Stanwell Park, NSW
People heading south of Sydney to explore the outdoors usually either stop at the Royal National Park or drive straight past to Wollongong and its suburbs.
However, nestled between the escarpment and sea to the north of Wollongong are a delightful string of villages, including Stanwell Park. Best known historically as the location of Lawrence Hargrave’s successful tests of box kites, which helped pioneer the development of aviation, these days the village is a pretty destination from which to explore the bush, sand and skies, whether for a weekend or just a day.
Walking: The 3.1km Wodi-Wodi Track explores the valley and forest behind Stanwell Park. Although short, it is a difficult track (a topographic map is recommended). The longer Forest Walk branches off the Wodi-Wodi Track, climbing up to the escarpment and offering regular ocean views as it heads south to Maddens Plain. Look out for the Wodi-Wodi Track sign on the south side of the village. Stanwell Park’s location just south of the Royal NP also means it is a great base for walking to Burning Palms.
Hang-gliding: Originally used by Hargrave for his flights, these days Bald Hill is a world famous spot for hang-gliding. A number of companies offer tandem hang-gliding; see www.hangglideoz.com.au and www.hanggliding.com.au.
Surfing: Wax your board and take your pick from the beach at Stanwell Park or any of the other beaches heading south, such as Sharky’s at Coledale or Sandon Point at Bulli.
The best surf tends to be in the winter months.In summer, it’s hard to pass up a dip at the beautiful, patrolled beaches.
Location: One hour south of Sydney. Take the South Coast line if travelling by train.
Accommodation: There are a number of B&Bs and self-contained accommodation options located in Stanwell Park and surrounding suburbs. Camp next to the beach in Coledale. www.nio.net.au, www.coledalebeach.com.au.
Food/Drink: Try one of the cafes on the main road, head down to the beach for fish and chips, or drive south to Scarborough Hotel, where you can enjoy a beer and good quality pub food on the cliff tops.
Points of interest: The 888m-long Sea Cliff Bridge is a popular landmark.
Maps: Wollongong 1:250,000 topographic map.
More info: www.visitwollongong.com.au.