Growing up on a farm, when things were good and the seasons were kind, we would escape to the beach for a dose of salty sea air and sand between our toes. Invariably the road would take us North to the North Coast of New South Wales (NSW) or even further north into the glitz and bling of Queensland’s Gold Coast.
It is only now that I start to discover the gems I missed out on tucked away on the South Coast of NSW.
How did I not know about Kiama? Well, I knew the name, but not all the beauty wrapped up in this compact packet of beachy bliss.
Kiama is a town of around 7 600 people located approximately 110 minutes’ drive south of Sydney. It used to be a popular stop over point for drivers heading further south, but now that the town has been mostly bypassed by the Princes Highway it is a popular destination for those looking for a permanent or temporary sea change.
We arrived in town at 2pm on a crisp Winter’s weekend afternoon and I couldn’t believe the buzz on the streets. All the shops and cafes were doing a roaring trade and the parks were full of happy children and even happier dogs running, jumping and generally blowing off steam.
In the early days Kiama was a major centre for logging of the extensive cedar forests that covered the hills nearby. Overtime this has been overtaken by dairying and now tourism is the other significant economic generator. And I can see why.
Kiama has a gorgeous selection of pristine beaches, but it was the history of the place that really caught my eye. In my limited experience, many coastal towns have lost most of their historic buildings from erosion and dereliction or from the pursuit of ‘progress’. To me this leads to a very bland streetscape when everything is bright, shiny and modern. Not Kiama.
Kiama was reserved as a township in 1836 and declared a municipality in 1859. Walking the streets you can see a beautiful array of stone and timber commercial and public buildings, but it was the many lovingly-restored weatherboard homes that impressed me most. The homes ranged from cute cottages to more substantial residences, all neat and straight and so accurately reflecting the region’s early reliance on the timber industry. To really take it all in it is possible to follow a heritage walk around the centre of town (grab a brochure from the Tourist Office) or simply drive slowly through the streets.
Kiama is an aboriginal word for ‘where the sea makes noise’. The Blowhole, located a short walk from the town centre, was obviously very important to the local Wodi Wodi/Dharawal people and was formed from basalt lava flows around 260 million years ago.
The larger Kiama Blowhole can be found right next to the lighthouse, while the Little Blowhole is around 2km South. Unfortunately on the morning we visited the larger Blowhole was more hole, than blow, but the Little Blowhole was doing its best to make up for the lack of effort from its big sister.
One of the things that I loved about Kiama was that it is a place that really touched all my senses. Up in the town centre you could hear the white noise of the waves crashing on the rocks as well as the wheel and cry of the seagulls. The smells were a blend of salty sea air and the astringent tang of the soaring Norfolk Pines that line many of the town’s streets and walkways. For the taste sensation there seems to be an unlimited number of gelato, coffee and traditional fish and chip shops. The perfect recipe for a coastal escape.
Unfortunately for us, our visit was only a fleeting one and I saw a whole lot of places that warranted a longer, more leisurely look. Interesting home décor shops, groovy clothing, second hand stores and op shops (even open ALL weekend), book shops, parks and restaurants were all calling my name.
One thing that is definitely on the return-visit list is the Kiama Coastal Walk. The walk is a 22km path that hugs the coastline from Minnamurra in the north, working its way south through Kiama and finishing at Boat Harbour near Gerringong. From the little of the path I could see from Kiama itself, it looked like a gob-smackingly beautiful walk. I can’t wait.
Or I could grab my swimmers and towel and dive into the ocean pool or head to the beach.
Or I could just kickback and join the happy throng of weekend escapees enjoying the laidback vibe on the streets of Kiama.
What coastal gems have you discovered lately?
What: We stayed at Kiama Shores Hotel. It was very comfortable with excellent WIFI and within walking distance of everything.
Where: Kiama is located 121km south of Sydney, NSW.
When: Consider visiting during May-July or September-November to watch the whales making their way up the coast to the warmer waters of far north Queensland or on their return trip back home to the Antarctic.
Why: Perfect for a short break out of the City rat race or for an extended coastal holiday.
How: Trains run on the hour between Kiama and Sydney and the train station is located in the heart of the town. Easy walking distance to everything.
Who: Kiama has so much to offer I am sure it easily satisfies the ol’ cliché ‘something for everyone’. As a special welcome to Asian visitors they have gone to the effort of translating their tourist guide into Mandarin.
Related Posts: If you have more time to spare and have a hankering to explore, have a look at my post about Merimbula, located on the far South Coast.
Related Blogs: And if you are traveling with children, have a look at what this family enjoyed in Kiama.
Read About It: For a lovely read about early coastal life in NSW, have a read of Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett. It is set on the far south coast of NSW, in a town called Eden, and covers the life of Mary Davidson, the eldest daughter of a whaling family. A fabulous insight into the whaling industry (thankfully not practised anymore). Available from Book Depository.
#kiamansw #shortwalks #blowhole #beachscape #seachange #travelinspo