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Towns of the Illawarra

The Illawarra is a huge region of fun towns, a buzzing city, stunning beaches, dramatic escarpments and landscape, rivers, mountains, rolling hills and paddocks, reservoirs, dams, bush and rainforest. Nearly 6000 square metres of super diverse landscape stretching from the coast in the west up to the escarpments of the Southern Highlands, reaching north to historic Lilyvale in the Royal National Park and right down south to the stunning hills and beaches of Gerroa. 

And a big region means lots of awesome towns and villages each with a personality of its own. Here’s a guide to the Towns of the Illawarra – split into the three LGA’s (Local Government Areas) of the region – to get you excited about all the different places you can visit – so much to see, do and experience right here in our own backyard, right? 

Towns of Wollongong

We’ll start with the biggest region of the Illawarra. The buzzy and diverse city of Wollongong is the central beacon of action in this area. Night markets and a funky live music and pub scene make for a fun night out in town. A multicultural mix of places to eat and drink sit side by side, unique retail stores mixed in with big name brands and shopping centres and being super close to the ocean gives this city a super-relaxed vibe. 

And of course, we are loving all the beach towns dotted along the Wollongong coast, from Windang in the south up to Stanwell Park Beach tucked in under the escarpment off the Grand Pacific Drive, and all the coastal towns in between. Get your retail fix on the main street of Thirroul – a fab shopping spot! Kick back with a beer and some fresh seafood on a Friday arvo at the Headlands Hotel in Austinmer, or head down to North Wollongong Beach to explore the rock pools with the kids. So many awesome beach towns and beaches to explore here. 

And of course, there’s loads happening ‘inland’. The Wollongong Botanic Garden in Keiraville is the perfect place to wander around or grab a picnic with friends or family. Head to the historic Balgownie Hotel for a Sunday lunch or pop into Bulli’s Resin Brewing for some local craft frothies. For a different sort of religious experience, the Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Temple in Berkeley will help you re-capture your inner zen – such a peaceful space in such a busy place! 

The towns dotted around Lake Illawarra offer up some cracking views as well as a huge amount of recreational fun – you’ll find towns like Windang, offering up plenty of opportunities to get out boating, fishing, swimming and cycling. Berkeley Sports Club is a top spot to refuel overlooking the foreshores of Lake Illawarra, and you can get your retail fix at the recently reno-ed Warrawong Plaza. 

See what we mean? Stacks to see and do and we haven’t even touched the surface! 

Wollongong in the Illawarra region is the third largest city in NSW.

Towns of Shellharbour

Shellharbour is like the Jan Brady of the Illawarra (but without all the drama). You know – stay with us here! – the middle sister that sometimes gets overlooked because the older sister is so flash and has a busy social life (that’s you Wollongong!) and the younger sister is a bit quieter and oh so beautiful and people just love to tell her how cute she is (that’s you Kiama!). 

Well, the towns of Shellharbour have all got their own thing going on. We love how the busy burbs of Shell Cove, Albion Park, Albion Park Rail and now Calderwood are so different to the coastal towns of Warilla and Shellharbour, or the lakeside towns of Lake Illawarra (obvs), Mount Warrigal and Oak Flats. And we’re always up for a mini-escape and Sunday drive – heading out among the lush, green paddocks through Tullimbar and Tongarra on our way to a bushwalk at Cascade Falls, at the bottom of Macquarie Pass – such amazing landscape out here! Those escarpments are stunning.  

Beautiful beaches in the east, rainforests in the west, a stunning lake in the north, the Killalea Reserve in the south and the burbilicious towns in the centre – that is one fun and spunky middle sister! 

The Old South Café is open for lunch, dinner and cocktails!

Towns of Kiama

Blue and green should never be seen…..unless they are the rolling hills of this stunning landscape meeting the blue of the ocean in this beautiful region of the Illawarra. I mean, where do you start? 

Let’s take it outside to the awesome enclave of action that is Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, Minnamurra Rainforest Centre, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve and the Jamberoo Action Park over to the west of the region. Loads of fun to be had at all four places – bushwalks, ziplines, lookouts, waterfalls and of course, the super-fun wave pool and kickbutt rides at Jamberoo. 

If that’s a bit too much adrenaline for you, and relaxing drives (and sticky beaking at beautiful properties) is your thing, explore the rolling hills and farmlands of Jamberoo, Foxground, Curramore, Rose Valley, Jerrara and Saddleback Mountain. 

For the water babies among us, start at Minnamurra – such a beautiful area. There are plenty of fab reserves alongside the Minnamurra River. We reckon start at James Oates Reserve which is where the river meets the sea and a cracking spot for some kayaking, canoeing and some SUP action! This is also where the Kiama Coastal Walk starts – we’ve done the first half of it! Read about it here

Then it’s a dream run of awesome beaches down the coast. Jones Beach, Kiama Downs, Bombo Beach, Surf Beach, Kendalls Beach, Easts Beach, Werri Beach, Gerringong Beach and Seven Mile Beach are all patrolled in the warmer months. We also love the vibe of Kiama when it’s pumping with people, markets, events and sunshine. Grab a post market bevvie (and the schnitty if you can fit it in) at the Grand Hotel Kiama. And of course, the iconic Kiama Blowhole and Lighthouse is always worth a visit and a looksee, and don’t miss the weekly Kiama Farmer’s Market for stocking up the pantry. 

Head a little further south to shop up a storm – Gerringong has a fab selection of stylish fashion and lifestyle stores, as well as some delicious spots to get your foodie fix. We loved popping into the Gerringong Bakery for some freshly baked bread and some special treats! 

Oh, and who doesn’t love a bit of Berry action? Yeah yeah we know that technically Berry isn’t in the Illawarra but it’s so damn gorgeous and so darn close, we’re claiming it! All those beautiful lifestyle stores, homewares for days, gorgeous cafes and restaurants, great pubs and of course, the famous Berry Donut Van (totally worth lining up for!). 

The towns of Kiama offer up so much variety – nature lovers have got it made, shoppers are totally covered, foodie fans are covered, adrenalin junkies can take their pick and of course, those of us that just like to chill out somewhere? Sorted. Love it. 

Kiama is on the coast in the Illawarra region of NSW.