in the Mahayana tradition. It has its origins in Taiwan and the site in Wollongong was carefully selected because it is between the mountains and the sea, which is excellent karma.
4. Wollongong Botanic Gardens
To get a better understanding of Australian flora and our Aboriginal heritage, the Wollongong Botanic gardens are home to some of our most unique Australian species. Here that you’ll learn more about the bush tucker of the Aboriginal people and see and learn how to use these yourself for medicinal and food usages. The Towri Bush Tucker Garden is devoted to this. The name
Towri means “learning place bounded by flowers and trees” and was named by the traditional owners of this land, the Wodi Wodi people.
There are natural watercourses throughout the gardens as well as bridges, with the red bridge being a gift from our sister city of Kawasaki, Japan.
5. The Arts Precinct
Artists are drawn to the natural beauty of the region and some of their works are on display at the Wollongong City Gallery as well as a permanent collection of contemporary Aboriginal art. The outdoor art precinct of Wollongong has a lot of street art from young and contemporary artists as well as being the home of the performing arts. Street performers and trendy cafes all add to the bohemian feel of the city.
Guest writer Paula McInerney is a native Australian and blog at Contented Traveler where she writes about her travels with the adventurous Gordon. They’ve stayed on a houseboat in Amsterdam, a tatami mat in a ryokan in Japan, and a cave house in Goreme. Follow them on Google + and Facebook.