|Colourful Kiama - Quick Facts|
Kiama is 119 km south of Sydney via the Princes Highway.
November to March is the best time to visit if planning outdoor activities, but winter days are often sunny and mild.
Coming at the end of the rush along the freeway from Sydney, the view of Bombo Beach from the north is instantly refreshing. It issues an invitation to stop off for a spell in Kiama, the town that sprawls to the south. Accept, and you'll discover a few of the reasons why Australia still deserves the title 'the lucky country'.
Kiama is best known for its blowhole, which was recorded by the navigator George Bass during his voyage of 1797. When the seas are running from the south-east a spectacular plume of water erupts from the chasm at Blowhole Point. Under the right conditions, the spray can soar as high as 60 metres. Surrounding the Kiama Blowhole is a park with picnic tables - a great spot for fish and chips when the sun is shining.
Situated on Blowhole Point next to the visitors centre, the Pilot's Cottage Museum tells the story of Kiama's colourful past, from the time of the cedar loggers to the basalt quarrymen and dairy farmers. It also explores the region's maritime history, including the 1949 Bombo tragedy, in which a ship sank with the loss of all but two of her crew.
Just down from the blowhole, it's hard to miss the ornate Italianate post office building on the corner. Completed in 1878, it was designed by colonial architect James Barnet, who also designed the Lands Department building in Sydney's Bridge Street.
Another town landmark is Kiama Terrace, a row of weatherboard cottages along Collins Street. Constructed in 1886 to house quarry workers and their families, these are the nation's oldest weatherboard terraces, yet they were almost demolished before they were rescued by a permanent conservation order. Handsomely restored, they now house cafes, bookshops and arts and crafts shops.
Kiama is also the perfect springboard for exploring the rest of the Illawarra. In the shadow of the Great Dividing Range just inland from Kiama is Minnamurra Rainforest, a sensational wilderness area within Budderoo National Park. From the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre, a 1.6 km elevated boardwalk winds toward the escarpment and across Minnamurra Creek to give easy access to a 400-hectare rainforest with cabbage tree palms, staghorn ferns, and the spectacular Illawarra fig tree. If you feel like a more substantial hike, there's a two-hour return walk to Minnamurra Falls.
The trip to Minnamurra Falls demands a stop at Jamberoo, a delightful village surrounded by emerald-green farms with the palisades of the escarpment rearing in the background. Jamberoo was established as early as 1820, originally to exploit the rich cedar forests that were used to build much of colonial Sydney.
Take a short stroll around the village to find historic churches and have a poke around in Fredericks general store. The Jamberoo Pub stirs from its rustic slumber on Sundays, when bush bands perform.
If you have children on board, aim for Jamberoo Recreation Park, where the bobsleds, waterslides, racing cars, speedboats and the Amazing Maze are the ingredients in an action-packed adventure playground. You can spend a day here with no difficulty at all - and count on tired and contented children at the end of it.
Located at the top of Jamberoo Pass on the Illawarra Escarpment, Barren Grounds Bird Observatory is a 1,750-hectare nature reserve and a wildlife wonderland, a haven for the eastern bristlebird, the ground parrot and the giant burrowing frog, not to mention the long-nosed potoroo.
The Barren Grounds Nature Reserve has a number of fine walking trails, from a short but spectacular walk to the Illawarra Lookout to the 20 km return hike to Drawing Room Rocks. Predominantly heathland, the reserve is a mass of wildflowers in spring. For keen birdwatchers, the observatory offers basic but comfortable bunk-bed accommodation in a stone lodge building.
In just a few kilometres, Saddleback Mountain Road climbs 600 metres from the coast to a lookout. On a clear day, you can see from Cronulla to Pigeon House near Milton - a span of more than 100 km. Hoddles Trail begins here, a 60-minute ramble to the edge of the escarpment.
As you drive through the region, watch for the dry-stone walls that were constructed more than a century ago, especially in the hills to the west of Kiama township. Much of this work is attributed to Thomas Newing of Kent, a skilled and prolific builder of walls who worked in the area for more than 60 years.
When visiting Kiama on South Coast of NSW take the time to see the Blow Hole, Cathedral Rocks and the other beautiful scenery - but then buy the best fish and chips in the world in Manning Street - and a couple doors up buy the best french cakes and pastries from the Bakery - and then go down the beach front, sit on the grass and enjoy the great scenery and food. The kids can have a run around while parents unwind and relax. Fabulous. Deborah, Evatt
Kiama is a really great place to stay and visit, close to Sydney it is a treat. In the middle of Wollongong and Nowra it has many great attractions for all ages. I think it's a great place. Kiama ROCKS, Kiama
Don't miss the Fish & Chips down near the water on the harbour front! Olivia, St. Leonards