Kiama is where 'the sea makes a noise' and the scent of myrtle floats in the air. Brittany Lazarus revisits the town where she spent her youth.
There is so much more to Kiama than the blowhole. From the quaint cafes nestled between historic buildings to the friendly community markets and the hidden swimming spots, Kiama embodies country charm in a seaside community.
The vibrant town is bustling with colour, culture and fresh ocean breezes. Looking back, I have so many memories of sun-drenched days that left me feeling warm and content.
Pack up your family, make the trip to the coast and become explorers for a few days. Allow yourselves to stop, take a deep breath and work towards feeling rejuvenated.
Step outside your routine and feel the sand between your toes, the wind in your hair and the salt on your skin. Get deep into nature, spot wildlife and marine animals, and eat apples fresh from the farm.
Kiama is just the starting point. Take the time to explore the South Coast in all directions and watch the landscape change as oceans make way for rainforests which in turn become Australian escarpment and rolling hills.
Arguably more impressive than its sister, albeit a little harder to find, the little blowhole is well worth the walk. A true gem tucked away in a residential area, two kilometres out of Kiama towards Marsden Head. Perhaps I'm just one to root for the underdog but, with more frequent sprays, it will always take the cake for me.
The crashing, whooshing and gentle rhythms of blowholes gave the town its name. Kiaram-a is a Wodi Wodi Indigenous phrase meaning "place where the sea makes a noise" which is the basis for what we know today as Kiama.
Kiama Coastal Walk
Nearly 20 kilometres of winding, scenic tracks dip and dive from Minnamurra in the north to Gerringong in the south. The walk is split into three sections: north, mid and south.
The north section is the easiest and best for whale watching in winter and spring. Humpback whales can be spotted from the Minnamurra whale-watching platform from late May to July as they migrate north, and again from September to November with their calves, returning south. Sea eagles, hawks and seals have also been spotted.
Kiama has two rock pools, one of which I spent a lot of time in as a child before I was confident enough to tackle the big waves. Blowhole Point Rock Pool is the smaller of the two and sits oceanside, north of Blowhole Point. It is my favourite spot to cool down on a hot summer day.
The Continental Pool is far larger and there is plenty of space for swimming laps; it is often on the cooler side due to it being shaded, even in summer.
While Surf Beach is the most popular, Kendalls Beach has always been my favourite. Surf Beach is the most central to Kiama township and is patrolled from the NSW Labour Day long weekend in October through to Easter. Half an hour south of Kiama is the world-famous Seven Mile Beach. This stretch of sand is known for being the runway for the first commercial flight from Australia to New Zealand in 1933. The beach is part of Seven Mile Beach National Park and there are plenty of options not just for swimming but also walking, fishing and picnicking. Surfing lessons and camps are often held at Seven Mile Beach.
A 20-minute drive inland from Kiama will transport you to the otherworldly ancient Minnamurra Rainforest in Budderoo National Park. I could not count the Saturday mornings I have spent walking the boardwalks and footpaths of the rainforest. The secret is to get in early and beat the crowds - they scare all the wildlife away.
When I was young, my dad would tell stories of drop bears and kangawallafoxes and although I could have sworn I saw them rustling in the trees, the most impressive wildlife was the stunning lyrebirds.
The rainforest has two walking paths: the flat, kind to strollers and small children Rainforest Loop Walk; and the full, breathtaking Falls Walk which is quite a vertical climb. You will need good walking shoes and a full water bottle.
Jamberoo Action Park
Jamberoo Action Park will be at the top of your kids' to-do lists. The water park is full of attractions for all ages, whether you are seeking an adrenaline rush or a lazy float around, Jamberoo has you covered. Get in early and avoid the queues. It usually reopens just in time for the spring school holidays.
Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures
The Illawarra Fly is a little way out of Kiama, but it is well worth the trip up into the Southern Highlands. The treetop walk sits 500 metres up in the canopy and offers a 1.5-kilometre stroll to those who would simply like to enjoy the view. For the thrill-seekers among us, there are day and twilight zipline tours that will have you zipping down through the canopy similar to a flying fox. Not much of an adrenaline junkie myself, my favourite part of the walk is the Knights Tower lookout which spirals up above the walkway, about 45 metres above the ground, for stunning views of the Illawarra and beyond.
This is my all-time favourite swimming spot. Nestled in a residential Minnamurra street, you could be forgiven for passing right by Rangoon Reserve. It is a small, shaded, grassy area that is the perfect picnic and swimming spot.
Just beyond the picnic tables, the stairs lead down to the Minnamurra River. At low tide, you can walk straight over to the sandbar to make sandcastles.
Before you head out of Kiama, pop up to the Saddleback Mountain Lookout. It will take your breath away. On a clear day, you can see all the way from Milton in the south to Cronulla in the north. Visit at sunrise or sunset for an incredible display of colour.
The Hungry Monkey
No monkey business here: The Hungry Monkey took the title of "Best Business" on the South Coast in 2017. Hungry Monkey Kiama is best known for burgers, but people flock from all over for its breakfasts, too. It's on the main street into Kiama, in a row of cute weatherboard terrace houses converted to cafes and specialty shops.
There is no better accompaniment to a walk along the water or a trip to the park than an afternoon ice cream, all year round. Licked Gelateria sits opposite Hindmarsh Park, which has picnic tables, a playground and plenty of grassy space to burn off extra energy. It's also a short stroll over to Black Beach Reserve.
Apple Crumble has recently topped my long list of favourite ice-cream flavours. The kids won't be able to pass on the Snickers, Malteser or bubble gum flavours.
This is a perfect spot for morning tea. If you're searching for the ideal tea and coffee accompaniment or a light lunch make a beeline to Parfait Patisserie. The cosy patisserie pairs skilful pastry work with lunch classics - think quiche and pies baked to perfection. Fresh bread is also sold daily.
Perfect Break Cafe
Tucked into Gerringong's main street, the Perfect Break Cafe dishes up healthy, organic food with Mediterranean and Mexican influences. Pop in for breakfast or lunch in its cosy space, and afterwards browse the Natural Necessity Surf Shop next door.
Picnic by the Sea
A small local business that was initially started to make picnics easier for the average family, Picnic by the Sea is a luxe picnic option. You pick the package and the location and just turn up. It's an outdoor dining experience where you can relax and enjoy the South Coast's natural beauty, all while enjoying a gourmet grazing board of local produce.
The Sebel Kiama Harbourside
This boutique accommodation built on a heritage-listed 1871 bluestone school, and sits at the heart of Kiama. It is a 15-minute walk to Kiama rock pool, lighthouse and the blowhole.
Breakfast is always a winner, however, the stand-out is the dining space in which it is served. The Quarry Room offers 180-degree floor-to-ceiling views of Kiama Harbour. It is so close to the water, the right table almost feels like dining on a cruise ship.
A brand new boutique hotel offering a variety of rooms and a heated pool, Nova Kiama is a stone's throw from the train station and a short stroll to Kiama's markets, shops, restaurants and beaches. Pick a family room with a balcony for the most space when travelling with children.
Kiama has some of the most picturesque holiday parks on the South Coast. Consider staying at the BIG4 Easts Beach Holiday Park, Kendalls on the Beach, Surf Beach Holiday Park or Kiama Harbour Cabins.
Drive: Kiama is a two-hour drive from the Sydney CBD and nearly three hours from Canberra.
Train: From Central Station, train services run to Kiama Station every day, departing hourly on the weekend or every half-hour during the week.
Please check with operators prior to travel as operating times and capacity may be limited due to COVID-19.
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