Wollongong: Gettin it on in the ‘Gong!

Wollongong Harbour

Wollongong Harbour

During my fun-filled road trip along the Illawarra escarpment with my old tour guide, he brought me to his hometown of Corrimal.  But, we concluded our day long adventure in the largest city along the escarpment, Wollongong, or as he calls it, “The Gong!”  I able to see the skyline of this small city from a rooftop in Corrimal, but it wasn’t until later in the afternoon that I was able to see this seaside city up close and personal!

Skyline of Wollongong

Skyline of Wollongong

One of the largest cities in New South Wales, as well as Australia’s 9th largest city, Wollongong contains both a scenic seaside as well as it is steeped in Australia’s steel-industrial history.  It sits about 51 miles (81 km) south of Sydney.  Think of city that combines the seaside scenery of the Pacific Northwest (only with a few palm trees), the architecture of Miami’s Art-Deco district, and the steel mill ambiance of Pittsburgh.  How’s that for a city?!  The name Wollongong is believed to mean “seas of the South” in the local Aboriginal language, referring to NSW’s Southern Coast; other meanings have included “great feast of fish”, “hard ground near water”, “song of the sea”, “sound of the waves”, “many snakes” and “five islands”.

Wollongong and WIN Stadium

Wollongong and WIN Stadium


Wollongong is noted for its heavy industry, its port activity, and the narrow coastal plain between an almost continuous chain of surf beaches and the cliff line of the rainforest-covered Illawarra escarpment.  It is home to the Nan Tien Temple, one of the largest Buddhist temples in the southern hemisphere.  Wollongong has a long history of coalmining along with the prominence of the steel industry.  The city attracts many tourists each year, and is a regional center for the South Coast fishing industry.  For footy fans, Wollongong is home to the St. George Illawarra Dragons, formally the Illawarra Steelers, who play at WIN Stadium.

Wollongong: Australia's Pittsburgh!  Steel Capital of New South Wales!

Wollongong: Australia’s Pittsburgh! Steel Capital of New South Wales!


While there, Tony and I took a scenic stroll along the beach at Wollongong Harbour.  I was practically jonesing a for a swim as I saw just how clear and beautiful the water looked.  The beach was quite rocky and had a large number of tide pools left and right.  One tide pool was so big, there was even a swimming pool ladder at the end of it!

Wollongong's natural pool

Wollongong’s natural pool


"Come for a swim in the 'Gong!"

“Come for a swim in the ‘Gong!”

The star attraction, or rather, attractions, were a pair of white lighthouses that were located at the far end of the harbour and beaches.  The Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse and the Wollongong Head Lighthouse are something of symbols to this town of ships and steel.  The former is an historic lighthouse that dates back to 1871 to help mariners navigate their ships into port during the heyday of the coal industry.  Though the Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse is decommissioned now, it was restored to being fully functional and its lights are re-lit to mark special maritime occasions nowadays.  The latter, which is also referred to as the Flagstaff Lighthouse is a fully functioning lighthouse that dates back to 1936 to guide maritime traffic into Port Kembla Harbour located to the south.  It stand about 83 ft. tall and sits high atop a hill that overlooks both the Wollongong steel areas and the Illawarra Escarpment.  It was not only the first new lighthouse in New South Wales since 1903 but also the first to install fully automatic flashing lights.  As I trudged up the hill towards the base of the Head Lighthouse, I was treated to a panoramic view of Wollongong, in all its beauty.  To one side, you could see the beaches and the greenery of the escarpment.  To the other, the skyline of the city along with the smokestacks and ports of the steel industrial area.  What really caught my eye was seeing a small group of people hiking and climbing over an outcropping rocks, looking as if they were getting ready to perform a cliff dive.  Turns out that they were just climbing down to a large tide pool near the rocks for a swim.  Though it looked dangerous, what with all the high tides and rocks, it did look exciting.

Breakwater Lighthouse (foreground) & Head Lighthouse (background)

Breakwater Lighthouse (foreground) & Head Lighthouse (background)


"Wollongong Rocks!"

“Wollongong Rocks!”

After posing for several pictures in front of both lighthouses, Tony and I headed into town for some afternoon tea and cake.  We picked a little cafe at the edge of the road that lay a short walk from the harbour.  We selected a scrumptious cake; it was a rasberry/white chocolate mixture that resembled a pavlova.  When Tony and I weren’t fighting over the next piece, I was sipping a flat white.  So to sum it up, I was having cake, coffee, and I was just a stone’s throw from a beach on the Tasman Sea in Wollongong.  I just wish my family was here to enjoy this!  Did I mention that I got the last piece of cake?  Booyah!

Cake OR Pavlova?  You decide!

Cake OR Pavlova? You decide!


"I'll have a flat white!"

“I’ll have a flat white!”

If you love the sight of cute sailboats bobbing in the water, picturesque beaches, swaying trees, or if you just enjoy sipping some coffee near the water, then come on down to Wollongong!  It’s just better down here in the ‘gong!

About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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2 Responses to Wollongong: Gettin it on in the ‘Gong!

  1. Alisoun Brewster says:

    GORGEOUS!! I want to go!! Also I want a piece of that cake or Pavola–whatever it is–it looks yummy !

  2. joseph gal says:

    iam about 30 mins from the gong as we call it and hoping to move there sometime soon, great beaches and an easy slow pace

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