Wollongong’s Mural Trail

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.

READ THIS POST IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE MAP:

This map gives you a suggested mural trail route, starting and ending at the railway station, with some recommended eateries.

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!

This article was first published in a condensed form in Culture Trip

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.

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In the Alley next to Dicey Rileys

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.

two koalas and a man
The work of world-renown Smug.

 

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.

Street mural of a woman with red lips
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.

Photo 12 Chimneys

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.

Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshots from Wollongong – Wollongong

W is also for Wollongong

It’s been a little while since I posted in my Snapshots from Wollongong Series  and like I said in the  Snapshot for Woonona, Wollongong has more than its fair share of suburbs starting with W. The heart of the city is itself, called Wollongong.  I live in Wollongong.

The suburb of Wollongong

This is the biggest the “big smoke” gets in the Illawarra! As well as being home to more than 18,000 people we have the Mall, the Municipal Buildings, night clubs, the CBD, restaurants etc. There is a small art gallery, as well as the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre. There are lots of commercial offices with doctors, architects and the like. Wollongong plays host to the State Headquarters of the SES. There is a large regional  Police Station and Courthouse. If you have business to do, no doubt most of it will be done in Wollongong.

Wollongong City Infographic

There is one long beach, Wollongong City Beach, which stretches down to Port Kembla. The southern part of this beach is called Coniston Beach. City Beach is patrolled in the season. Coniston Beach is not patrolled but it is a dog-off-leash area, so it’s very popular with pet owners. If you would prefer not to swim in the open ocean, head to the Continental Pools which are on the foreshore walk known as the Blue Mile.

a long beach with a dark cloudy sky
Wollongong’s City Beach Looking Towards Port Kembla

Belmore Basin, the area nestled between the Breakwater Lighthouse and the breakwater itself, is a great place for families to enjoy the outdoors with cafes, a sheltered swimming area, pretty scenery and play equipment. This area is the hub for many of our city’s celebrations such as Australia Day. The other big park, McCabe Park, hosts events as well such as Viva La Gong and the annual celebration of the city’s multicultural community.

The northern end of Keira Street has many restaurants including Caveau, our only “hatted” establishment. Corrimal Street also has a concentration of restaurants. The mall has recently been refurbished and is now a great open space where you can enjoy markets on Fridays, and Eat Street on Thursdays. You might like to look at the interesting street art – the Palm Trees. Residents are still scratching their heads about that one!

 

The WIN Stadium, which is home to the St George – Illawarra Dragons (a rugby league team)  is a stadium with a capacity of 23,000 is right on the beach and next door to the Wollongong Entertainment Centre. Elton John played at the WIN Stadium in 2019. I think there were as many people sitting on the beach enjoying his music for free as there were inside the stadium! This is also a great precinct for a conference.

Continental Pools, Wollogong Harbour
The Continental Pools

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The Little Lighthouse - Wollongong
Lighthouse at sunrise

There are two lighthouses, a working harbour, a teaching hospital and a golf club. The dominating feature though is the apartment buildings that are being built at a prodigious rate. Seventy-one % of the people living in Wollongong live in apartments.  The cranes are busy building more.

Wollongong also has a series of very good street murals which I have written about previously.

One of the features I really enjoy about Wollongong is the presence of good Op Shops, my favourite being the Salvos and then Lifeline.

Wollongong has certainly shaken off its “country town” persona and is a modern and cosmopolitan regional city. Many people will still travel up to Sydney for entertainment, but for an Old Chook like me, Wollongong has enough going on to keep me quite busy!

Australia’s Day? Mini-Doc 4

Should we change the day we celebrate Australia Day?

This clip was taken down at Wollongong Harbour on Australia Day 2020. While offering no answers, it raises the question “is the 26th of January the best day for celebrating our nationhood?”

Should we choose a different date or should we commemorate it in a different way?

 

All footage on iPhone SMAX edited using iMovie and Spark Video on my phone.

You can find lots of information about this issue. This SBS News clip is a good place to start.

Photo of the Week 49

Photo of the Week Challenge

Fire in the sky.

Australia is in the news at the moment because much of it is on fire.  Australia has always been prone to bush fires. The First Australians knew how to use it to control their land and help prevent catastrophic events. Global warming has meant that massive fire events are happening more and more frequently.

This shot comes from the Bulli Beach. A pall of smoke has been hanging over Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle for weeks. Air quality is dangerously low. No substantial rain is forecast. The day I wrote this two firefighters died. It’s hard to stay positive.

I am safe but many others are not.

 

Snapseed 14

Taken with my iPhone SMAX. The resolution and quality are not great but the eeriness is.

 

Snapshots from Wollongong – Cringila

Train cars in Cringilla

C is for Cringila

My Snapshot series has forced me to go out and do some research in my home town, venturing into some unknown places. This Photo Safari took me to Cringila about 8 km from my home.  As I parked my car on the main street to begin my reconnaissance a smartly dressed older man said “hello!” He looked at me intently, waiting for my answer. I said hello back. He said, hello again. It went on for a few more hellos on his side and when he seemed, satisfied, he moved on. I watched him walk down the hill and my eyes were drawn to the contrast of the suburban red-tiled rooves against the backdrop of a massive steelworks. The plumes of steam emanating from the tall stacks filling the already smoky sky with white clouds.  The sound of a  relentless flow of traffic drifted up towards me from Five Islands Road.   The sky was smoky, not due to the smoke from the stacks,  but rather from bushfires that had been burning for the previous week in Newcastle some 240 km away.  It gave my expedition a suitably gloomy flavour.

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Cringila, a small suburb made up of only eighteen streets, is surrounded by heavy industry. The Steelworks in Port Kembla is literally across the road and is connected to Cringila by a few footbridges that lead directly into the steelworks itself. The houses are older but substantial, their tiled rooves capping external walls clad with aluminium siding or fibro. While I did not wander into the suburban depths of Cringila, it was evident that the properties here are “fixer-uppers” on big blocks. A first home buyers paradise.

The town started off as Steeltown and rose up in direct response to the steelworks. Its original inhabitants pitching their tents and building shacks on the boundaries. Despite being surrounded by industry a substantial portion of the suburb is green open space. (Open as it turns out due to it being contaminated with waste from previous industrial dumping and therefore unfit for use)

Cringila’s numbers

At one time Cringila had an interesting claim to fame. This suburb topped the charts for the highest number of non-English speaking migrants of any place in Australia. It still holds that title for Wollongong. Only 25% of people who live in Cringila have both parents who were born in Australia and 48% of all residents were born out of Australia. Macedonian and Lebanese families represent 15% and 11% of the population, respectively.

Cringila

The small shopping centre has an odd assortment of shops including three (very busy) barbers, a pharmacist, newsagents, a florist, dog groomers, two old fashioned mixed business grocery style shops, the ubiquitous bottl-o (bottle shop aka liquor store), a community centre and two burek shops. There are two mosques and a small public primary school. The local football club, the Cringilla Lions,  is very important to the community.

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I didn’t get the courage to go into the Cringila Pub, I was turned off by its reputation for having topless waitresses. They did have a very funny sign out the front a few years ago, advertising itself as a  “husband day-care service”. Now their website says “Just your true South Coast local – Beer n Boobs”

Classy!

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The two burek shops both claimed to sell the best burek. I had never had burek before but I can tell you I’ll be having it again! I bought a piece (? or are they slices?)  from Bitola Burek for $6. The woman who served me brought out the burek in a flat circular tin and tipped it onto a hot plate. We chatted as she flipped it a few times to crispen it up.

She cut the large 30 cm round into quarters and wrapped up my quarter in white paper. I intended on taking it home and eating it later but as I carried it to the car the smell was irresistible, so I broke off a chunk to taste! Devine! The golden, flaky pastry was simultaneously crunchy and chewy while the filling was a tasty mass of gooey cheese with a flavour similar to feta but milder and stretchier.  (According to a recipe I just googled it is a mix of feta and mozzarella… or the Macedonian versions thereof)  $6 worth was enough for me for two meals.  I’ll have to go back and try the other shop to compare!

 

 

Illawarra Festival Of Wood

“Every tree tells a story”.

I am always astounded by the diversity of things you can do in a small city like Wollongong. Sure, it’s not as exciting as the forever-awake New York, but it has its charms and enchantments!

A case in point is the Illawarra Festival Of Wood. The Festival is in its third year and offers the community a chance to see fine artisans at work, try out some woodworking skills, keep the kids entertained (under 12’s enter free)  and eat some great food. All of this, in a country fair atmosphere at the Bulli Showground. What more could you ask for on a sunny Sunday?

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Happy memories of crafting

I jumped at the opportunity to act as a guest photographer at the Festival because frankly, I love wood and the idea of working with wood to produce beautiful warm and peaceful objects brings back happy memories of my grandfather Colin. Papa, as we called him, was always busy creating something. Sometimes from wood, other times from metal, stone or leather. Although retired, he was never idle and the big shed he had in the backyard in Hurstville,  was filled, literally to the rafters, with materials all waiting to be turned into something useful.

Papa made simple jewellery and sturdy furniture. All the family had/have something made by Papa. There was a graduated and scheduled procession of gifts;  a leather belt in early teenage years, then an ornate wallet and later for the girls, at 18, a carved handbag. Grandma kept a little book of who had what and when the next item was due.

When I was first married, I happened to live a few streets away from Papa and Grandma. It became my habit to visit on Saturday afternoons, have a cup of tea and a few biscuits in the cosy kitchen and then head to the shed with Papa to make something. He taught me how to use a lathe and make enamel necklaces. We would tumble rocks for weeks on end in jars of sand. The coarse sand replaced incrementally by finer and finer grains as the stones began to gleam and round out. The transformation of rocks to polished jewellery was slow and laborious.

I enjoyed this time with my Grandfather and now reminiscing as I write, I realise that this must be where I developed my love of crafting and the desire to create simple things with my own hands. One of the items on my 60 for 60 list is to do a woodworking course, so the Festival made me as happy as a lark while I  snapped away amongst the sappy sweet smells oozing from the resiny slices.

Surprising Health Benefits of Wood

Real wood went out of fashion for a while with wood panelling and furniture replaced by slick, sleek plastic laminates. These materials might be easier to clean, but science shows that timber, real timber, offers many health benefits. It can lower blood pressure, increase levels of well being and improve a person’s emotional state and creativity. Housing Health and Humanity is a comprehensive, evidence-based report that sets out these benefits. Wood interiors and wooden furniture, to some extent, bring the outdoors inside and create a health-giving bond with nature.

Combine these latent health benefits with the practice of creating and keeping old crafts alive, and you have a winning formula for a great weekend.

Master artisans.

These values are easy to see in the craftspeople and stallholders at the IFoW.  A small band of wood enthusiasts organises the Festival; Suzanne and Stuart Montague along with another couple Christian and Tomiko Timbs, who own and operate Japanese Tools. Suzanne and Stuart also own the Illawarra Woodwork School and run top-rated courses in furniture making. The courses sell-out fast, so you need to get in quick to grab a space. The class schedule on the website is currently not up-to-date, so it would be worthwhile emailing them if you want to sign up.

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Suzanne with her trusty clipboard

 

Suzanne buzzed around all day solving the sorts of logistical problems that often arise in these sorts of events from not having enough garbage bins, making sure there is enough power leads right through to the threat of inclement weather that could spoil everything in one big downpour.

Where can you find the Festival?

The Festival runs over two days in mid-October and is timed to coincide with the last weekend of the Spring school holidays. Workshops are aimed at different skill levels. You’ll find plenty of beautiful slabs of timber for sale as well as tools, furniture and homewares on offer from more than 70 stallholders. A wide range of food vendors will ensure you don’t go hungry.

Bulli is one of Wollongong’s northern suburbs and is about 90 minutes drive south of  Sydney, The Showground is on the Old Princes Highway just south of the Primary School but before the pub. You can easily walk from Bulli Railway Station, although you should check the timetable carefully as trains are few and far between on the weekends. On-site parking is available for a gold coin donation.

Ticket prices for the 2019 Festival were $15 for single-day entry and  $25 for both days. Workshop fees varied depending on their complexity (some of the more complex ones spanning the two days) and include the entry fee. Children’s workshops range from $60-80.

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If you want to make a full day of it the beach is only a short distance away. The Wood Festival is on the same weekend as the very popular and successful Scarborough Art Show held at Scarborough Primary School from Friday night.

It’s too late for this year, but you could organise a lovely weekend away in the sunny city of Wollongong for 2020!

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Snapshots from Wollongong – G and K

K is for Keiraville and G is for Gwynneville

This post gives the profile for two adjoining suburbs, that while small in area, pack a lot of punch in the facilities they offer.

These two small villages are well-established suburbs which have been part of Wollongong more or less since land grants were made in the area. Once again the Spearing family were the first to own a parcel of land here. Keiraville is named after Mt Keira which rises above it at the end of Gipps Road. Gwynneville is named after John Gwynne, a farmer who lived in the area in the late 1880s.

The small commercial centres for both Kieraville and Gywnneville run off Gipps Road.

G is for Gwynneville

Gwynnevilleinfo

For a small place, there is a lot happening here! Gwynneville offers some major sporting venues. Firstly, Beaton Park Leisure Centre which has a 25m indoor heated pool as well as a well-equipped gym. The gym is owned and operated by the Wollongong City Council. There are lots of group exercise classes plus the regular gym weights and machines. A full-size basketball court is also used by local clubs for badminton and other sports. In case you pull a muscle, there is a Sports Medicine clinic in the grounds too.

Beaton Park Gym
Beaton Park Gym

Within the same complex is the Kerryn McCann Athletics Centre which has an 8 lane running track, long jump and pole vaulting facilities as well as a shot put and discus areas.  Members of the gym can use the running track when it is not being used by the Athletics Club. Nearby and sharing the same car park, is Wollongong Tennis Club which has 14 full-size courts (10 synthetic and 4 clay) and 8 mini-courts for kids. The Clubhouse is licensed, and they serve drinks and meals most days. It is closed on Mondays and only open every second Sunday. Just across the little stormwater drain is the Snakepit Basketball Stadium, which is the home of Illawarra Basketball. The major league’s games are not played here anymore as they moved to the bigger Wollongong Entertainment Centre.

We are not done yet.

Across the road from the  Beaton Park cluster is Wisemans Park Bowling Club which has three greens and a large licensed club. Next door to the Bowling Club, is a  cricket oval. There is a second cricket oval adjacent to the Kerryn McCann track which is used for soccer in the winter.

The small shopping centre has a pharmacy, a mixed business which doubles as the Post Office, a greengrocer, a chicken and chips place, two cafes, one of which includes a boutique, a bakery which also has a cafe,  an Asian grocery store, a Turkish takeaway and pizza place and a Chinese take-away. There is also a petrol station, a small community theatre company, Senior Citizens Centre, a beautician and hairdressers!

Another feature is the Omar Mosque, one of three mosques in Wollongong.

There is a public primary school as well as a catholic primary school. The designated high school is Wollongong High School of Performing Arts which takes local students and students by audition for its performance program.

All this, within walking distance of the main town of Wollongong and the University, make it a very desirable place to live. It is well serviced by buses, and North Wollongong station is very closeby. It should be noted that Gwynneville is dissected by the Princes Motorway, a 4 lane highway with lots of traffic!

 

K is for Keiraville

Keiraville

A little further up the hill towards Mt Keira, you’ll find Keiraville. This pleasant suburb also has lots to offer. It has two of the city’s big guns: the University of Wollongong and the Wollongong Botanic Gardens.

The Wollongong Botanic Gardens is one of my go-to places when I am looking for a little photography inspiration. While only small, it has an impressive collection and I especially love the succulent and cactus collections. My grandson loves to feed the ducks (as do most of the toddlers in Wollongong.) There is a coffee van, which at the time of writing is open 7 days a week, where you can get snacks as well as tea or coffee while browsing the street library collection. There is an enclosed playground for kids and plenty of lawns and delightful nooks for big family gatherings or romantic picnics.

On the high side of the Gardens and up the grassy hill is Gleniffer Brae, a heritage-listed residence that now houses the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music. Built in 1937-39.  It is described as being a Tudor Revival style. There has been some controversy in recent years about its use and redevelopment.

Keiraville also has a  small shopping centre with three cafes, a pharmacy and petrol station, a bottle shop, a small supermarket, a post office, a travel agent and a homewares/clothing boutique. An alternate medicine/clinic offering “new age” treatments as well as a physiotherapist has also opened up in the last year. There is also a small Polish Museum.

Keiraville Primary School which opened in 1891, is a quaint collection of weatherboard buildings.  The local designated high school is Wollongong School of Performing Arts.

 

Parking near Wollongong University.

Since both Keiraville and Gwynneville are close to the University, parking is an issue. There are clearly marked parking bays on the residential streets surrounding the Uni. While the Uni and the Council have done their best to make public transport an attractive option by providing a free bus that loops around the central Wollongong area and a free shuttle bus from North Wollongong station, plenty of students still drive. Parking in the Uni is probably beyond the financial resources of students.