Illawarra is the coastal region south of Sydney and includes Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama. There’s plenty to see along the coast, including great beaches, lighthouses and blowholes. If you venture up onto the escarpment, there are some wonderful lookouts.
On our way to Wollongong, we did an unplanned visit to the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple. It was a strange experience. You have to remove your shoes before entering and no cameras or food are allowed inside. The temple is beautifully ornate on the outside, with scores of sculptures decorating the sides of the building. Inside, the temple was cold and eerie, with beams of sunlight combining with smoke from shrines to make bright columns within the gaping chamber. There were statues everywhere, some decorated and clothed, and there were two men chanting with fabric wrapped around their waists. We didn’t understand any of it and felt too uncomfortable to ask anyone about it so we left.
The next stop was Bald Hill Lookout, with awesome view of the coast and the Sea Cliff Bridge in the distance. It seemed to be a popular spot for bikies taking their chopper out for a coastal ride.
We followed the road down the coast and drove over the Sea Cliff Bridge, a 665m balanced cantilever bridge that hugs the cliffs and was opened in 2005. With two lanes of traffic, a cycle path and walkway, it gives travellers an opportunity to get out of the car to soak up in the view.
The 3rd largest city in NSW after Sydney and Newcastle, Wollongong is an aboriginal term for ‘seas of the south’. George Bass and Matthew Flinders were the first to visit the area in 1796 and since then, it has grown to become a major commercial hub for the region with a busy port and an active fishing industry.
Our first stop was at the Illawarra Brewery for a quick drink. We had a great tasting session with a very passionate staff member – Juz loved the Pilsner the best and Dave enjoyed the IPA. Even Juz liked the IPA. It had a sweet mango smell with fruity flavours balanced with ballsy bitters.
After a quick visit to Flagstaff Hill Park and Lighthouse, we made our way up the escarpment to Mount Kiera Lookout for an overview of Wollongong and Port Kembla.
As the sun was setting, we checked out Lake Illawarra from the lookout at Wentworth Cottage Park before watching the sun disappear over the horizon at Bass Point Reserve.
We arrived in the cute coastal town of Kiama just as it was getting dark so we didn’t get to see much. We had just enough time to see the Big Blowhole and Kiama Lighthouse before we ran out of light. Luckily, we have a friend, Craig, who lives in Kiama who put us up for the night.
In the morning, after dealing with the sudden disappearance of the Troopy’s clutch, we went for a tour of town to see the memorial arch and find Kiama’s Small Blowhole. This was far more impressive than the Big Blowhole. As the waves come in, you hear a big WHOMP and then a big spray of water. Be careful – if the wind is blowing in your direction, you could get wet!