13 July 2023

Finish off the school holidays with free fun activities close to home

| Jen White
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figures in Wollongong Botanic Garden

There are things to see around every corner at Wollongong Botanic Garden. Photo: Jen White.

The school holidays are winding down, the kids are bored, parents are tired and the household budget can’t stretch to any more costly outings – sound familiar?

Now more than ever, families are doing it tough and a day out in the holidays can be a real strain on finances. The good news is there are heaps of activities throughout the Illawarra suitable for kids of all ages that are free – you just need to know where to look.

Earlier this week, well known Illawarra site, Illawarra Weather Warnings and Local Media Info asked its members for suggestions for free school holiday activities and was overwhelmed with suggestions.

Here are some of those ideas, plus a few more, to help parents get through the last few days of holidays without breaking the bank.

Head to the beach: There’s more to do at our wonderful beaches than just swim or surf – explore the rock tidal pools, take along a ball, build sandcastles, fly a kite.

Get on your bikes: Check out the Wollongong Cycling Guide for your closest bike path. There’s also the award-winning Cringila Hill Recreation Park featuring 12 km of mountain bike trails.

kids riding bikes through Cringila Hill Recreation Park

Cringila Hill Recreation Park features 12 km of mountain bike trails. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

Walk around your neighbourhood: Sometimes a surprise is around the next corner – maybe a book box where you can grab a free book.

Bushwalks: Cascades waterfall at the base of Macquarie Pass is an easy flat walk for younger kids. National Parks has a handy guide to 20 walks in Wollongong and surrounds, including family-friendly walks of between 30 minutes and two hours.

Gong Shuttle bus: Park along the route and take a free loop of the city. You can hop off in the city or the Botanic Garden and hop back on. Buses run every 10-20 minutes.

Wollongong Botanic Garden: The sprawling gardens are set over 27 hectares. There are guided walking tours every Sunday or just grab a picnic and follow the paths that meander through the garden – you never know what you’ll stumble across.

READ ALSO Is Wander Wollongong a sign of a shift in the city’s art scene?

Whale watching: This winter has been a bumper season for whale watching – here are five Wollongong spots to visit on your whale hunt. In Shellharbour, head to Bass Point and Bushrangers Bay (check out the Shellharbour Whale and Wildlife Sightings page for fabulous images and tips). In Kiama you can take a picnic and set up at Bombo, the Little Blowhole or Werri Beach: Kiama Whale and Dolphin Sightings.

Create a treasure hunt bingo: Print off a piece of paper with images on it (things you’d find on a bushwalk, in a garden, botanic garden, etc) and go on a hunt. Take a picnic lunch and Freddo frogs as prizes. Find an example of a bingo card here.

Plane spotting at Shellharbour Airport: Link Airways has flights every day to and from Melbourne and Brisbane. The aviation precinct is also home to a variety of small plane operators and helicopters.

Dharawal display at the Southern Gateway Centre

Learn about the history of Dharawal Country at the Southern Gateway Centre. While you’re there, check out the stunning views of the coast. Photo: Supplied.

Head up the mountain to some of our beautiful lookouts: Bald Hill, Mt Keira, Sublime Point, Hill 60 at Port Kembla, Jamberoo Lookout, Carmody’s Lookout off Pioneer Drive Shellharbour, Saddleback Mountain at Kiama, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial Lookout offers panoramic views of Seven Mile Beach, Robertson Lookout. While you’re up at Bulli Tops, visit the Southern Gateway Centre for spectacular views and learn about the history, culture and significance of Dharawal Country through a nine-screen video display.

Skate in: Visit one of the many skate parks around the Illawarra at Dapto, Fairy Meadow, Unanderra, Berkeley, Shellharbour, Helensburgh and Kiama.

More play: If your kids are more into great playgrounds, visit Bankbook Park Wongawilli, Stuart Park Wollongong, Integral Energy Park Dapto, Reddall Reserve Warilla, Shellharbour Reserve and Little Park and Hindmarsh Park in Kiama.

Arty: Wollongong Art Gallery has a variety of exhibitions, including Round, which runs until September. Round is an artist-led exhibition by mid-career artists whose practices include painting, sculpture, construction, installation and video, incorporating diverse media, materials and colour.

Yirran Muru play space

Children play on the new Aboriginal interpretative play space Yirran Muru in Shellharbour. Photo: Shellharbour City Council.

If you’re looking for more structured fun during the last few days of holidays, here are a few suggestions:

Friday 14 July

Dragon Training Mobile Zoo will be at Bunnings Shellharbour from 11 am to 1 pm with some of Australia’s amazing and beautiful wildlife including snakes, lizards and frogs.

Robotics workshops will be held at Corrimal Library from 11:30 am to 12:45 pm and at Wollongong Library from 2 to 3:15 pm. Suitable for children aged 12 to 15; bookings are essential through Eventbrite.

A screening of the movie Dumbo will be held at the Shellharbour Civic Centre Auditorium at 1 pm. Free for all the family to enjoy – drink and a snack provided.

Saturday 15 July

Servo Food Truck Bar, Servo Cinema at Port Kembla will be screening Cool Runnings and Finding Nemo. Sunset screening is at 6 pm and the feature film screening is at 8 pm. Shown on the in-house mega screen with the yard firepits lit, tons of blankets to keep you warm, hot chocolates and hot toddys from the bar and a food truck and cinema snack bar.

For more ideas for great free adventures in the Illawarra, visit Destination Wollongong, Visit Shellharbour and Destination Kiama.

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