Wollongong is a city in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. Heading south, Wollongong starts where Sydney finishes. It is the third largest city in the state behind Sydney and Newcastle and is thinly wedged on a coastal plain between an escarpment and the Pacific Ocean. It is pronounced Wool-on-gong.



Geography defines Wollongong, as the city is never more than roughly six kilometers at its widest but stretches over forty kilometers from South to North. Its growth was limited by mountains, which are not so much high as steep, and the sea, Wollongong has grown to include a whole chain of coastal towns, from Dapto and Port Kembla in the south to Bulli, Austinmer, and even up to Stanwell Park in the north. Continuous development has recently stretched the urban area along the coast as far as Kiama in the distant south but those areas are serviced by the growing centre of Shellharbour.


Its modern origins are in coal mining and steel production, industries which persist, notably the BlueScope steel facility at Port Kembla to the south. A dedicated port exists for the transport of materials whereas private craft and fishing boats use a separate facility nearer the city centre in Belmore Basin. New industries, such as financial services, information technology, tourism and education are fast becoming trademarks of the city. Wollongong people are proud of the employment and heavy industry in the area, and choose to be more than just an outer commuter suburb for Sydney.


The University of Wollongong is popular with local, other Australian and international students. Due to post war migration involving heavy industry, Wollongong also includes a large Mediterranean (Macedonian, Serbian, Bosnian, Crotian, Italian, Hungarian, Greek, Turkish, Portuguese, Spanish), Indian and Asian population which has left its mark on the city and means there is a great range of food and entertainment options.

There are many interesting and beautiful locations within easy reach. The immediate area possesses some fine, often uncrowded beaches and reasonable surfing.


The very northern suburb of Helensburgh is covered in its own article. In many ways it has closer ties to southern Sydney than to Wollongong.

Get in

By car

Grand Pacific Drive to Wollongong

The quickest way from Sydney is to take M1/A1 south. You leave Sydney, and enter greater Wollongong just before the freeway starts. Its about 50 minutes drive to this point, and around another 20 minutes down the freeway to the Wollongong CBD. Expect to take longer in the afternoon peak, Wollongong is a part of the Sydney commuter belt.

If you have a little longer, you can take a route via the Bulli Pass and the Wollongong Northern Beaches. At the end of the freeway the Bulli Pass road throws itself straight down the escarpment and along the coast. The exit is well signposted after the end of the freeway. Add 10 minutes for this diversion.

If you have a little longer still, a very scenic way to see more of Wollongong, the escarpment and the cliffs, is to take the Grand Pacific Drive. Exit from the freeway at Helensburgh through Stanwell Park and down the coast. The road is well signposted to Wollongong. The Sea Cliff Bridge is a highlight of this trip, between Coalcliff and Scarbourough.

From the south of Wollongong, follow the Princes Highway north.

From Canberra or Melbourne, you can access Wollongong via the Illawarra Highway or via Picton Road. Picton Road offers a faster, straighter trip, while the Illawarra Highway offers scenery with windy roads and the occasional waterfall and picnic areas. To go the quick, Picton Road, route, ignore the first exit sign to Wollongong from the Hume Highway at Moss Vale, and take the second, where the exit is also signposted to Picton.

By train

There are hourly train services between Sydney and Wollongong on the South Coast. This train can be busy during the morning and evening peaks heading towards and away from Sydney respectively, but you should usually get a seat. The trains accept Opal Card, and cannot be booked.

The train journey is a scenic one, travelling through the Royal National Park with views of the ocean and rainforest. Sit on the left hand side and upstairs (looking in the direction of travel) when travelling from Sydney or the right hand side travelling to Sydney. The trip takes around 90 minutes.

By plane

Wollongong is primarily serviced by scheduled international and domestic airline flights operating from Sydney Airport (IATA: SYD) to the north of the city. Connecting links to Sydney are provided by rail and road.

To get to Wollongong by car from Sydney Airport drive 60 min south along the Princes Hwy and Southern Freeway. Follow the signs from the airport towards Wollongong and Rockdale to get to the Princes Highway, and from there follow the road and directional signage south to Wollongong.

To get to Wollongong by train from Sydney airport, you should catch an airport train to Wolli Creek, and then change for a train to Wollongong. Peak hour trains to Wollongong often skip Wolli Creek, so during peak hour catch the next train to Hurstville, and then change again for a train to Wollongong on the South Coast rail line.

Private bus companies operate shuttle services from the airport to any destination door to door in the Illawarra/Wollongong region.

Illawarra Regional Airport (Wollongong Aerodrome) (IATA: WOL) is only for charter flights and general aviation, and is 20 min south of the Wollongong CBD and located at the intersection of the Princes Highway and Illawarra Highway at Albion Park Rail. The airport is an 80 min drive from Sydney Airport and 60 min from Sydney's southern suburbs. It is the site of the The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) museum and workshop facilities associated with that society are located at the airport. The airport has an airport terminal building and a licensed a la carte restaurant.

The nearest airport after Sydney with scheduled commercial flights is Canberra, about three hours drive along the Picton Rd and Hume Highway. Flights to and from Canberra Airport are typically more expensive and more infrequent than Sydney, and there are fewer destinations served.

By boat

Royal Caribbean International is testing the waters at the industrial Port Kembla as a possible new homeport or turnaround port for its Australian cruise ships, as a consequence of the chronic shortage of berths for large cruise ships in Sydney Harbour. The Radiance of the Seas is scheduled to visit Port Kembla for the first time in October 2016.

Get around


You can walk from the train station to the Wollongong CBD, and down to Wollongong City Beach.

By bike

An extensive cycle track runs from Wollongong north for 10 km to Thirroul, hugging the scenic beaches, or the same distance south south to Windang and Lake Illawarra. Generally uncrowded and a great way to get a feel for the city and surrounds.

A good cycle route could take 60 km mostly off-road from Bulli to Kiama, hugging the coast and headlands the whole way, and passing close to all Wollongong has to offer. You can put your bike on the train for the trip back.

You can hire bikes at Thirroul to ride south:

or in downtown Wollongong:

By train

The northern coastal suburbs of Wollongong are well serviced by train, however depending on the station, you can still be a kilometre or so from the beach. Stanwell Park, Austinmer, Coledale, Wombarra and Bulli are the best stations to access nearby beaches, with Austinmer the most popular. All stations see hourly services.

By car

A car will take you everywhere in the region you want to go. Parking in the multi-story carparks in the Wollongong CBD is less than $2/hr, up to a maximum of $15. Parking along the Wollongong beaches and foreshore is free. Parking on Sundays is free.

Car hire is available in Wollongong. Avis, Europcar and Hertz are located in Flinders St, just north of the city centre.

By bus

There is a free city loop bus, operating between the University and the City Centre, via Cliff Rd and the Princes Highway - every 10 minutes peak, and every 20 minutes off-peak from 7AM-10PM weekdays, and until weekends from 8AM-6PM. The free bus is useful to access the university and the botanical gardens.

The Wollongong buses form part of the Sydney public transport network. You can purchase a ticket for your journey when boarding the bus, or use Opal.

Buses operate from the south will usually operate via Wollongong Station and the city centre. Buses from the north can terminate in the city centre, which is about a 5 minute walk from the station.

Dions Bus Service. Operates buses north along the coastal beaches north of Wollongong as far as Austinmer

Greens Northern Coaches. Operates express bus services along the coastal beaches north of Wollongong as far as Helensburgh.

Premier Illawarra. Operates buses from Wollongong and North Wollongong, as far south as Kiama.


Swimming and surfing

During the summer months, Wollongong has 17 surf beaches to choose from, each with less crowds and more space than any Sydney beaches. All have free foreshore parking, and most are accessible by public transport and bicycle.

To the north of the city try...

To the south of the city try..

If you just want to do some laps, or for the kids to splash in the water, try the lap and leisure pools at Beaton Park, on Foley St (off Gipps Rd).


The escarpment next to Wollongong provides spectacular views over the coastline and city.



Nan Tien Temple, Unanderra

Gardens and Parks


Walk and pedal

Big trains and little trains





Everything about Wollongong's eateries is excellent. Most restaurants are located on either Keira St or Corrimal St, but don't be afraid to venture down a laneway, or further North or South to outer suburbs, to find great food. There is something for everyone.





A growing city, Wollongong city holds a wide variety of bars. Generally, pubs close to the city but not in the actual CBD/North Wollongong proper tend to have unsavoury reputations. Wednesday nights are 'uni nights', and at places such as Castros and the Grand feature drink specials and cheap or free entry - expect a lot of young patrons.






All of Wollongong area has good mobile phone and data reception with all three carriers. There are a few coffee shops and McDonalds that offer free wifi Wollongong Library has free internet access at all libraries, and free wifi at the City Library (ask staff for a ticket with username/password). The city library is in the council building in Burelli St, which runs parallel to and one street south of Crown St.

Stay safe

There are some cases of drink-spiking so never leave your drink unattended. If you believe your drink has been spiked, speak to the security staff immediately - they'll determine whether you have or not, and if so will call you an ambulance to ensure your safety. Alcohol-fueled violence is common in town at night - primarily in the Crown Street Mall and around takeaway food shops. Also, beware of groups of young men in cars at South Beach at night and the Lagoon carpark. Do not wander Unanderra and Dapto at night - both are unsafe, and sometimes during the day. Figtree can be nearly as bad, and Thursday nights in the Crown Street mall are often similar.

Go next

From Wollongong you can follow the coast southwards towards the Victorian border. This road is quite a unique stretch of highway in Australia that it follows the coast and headlands, giving views as you drive it. Many other coastal Australian Highways usually stay a small distance from the cost, requiring side trips to see the scenery. At Batemans Bay you can turn inland to the Hume Highway via Braidwood to Canberra and Melbourne via the freeway.

The Illawarra Highway is a scenic route through the Southern Highlands to the Hume Highway. The road winds its way up through the Macquarie Pass, through Robertson and then on to the open road.

If you are staying Wollongong, Sydney is an easy day trip.

Routes through Wollongong

Central Coast Sydney  N  S  Kiama Batemans Bay

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, January 06, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.