Hidden Gems: Wollongong’s Northern Coastal Villages

Nestled under an impressive sandstone escarpment, seven quaint seaside villages lay almost unnoticed by the surrounding bustling cities of Sydney and Wollongong.

Moments from urban madness and a million miles from care, these underrated villages offer a kaleidoscope of natural beauty, urban coolness and old time charm.

Here’s our favourite things to do when visiting these hidden gems:

Watch the hang gliders at Stanwell Tops:
1970’s hang gliding pioneers made the escarpment to the north of Wollongong famous by leaping off the Stanwell Tops cliff in light southerly winds. Today’s professional hang and paragliders have mastered the craft and are a true wonder to witness.

Paragliders at Stanwell Tops

Swim in the ocean pools:
Originally built by local miners to teach their children how to swim, the ocean pools have evolved over the years into very impressive structures that withstand the powerful ocean swells and self-clean. Most beaches in the area have their own pools with Austinmer and Thirroul having the most photogenic.

Austinmer ocean pools

Whale watching at Austinmer Headlands Hotel:
Life is all about balance. Combining two of Australia’s favourite pastimes, it seems only natural that this is a favourite thing to do for both visitors and locals alike. Sitting around the bar with loved ones, listening to live music while watching the breaches of the oceans giants as they travel along the humpback highway seems surreal to most people, but not if you’ve been to this pub between June and November.

Wine with view at Headlands Austinmer Beach

Check the surf at Sandon Point:
When the surf’s up there’s no better place to lay down a picnic rug and watch the swells roll in. The historic fishing port packs a lot in with original fishing shacks to explore, relic’s from the long gone jetty to give a sense of history and views of the setting sun over the escarpment finishing off a perfect day. Probably best to leave the surfing to the locals here as the reefs sit only 2 feet below sea level with urchins and sharp oysters waiting to take chunks out of any unsuspecting surfboards.

Surfing at Sandon Point

Walk the Sea Cliff Bridge:
In the middle of a most impressive stretch of road, aptly named after 1800’s Australian aeronautical pioneer Lawrence Hargrace, lies the Sea Cliff Bridge. Hovering some 40 metres from the ocean below, the incredible structure snakes along the face of a sandstone cliff for half a kilometre to make one of the best free bridge walks in the world.

Seacliff Bridge

Shop the boutiques:
Boutique homeware, niche surf industry products, vintage clothes, kitsch antiques and first edition book prints are among some of the incredible artisan products that can be bought on the high streets of these villages. The very eclectic mix of products are testament to the quirky nature of the locals and their liking to do things differently from the surrounding cities.

Tip: Hunt out a truly unique trinket at the antique and collectables yard ‘Wombat’ in Thirroul.