Drive less than two hours south of Sydney to Kiama and the landscape takes on a pastoral personality. The ocean is luminous against the lush greenery above and dairy cows graze so close to the cliff face it’s a wonder they don’t topple off. It’s this contradiction of bucolic sleepiness and dramatic scenery that gives the region its quiet but persuasive pull. One that makes you realise – by the time you get home – that you’d quite like to return.
The Kiama region lies between the mouths of the Minnamurra and Crooked rivers, encompassing rolling hills, sheer cliffs, beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, cabbage palms and Norfolk pines. The towns of Jamberoo, Minnamurra, Bombo, Gerroa and Gerringong nestle in between. In the town of Kiama itself the pace is peaceful and you’re never far from an impressive vantage point, a sweet swimming spot or a good coffee.
Indeed, you’re never far either from a good blowhole. Kiama was settled in 1820, but the first recorded reference to its now-famous blowhole was made in 1797 (however local Aborigines had for generations referred to it as Khanterintee, or, “mysterious noise”). It’s an ideal place to start your day: park at Blowhole Point, with the town’s lighthouse guiding you in. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, water will either cough and splutter or reach spectacular heights. Either way, you have to admire its consistency; a natural phenomenon just doing its thing for thousands of years.
From this spot you can look north towards Bombo and its surfing and swimming beach. At low tide you can reach it from Kiama Harbour. Or look south towards Gerringong, where the green hills reveal golden crescents of sand including Kiama’s main beaches Surf Beach and Kendalls Beach (also prime swimming spots). Or pick your way down to one of Kiama’s two ocean baths. The Rockpool on Blowhole point was built in 1888 and remains mostly unchanged, surf crashing into the otherwise still water while locals called Barry with chestnut tans dive in fearlessly and call to the blow-ins from Sydney at the sidelines. “Are you coming in?!”
If it’s a Wednesday, make your way to the harbour’s pebbly Black Beach where a farmers’ market takes place between 3pm and 6pm. Local producers sell seafood, beef, honey, eggs, cider, wine, cakes, preserves, sourdough bread and more. Kiama’s six-generation-old dairy farmers, the Pines, also sell their creamy gelato, made with 70 per cent fresh milk.
For nourishing lunch options, Milk and Honey Café provides surprising quality and good value considering its prominent position next to the Kiama Visitors Centre at Blowhole Point. Locals and visitors alike drink Allpress coffee in its lime-washed interior or on its sunny terrace and pick over an extensive menu that includes house-made banana bread, quinoa vegetable salad on toasted rye, fish and chips with beer-battered flat head tails and a honey mustard burger with grilled chicken breast.
Wander down Kiama’s palm-lined main street for gelato or coffee at one of the many vendors and browse the eclectic stores contained within the town’s historic terrace houses on Collins Street (bookended by both an English sweetshop and a trove of Australian curiosities).
Kiama to Gerringong Coast Walk
If you’re feeling active, do as the locals unanimously suggest and take the Kiama Coast Walk. A 22-kilometre continuous pathway over sealed paths, grassed tracks and beaches, you can join in midway at Blowhole Point. It takes approximately three-and-a-half hours to walk from here to Gerringong’s Werri Beach, and if you plan your time and come prepared, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views and wildlife. Walkers can spot eagles and, from May to November, humpback whales and their calves.
For some rest 90 minutes in, visit Little Blowhole Café, which serves Single Origin coffee and all-day breakfasts with locally sourced ingredients until 4pm (closed Wednesdays). And, as the name suggests, you’re in close proximity to your second blowhole visit of the day.
Once you hit Gerringong’s beautiful Werri Beach, it’s a two-to-three kilometre stroll along the sand and up the hill into town (take a dip in the ocean or the beach’s own ocean bath if you need to cool off first). And whether you’ve completed the walk or not (perhaps you’ve driven or caught the train the 12 kilometres down the road), reward yourself with refreshment and a view of the ocean, beach and headland from Sea Vista Café or with a good-old-fashioned ice cream from adjacent Scoops.
The town of Gerringong itself is picturesque and hilly, with many homewares stores to browse and a pub famously run by Mick Cronin. If you need to get back to Kiama to grab your car, you can take the hourly train – a one kilometre walk from town – or hop in a cab for the ten-minute drive. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a ride from a friendly taxi driver with Buddha beads and jazz leanings, who finds himself here, in “downtown Gerringong”, from Stockholm by way of Manly. Incongruous maybe, but there are certainly worse places life – and a daytrip from Sydney – can take you.
Kiama Visitors Centre
kiama.com.au (Note that after heavy rain access along the Coast Walk to Werri Beach may be cut off. Contact the visitors centre for updates on 4232 3322)
Kiama Farmers Market
Milk and Honey Café, Kiama
Little Blowhole Café, Kiama
Sea Vista Café, Gerringong