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

Busy place for business

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 any business to do, no doubt most of it will be done in Wollongong.

Wollongong City Infographic

Beaches

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.

Resturants

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 busy!

Snapshots from Wollongong – Port Kembla

P is for Port Kembla

Port Kembla is the industrial heart of Wollongong. Home to a massive steelworks that 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 that 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

BHP recedes

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.

Port post 2.jpg

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. 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. (ETA: The Emporium is now closed)

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.

Artists taking over

On the bright side, the area is rebranding itself as an artist’s colony.  The Red Point Artists’ Association is a cluster of businesses that includes a gallery, cafe and several studios from which local artists run workshops and sell their wares. A bulk no waste grocer also opened in 2020.

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 1940s. They now 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 the gentrification to happen.

This post is part of my Snapshots of Wollongong series

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!