Fancy a trip away from the hype of Sydney, where you can enjoy an afternoon eating great food while following a mural trail to rival that found in Glasgow?
Well, come on down to Wollongong, a thriving regional city just 90 km south of Sydney! Wollongong is Australia’s 10th biggest city and the 3rd largest in NSW. Sharing a similar history to its northern sister Newcastle, Wollongong’s industrial roots are giving way to a vibrant small bar scene, hatted restaurants, quality coffee and a fantastic collection of street murals. The murals have been created during three days of frenzied painting for successive Wonderwalls Festivals.
Choose the cafes that match your budget and the time of day.
Lace-up those walking shoes, slap on your explorer’s hat, and let’s get started!
Wollongong Railway Precinct
You’ll spy your first glimpse of colour as you walk up the ramp from Wollongong Railway Station. The five artworks here include Clarity by Gary. Turn right to grab a seat at the Lettuce B Frank Wholefoods Cafe. Take your time to peruse the menu which has offerings to please everyone from strict vegans to paleo carnivores. Check the mural trail map and get your bearings. Decide now whether you want to venture to the two furthest flung murals The Maid and The Indian.
A few metres from the Clarity site, duck into the driveway next to Dicey Riley’s pub to see the Photo Opportunity Collection. Double back a little and head down the eastern ramp of the station and walk through to Auburn Street. You’ll pass the Welcome Pelicans before finding the Green Gecko.
MaCabe Park Precinct to Crown Street Mall
A cluster of works borders McCabe Park on Keira Street including an unofficial set of practice walls. Depending on the time of day you may even find an artist at work.
Work your way up to the Crown Street Mall. Here, things get a bit complicated. There are a lot of murals crammed into a small area and there will be some crossing over. That’s good because you’ll work up an appetite!
On Burelli St, to your right, you’ll find Fever, an abstract riot of colour, and Smug’s (slightly creepy) Koalas. Turning left you can see work by Mikey Freedom and John Kaye. Double back to Globe Lane and walk through to the Crown Street Mall. You’ll find some small scale works on the garden walls.
If it’s Thursday, the Eat Street Market is open between 5 – 9 PM with plenty of food trucks and music. Save room for a pastry at Kurtosh! The entrance is very unassuming and easy to miss. The big feature you will not miss is Smug’s Harmonica Player on the flyover.
Crown Street Mall to Smith Street.
Once you’re done in the Mall, get back onto Keira Street and head north, turn left into Market Street and then the car park entrance. You’ll find two very large scale works. (Man with a Magpie and Life). There are public toilets in the Centre if you need them.
Keira Lane heading North
Head into Keira Laneway and past Bull and Bear, a cafe and tapas restaurant, which opens seven days a week. Bull and Bear commissioned their own mural which butts up against the Black Cockatoo fresco. Follow the lane to Smith Street.
North end of Keira Street
This end of town is awash with restaurants including the hatted Caveau. You’ll pass Red Square, a vodka bar and Junipers, a gin bar, both opening late afternoon. Tucked away in the alcoves between the buildings you’ll discover four more murals. My favourite is the Woman with Red Lips by Rone.
Continue heading south and you’ll find Ziggy’s House of Nomms. Ziggy’s is worth stopping at just for the Cheese McBurger Dumplings! Quirky, cheap and cheerful, it shares an entrance with Xanadu (a Chinese restaurant).
Market Street Car park to the Arts Precinct.
Head back into Market Street for the entrance to the Central Carpark. There are several murals in the car park on its various levels, as well as at the entrance. If you walk towards the pedestrian access, you’ll find Dearly Departed; a dot painting and a long cartooned wall stretching for 20 metres. Make a very quick foray in Crown Lane to see the Mexican Jaguar.
You’ll now cross back over your route to head through the Mall again, and down Pig Alley to Simpson Lane. Lining the walls of Pig Alley are some metal panels with works commissioned by Wollongong City Council. These are changed at regular intervals so there is no point describing them here.
Drop into Burelli Street heading east to view the many artworks in this area. The Art Gallery is well worth a visit. There are some murals inside The Icon. The Icon, one of Wollongong’s newer bars, is a casual dining option.
Visit two more far-flung works on Stewart Street (Predators and the Crowned Emu) if you’re up for it, otherwise, take Moore Lane for Yam Fam, Steel City and the Glowing Cicadas.
Final Leg of the Mural Trail!
Is it gin o’clock yet? Make your way to Kembla Street. Heading north you’ll pass Nikka Luca’s work and the rosy faces on Ox King’s panel.
One last highly recommended stop is Births and Deaths, a boutique gin bar. Jared will make you feel welcome and tell about his sustainable business while you try to choose from the extensive drinks menu. I have reviewed Births and Deaths in my series on Small Bars in Wollongong.
You can now head to the railway station for a sleepy ride back to Sydney or stay another day, you haven’t even seen our beaches yet!
Used my map for the Mural Trail? Please let me know what you thought and if there are any glitches I need to fix.