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Introducing Wollongong

Hemmed in by the majestic Illawarra Escarpment, Wollongong sprawls along the coast from Lake Illawarra in the south, to within spitting distance of the Royal National Park. It’s a city that gets progressively nicer as you head north, with the southern end dominated by the biggest steelworks in Australia at Port Kembla. The town centre isn’t about to be crowned Miss Australia either, but a string of ever prettier surf beaches to the north compensate somewhat, as does the ever-present backdrop of those immense cliffs.

The region is part of the traditional lands of the Dharawal people, which continue north to Botany Bay. It was explored by Europeans in the early 19th century, but apart from timber cutting and dairy farming there was little development until the escarpment’s coalfields attracted miners in the mid-19th century. By the turn of the 20th century Wollongong was a major coal port. Steelworks were developed in the 1920s and today the region is one of Australia’s major industrial centres and Wollongong its ninth-biggest city.

The Gong’s surf ethos is a happy contrast to its blue-collar grit, and the result is genuine locals and a laid-back lifestyle. The city’s cuisine measures up to that of any major city and the robust student population ensures that bar staff are never bored for long.