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Kiama to Gerringong Coastal Walk

Updated: May 26

One of Australia’s most scenic walks

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Looking south from Stanwell Tops

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The Sea Cliff Bridge

September means the start of Spring in the Southern Hemisphere, so that means its time for so longer walking here in Sydney. Before I get started though, I need to mention how the seasons are tracked differently in Australia to Europe. In Australia, like the rest of the world, seasons are 3 months long, but in Europe, they mark the beginning and the end of them differently. Spring in Australia starts on the 1st of September, and ends with November, with summer starting on the first day of December. Simple. However, in Europe Autumn runs from the 23rd of September to 21 December 2023, which is based on the equinoxes (Spring and Autumn) and solstices (Summer and Winter). I always argued with people in Spain about when seasons started, as they follow the European way, and I had always known the simple 3 month to a season system. I know that the European way is probably the more accurate way of measuring, as it actually runs with the distance of the Earth from the Sun that actually determines the seasons, but I much prefer the easy way. Anyway, just a little factoid for anyone that is interested. So it was Spring in Australia, and with the days getting longer and the weather warming up a little, I decided it would be time for a longer walk. We’d already done plenty of walking along the coast in Sydney, but this time the walk would be a little further. Starting at Kiama, we were walking 2 sections of the Kiama Walk, the Mid Section from the Kiama Blowhole to Loves Bay, as well as the South Section, finishing at Gerringong. The Kiama Walk website says both parts are about 11 kms in total, and while stating that the grade is medium-hard, I think we could do it quite easily. Although I’d been to Kiama many times before (but not in ages), I had never done any part of this walk before, so a whole new coastal walk and whole new experience. The website also says that this walk is ‘one of Australia’s most scenic walks,’ and so it was looking forward to it even more!

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It was an early start to the day
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Waiting for the blowhole to blow

For the sake of storytelling, I am going to combine a short day trip in the car done after the longer walk we did. The reason for this is because if you are driving to Kiama to do this walk, you must drive the more scenic and coastal road along the Sea Cliff Bridge. We did the walk before we had a car - we bought our great little Corolla in Dec 2022, a few months before this walk, and so missed out on this part of the trip because we were going by train. We left our house and jumped on the Prince’s Highway (which many people think is called the Princess highway), which runs south and out of the city. This big road starts at the edge of Newtown (our part of town) and runs all the way through suburbs like Rockdale and Kogarah, crossing over the George’s River via the Tom Ugly’s Bridge (named after the bit of land on the north side of the bridge, and possibly a guy called Tom Huxley 80 years before the 1927 bridge was built), and over into the Sutherland Shire. You keep going down past the Royal National Park on your right, but at this stage you’re still in Sydney – you don’t leave the city until you’re past Waterfall and meet endless trees either side of the road. The Royal National Park forms part of Sydney’s national park system, made up of half a dozen or so within the boundaries of the city – it includes the Sydney Harbour, Ku-ring-gai Chase, Botany Bay, and Lane Cove National Parks. The Royal though, was established in 1879, making it the world's second-oldest national park, but I will leave that adventure for another post. Today we headed out of the city, turned off the highway at Stanwell Tops, named this because of view from the top of the cliff (and maybe some guy called Stanwell as well). It’s from here that you can park your car, get out, and see all the way down the coast towards Wollongong. Such an amazing view, it always brings people no matter the weather, and I usually stop here before a big drive down the coast. I took a few pics, then we got back in the car and drove down through what seemed like a rainforest, and then joined up with the Grand Pacific Drive. This was the road that everyone took before the big main highway was built, and it winds its way around the coast, and is very scenic. The Sea Cliff Bridge was built in 2003, costing $52m and its main purpose was to allow cars to drive along the road without the risk of falling rocks, which was an issue with the old road which hugged the cliffs. We parked and walked along this bridge, admiring the views and the engineering feat. Its 40m above the crashing Pacific Ocean, and is just under 500m one way. The whole area around the bridge is beautiful, and if you have the time, explore a little more under and around the bridge too – but be careful on the rocks, lots of rock fisherman get washed off all the time from freak waves.

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Kiama is still a fishing town

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Watching the waves

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The rocky coast of Kiama

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Cheeky Corellas at Kiama
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The continual waves of Kiama and the South Coast

So that was a day trip a few months after Kiama, but it can be done with the same walk if you have car – just keep heading south. Back in September though, we got the train from Central down to Kiama, roughly 2.5 hours, to start our walk. It was an early start, early enough to see the sunrise from our balcony before heading to the station, and a nice train ride as well, especially when snippets of towns like Coaldale and Coalcliff are visible through the window, with the ever-present blue of the Pacific in the background. Kiama is a town on the South Coast of Sydney, and one that has very pleasant memories for me. As a kid, I would often come down here with my dad, feed the pelicans and see the blowhole. It was also a stopping point to another beachside town, Culburra, where I used to spend the school holidays with my grandmother and her sister-in-law. So all in all, one of my favourite places – although there is nothing particular special about it compared to other towns, there is for me. It hasn’t changed that much over the years either, which is a good thing, as the small shop-lined main street is charming, with a healthy mix of craft stores, independent fast-food places, a pub, and a historic building. On the other side of the road is the ocean, with grassy areas for relaxing on the foreshore. When in Kiama, if you don’t do anything else (and there’s not much to do otherwise), you should visit the famous Kiama Blowhole! The hole in the rocks, which is 2.5m wide, is the source of the attraction, as when the tide is just right, a stream of sea water shoots up to 30m above the rocks. This makes it the world’s largest blowhole (something I did not know before writing this), first seen by Europeans in 1797 by a whaler, and has attracted visitors for over 100 years and now has over 900,000 tourist visits a year. The weather was overcast, and the waves weren’t quite right, so we didn’t get to see anything above 5m, but I was not disappointed, as I just love Kiama. Some other people, however, were very disappointed, and every time they put their selfies stick down, a jet of water would shoot up behind them, and they’d miss it. The plume of water is created by the shape of the rock underneath the surface, where a large bowl or reservoir chamber fills up with water from the incoming surf, and then when that pushes back against the next big wave, there is nowhere else to go but up. This process is invisible to the viewers waiting for it to happen, but you hear the great thuuuaaamp as the waves come in and collide. The rock formation here is very interesting, and if you look hard enough, you can see that they are not ordinary rocks – the shape is something like The Giant’s Causeway with 6-sided basalt columns pushing up from the ocean. We continued on the walk, passing the lighthouse which stands guard over the rocky coast, and some noisy corellas playing on the grass.

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Clouds over Kiama

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Watching the Little Blow Hole

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Swim at your own risk!

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Perfect place for a picnic
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Cliff walking

Some people come here to sit and watch the waves, others to take photos of the blowhole, a few even for yoga/tai chi/meditation, but a lot of walkers come here too, just as we had. Following the coastal path, you can clearly see that the coastline here was formed by volcanic activity, even for a novice geologist like myself. Even though I haven’t been to Hawaii, I have seen photos, and Kiama looks a lot like what I’ve seen – dark volcanic rock, that once bubbles down from the volcanoes into the sea, with dark soil and vibrant green plants. Even the weather here is in a micro-climate, as it feels more humid that a coastal area should, but then again Kiama is squashed between the great Pacific and heavily forested hills – it rains often, but is hot and humid, so no wonder the South Coast is always so green (and makes great land for dairy!). Doing a bit of research after the visit, I discovered that there were volcanoes here – two in fact, which erupted from the Saddleback Mountain near Kiama 66 million and 200 million years ago (the second being before the dinosaurs even, give or take a few million years!). We walked past Kiama Surf Beach, which is aptly named as I think it looked a bit dangerous for swimming, and then Kendall’s Beach. The beaches here are beautiful, with jet blue waters and curling waves, yet dangerous, and there is signage warning of this. We continued around the headland towards the Little Blowhole, the little sister to Kiama’s. Although smaller (as the name suggests), it was quite active and made regular eruptions, surprising me and the people that had gathered to see it. There was no loud noise as the water came in, and there were also no barriers, so people got quite close and quite surprised when it went off, wetting them completely. The whole area was populated with First Nations People before the Europeans settled here, with the landscape of thick forest and abundant sea providing all for them. After colonisation, the Europeans also realised the potential of this area, cutting down the huge trees that grew here, thick rainforest plants and tall gums, creating farmland. This ended a way of life that had existed for thousands of years. Today, while there are still plenty of farms and cleared land, there is still large chunks of greenery, and although there are now towns, roads and rail along the coastline, there is still plenty of nature from the coast to the mountains.

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The New South of Wales

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Ocean, cliff and trail

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Architect's dream home

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The areas microclimate makes it so green
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Basalt cliffs o the South Coast

From beaches and blowholes, we moved onto large cliffs and rolling green hills. If the first part of the walk felt like Hawaii, then this part felt like Pembrokeshire, on the South Coast of Wales. Every wonder about the entomology of some places, especially in a country like Australia that was colonised by the British? Look no further than names from the Old Country – explorers must has walked the south coast of Wales, then here, and felt right at home, and hence the name New South (of) Wales. Loves Bay is stunning, with the backdrop of grassy green hills and the deep blue of the ocean. Huge basalt cliffs drop into the ocean, with the waves unceasingly smashing for all they’re worth into the rock, trying to bring the cliffs down into the water. We continued walking, following the small weathered path that you can see both right in front of you and way off in the distance, going right over the next hill. This part of the coast could almost make you feel like there was nobody else in the world, like you were walking a virgin part of the earth. That, or you had accidently walked into Jurassic Park, and soon there would be a great herd of dinosaurs rushing across the grasslands, being chased by a lone T-Rex. Thankfully, there were only a few cows and some birds, not T-Rex or Pterodactyls, and civilization was also just around the corner in the form of Gerringong, and more importantly, lunch and beer! I had read that if you spend $20 or more on lunch at the Gerringong Bowlo, they courtesy bus would take you back to Kiama station. How could you say now to either of those – food, beer AND a free ride to the station. We staggered in, quite tired and fairly sweaty too I might add, but the staff at the club were very friendly, and still serving food… just! I had an amazing beef and bacon burger, washed down with a couple of cold ones, made all the better by having just walked 16kms. The website advised 11kms for 3.5 hours, but we done 5 kms more for a total of 4 hours and 15 minutes. Not sure where those extra K’s came from, but it was a great walk and easy enough too. After lunch, we got our ride to the station, which is only the next town away. We got taken on the scenic route, as the driver had to drop a few guys off at a house at the top of a hill for a bucks party, but we didn’t mind as the view was great. We got the train without much of a wait, found our seat and chilled for the ride back to the city. Next time we will have to do the Kiama to Minnamurra River part of the walk.

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Beautiful Gerringong- the end of the walk

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MyUncleTravellingMatt. September 2022.


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