Five awe-inspiring spots to immerse yourself in nature.
Recognising the breathtaking natural beauty of the Illawarra isn’t hard – a short drive across the Sea Cliff Bridge is enough to remind us just how remarkable our region really is. But nonetheless, exploring new places is one of the best ways to appreciate all that our coastline has to offer. Check out these five local spots and experience nature at its finest.
Otford to Burning Palms Walk
The Otford to Burning Palms Walk is about an 11km loop track that takes in some of the Coal Coast's most stunning – and diverse – vistas. You'll pass through rainforest, cross Burning Palms Beach and witness some Jurassic Park-like views. This Grade 4 track takes about five hours to complete, so be prepared to sweat. Allow a full day, wear sturdy walking shoes and bring plenty of water. This walk also takes in the well- Instagrammed figure-eight pools, but be smart and make sure you’re aware of tidal changes before visiting – head to the NSW National Parks website for more details.
Nellie’s Glen Waterhole
Just a 50-minute drive from Wollongong is the truly special Nellie’s Glen. Located in Budderoo National Park, this bushland waterhole lies upstream from the impressive Carrington Falls. Surrounded by greenery, it’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in the magic of the Australian bush. The waterhole is roughly 15 metres in diameter and plenty deep enough to enjoy a relaxing dip – it even boasts a small waterfall of its own, making it the ultimate picnic spot. What’s more, it’s easy to access and perfect for families. Remember to respect the local flora and fauna while there.
Kiama Coastal Walk – Cathedral Rocks
This 22km stretch of sparkling coastline is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of life. You’ll wander over coastal pastures and untouched headlands, while never straying far from creature comforts. The walk would take a whole day if you commit to the entire trek, but is easily broken up into sections. The walk from Minnamurra River to Kiama Blowhole Point takes about three hours, and you'll pass the magical Cathedral Rocks on your way to the famous blowhole. The volcanic rock formation at the southern end of Jones Beach has been attracting visitors since the late 1800s – there is also a cave here, best accessed at low tide, that offers an incredible vantage point and plenty of photo ops. Pack a picnic, stop for a coffee and appreciate the breathtaking views.
Dharawal National Park
The traditional land of the Dharawal people, this leafy park is of huge cultural significance and protects many sacred Aboriginal sites, including drawings and axe-grinding grooves. It has only been open to the public for 12 years and remains pristine, due to restricted access and community consideration – truly the region's secret paradise. A wonderland of swimming holes, waterfalls and walking trails awaits, and is accessed via Darkes Forest Road near Helensburgh. Enter the park at Maddens Falls and follow the creek down the gully as it joins a complex web of waterways, eventually flowing into O'Hares Creek, which offers glittering swimming holes aplenty. The park’s dense vegetation and rugged sandstone landscape makes for spectacular viewing and is great place to spend the day. While there, keep your eyes peeled for an abundance of native wildlife – sugar gliders, wallabies, tree frogs and water dragons are common sightings.
Illawarra Fly Treetop
It’s tempting to think that the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk is simply a playground for tourists – it's not. Perched on the edge of Budderoo National Park, west of Kiama, the Treetop Walk is around 710 metres above sea level and boasts incredible views. Climb to the top of the highest vantage point and you’ll find yourself surrounded by an ocean of ancient trees, rolling green hills and bright blue sea. Perhaps the most striking part of this walk is simply being suspended so high above the rainforest floor with what is truly a bird's eye view. And, of course, if you’re after something more heart-pumping, there’s always the option of zipping through the forest on the Illawarra Fly zipline.