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The Wonders Of Wollongong
wollongongIf you want to escape the rate race of Sydney but don't want to travel for more than an hour or so, the interesting, diverse and beautiful regional city of Wollongong is just the place for you! Woolongong is often overlooked by tourists in favour of the bright lights and famous landmarks of the New South Wales capital, but that's not to say there isn't a lot to see here.

Each year more and more visitors are turning to Wollongong as a base from which to explore this part of the state, and with good reason too. It has the laid back atmosphere and ambience of a regional town whilst still encompassing everything you could expect from a major city. This is essentially what makes it such an easy place to live and a relaxing, refreshing place to visit. Add into the mix the stunning coastline, the diverse bushlands and the thick rainforests, which are all positioned just a stones throw away, making it he perfect holiday destination.

Wollongong is positioned near thirty kilometres of coastline, which is divided up into an incredible seventeen beautiful and safe beaches. These beaches are central to the culture and lifestyle of Wollongong and are a point of pride amongst its residents. All the beaches around here are easily accessible and close to amenities like shops, restaurants and hotels. Patrolled by lifesavers, the beaches are also great for surfers of all skill levels to try out the variety of wave breaks.

The city is quickly getting a reputation as a hot spot for adventure sports, and the large billowing kites of the kiteboarders have become a familiar occurrence here. For those extreme thrill seekers out there, skydiving is a popular option especially if you want to get a birds eye view of Wollongong, Sydney to the north and the southern coast stretching south.

The natural attractions of this amazing city are not limited to its coast alone. The Illawarra Escarpment is just nearby, and provides Wollongong with a picturesque backdrop.

Divided up into numerous National Parks, the mountains and hills of this escarpment support a dense rainforest vegetation cover that is thriving with birds and wildlife. There are many walking trails and drives that lead to lookout points such as Mount Keira, Stanwell Tops and Sublime Point. Beautiful views of the coast and the hills and valleys of the escarpment are available from these points and many others. For those adventurous at heart there are plenty of abseiling opportunities on the steep mountain slopes, and the wide wings of hang gliders are often spotted in these skies. Just south of Wollongong is Lake Illawarra, a large sea-fed lake which is a popular spot for fishermen and windsurfers. It's perfect for a day trip from Wollongong to go boating or sight seeing.

If you would prefer to stick to the city, you will find plenty of entertainment opportunities on offer. Wollongong is fast gaining a reputation as an area prominent in fine foods and wines, and this is evident in the many cafes and restaurants that are concentrated around its centre and its harbour. Cultural diversity has led to the availability of a wide range of world cuisine, with its close proximity to the ocean and nearby farmlands meaning only the freshest produce is used. Strong Middle Eastern and European influences can especially be seen on the cuisine here, creating a truly cosmopolitan dining experience that will cater to every kind of palate.

The night life in Wollongong has a certain intimacy to it that is missing from the more populated clubs and pubs of Sydney. The welcoming venues and the friendly people will make you feel right at home and there are countless musical and theatrical performances to keep you entertained.

A good start to an evening out is to visit the Five Islands microbrewery, which was the first brewery to open up in the area. Their sumptuous lounge and bar area is situated right next to the equipment that houses the brewing beer, and the beer you drink comes to you directly made from the vats. Named after the five islands just off the coast of Wollongong, the brewery has become something of a local icon here, and is definitely worth a visit.

Another prominent structure in the area is the well established Wollongong University, which has helped give this city a dynamic edge. Large numbers of international students have added to the cultural diversity of the city, which has increased the profile of Wollongong as a centre for arts and culture. It is home to Australia's leading regional art gallery, the Wollongong City Gallery, which is home to a wide collection of art from the area, as well as collections of Aboriginal and Asian art. Travelling exhibitions often make the gallery their temporary home, and your visit is likely to coincide with at least one of the most interesting of these.

When the sun goes down in Wollongong head to the harbour and climb the lighthouse for a magnificent view of the sun setting over the ocean. This is a fitting way to end the day; exploring the sights and wonders of the region, before you sample what the Wollongong night has to offer. With such an exciting choice of things to do and see, the sooner you start planning your trip to Wollongong the better your holiday will be. A hire car will give you the freedom and the versatility you need to enjoy the region to its fullest potential and make your holiday that much more stimulating. Enjoy your trip!

Christine Barton

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