Known affectionately as "the Gong", Wollongong is a town with a long history of mining and industry, having coal mines, steelworks and an industrial port. The city is also a regional centre for the South Coast fishing industry.
Where is it?: Central & Far West. Wollongong is located on the eastern coast of Australia, 82 km south of Sydney.
In spite of its industrial connections, Wollongong is increasingly becoming a tourist destination, as it is located close to the many scenic natural attractions of the surrounding Illawarra region.
The city is connected to Sydney through both a rail and scenic coastal road route which take between 90 and 120 minutes, and via main roads, taking between 70 and 90 minutes. The main road connecting Wollongong is the Waterfall-Yallah Southern Freeway (formerly the F6). Passenger rail services on the South Coast railway line connect the centres of Nowra and Kiama to the south and Sydney to the north.
Lookouts: Sublime Point Lookout offers 180 degree views over the sea, the rainforest and the 17 beaches that span the coastline to Wollongong. This is one of the few places where the coastal foothills and the plateau are linked. The Sublime Point Track descends the escarpment via a series of steel ladders. Access is off Princes Highway at Bulli Tops.
Further along the escarpment at Stanwell Tops is Bald Hill Lookout, a favourite hang gliding launching site. The views down the coast are equally spectacular.
Things to see and do:
The Illawarra coastline itself consists of many beaches characterised by fine pale gold-coloured sands. They are all popular swimming beaches and used by both locals and visitors from Sydney. Seventeen of the beaches are patrolled. Nine of the beaches have ocean rock pools attached - providing safe and relaxing swimming away from the surf breaks. The beaches are occasionally interrupted by prominent and picturesque rocky headlands jutting into the sea.
Austinmer: one of a number of scenic coastal communities on Grand Pacific Drive, which traverses the narrow coastal strip to the north of Wollongong between Bulli and Royal National Park. Austinmer has a number of places to enjoy lunch or a coffee. Like its northern neighbours Scarborough, Clifton, Coalcliff and Stanwell Park, Austinmer is a popular surfing spot.
Coalcliff: this village's name reflects the fact that the coastal region of the Illawarra has numerous rich coal deposits, some of which, like those near Coalcliff, have been mined. For over 90 years coke has been produced here. The Sea Cliff Bridge offers a spectacular walkway and cycleway above the ocean and along the escarpment, offering splendid views offered towards Wollongong and Port Kembla in the south and Royal National Park in the north. Coalcliff hosts its own Surf Life Saving Club.
Otford: a northern suburb of Wollongong. It is an important stop for bushwalkers accessing the Royal National Park, as it has a railway station and is close to the southern entrance to the Park. Orford is at the southern end of a bushwalk to old Helensburgh railway station. The walk passes through one of six disused railway tunnels in the area. Opened in 1886, the original line including these tunnels was abandoned between 1914 and 1920 when the Helensburgh and Stanwell Park deviations were brought into service to make the line easier to handle for the steam locomotives of their time.
Port Kembla: a suburb, it comprises of a seaport, industrial complex (one of the largest in Australia), a small harbour foreshore nature reserve, and a small commercial sector. Port Kembla's highest point, Hill 60, overlooks the Five Islands and Red Point. Hill 60, originally the site of an Aboriginal settlement, was used by the army during World War II to make a coastal gun emplacement known as Illowra Battery. Although not technically open to tourists, the tunnels are open, and can be explored by foot. The entrance to the tunnels is located almost under the coastgaurd tower on Hill 60, and can be seen down the the left when standing at the information board, facing southeast.
Lake Illawarra: a large coastal lagoon to the south of Wollongong, it is the second largest saltwater lake in NSW. Lake Illawarra is popular for recreational fishing, prawning and sailing. Birds found at the lake include pelicans, cormorants, musk ducks, Hoary-headed Grebes, black swans, black ducks, grey teal ducks, herons, ibises and spoonbills.
Shellharbour (20 km south) is a charming coastal township that has become a southern suburb of Wollongong. Shellharbour is framed between the Tasman Sea and the Illawarra Escarpment, with Lake Illawarra to the north and the Minnamurra River to the south.
Minnamurra Rainforest, located in Budderoo National Park near the village of Jamberoo, is a rare remnant of subtropical and warm temperate rainforests that were once extensive in the Illawarra region. Visitors regularly see first hand the fauna of the area such as the normally allusive Lyrebird, the Eastern Water Dragons, Swamp Wallabies and a host of bird species which make Minnamurra their home.
Kiama is a seaside town set against green rolling hills and a scenic coastline of golden beaches and rocky headlands. Long treasured as a holiday destination, Kiama has managed to maintain its charm as a casual, relaxing resort without falling the way of the highrise compromise which has spoilt other areas. Kiama's most famous feature is its 'blowhole' situated on Blowhole Point behind the point's lighthouse.
Berry (63km south) is renown for its bucolic pastoral setting but now it is the boutiques, galleries, collectables, gourmet produce and the cafes which set it apart. Set amongst rolling green hills with the Cambewarra range providing a stunning backdrop, the landscape adds to the pleasant relaxed atmosphere of the place.
The regional centre of Australia's 9th most populated area - the Illawarra - Wollongong is the third largest city in the state of New South Wales, Australia, after Sydney and Newcastle. It is also a Local Government Area administered by the Wollongong City Council. It has two Regional Cathedrals, and numerous churches of many denominations including the well-known land-mark, the Nan Tien Buddhist Temple, the largest in the Southern hemisphere.
The City of Wollongong has a distinct geography. It lies on a narrow coastal plain flanked by the Pacific Ocean to the east and a steep sandstone precipice known as the Illawarra escarpment to the west. The coastal plain is widest in the south and narrowest in the north. To the north of Wollongong it becomes so narrow that the coastal road Lawrence Hargrave Drive once precariously hugged the cliffline until rock falls forced its closure. It was replaced in 2005 by the Sea Cliff Bridge. The bridge carries both vehicular and pedestrian traffic just off the coast, crossing the submerged rock shelf. The Illawarra Railway must go through several tunnels to reach the Sydney metropolitan area.
The Southern Freeway and Old Princes Highway provide alternative inland routes, descending the escarpment further south at Bulli Pass or at Mount Ousley, entering the coastal plain at Gwynneville, just north of Wollongong's city centre. The Escarpment ranges between 150 and 750 metres above sea level, with locally famous mountains such as Mount Keira, Mount Kembla, Broker's Nose and Mount Murray. The Escarpment contains strata of coal measures, and the entrances to many coal mines have been established along the slopes of the Escarpment right throughout Wollongong.
Wollongong was continually lampooned in the 1970's ABC series The Aunty Jack Show, including a parody of Lucky Starr's "I've Been Everywhere" in which the verses consist only of many Wollongongs and one Dapto. This series also launched the character of Wollongong media non-personality Norman Gunston.
In the Harry Potter book and movie series, there is an Australian Quidditch team from 'Wollongong' that is often considered to be the same as Wollongong (many names of Quidditch teams are similar, though not identical, to real towns).