Wollongong is Where We live.
Wollongong is our home. It is located in the Illawarra District and is an hour south of Sydney and lies between the mountains and the sea.
I was born and bred here though lived in Sydney for a while and then the country for a decade, but then returned.
Gordon was born and bred in FNQ, far north Queensland, in a small town called Herberton, in the hinterlands outside of Cairns. He then moved around in Queensland, settled in Sydney and then came to Wollongong for university – and stayed. I also went to the same Uni but apparently Arts student’s and Engineering students don’t mix, so it was to be a while before we met.
We were sitting having coffee, overlooking Belmore Basin in Wollongong Harbour, watching the incoming fishing fleets set against the backdrop of the 5 islands in the Pacific Ocean and framed by the towering Illawarra escarpment and musing about Wollongong, or the Gong as everyone here calls it. Despite all of our travels, we are still amazed at the beauty of this place.
It still won’t stop us travelling, but it is such a nice place to come home to. Many people come for a weekend break to the city, and this itinerary will give you some ideas on what to see and do in Wollongong.
Wollongong means, ‘between the mountains and the sea’ and that is literally how it is.
The escarpment runs down the side, and the sea is on the other and all of the suburbs are in between. So wherever you live in the Illawarra, you
have the beach or the bush at your doorstep.
Just 80 km south from Sydney, Australia the region is characterized by its sheer diversity. Its geography, people, industries and lifestyles are the unique pattern of the region. The Illawarra is surrounded by National Parks. The mountain escarpment forms the spine of the city, with the significant features of Mt Kembla and Mt Keira. The entire city is characterised by a spectacular and diverse coastline, rainforests, waterfalls and farmland, all in an area that covers 684Km squared.
Wollongong was originally inhabited for about 20,000 years by the Wodi Wodi Aboriginal people, who according to history enjoyed and benefited from the temperate climate and natural features of the region, until white settlement occurred in 1816.
Timber clearing began to provide wood for the growing city of Sydney and to create workable farms, and became the main industry. In 1849, the first coal mine was established as it was found that rich seams traversed the escarpment. This meant that harbour facilities had to be developed to dispatch the coal and then the steel industry was born in the Illawarra. The coal mines and the steel works brought an influx of skilled migrant workers to the region and this has contributed significantly to the cultural diversity evidenced here.
Wollongong’s Cultural Diversity
Wollongong is exceptionally multicultural and at the school that I taught at, there were some 43 different nationalities, all coexisting well. This allows us so many opportunities for cultural experiences as well as great restaurants.
What goes on in Wollongong?
Wollongong used to be maligned by other regions as being a steel town, which meant that tourism, was slow to take hold. However, that has turned around. The beauty of the region - the beaches and the bush land, and the cultural diversity has paid heed to this.
The greening of the industrial zones has and is continuing to be a focus, as it should. The steel and coal industries and vast related services remain integral, but the growth industries are now the University of Wollongong, and the Hospital who are major employers and contributors to the region’s economy.
Twice having been named Australia’s the University of the Year for outstanding research and development partnerships, and for preparing students for the world – the University attracts staff and students from around the world. This is also one of the most beautiful campuses in the world.. Set on 82.5 hectares at the base of the escarpment, the grounds have running creeks, many native trees, an herbarium, lizards, on site rabbits and the famous duck pond.
The success of the University has bought international interest and businesses to the region and the establishment of the Wollongong Innovation Campus. This precinct is home to some of Australia’s most cutting-edge technology, communications, film, television, and multi-media companies. The establishment of the Graduate Entry Medicine course further enhances the role of the University and Hospital in the region.
So, from steel town to E-town in a few short changes of perception
What to do in Wollongong
Go to the beach, there are many of them. Go bushwalking or for a drive in the country. Eat and drink – we are good at both of these sports.Visit the Wollongong Botanic Garden, they are beautiful.
Wollongong is a sports-mad town from the national footy team and the national basketball team and every manner of sport is played by kids and adults alike.
It is also a thriving performing arts and cultural town as should be expected, with live theatre, music, galleries, and ethnic, cultural days – nearly every other day. The established Merrigong Theatre company, Arcadians and Roo Theatre having constant productions. The Wollongong Conservatorium of Music produces excellent musicians and singers alike. Art is also prominent with the Wollongong City Art Gallery as well as Project Contemporary Artspace, to name just two as there are many others.
Wollongong is also big on events.
There is a place for everyone in this town. The Nan Tien Temple, which means Paradise of the South in Chinese is the biggest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere and attracts visitors and followers in huge numbers. The location was specifically chosen because of its geography and spiritual wellness. The Nan Tien temple offer classes, accommodation, and ceremonies and a university.
So if you enjoy geographical diversity, cultural diversity, gastronomical diversity or just straight out love the beaches and the escarpment, then the Gong, as Wollongong is affectionately known as will be a great choice.