With its magnificent coastal cliffs, stunning beaches and record-breaking blowhole, it’s understandable why Kiama is a favourite getaway destination for Sydneysiders. This attractive coastal town lies around 120 kilometres south of the New South Wales capital and just 40 kilometres north of Wollongong.
Originally home to the Wodi Wodi people, the area that we now call Kiama was explored by George Bass in 1797 and attracted cedar-getters as early as 1810. Wheat farmers were the first Europeans to settle in the area before quarries were established to mine basalt that was used to pave Sydney’s roads. In 1876, Kiama Harbour was flooded to allow large steamers access and the ships that carried blue metal to Sydney became known as the “Stone Fleet”.
Today, it is tourists that are flocking to and from Kiama, attracted by its promise of a quintessential summer holiday or a relaxed weekend away. In addition to its rich history (which is showcased at Kiama’s iconic lighthouse), the town provides the setting for spectacular coastal walks and world-class dining. A short drive from Kiama’s town centre will see you hiking through lush rainforest, birdwatching in rocky reserves or exploring family-owned organic farms.
No matter what your interests are, Kiama is a destination that won’t disappoint. Read on to discover some of the top things to do in Kiama, whether you’re staying for a weekend or an extended break.
The best things to do in Kiama this weekend
1. Kiama Coast Walk
Stretching for 22 kilometres between the Minnamurra River and Gerringong is this spectacular coastal walk, which takes in beautiful beaches and dramatic rock formations along its route. In addition to the famous Kiama Blowhole, the Kiama Coast Walk accesses Cathedral Rocks, Bombo Beach and the Little Blowhole, as well as the Werri Lagoon.
While it is possible to complete the Kiama Coast Walk in a day, most people opt to break it up, with the walk roughly divided into three sections.
• Minnamurra River to Kiama Blowhole – 8.4km (roughly 3hrs)
• Kiama Blowhole to Loves Bay – 5km (roughly 1.5hrs)
• Loves Bay to Gerringong – 6km (roughly 2hrs)
If you’re wondering about how to get back to Kiama at the end of your walk, don’t fret! The Gerringong Bowling Club offers a Walk + Eat + Ride lunch deal that includes a complimentary lift back to Kiama when you spend at least $20 at the club.
2. Kiama Lighthouse
Rising south of Kiama’s harbour is the town’s 19th-century lighthouse, with its 16-metre-high whitewashed tower an icon of the NSW South Coast. While the lighthouse is not accessible to visitors, the charming assistant keeper’s house is and now functions as the Pilots’ Cottage Museum. Operated by the Kiama Historical Society, it offers a fascinating insight into Kiama’s past, including its shipping history, the early cedar industry and the basalt quarries that have left their mark on the region.
3. Bombo Headland Quarry
A short drive north of Kiama is this unique geological site, which is now listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register. Its striking basalt walls and columns are undeniably photogenic and result from the quarrying of blue metal that took place here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (not to mention centuries of erosion by oceanic forces). We highly recommend setting your alarm early to visit at sunrise when the Bombo Headland Quarry is illuminated by the day’s first rays.
4. Cathedral Rocks
Just north of the Bombo Headland Quarry Geological Site are the distinctive rock formations of Cathedral Rocks. These towering basalt formations have been sculpted over millions of years and are a photographer’s favourite, particularly at sunrise! The Cathedral Rocks can be visited along the Kiama Coast Walk but if you’re serious about your photography, we recommend getting there early to capture the magnificent changing colours as the day breaks.
5. Enjoy a scenic drive
If you’ve got your own wheels, then hit the road to explore the Official Tourist Drive No. 9, which winds its way from Kiama into the Southern Highlands via the Jamberoo Mountain Road. It takes roughly two hours, with the option to stop and explore the village of Jamberoo or hike to the waterfalls of Minnamurra and Carrington.
You can soak up the views across the Pacific Ocean from the Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk or stop to browse in the antique stores of Robertson (which is also famed for its “Big Potato”). There is the option to return to Kiama the way you came or drive via Macquarie Pass and through Albion Park.
Best things to do in Kiama when it’s raining
If you’re in need of a day away from the coast (or the weather demands it), then head to charming Berry. This historic town is just 20 minutes’ drive from Kiama and is a great place for shopping, dining and weekend strolls beneath an umbrella. You can delve into the past at the Berry Historic Museum, discover treasures at one of the numerous antique stores or just admire Berry’s heritage buildings, such as the Railway Station, the Courthouse and the Gate House of the David Berry Hospital.
When it’s time to eat, Berry is a foodie’s paradise, with everything from traditional tea shops to winery estates and dessert bars to choose from. If possible, coincide your visit with the Berry Markets, which are held on the first Sunday of the month at the Berry Showground.
7. Minnamurra Falls
Nestled amidst the rainforest of Budderoo National Park, Minnaumura Falls is a gorgeous, two-tiered waterfall that tumbles along the Minnamurra River. A four-kilometre-long return walk leads from the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre to several viewing platforms at the upper and lower cascades. Because of the lush canopy, it can easily be completed in wet weather.
While the Minnamurra Falls are an undeniable highlight of the walk, being surrounded by the park’s sprawling ferns and trickling streams is an experience in itself. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for colourful butterflies and lyrebirds showing off their impressive tails.
8. Wine and beer taste
If it’s raining outside, then head indoors to sample some of the region’s finest drops at the local wineries and breweries. Stoic Brewing in Gerringong has made a name for its pale ales and offers tasting paddles of its handcrafted beers and ciders. Coincide your visit with a Friday afternoon when local food trucks set up shop.
Also a short drive from Kiama is the cellar door of Coolangatta Estate, which was one of the first wineries to be established in the Shoalhaven region. Guided tastings are offered of their Semillons, Cabernet Sauvignons and Tempranillos while the alfresco restaurant offers sweeping views across the surrounding farmland.
Romantic things to do in Kiama
9. Ocean pools
Fancy a sunrise swim with your loved one before the crowds descend? There’s nothing quite like a dip in one of Kiama’s ocean rock pools in the early morning hours and the town boasts four for you to choose from. The Blowhole Point Ocean Pool is one of the most popular due to its setting near the Kiama Blowhole while the Continental Pool (on the other side of the harbour) is 50 metres in length and great for doing laps. For something quieter, we’d recommend the Ourie Ocean Pool at the southern end of Werri Beach or the Boat Harbour Ocean Pool in Gerringong, which has a sandy beach at its shallowest end.
10. Kiama Seaside Markets
On the third Sunday of every month, the Kiama Seaside Markets ignite the waterfront, with more than 100 stalls selling everything from local handicrafts to collectables and fresh produce. You can grab a bite to eat from one of the food stalls before settling in to listen to the live music being performed by local buskers. The Kiama Seaside Markets are open from 9 am to 3 pm.
If you’re specifically after fresh and organic produce, then we recommend the Kiama Farmers Market, which takes place each Wednesday afternoon at Coronation Park.
11. Bonaira Native Gardens
While we love a romantic beach stroll in Kiama, we also recommend a visit to the Bonaira Native Gardens to walk arm-in-arm with your lover. This gorgeous oasis is planted with a variety of native species and towering trees, all of which are detailed by information plaques. An easy, 30-minute trail meanders through the garden, which is also the perfect spot for a romantic picnic in Kiama.
Things to do in Kiama with kids
12. Kiama beaches
One of the best things to do in Kiama is relax on its beautiful beaches, which include popular surf breaks and family-friendly stretches of sand. If you’re travelling with kids, we recommend the shallow waters of Kendalls Beach or sheltered Easts Beach, which can easily be combined with a visit to the Little Blowhole. While Kiama’s Surf Beach is renowned for its northern break, “The Wedge”, it also features calm waters that are ideal for swimming or a splash about with the kids.
If you’re looking to brush up on your surfing skills or even take a lesson, then Gerroa’s Seven Mile Beach is the place to head. More experienced board riders won’t want to miss Minnamurra Beach, which forms part of Killalea State Park’s National Surfing Reserve.
13. Kiama Blowhole
It goes without saying that the Kiama Blowhole is one of the town’s most popular attractions and holds the title of being the world’s largest. When the swell is running in the right direction, its 2.5-metre-wide rock opening can see plumes of water shooting into the air more than 30 metres! The Kiama Blowhole will mesmerise both kids and adults alike, with several vantage points for taking in this natural wonder. It’s an easy walk from the town centre and there are picnic tables and public toilets conveniently located nearby.
14. Whale watching
The coastline surrounding Kiama is famed for its whale watching, particularly during the months of June and July when these giants of the ocean are migrating north, then again from September to November when they head back south. It’s possible to spot humpback whales from several points around Kiama but there are two purpose-built whale watching platforms if you’re serious about catching a glimpse. Just north of Kiama’s town centre is the Minnamurra Whale Watching Platform while to the south is the Gerringong Whale Watching Platform.
15. Jamberoo Action Park
Just 15 minutes’ drive from Kiama is the Jamberoo Action Park, a sprawling water park where kids can let loose on hot, summer days. It’s a great alternative to the beach, with all-inclusive admission that lets them brave thrilling water slides, play miniature golf or splash around at the Billabong Beach playground. You can kick back in a tube to ride the Rapid River, test your skills on the bobsledding course or soak up the views across the park from the chairlift.
Hidden gems near Kiama
Looking for more things to do in Kiama this weekend? Here are a few of our favourite destinations that lie off-the-beaten-track.
Barren Grounds Nature Reserve
Barren Grounds Nature Reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise that lies directly west of Kiama. It’s almost completely encircled by rocky cliffs and features a heathland that ignites with wildflowers in the spring. There are walks to suit all abilities, with a highlight being the 4.5-kilometre-long trail that leads to Drawing Room Rocks with its rock-shaped tables and chairs.
Buena Vista Farm
This family-run estate nestles in scenic farmland near Werri Beach and is committed to growing and rearing in a sustainable manner. In addition to a kitchen garden, laying hens and honey bees, they also keep free-range pigs and grass-fed cattle. Join one of their guided farm tours to learn about the organic practices used here or attend a hands-on cheese-making class.
Not far from Carrington Falls in Budderoo National Park is this idyllic watering hole where you can swim or picnic before hitting the surrounding trails. It’s framed by magnificent eucalypts that provide habitat for a variety of species, including the satin bowerbird. Nellie’s Glen is best avoided on summer weekends when it can get very busy.
Where to eat in Kiama
This iconic yellow shack at Kiama Harbour sells fish straight from the trawlers and is the place to head for a feed after visiting the Kiama Blowhole. You can opt for traditional battered fish and chips, fresh tiger prawns or oysters to slurp down straight away.
Drawing on locally sourced and homegrown produce, Silica is positioned overlooking Kiama’s Surf Beach. It’s a fine dining experience that is all about showcasing what the South Coast has to offer, with the menu featuring dishes such as braised octopus, hot smoked duck breast and salt-baked potato gnocchi.
The Hungry Monkey
The Hungry Monkey is a brunch favourite and is located in the heart of all Kiama’s action. Begin with a cup of White Horse Coffee before feasting on gourmet burgers (or a burger slider), bao buns and hearty salads. There’s a good kids menu available during the day and The Hungry Monkey is open select nights of the week for dinner.
Best places to stay in Kiama
Located in the heart of Kiama, these award-winning apartments offer a touch of “The Hamptons” while being close to everything the community has to offer. It boasts six one-bedroom apartments featuring wrap-around balconies, full kitchens and private bathrooms, accompanied by gorgeous views of the surrounding gardens or the harbour. You can check it out here.
With its stunning beachfront location, this BIG4 is one of the best options for budget-seeking campers to base themselves. In addition to ensuite and powered sites, there’s a wide choice of stylishly designed lofts, retreats and villas if you’re willing to splurge a little. The on-site aqua park, playground and swimming pool will appeal to kids and there’s a well-equipped camp kitchen where you can prepare meals. Click here to book.
Offering easy access to all of the shops and cafes on Kiama’s main street is this two-bedroom apartment, which has been beautifully decorated and comes with everything you need. Aside from the fully-equipped kitchen (complete with a coffee machine), there’s a flat-screen TV and a balcony offering sea views. Click here to book.
Plan your Trip to Kiama
How to get to Kiama
DRIVE: Kiama is around 90 minutes drive south of Sydney or just 40 minutes from Wollongong. There are a few different route options available; the motorway via Campbelltown (M31) or the coast road (A1), which includes the scenic Grand Pacific Drive.
Premier Motor Service connects both Sydney and Melbourne to Kiama or you can take advantage of the buses that travel from Sydney to Kiama with Greyhound Australia.
TRAIN: Regular trains also make the 2.5-hour scenic journey from Sydney’s Central Station to Kiama Station along the South Coast railway line. The train passes through Sutherland, Thirroul and Wollongong.
If you are a first-time visitor to Kiama, consider making Kiama Visitors Centre (located near the Blowhole) your first stop.
How far is Kiama from Wollongong?
If you are in Wollongong and want to go to Kiama, it is only a 35km drive or a 45-minute train journey.