Guest Post By Dawn Koch
Located just 52 miles south of Sydney, Wollongong or “The Gong” as it’s affectionately referred to by residents, tends to be overshadowed by its larger, hipper neighbor. But this city’s laid back coastal lifestyle and natural beauty makes it a great place to visit or live, and it’s even been heralded as the happiest place in Australia.
When it comes to adrenaline-fueled sports, though, Wollongong is in a league of its own. After all, how many places are there in the world where you can do everything from surfing to snowboarding? If you still need convincing, here are seven of the best reasons to put Wollongong on your bucket list.
1. It’s One Of Australia’s Top Skydiving Locations
Skydive the Beach in Wollongong has Australia’s highest skydiving altitude at 14,000 feet, where you’ll experience a hair-raising 60-second freefall at over 100 miles per hour. This is followed by a much more peaceful 5 to 7 minute canopy ride which allows you to take in the spectacular views of Wollongong, its beaches and the surrounding nature while soaring through the sky.
2. It’s A Surfer’s Paradise
With thousands of miles of stunning coastline, Wollongong is a great surf destination for both newbies and the more advanced. Experienced surfers can get their thrills at surf spots like Sharkies, Headlands and Thommo’s, but keep an eye out for rocks and sharks.
Wollongong North Beach is a good spot for beginners, and you can find accredited surf schools there too if you need to brush up on your skills. Sites like Gumtree can also be useful for finding secondhand surf gear locally, and even selling it off again once you’re ready to move on.
3. It Has One Of The Best Coastal Hang Gliding Locations In The World
Bald Hill Lookout is located on the outskirts of Wollongong and is well-known for being one of the world’s best hang gliding spots, providing a panoramic view of the coastline and the Illawarra escarpment. It’s also the site where the Australian explorer and inventor Lawrence Hargrave pulled off his first successful attempt at flight in 1894.
Your tandem hang gliding adventure will begin with a short ground lesson, after which you’ll be airborne for a full 30 minutes of feeling as light as a bird.
4. It’s A Great Place To Challenge The Rapids In A Canoe Or Kayak
Wollongong is situated in close proximity to a number of fast-flowing rivers, streams and creeks, which can be particularly challenging for kayakers during the wetter months. A trip along the Minnamurra or Nepean Rivers will give you a glimpse of Australia’s inland charm, but if you can’t bear to tear yourself away from the beautiful coastline, there are sea kayaking adventures to be had as well.
5. You Can Zip Through A Rainforest 115 Feet Off The Ground
Australia’s highest zipline tour was recently launched less than an hour outside Wollongong. Situated above the magnificent Southern Highlands Rainforest, the cables span a distance of nearly 250 meters (820 feet), giving you plenty of time to take in the views of the rainforest canopy, Pacific Ocean and coastal towns along the way while suspended 35 meters (115 feet) above the forest floor.
If you’re still up for it after your zipline adventure, you can further immerse yourself in nature by taking the 2.5 hour Treetop Walk along a steel walkway raised nearly 50 meters (164 feet) off the ground.
6. Skiing And Snowboarding Season Starts In June
Australia tends to be viewed as the land of endless summers, so it might come as a surprise to some that winter sports are very much a part of life in New South Wales. If you live in the Northern hemisphere and are too impatient to wait for winter to roll around, you can head to the South for some skiing and snowboarding as early as June.
Kosciuszko National Park can be reached in less than 5 hours by road from Wollongong, and is home to Australia’s highest mountain and some of the best slopes in the country.
7. It’s A Good Starting Point For Climbing And Trekking Adventures
The Illawarra escarpment is 2,460 feet high and other nearby mountains such as Mount Keira and Kembla, both a mere 15-20 minute drive away, also make for some excellent climbing adventures. The Jenolan Caves, regarded as Australia’s most outstanding cave system, are also located 3 hours away.
If you’re still new to rock climbing and want to learn the basics in a controlled environment, the Hangdog Climbing Gym in Wollongong has 100 different climbs on 40 ropes ranging from easy to challenging.