Gushing blowholes, sandy beaches and picturesque coastal walks. Sydney's secret hideaway - Kiama, welcomes surfers and families alike.
Just two hours drive from Sydney, Kiama is not only a favourite bolthole for families from the metropolis, but also a surfer's paradise. Its variety of golden sandy beaches, sheltered coves and surfing ocean waves means something for everyone, with easy access to many local attractions including the Southern Rainforest.
Here we exchanged homes and cars through Homelink International who supplied us with all we needed to make this a formal arrangement. Membership costs around £100 for the year and allows as many swaps as you like worldwide!
From our spacious bungalow in Kiama Heights we could see across to the 'picture postcard' Loves Bay - a popular spot for fishermen. Stop on the craggy cliff-top between Loves Bay and Easts Beach, where unobstructed views across the Pacific Ocean produce a breathtaking sensation of being aboard ship. A walk along the grassy coastal path takes you down to Easts beach – a safe bathing area for families, protected from rough seas by two headlands.
Easts Beach Holiday Park springs up behind the beach - a 35-acre site, cocooned in a sheltered valley with Saddleback Mountain as a backdrop. The park has luxury waterfront units with views of the beach, various holiday cabins and level areas for camping and caravans. A popular spot with families, where Mum & Dad can find time to relax while the children enjoy themselves in the park or on the beach with newly found friends. The park has children's playgrounds, swimming pool and tennis courts. There is a mini-store and small cafe, where we stopped for fish and chips on an evening walk.
Beyond the beach, a walk up the cliffs leads you to the small blowhole, which can create spectacular sights and sounds if the wind is blowing on-shore. Kiama, which means "sounds of the sea" certainly lived up to the meaning of its name, when we visited - not only did the water spurt up through a crack in the rocks but it made a loud echoing sound as it travelled. Make sure children are accompanied if near the blowholes,
Whales can often be spotted off the coast here, migrating north during April and May and heading south from September to November. Dolphins are also an attraction in the bays along this coast.
The Kiama Lighthouse is on Blowhole Point close to the big blowhole, which is guarded by railings for safety. An ancient pilot’s cottage and the tourist information centre with a café, where paintings by local artists decorate the walls, are all close by.
North of the point is the harbour with its fishing boats, seafood market and cafés. The famous Kiama pelicans favour this spot and were easy to photograph when we were there.
Kendalls Beach, in a protected bay, is said to be one of the safest surfing beaches around these parts. Looking across to Kiama’s famous lighthouse, the beach is patrolled by lifeguards during school holidays.
Surf Beach is the main attraction for surfers - it is surrounded by parkland and patrolled at weekends during the summer.
Casual surfers would be advised to steer clear of the notorious Bombo Beach, north of Kiama, unless strong swimmers and expert surfers - it is well known for its strong undercurrents. It was amazing watching some of the experienced local surfers braving the waves here in February.
For surfing gear try "Natural Necessity Surf Shop" in neighbouring Gerringong. ( http://www.nnss.com.au/backup/index.php )
Kiama town is a strip of cafes, restaurants, shops and art galleries. If you are self-catering, as we were, you may find the Woolworths superstore at the northern end of the main street useful for buying fresh food as well as packaged goods.
Kiama's railway station, off the lower end of the main street, has free on-road parking and direct links to Sydney via Woollongong.
Eating Out in Kiama
The little Blowhole Cafe - 4 Tingira Crescent, is as its name implies, near the little blowhole. It has outside seating and a relaxed atmosphere. Serving "comfort food" and take-aways. You can bring your own drinks. Open Wednesday - Monday from 8am to 4pm. Closed on Tuesdays. (tel.(02) 4232 4990 )
Stella's Italian Restaurant - 78 Manning Street, serves Italian Meals, Seafood and Pasta. Small and friendly with a relaxed atmosphere, good food and good value for money. ( tel. (02) 4232 2936 )
The Southern Rainforest
Southwest of Kiama is the town of Saddleback, sitting on the 600 meter high Saddleback Mountain, with views over Illawara. Choose a clear day to enjoy the best of the scenery. It was raining on the day we were there so visability was poor, but with time runing out for us at the end of our stay, we didn't let the weather dampen our spirits and carried on up hill to the "Fly Tree Top Walk".
Explore the beauty of the rainforest following a five hundred meter long walkway on stilts at 25 meters above ground level. Climb the spiral viewing tower, reaching up to 45 metres in height, for spectacular views over the Illawara escarpment. On a clear day you can see its rugged cliffs, beaches and headlands along the Pacific coast. Exotic birds, camouflaged amongst the canopy, cry out from the branches below this vantage point from the "Fly Tree Top Walk". You will find a cafe and gift shop in the information centre here. (http://www.illawarrafly.com)
Take the train to Sydney for a great day out – the journey normally takes about two hours from Kiama. On arrival in the city we headed for Circular Quay - home of the Manly Ferry. Take a coffee break on the boardwalk outside one of the numerous waterside restaurants or soak up the atmosphere lunching under a large sun umbrella. It's the perfect spot for people-watching, with views across to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and in sight of the magnificent Sydney Opera House.
Take a short walk here along to the Opera House or join the adventurous climbers scaling the Sydney Harbour Bridge - we watched some tiny figures in the distance, like rows of marching ants clambering across the top of the structure. You will receive a certificate to prove you did it at the end! We took a trip on the Manly ferry instead and enjoyed clear views across the water to Sydney's famous landmarks - a cheaper option than booking a harbour cruise for those on a tight budget.
You can leave the ferry at Manly Wharf or stay on board for the return journey. Manly is a pretty suburb of Sydney and apart from relaxing on its sandy beaches, an interesting place to visit with shops and restaurants in a village atmosphere. Stop off at the Manly Visitor Information Centre on the Wharf for great ideas on what to do and see here.
Eating out in Sydney
City Extra Restaurant - Shop E4, East Podium,Circular Quay, 24-hour restaurant with superb views over Sydney Harbour . Relaxing atmosphere.( tel: (02) 9241 - 1422) go to website to print page for a free drink ( http://sydney.citysearch.com.au/E/V/SYDNE/0020/16/83/ )
Kiama provided us with a perfect base for a laid back holiday, with easy access to public transport and the Princes Highway leading to many other interesting places in the region.