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Wollongong is a city in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, a state of Australia some 70km south of the state capital Sydney. It is the third largest city in the state behind Sydney and Newcastle and is thinly wedged on a coastal plain between an escarpment and the Pacific Ocean.
The city and surrounding conurbation is located on a coastal plain and backed by a forested escarpment. It's modern origins are in coal mining and steel production, industries which persist, notably the BHP steel facility at Port Kembla to the south. A dedicated port exists for the transport of materials whereas private craft and fishing boats use a separate facility nearer the city centre in Belmore Basin.
Geography defines Wollongong, as the city is never more than roughly six kilmeters at its widest but stretchs over forty kilometers from south to North. It's growth was limited by mountains which are not so much high as steep and the ever present sea, Wollongong has grown to include a whole chain of coastal towns, from Dapto and Port Kembla in the south to Bulli in the north. Continuous development has recently stretched the city as far as Kiama in the distant south but those areas are serviced by the growing center of Shellharbour.
The population of Wollongong is predominately young, due to the prominence of the University and the many young families living in the area. As a result, everything is reasonably priced. Due to post war migration involving heavy industry, Wollongong also includes a large Merranean (Macedonian, Italian, Greek, Turkish) population which has left its mark on the city.
It is not so much a tourist destination but a base, there being many interesting and beautiful locations within easy reach. The immediate area possesses some fine beaches and reasonable body surfing. Major redevelopment all over the CBD throughout this decade may change the makeup of the city in years to come.
- The Illawarra Mercury is a local, Wollongong-based daily (Mon to Sat) newspaper The Illawarra Mercury (http://www.illawarramercury.com.au)
Transport Infoline (http://www.131500.info/) provides up-to-date information on train, bus and ferry travel statewide.
By car Wollongong is only 60 to 70 minutes south of Sydney's Kingsford Smith International Airport (SYD) (http://www.sydneyairport.com.au). There is a link by train to the main Sydney to Wollongong rail service and two private bus companies operate shuttle services from the airport to any destination door to door in the Illawarra / Wollongong region.
The grandly titled Illawarra Regional Airport (http://www.wollongongairport.com) is more often referred to as Albion Park Airport, and is located to the south of the city at the intersection of the Princes Highway (F6) and the Illawarra Highway. From June 6th 2005 onwards, Qantas will be running once and twice daily flights between Illawarra Regional Airport and Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport, which is about $150 per way. See http://www.qantas.com.au for full details on fares and schedules. The airport is still mostly used by private pilots, flying schools and possibly charter services. It is a base of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) see See.
From Sydney take the F6 south to Wollongong via Mount Ousley pass. There is an exit from this freeway to the Bulli Pass which throws itself straight down the escarpment (so don't take it unless you are immune to travel sickness). From the South Coast region, take the Princes Highway (F6).
An interesting alternative (if you are in no particular hurry) is to take the road through Royal National Park from Loftus to Otford, then drive through the seaside towns such as Stanwell Park and Coalcliff to Wollongong. Unfortunately rain has washed part of this road away so it will be closed to through traffic until 2007 when they will open a spectacular roadway built over the sea.
The South Coast Cityrail (http://www.cityrail.info/) line between Sydney and Nowra passes through Wollongong. This train is very crowded during the morning and evening peaks. The views of the ocean and rain forest from the train are spectacular so sit on the left hand side of the train (looking in the direction of travel) when travelling from Sydney or the right hand side travelling to Sydney.
- BHP Australian Historical Flying Museum, Illawarra Regional Airport (http://www.wollongongairport.com)(intersection of the Princes Highway (F6) and the Illawarra Highway). A project was started to build an exhibition facility for the aircraft of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (http://www.hars.org.au/index.html) who have an existing base there. HARS recently completed it major hanger, part of an ongoing project.
- Nan Tien Temple, Berkeley Rd, Berkeley, 4272 0600, (Postal Address: P.O. Box 1336, Unanderra, NSW 2526, Fax: +61 2 4272 0601 Email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>). Tuesday to Sunday: 9am - 5pm (open Mondays on public holidays). Opened in October 1995 it is a branch temple of Fo Guang Shan and the biggest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. "Nan Tien" in Chinese means "Paradise of the South". Received awards for lighting (yes, architectural lighting!!), gardening, architecture and tourism. The website contains comprehensive travel and tourist information.http://members.ozemail.com.au/~nantien/
- WIN Sports & Entertainment Centres (the WEC) Corner of Crown and Harbour Streets, PO Box 3100 (southern end of the Central Business District), 4220-2800 (fax 4220-2801 email <Info@wec.org.au>). The Sports stadium hosts rugby league (Illawarra Steelers & St.George Illawarra), rugby union, and soccer (Wollongong Wolves) and has a capacity of 18,500 (11,000 seated). The Entertainment Centre is situated to the north of the stadium and hosts a variety of sports and special events. An AUD37m redevelopment of the ocean-side western stand is scheduled to complete in 2006 which will provide conference facilities, 100 room 4* hotel, replacement 2,500 seat grandstand, and retail outlets. http://www.wec.org.au/
- Botanical Gardens Gwyneville
Diving. Some of the best temperate water diving to be encountered anywhere can be found in Wollongong and areas to the south. Bass Point should be your stopping off point as it offers at least a dozen dives suitable to all standards of diver. Shellharbour Scuba Centre (http://www.shellharbourscuba.com.au) is a PADI 5 Star centre about three minutes drive from Bass point offering all facilities including boat dives, nitrox and courses.
Sky-Diving. Wollongong's amazing scenery is even more amazing seen from above. If the mountain lookouts aren't exciting enough for you, the option to sky-dive is yours. A number of companies operate out of Illawarra Regional Airport (http://www.wollongongairport.com), one of these being the Bushsports group http://www.bushsports.com.au/skydiving
University of Wollongong NSW 2522 (main campus Northfields Avenue, Gwynneville, next to the Botanical Gardens, shuttle bus service operates from North Wollongong Station). 4221-3555 (fax 4221 4322, email for prospective students <email@example.com>).
Twice awarded the prestigious accolade of Australia's "University of the Year" and always highly rated in the Good Universities Guide, the University sits nestled below a sub-tropical rain-forest overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The campus is one of the most attractive in Australia.
The food! The choices! The price! Everything about Wollongong's eateries is excellent. People even flock from Sydney to get an 5 star meal at a great price. There is something for everyone...
- Ahmed's (between North Wollongong station and the Crown Street Mall). A kebab shop run by a sometimes-professor for the University of Wollongong, named, surprisingly, Ahmed. Always open late, recommended is the regular chicken, extra extra extra hot.
- Food World Just next to Ahmed's. Chinese/Vietmanese food, big meals and dirt cheap. Mains $6-$8. Great atmosphere.
- Amigo's Mexican Restaurant A casual mexican place which does huge tasty mexican meals for fantastic prices. Recommended are the Lunchtime Special (meal and drink for A$8.50) and $3 Tacos (Tuesday nights, 5:30pm - 9:30pm), which is very popular with students. http://www.amigosmexican.com.au/
- Lorenzo's Diner The first restaurant in Wollongong to receive a single hat from the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Guide, Lorenzo Pagnan's diner serves modern and some traditional Italian cuisine in very slick modern surrounds. Meals average at $40, $20 for mains and $12 and up for entree. Directly across the road from Caveau (see below).
- Caveau Opened mid 2005, Caveau is the creation of former Banc (Sydney) sous chef Peter Sheppard. Caveau as expected serves French meals, with prices beginning at $50. Only the second Wollongong restaurant to receive a hat from the Good Food Guide and as such a friendly rivalry has developed between Lorenzo's and Caveau - one that has seen the North Kiera street area develop into an important restaurant district for the City. Location 122 - 124 Keira Street (immediately next door to Ahmeds).
- Zest With its vibrant surrounds, relaxed atmosphere and fantastic modern cuisine, Zest in Wollongong is a magnificent new restaurant located in Wollongong's buzzing entertainment precinct. And has been awarded the Restaurant and Caterers best new Restaurant 2004. Location 46 Crown Street Wollongong NSW 2500 (Next to Dwyers BMW)Telephone 02 4225 7192 Fax 02 4225 8224
- Dunes Restaurant and Cocktail Bar A recently opened establishment which serves modern Australian cuisine and quality cocktails. A main meal costs $20 on average. The feature of Dunes is that it overlooks the famous North and South Beaches from Flagstaff Hill (http://larkin.net.au/flagstaff_hill/index.htm)
A growing city, Wollongong city holds a wide variety of bars. Word to the wise, security guards in the 'Gong are paid higher than their Sydney counterparts for a very important reason - something that will become readily apparent if you look at the wrong girl/guy, say the wrong thing, spill your drink on someone or just look slightly different. Generally, pubs close to the city but not in the actual CBD/North Wollongong proper tend to have unsavoury reputations.
- The North Wollongong Pub, or North 'Gong for short. (North Wollongong train stop) is the "local" for the University of Wollongong, across the Princes Highway from the North Wollongong train station. Featuring "Toss the Boss," a three-times-weekly and hour long game of chance with drinks as a shimmering reward. After ordering your imbibements (three is the limit for this game, unfortunately), the bartender grabs a shaker with two dice or coins and dumps the contents on the bar. Two heads (or T's on the dice) and your drinks are free. One of each and they're half price. The unlucky recipients of two tails (or H's) pays full price... but with essentially nothing to lose, lines form, especially in the final 15 minutes of the dwindling hour, to try their luck. Monday, Tuesday and Friday 5-6pm.
- Hotel Illawarra or just the 'Illawarra', recently refurbished in wood and chrome, is a large hotel/pub that receives the early morning crowd as it is the only bar that consistently closes at 3am most nights of the week.
- Cooney's Tavern is an old pub at the south end of Kiera street that is famous for its plethora of pool tables. Vaguely Irish themed, serves Guinness and slightly green tinged. Upper bar and beer garden is occasionally converted into a door-fee-charging nightclub.
- Glasshouse is a tavern and nightclub which is practically inhabited by young people on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. If you go before 10pm, you get cheap drinks and before 11pm free nightclub entry - the downstairs bar is always free. Plays popular dance music, shows sporting events on a large screen tv (which you usually can't hear over the people and music) and serves any drink you can think of (as long as it involves ginger beer). Serves all tap beer in pints for $5, making for the cheapest Stella Artois in town (and the most expensive Toohey's New).
- Rusty's a nightclub tucked into Victoria Street that serves the young Glasshouse crowd after that nightclub closes. Three small bars serve in what essentially is a converted house, no beer taps but a great swathe of dance floor. On Wednesday nights, when the Glasshouse and Rusty's are free for students, a great migration occurs between the two establishments that usually entails such fine establishments as Ahmad's Kebabs, the Hot Chilli Foodhouse and the Illawarra Hotel onroute.
- Harp Hotel on Corrimal St is the city's oldest pub. The crowd is late twenties-early thirties of the after-work variety, on Fridays this is probably the best patroned bar in the city. Three bars, look out of the often missed underground bar.
- Abbies is the opposite of Rusty's age-of-clientel-wise, catering to the overflow from the Harp Hotel. Directly across Corrimal St. from the Harp.
- Oxford Tavern is an unreconstructed relic of the eighties, with a very darkly dressed clientele. Has live music most days of the week - usually a form of hard rock, metal or punk though jazz and even hip-hop have occasionally been spotted. Outdoors area next to the Crown St. entrance is highly recommended during the Summer. Scheduled ot be redeveloped within the next 3 years (2008).
- Bourbon St two doors north of the Illawarra on Kiera street, is famed in the Gong for having a crowd even younger than the Glasshouse although that should not technically be legal. Three bars in total, actually opens only on certain nights, possibly in concert with the stars and planetary alignment.
- Five Islands Brewery, Win Entertainment Centre (for directions see above), 4220-2854 (fax 4220-2855, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>). Brew their own beer and the Sixth Island bar serves bar food and has a fantastic terrace (with BBQ); there is also an 80 seat restaurant. Sit and drink watching the surf roll in from the Pacific Ocean just 50 metres away. http://www.fiveislandsbrewery.com/
- Bourbon St. On Cliff Road beneath the Novotel North Beach, is the place to be on Sundays when the rest of the city is closed. The only bar in the city that serves James Squire Pilsener on tap - not to be missed.
- CBD Sports Bar. Extremely new bar opened on Auburn St. just off Crown near the City train station, very relaxed atmosphere that translates into very high drink prices. Only 'non-leagues club' bar in the city that serves Resches Draught, a traditional Sydney beer that used to be far more common.
- Dicey Riley's, dicey is the word as this bar sits next to the railway bridge that marks the border betweeen rough West Wollongong and the City. One of the oldest pubs in the city, the odd Irish theme does not hide the vaguely sinister atmosphere of this dark and smoky bar. Dicey's is likely to improve (depending on your point of view) as West Wollongong is heavily redeveloped over the next few years.
- Blue Note sits two stories above an Adult Book store on the corner of Atchison and Crown, it is the source of the perplexing "nite club" sign that shines over that part of Crown Street. Not A Nice Place At All.
- YHA Hostel - on Flinders St
- Novotel Northbeach Wollongong (http://www.novotelnorthbeach.com.au/) - 2-14 Cliff Road, North Wollongong NSW 2500. Ph: 02 4224 3111, F: +61 (0)2 4226 2072, E: email@example.com - offers great beach views, a Day Spa and is just five minutes from the Wollongong CBD and retail precinct. Rooms cost approx $175 - $300 a night.
- WIN Sports & Entertainment Centres (the WEC) Corner of Crown and Harbour Streets, PO Box 3100 (southern end of the Central Business District), 4220-2800 (fax 4220-2801 email <Info@wec.org.au>). A 100 room 4* hotel is scheduled to complete in 2006. It will feature rooms facing the sports stadium to enable guests to watch the match, a gym and a roof top plunge pool.