The Best Things To Do In Wollongong With Kids
When you think of weekenders close to Sydney, places like Terrigal, Jervis Bay and Port Stephens probably come to mind first. Well, I am here to tell you that you need to add Wollongong to your list! The Gong, as it’s affectionately known, has seriously transformed over the last few years. As a lifelong Dragons supporter and having a dear friend living there, I visit this scenic seaside city fairly regularly and have enjoyed watching the place come of age. It's no longer somewhere you need to just drive through, and here are the top reasons you should have a mini-break in Wollongong.
Early Start Discovery Space
Little people and adults cannot get enough of the Early Start Discovery Space. On our first visit, we stayed the entire day. There is just so much to see and play with. Some of our personal favourites were of course, the intestinal system (what little one/adult doesn’t love good gas noise!), the mini supermarket which has actually stayed with us for some time following as the kids can “shop” for groceries with shopping trolleys and pay for them at the check-out, the water play area outside (be sure to pack spare clothes) and the building construction zone where we dressed up in orange vests and built a brick wall.
There is just so much to see and do. Toilet facilities are great and there is a lovely little café on site. Remember it is inside the Wollongong Uni so during class time, parking may be a bit tight but we have never had a problem finding a spot.
There is certainly no shortage of playgrounds in Wollongong. A favourite of ours is Stuart Park, a short walk from the Novotel Wollongong Northbeach. The playground features a 8.6 metre high SkyTower, complete with three giant slides coming off it. It also boasts two flying foxes and a beginner’s cycle track.
There are also some great playgrounds in Bulli, a short 15 minute drive from North Beach. There’s the well equipped Bulli Beach playground and the renovated playground at Austinmer Beach Reserve with fun climbing challenges and new equipment. Discover more playgrounds in Wollongong.
The Grand Pacific Drive
I am very much a “take the scenic route” kinda gal and the drive to The Gong is no exception. Unless I’m on a deadline, I will take the left hand turn off the Princess Highway and drive through The Royal National Park (Did you know it’s the second oldest in the world?). The Audley Boatshed are a wonderful day trip in themselves and the view sure beats the alternative concrete of Mount Ousley. Of course, from here I can take the turn into Helensburg and visit the fabulous Symbio Wildlife Park - itself another adventure day out - for some hands-on native wildlife, getting up close with tigers and even playing zookeeper for a day.
Back on the road to Wollongong, we often take a rest stop at Bald Hill, a reknowned favourite spot for Hang Gliders from around the world. There is something rather exhilarating about watching them glide through the air and you’ll be hard pressed to find a child who isn’t memorized by it, and the spectacular beach views!
Of course, the most famous part of this trip in recent years is driving over the majestic Sea Cliff bridge, which has been designed to project out over the ocean giving you the sense of floating on water. We love this part of the journey. You can actually stop in the special parking areas and take some mighty Instagram worthy photos or simply follow on for Da Gong.
Image: Visit NSW
Jamberoo Action Park
Just 20 minutes south of Wollongong you can slide into all the water park action you need. Jamberoo Action Park boasts a trilogy of giant tube rides – all with an element of darkness, anticipation, enhanced thrills and excitement! The Perfect Storm, The Funnel Web and The Taipan - all as hair raising as they sound. For little ones there is plenty of action too with Banjo's Billabong – the largest aqua play structure built in the southern hemisphere with over 200 water cannons, cranks, and sprays, six water slides across 4 storeys all drenched by 2 huge buckets that tip 1800litres over the structure every few minutes. Admission into the Park covers all rides and attractions and parking is free so what are you waiting for?
Illawarra Fly is one of our favourite outdoor family adventures. It is situated a short 45 minutes drive south of Wollongong and features The Treetop Walk and Zipline experience, which is officially the highest Zipline Tour in Australia.
After completing the Treetop Walk, newly appointed junior rangers (and their parents!) can satisfy their need for speed by completing the attraction’s high flying Zipline Tour! Or for the more daring rangers, experience the After Dark Zipline Tour where the adrenaline gets pumping as you zoom between the illuminated trees of the mystical rainforest.
The Treetop Walk is a 1.5km return walk in the native rainforest. Positioned 710 metres above sea level, the spectacular panoramic views are of the rainforest canopy and all the way out to the Pacific Ocean.
The Zipline Tour consists of a series of cable spans and suspension bridges up to 35 metres above the forest floor. Experienced guides control all departures and arrivals whilst providing adventurers with an insight into the forest’s history and its features with truly unparalleled views.
Science Space and Planetarium
Sticking with the hands-on learning theme, Science Space is the only dedicated science experience in NSW. They are constantly updating their interactive exhibitions and have over 100 of them, spread across two floors on dinosaurs, fossils, illusions, motors and electricity, and more, catering to children of all ages.
You can also explore the stars and constellations in the Planetarium where little minds will be captivated as you experience full-dome immersive shows and learn about topics such as the universe, the evolution of life and the night sky.
Wollongong Botanic Garden
I love these gardens. After all, I am a huge fan of the great outdoors and beautiful spaces that have well thought out programs for kids to enhance the same love. Wollongong Botanic Garden hosts Budding Bookworms storytime (for pre-schoolers) every Friday between 10-11am. It’s a delightful hour of singing, stories and rhymes under the trees. They also have Sunday Sounds, Sunset Cinema and Garden Discovery Tours. Choose your own adventure and discover a duck feeding pond, an all-abilities playground with a sandpit, slippery dip, climbing net and swings, a viewing platform and workshops. Of course, don’t forget to take the time to simply stop and smell the roses!
Symbio Wildlife Park
Just 45 minutes south of Sydney on the way to Wollongong in a beautiful natural bushland setting, you’ll find Symbio Wildlife Park, a smaller, more intimate zoo experience. Animal highlights include getting up close and personal with their wallabies, red pandas, lemurs, meerkats, reptiles and koalas. Check out their daily keeper presentations and feeding times at various animal enclosures.
Naturally, you can’t visit The Gong without having a swim in one of the many beautiful beaches. There are some fantastic rock pools to paddle in but most are NOT patrolled by lifeguards. Wollongong City Council has a list of the 17 patrolled beaches in the area:
- Stanwell Park - access via Lower Coast Road
- Coalcliff - access via Lawrence Hargrave Drive
- Scarborough/Wombarra - access via Monash Street
- Coledale - access via Lawrence Hargrave Drive
- Austinmer - access via Lawrence Hargrave Drive
- Thirroul - access via The Esplanade
- Sandon Point - Access via Point Street
- Bulli - access via Farrell Road
- Woonona - access via Kurraba Road
- Bellambi - access via Morgan Place
- Corrimal - access via Lake Parade
- Towradgi - access via Murranar Road
- Fairy Meadow - access via Elliotts Road
- North Wollongong - access via Cliff Road - patrolled all year
- Wollongong City - access via Marine Drive
- Port Kembla - access via Olympic Boulevard
- Windang - access via Fern Street
Of course, like any beach in Australia, be sure to keep you and your kids safe.
Image: Visit Wollongong
Hangdog Climbing Gym
Hangdog Climbing Gym provides an opportunity for your child to join the climbing craze, learn new skills and meet other climbers. It looks amazing for those energetic bodies who love to climb and explore! They have casual entry from $14 (plus $9 for the 'The Lot' equipment hire) and run kids Learn to Climb programs on Monday, to Thursday afternoons.
Flip Out World
I’m not sure if this place got its name for the activities within it or because of what it saves caregivers from doing if they stayed indoors with their kids for much longer!
Located in North Wollongong, Flip Out World is an indoor trampoline arena offering some unique experiences like Ninja classes, Sensory-friendly sessions, school holiday specials and weekday deals. Prices start from $11 for 30mins.
The biggest indoor inflatable playground in Australia, every kid on the planet is going to love this Inflatable World Wollongong. It's all about having fun for the whole family as adults are encouraged to join in – finally, we don’t have to “pretend” our kid is stuck WOOT WOOT. Sessions are for two hours per single entry fee and you can play on the inflatable activities as many times as you like during the session. Just remember to pack your socks.
Where To Stay
If a day trip isn't enough, we recommend the Novotel Wollongong. It’s literally footsteps away from the pristine beach which goes on forever.
You might even get some cockatoos visiting for breakfast on your balcony! Little ones will also enjoy playing in the kids’ corner packed with toys and an X-box. There is also a swimming pool, spa and gym. Book Your Weekender Now.
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Oct 03 2018
Fantastic site. Looking for something as a treat for an 11 year old. Don't know which one to use first. Thank you.