We loved how this cute town tucked away at the base of the Illawarra escarpment feels like a small, country town but is less than 15 minutes away from the Wollongong CBD. Most of the shops, cafes and restaurants are on the charming main street with the crown of Balgownie, the Balgownie Hotel, shining it’s light at the top of the hill.
Neat and tidy homes line the streets with views to the ocean becoming more prevalent as you work your way higher up into the foothills of the Illawarra escarpment.
We had a wander around this peaceful enclave and whipped up The Fold’s guide to Balgownie.
While Balgownie is mostly made up of residential homes and businesses, it’s centrally located for some cool outdoor action. The beach is just over five minutes away and there are plenty of bushwalks in neighbouring suburbs and mountains.
For local outdoor action, the Illawarra Rhododendron Park is just across the Princes Motorway and a great spot for a picnic or barbecue (they have BBQ facilities onsite) on a lovely sunny day.
And if you fancy exploring, you can follow Cabbage Tree Creek around from Anama Street (start at the reserve on the northern side of Cabbage Tree Creek) and around to Balgownie Road. There’s no tracks or trails laid down, so this is for the more adventurous of walkers (and those who don’t mind a leech or two!).
The main street – Balgownie Road – is dotted with your traditional stores to keep residents sorted with their everyday needs – from a newsagent to bakery and barbers. There are also a couple of gorgeous shops. We loved Collections Balgownie, an oh-so-gorge lifestyle store with everything from art to jewellery to homewares and fab fashion items. The House of NINX across the road was also an awesome local fashion find for the ladies! There are some fun and funky labels in store – to suit all ages, as well as some super comfy and stylish threads. We LOVE these tee’s!!
WINING + DINING
The Bally Hotel has a great atmosphere with plenty of safe space (super COVID safe) to eat, drink and be merry. And we love the beer garden in the warmer months.
HONE Café, across the road from the pub, does amazing sweet treats (how does a slice of sticky toffee cake with butterscotch sauce and almond praline grab you?), yummy brunch and super healthy bliss bowls, and of course great coffee. And Mad Cup Café at the top of the hill do fab coffee too, fresh juices, have a delicious menu on offer and they sell gelato!!!
If you’re after some authentic Italian fare, head to Il Nido. This awesome family (and licensed – yippee!) restaurant is right in the heart of town with an amazing menu that sings to us – It’s Amore!! As well as eating in you can order take away or hire a wood fired pizza truck of your own!
For some serious parmie action, head to 1TWO6 Diner at Collegians Balgownie – lots of delish bistro items on the menu with some hawwwt lunch specials ($7.90 for members and $9.90 for non-members. Told ya they were hawt!).
And if you love your clean eating and getting your veggie fix, Nourished at Bally serves lots of super-delish and healthy meals – from frittata to corn fritters (with avo smash , of course!) to pie parcels and sweet treats – you had us at French brioche, yum!
STEP BACK IN TIME
Did you know the Balgownie Rangers, founded in 1883 is the oldest soccer club in Australia? Catch a game on Saturdays during the footie season at Balgownie Rangers. They’re quite the powerhouse (especially in the junior levels) in the area.
A few of the local parks have homages to yesteryear. Stop by Miners Memorial Park at the bottom of Foothills Road to read about the coal mining history of the town, and take a stroll through the Peace Grove. And in 1930, a war memorial was built and dedicated to those from the district that served in World War 1. On Balgownie Road and Sproule Crescent, it’s the epi-centre of town commemorations on ANZAC Day.
And of course the Bally Pub has its own awesome history, having been built in 1899 to keep the local miners fed and watered!
JUST FOR KIDS
Judy Masters Oval has loads of grounds for kicking the footie around and letting the kids run off their extra energy. Rae Crescent Reserve has a fun playground for younger kids with plenty of places to sit in the shade. The Bally Hotel used to hold regular Family Fun Days with face painting, a jumping castle and an interactive play mat for little ‘uns – things are on hold at the moment (stooopid COVID!) but keep an eye on the pub’s socials (and us!) for updates.
Rae Crescent Reserve Playground
Mother Nature has got Balgownie surrounded by some pretty cool spots – from the Broker’s Nose Walk at the top of the Illawarra escarpment just a 20 minute drive away, to Puckey’s Beach down the hill and Mount Keira with all its awesome bushwalks south west of the town – there’s loads of awesome things to do and see nearby. And we love the Wollongong Botanic Garden which is less than 10 minutes away.
SUPPORTING LOCAL BIZ
There are some fab local businesses in Balgownie, and our Business Directory is the place to find them! From mechanics to medical centres, landscapers to legal services, beauty salons to builders…The Fold’s Business Directory has got you covered.