- 1 Wollongong - the main city in the region
- 2 Dapto
- 3 Shellharbour (includes 4 Albion Park as well)
- 5 Kiama - picturesque town on the cliffs
- 1 Royal National Park - standing between Sydney's southerly sprawl and the Illawarra.
- 2 Stanwell Park
- 3 Dharawal National Park
- 4 Budderoo National Park
A popular region for Sydneysiders to relax by the sea, the region was known as Five Islands by the pioneers of the C18th after the group of islands off its coast. Life here is for people who want things more laid back than Sydney.
The region consists of a grassy coastal plain, narrow in the north and wider in the south, bounded by the Tasman Sea on the east and the mountainous, almost impassable Illawarra escarpment (forming the eastern edge of the Southern Highlands plateau) to the west. In the middle of the region is Lake Illawarra, a shallow lake formed when sediment built up at the entrance to a bay. The district extends from the southern hills of the Royal National Park in the north to the Shoalhaven River in the south, and contains the city of Wollongong, the fourth largest urban area in New South Wales.
North of Wollongong the plain narrows to a small strip of land between the coast and the escarpment. At Coalcliff and Stanwell Park small valleys are formed allowing further settlement. To the south it widens, and becomes increasingly hillier before reaching Stockyard Mountain, a long divide between the main plain and the Jamberoo Valley, which stretches until it reaches Kiama. South of Kiama is Saddleback Mountain and south of that the Shoalhaven plains and the outcrop of Coolangatta Mountain.
When coming by car, traffic jams are common on public holidays.
The only large airport in the region is Shellharbour/Wollongong Airport (WOL IATA), which LinkAirways has flights to Melbourne-Essendon and Brisbane, although on much a lower scale than you'd get at Sydney, so hence sometimes you might get a faster journey by taking the 80 km (50 mi) trip north to Sydney.
The Illawarra region is served by train on the South Coast line from Sydney down south via the SCO line and goes up to Nowra. Thanks to Sydney's extensive trail network, you can get around wherever you want within the Illawarra by train in a day and only pay around $8.
From Sydney, the A1 Prices Highway and the M1 Prices Motorway run down south and takes about an hour for the northern sections of the Illawarra, and around two hours for the southern sections of the Illawarra.
There are public bus services, although by car is likely your best option.
Some popular spots in the Illawarra are the Stanwell Tops, Sublime point lookout, Minnamurra Rainforest, or seeing the Kiama Blowhole in Action. Culturally, there is also the Nan Tien Temple, a Buddhist Temple that attracts visitors from all over New South Wales.
To the west of the Illawarra, is home to some stunning and picturesque waterfalls. The hike up to them is definitely worth it. Additionally, surfing in these beaches is a popular trend, and most beaches have a lifeguard.
In the areas of Wollongong, Shellharbour, and Port Kembla, it's easy to find a variety of food here, for most types of diets, and most cater for allergies. Outside of these areas, most rural Australians just do not get this "urban affliction". Vegan food is impossible to find, and the best you could possibly get is some fries.
There are plenty of bars and pubs in Wollongong, but they can get violent after dark.