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!

 

 

Snapshots from Wollongong – Woonona

W is for Woonona

Wollongong has more than its fair share of suburbs starting with W. There is Wollongong itself, Woonona, Windang, Warrawong and Wombarra.

 

Woonona (including Woonona East) is in the “northern” suburbs. Here, the coastal strip is narrow, and the escarpment rises sharply only 3 kilometres beyond the beach. The suburb is divided by the Princes Highway and the railway line. East Woonona is east of the railway, and while not officially its own suburb, there is a significant demarcation in terms of house prices once you go across those tracks.

Woonona’s Numbers.

Woonona Infographic

Cook’s foiled landing attempt in Woonona.

Woonona has a big claim to fame in that it was the place where Captain Cook first attempted to land on Australian soil. Rough seas prevented the landing party coming to shore, and they continued to head north to Botany Bay.

 

Sea birds at Woonona Beach
Taken at Collin’s Point, Woonona

 

Woonona’s retail sector.

There is a small shopping area at “the Circle” at East Woonona where there is a newsagent, a bottle shop (AKA liquor store), a couple of fish and chip shops, a bakery and a small supermarket. There is (was)  also a hair salon.

Woonona itself has a largish shopping precinct with an IGA Supermarket, a McDonalds,  a very large RSL Club which includes a gym and many speciality shops. This shopping centre runs along both sides of the Highway and parking can be a bother. There is a car park in the street that runs parallel to the Highway on the eastern side.

It is well serviced by restaurants, and Samara’s (a Lebanese restaurant) is one of my favourites. They serve great food, and there is an amiable vibe. There is also a very good Thai place and terrific sushi place – Moon Sushi a bit further north.

If you are looking for coffee close to the beach, there is a cafe at 1 Park Road which has gone through a few iterations. Right now it’s called North Break Cafe.

Beach Fishig at Woonona

Woonona has two public primary schools and a High School. Woonona Primary opened in 1885, and some of the original buildings are still on site. The High School opened in 1964.

If you are looking for interesting architecture, the Woonona Co-operative Building in Ball Street is a bit of a standout. Built in the Spanish Mission Style in 1928 it was first a bakery (the largest on the south coast) and later a department store. It is now home to a pizza parlour and a self-storage business.

Flooding in Woonona

Because of the geography with the narrow coastal strip, the steep escarpment and small creek systems, the northern suburbs including Woonona are subject to flash flooding. In 1998 one person was killed and hundreds of homes damaged when 314mm (more than 12 inches) of rain fell in 6 hours.

Angels singing at Woonona Beach

 

Woonona Beach

The Woonona Beach is well known as a good surfing beach, and there is an ocean pool and changing rooms at its northern end. Like Bellambi, the cycleway runs right past the beach, and there is a series of sports’ ovals and a childrens’ park which has excellent views. If you had a mind to, you could walk from Wollongong to Woonona and beyond along the beach with the headlands being easy to scramble over in low tides.

 

 

Ocean Pool, Woonona
Woonona’s Ocean Pool at night.

 

I used to live in Woonona and hence have a bit of a soft spot for it and quite a few photos in my archives!

 

 

Snapshots from Wollongong – Port Kembla

P is for Port Kembla

Port Kembla is the industrial heart of Wollongong. Home to a massive steelworks which dominates the horizon from many vantage points, it is often considered grubby, polluted and frankly, a place to avoid. The main street has a reputation for being a cruising zone for those seeking the services of prostitutes.

Port Kembla Harbour
Port Kembla from Mt Kembla

Cloud factories are continuously pumping out steam and presumably other chemicals, and there is an eternal flame burning off gases which lights up the night sky.

Wentworth Street, Port Kembla
Wentworth Street, Port kembla

Sounds delightful heh!  But if you look a little further, you can find a beautiful beach, a heritage park and a quirky commercial district.

Port Kembla Location map
Just south of the CBD and right on the coast

 

BHPBiliton  (and its predecessors) have had a presence in the Illawarra since the late 1920s. While its operations have scaled-down over the last few decades, there is still a large and rambling complex of sheds, smokestacks and railways that take up an area from Cringilla, Coniston and Warrawong.

 

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Port Kembla Beach and Ocean Pool

At the end of Cowper Street, you’ll find a long sandy beach and a spectacular ocean pool. Unlike other sea pools in the Wollongong area, the one at Port Kembla is not fed by the tide, but it is filled with seawater. It stands a little above the beach and is surrounded by gorgeous rich yellow walls which give it a very Mediterranean feel. The kid’s pools are well shaded, and there are plenty of places to lie about in the sun on the grassy hill.

The adjoining beach is a long curve that stretches nearly 7 km and ends at Windang on the mouth of Lake Illawarra. The section near the pool is patrolled during the season. The Surf Life Saving Association of NSW rates it as a hazardous beach so it would be best to stick to swimming between the flags.

Port Kembla Beach

Wentworth Street.

The main retail strip is along Wentworth Street. It boasts 3 pubs (one of them closed) a night club (The Vault) and a few cafes and the quirky Wentworth Emporium. At 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon, most of the shops were closed. Through the glass, the cafes looked pretty hip and funky.  Joanne, who opens the Emporium on Fridays and Saturdays, said that business is pretty slow. Her primary source of income being her adjacent upholstery shop. The Emporium is a mix of homewares, bric-a-brac, and potted succulents.

Adding to the ghost-town-like feel, most of the shops are actually empty and for lease. The interiors of some are showing signs of refurbishment while others are filled with chaotic trash.

On the bright side, the area is rebranding itself as an artist’s colony.  The Red Point Artists’ Association is a cluster of businesses which includes a gallery, cafe and several studios from which local artists run workshops and sell their wares.

Another theme is also developing with bridal and bridal accessory businesses filling up the empty shops.

Street Art.

As part of a deliberate rejuvenation program, the annual Wonderwalls Street Art Festival was held in Port Kembla in February 2019. The festival is responsible for brightening up many boring walls in the main part of Wollongong. There are now several very large murals brightening things up in the streets and laneways of Port Kembla.

Heritage Park at Breakwater Battery

There is a small museum near the eastern breakwater wall of the deep water harbour. Originally an observation station built in WWII, it is now home to the Maritime Services Board and the NSW Water Police. The outdoor area has several battery points and some intriguing white pyramids that were moved there from Berkeley Beach. The pyramids were tank barriers and placed on the beach to prevent Japanese tanks from landing on our shores in the 1940’s. Now they serve as fascinating photographic subjects!

 

I get the feeling that Port Kembla is a sleeping giant and waiting for a boom. It would be a great time to get in and buy some property on the cheap and wait for gentrification to happen.

 

Snapshots from Wollongong Series.

Introducing an ongoing Snapshots from Wollongong series

My home town of Wollongong is a fabulously, diverse place. Although a small city by world standards, it is the third-largest in NSW and the 10th largest in Australia. I wrote my first snapshot post back in December 2017. Since then,  I have written a few more posts about things to see and do here.

Click on these links to read my posts about

An A-Z of Wollongong

Over the next few months, I am going to concentrate on a series of “Snapshots from Wollongong”. I have mapped out an A-Z of suburbs and will show you around. It’s not going to be all glitz and glamour but hopefully a truthful overview of the place I intend to call home till I fall off the perch.

The series is more likely to appeal to ‘Gong locals although if you are thinking of travelling to Australia, Wollongong is an excellent place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. Some days you can get the whole beach to yourself!

True to my scattered form, I will not be approaching it in strict alphabetical order but just as the fancy takes me and when I can get to where to do the research. At this stage, I have nothing for Z! We don’t have a zoo.

The series starts proper,  this Friday, with P for Port Kembla! It won’t be every week and given I have identified 62 named suburbs in Wollongong’s Local Government Area, it’s going to take me a while! I’ll be throwing in other posts about other things too to keep the blog moving along.

BTW: I have some wooden postcards featuring Wollongong in my shop.

If you have an idea for Z, let me know in the comments below. In fact there is no I, Q V or X either!