Here are my top 10 reasons as to why I have fallen in love with this little Australian city thus far into my study abroad experience.
1. A City of Cafés
If you’re like myself and enjoy a good cup of coffee from a real café, be prepared to be very happily satisfied. With so many little unique cafés in town, there really isn’t any reason to hit one place more than once unless you’ve found a gem worth sharing with friends. Every café has it’s own vibe, and nearly all of them have ‘heaps’ of healthy options as well for both drinks and foods! Another great thing about Australian coffee in general is that specialty drinks such as a flat white or a cappuccino are much more affordable compared to the United States. So feel free to venture with your caffeinated drinks whenever you find a new spot to try out.
2. Free Transportation
That’s right! University of Wollongong has an entirely FREE public transportation system via the utilization of busses. Each bus comes every 10 minutes during weekdays, and every 20 minutes during late nights and weekends. There are only 2 bus lines, the A and the C, and each travel along the same path, but in opposite directions. It was very easy to learn how the busses worked, and it was fun to just hop on during one of my first days being in Wollongong taking in the layout of the city and all the great views.
3. Beaches for Miles
Of course one of the many things Wollongong is well known for is being a great surfing town, due to the great beaches. As part of the North Wollongong Beach, there is an ocean pool that is basically a large tide pool open to the public to swim in whenever they please. It’s great to go for a swim with goggles and look at all the little fish swimming around with you. If you’re more in the mood to get a nice workout in, right next-door is the continental pool that has swimming lanes for people to do laps. Both pools are also free! Another great aspect of beaches in Wollongong is that they aren’t as crowded like a lot of the beaches in Sydney, so you’re never fighting for that perfect spot.
4. Kind Humans
I’d say majority of Australians are all very friendly, however I feel this to be even more prevalent in Wollongong specifically. Everyone within the city whether it be at Uni, in the grocery store, or on the bus are very friendly and will always be ‘keen’ for a quick chat. This makes developing friendships very easy, and it’s great to be surrounded by such pleasant people on an everyday basis. So when you’re here, ride the bus without your headphones, smile at people passing by and feel free to ask people questions in stores. You will be extremely surprised to see how much everyone is excited to meet you.
5. Nature Everywhere
Everywhere you go in Wollongong, nature surrounding you at all times. Whether it is the many different types of birds flying overhead, a wide variety of exotic plant life, the ocean, or Mount Keira that overlooks the city. Much of the wildlife and plant life here gives off a rainforest feel. Combined with the relaxed vibes of the city itself, Wollongong really is something else. Anywhere you turn provides the chance to appreciate nature, and with that it offers many opportunities to explore.
6. Prime Location
Wollongong is about 90 minutes south of Sydney by train or car, and it is also extremely close to many other attractions in surrounding areas. Some of the must see places include; the southern hemisphere’s largest Buddhist temple – the Nan Tien Temple, the blowholes and rock pools in Kiama, the Sea Cliff Bridge walk in Coalcliff, Jervis Bay which is just outside Nowra, the Figure 8 Pools in Royal National Park, and the Blue Mountains located just south of Katoomba. There is always so much to see and do, and you can access all these places easily by the train making the perfect day or small weekend trips. Chat up some locals for their favorite spots that aren’t well known – these could be the most beautiful things you see that not many others know about.
7. Pub Culture
There is the abundance of small bars and pubs with unique vibes and menus, very much like the many different cafes. It’s always great to meet up with some mates at a new local bar and try whatever beer on tap you’ve yet to try, and of course it’s always best to ask the bartender what they recommend in order to experience the Aussie favorites. There are some beers and spirits that you can’t find back at home, so try seeking those out.
8. Pop-up Markets
Just as there are many places to get coffee or beers, there are just as many places to get really good homemade food when the markets come to town. Every Thursday night Crowne Street becomes “Eat Street” with food trucks stretching across the middle of the street, which showcases a wide variety of options there to meet everyone’s current craving. From organic desserts and delicious vegan hot foods, to Asian entrees and famous European desserts, Eat Street has it all. Another pop-up market opportunity is one Friday per month there is food markets by the Wollongong lighthouse, which sometimes has live entertainment and is so nice to sit in the grass and try bits of all your friends meals to taste all the great foods available. Also, every Friday during the day hours, Crowne Street hosts markets with fresh and cheap local produce, and handmade goods that make great gifts to bring home for friends and family. Finally, on Wednesdays, Uni has markets of their own with very reasonably priced bakery items, cheap and hip clothing, and great art to purchase. It’s always great to purchase from these pop-up market venders to help these locally owned small businesses thrive!
9. An Active Lifestyle
Wollongong offers an absurd amount of opportunities for people to stay active and healthy. Sidewalks everywhere with great scenic views of the ocean that are great for running on, nearly all sidewalks are built for cyclists and runners to share and there are signs all over telling you how far you are from popular destinations across the city and in what direction they are. Mount Keira is extremely close if you are ever craving a really good hike overlooking the entire city, so make sure you check out Sublime Point (but be ready to do some climbing!) Surfing and swimming are of course always available even if it’s raining. There are also parks that I like to call “adult playgrounds” since there are things to climb and slides big enough for us “big kids” to use. Finally, the coolest thing Wollongong offers is the only place in New South Wales that allows you to skydive and land directly ON the beach. They have the cheapest skydiving package I have found in the area, so it’s great that it’s right in town.
10. University of Wollongong
In addition to all of the amazing things the city of Wollongong has to offer, I’d have to say I also appreciate the Uni as well. The campus is beautiful with trees and plants everywhere giving you the ultimate rainforest feel, and there are two bodies of water that everyone sits around to do work, have picnics, or take a naps at. The options for places to get cheap food and coffees are high. The buildings are easy to find with signs all over campus telling you which buildings are where. My professors have all been very friendly and passionate about what they are teaching. There are many places to sit and be productive whether it be in the library, the UniCentre, or by the duck pond. Explore the campus and get involved with fun clubs to meet more people and experience things you might not have if you weren’t a member. Hit the gym before class, or take a nap in the big beanbag chairs.
Embrace life in Wollongong as much as you can while you’re here. There are so many new and exciting places to visit all over Australia, but don’t forget to hold your host city in a special place and realize this is your home for a few months. Take it in, make it yours, and love every second of it.