The coastal city of Wollongong is located just over 80 km south of Sydney, or about an hour's drive, and is 230 km from the nation's capital, Canberra. The boundaries of the greater city extend from Waterfall in the north to Minnamurra in the south, while its western boundary is the Great Dividing Range. The average temperature range in winter is 10 to 17 degrees Celsius, while in summer it is 18 to 25 degrees.
Wollongong's CBD is a thriving commercial centre, with more than 300 stores, including several major department stores. The main street is Crown Street, which tumbles down from the foothills of Mount Keira all the way down to City Beach. In the CBD the street becomes the Crown Street Mall, closed to traffic and possessing the greatest concentration of stores, restaurants, cafes and entertainment. Continuing to the end of Crown Street you'll come across the Wollongong Entertainment Centre and WIN Stadium, the places to be for the region's major entertainment and sporting events.
North along the coast is Flagstaff Point, with its distinctive lighthouse and outlook over Boat Harbour, which was carved out of rock by convicts and completed in 1868. The little harbour becomes a focal point each February for the Sea, Food and Sail Festival, and in November acts as the very welcome finish for the annual Sydney to the Gong bicycle ride. The point is a great spot for a picnics, and there is a pool on the northern fringe of the harbour.
North of the harbour begins a magnificent stretch of beaches - the very popular North Beach, Fairy Meadow, Towradgi and so on. Wollongong has 17 beaches in total, all of which are patrolled by surf lifesavers between the months of September and April. Cyclists, walkers and joggers will love the 60 km of pathways passing close by the coast between Thirroul and Lake Illawarra.
And speaking of Lake Illawarra, this large body of water is some 10 km south of the Wollongong CBD. Fishing, swimming, waterskiing, sailing and windsurfing are just some of the activities this popular spot hosts. On the drive to and from the lake, you'll pass through the area which was once the lifeblood of the region, the steelmaking industries of Port Kembla.
Much change has taken place in Wollongong in the recent past - once perhaps unjustly regarded as just a steel making and coal mining town, it has a rich and diverse cultural scene, natural beauty and many things to see and do.
Things to do in and around Wollongong include:
Science Centre and Planetarium - in Fairy Meadow, with hands-on exhibits, science shows, an observatory and more.
Mount Keira Summit Park - picnic grounds, restaurant and an excellent coastal vantage point.
Australia's Industry World - located in Port Kembla, a unique insight into the city's steel making and industrial past. See some of the huge ships that transported the goods or on Wednesdays and Fridays take a guided tour and witness demonstrations of the steel making process.
Wollongong Botanic Garden - at the base of Mount Keira, 27 hectares of gardens with more than 20,000 plants, including themed areas such as the sunken rose garden, rainforest and woodland garden.
Illawarra Museum - in Market Square, Wollongong, with exhibits and artefacts telling the story of the area's development.
Nan Tien Temple - the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere, the complex covering 11,000 square metres. Take a tour, visit the museum, enjoy a delicious vegetarian lunch, attend a meditation retreat - just some of the things to do here.
Crooked River Winery - in Gerringong, for winery tours and cellar door sales.
The Cockatoo Run - departing from Wollong or Unanderra, a diesel locomotive with 1930s/40s carriages takes you up the Illawarra escarpment and on to the village of Robertson, where the movie 'Babe' was filmed.
Minnamurra Rainforest Centre - south-west of Wollongong, with rainforest walks on 4.2 km of elevated pathway, BBQ and picnic areas.
Mount Kembla and Kembla Heights villages - coal mining villages atop the Illawarra Escarpment, looking out over Wollongong, with Kembla Heights preserved as it was in the 19th century.