Great South Coast Walk: Austinmer to Wollongong

This was a fantastic walk! Stretching between Austinmer and Wollongong NSW, it was completely flat yet had a lot of interesting variety. (I have started filming my walks and putting them up on YouTube if you’d like to take a look here).

I realised that after this walk I’ll have finished Stage 1 of the Great South Coast Walk, with only a small gap between Otford and Stanwell Park that I will eventually fill in. The full walk is just a route at present, linking existing tracks and walkways, though there are efforts to formalise it. It links Sydney NSW to Mallacoota VIC via 660km of glorious coastal walking. It would be nice to keep going and do the whole thing so I think I will tackle it section by section over time.

It was an early start for me and I arrived at Austinmer before the coffee shops opened, so I started walking. Almost immediately I was down on the beach after descending a mud chute down a small hillside, grabbing plants so I didn’t slip over. I was soon walking on sand. I worried I couldn’t get around a rough spot where the cliff met the ocean but there was a wide ledge that worked well to get me around. At Thirroul I was able to grab a coffee then had to head up over the headland following the cycleway. I snapped some lovely pictures from little reserves set between the buildings allowing the locals their views.

The cycleway formed my path for a while and was busy with many walkers, runners and cyclists.

I took a little side path and found a duck pond! I was quite impressed along this whole walk with the amount of natural land being preserved or rejuvenated. The birds sounded plentiful so it must be working! There were children aplenty when I reached Bulli and I soon discovered why. There was a holiday park right next to the cycle track. It looked nice, with BBQ facilities in the ocean view cabins, a huge bike track outside, rockpools and an ocean swimming pool down at the beach. Would be a nice relaxing break and I might give it a go one day. I love finding new places to take the kids.

At Bellambi point I stopped for a break. There were lots of “Van life” folks parked and opened up and I was pretty impressed at the setups in each of their vans. Tempting lifestyle. If only I had my brain switched on when I was younger!

l decided to follow the cycleway to the Bellambi Lagoon rather than stick to the coastal views and I was really pleased with that decision. The lagoon was filled with birds and was a lovely change from the beaches, adding a bit of variety to the walk. There was a bit of a swampy smell and I wondered what the nearby residents had to say about it.

After the Lagoon I decided to walk along the beach again. There was a kite surfer out enjoying the windy day. It looked hard on the arms. As I rounded a dune I caught my first view of Wollongong. It felt like the walk was almost over even though there was eight or so kilometres left. I trudged happily along the beach and had to take my shoes off to cross a ribbon of water flowing across the beach. I’d managed to jump over all of the previous ones.

There was a point at which I needed to leave Towradgi beach as I’d need to cross a footbridge across a small inlet. The path took me through Puckey’s estate which is an annex site of the Royal Botanical garden. It had a Lagoon and coastal salt marsh area and many different types of trees. It was good that it had been preserved. I followed a side path a bit down the the water and back. The path through the estate was quite busy and it was clear I was getting closer to the city. I grabbed a coffee at a picnic area and noticed the large numbers of people. Not a bad spot for a picnic but I couldn’t help thinking that there was huge stretches of beaches not far from here that were mostly empty. I’d much prefer that!

I passed the incredibly cute Wollongong harbour via the crowded walkway, then climbed the hill to see the lighthouse. My final view was of City Beach and the distant industrial area that began the next stage of the Great South Coast Walk. I dunno, I might not be a purist and do a continuous line of footsteps if I continue on this walk. I’d have to go around some of the water crossings anyhow so do I really need to see an industrial area?

The train station was quite far from the beach and I wish I had known there was a free bus that did a loop of the city. Instead, after passing the mall, I had to walk along what looked like an abandoned red light district with massage parlours and the like. The local “characters” (drunks etc) were also slinking around. I didn’t like this bit.

Overall I really enjoyed this walk. It was flat, so I could go far without straining myself. I could choose beach or cycleway whenever I felt like it and the lagoons provided variety that I hadn’t expected. I highly recommend giving this walk a go. Please feel free to check out the YouTube video I made (some nice wave action) and thank you for taking the time to read this far. I hope you enjoyed the pictures.

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