Wollongong and Thirroul will host five gigs as part of New South Wales’ month-long music festival, Great Southern Nights (GSN), which is back in 2022 from 18 March to 10 April. The star-studded line up, including Jess Mauboy, Missy Higgins and Sneaky Sound System, is gearing up to embrace the oceanside beauty and coastal ease of Wollongong and Thirroul whilst performing on the region’s most iconic stages. So why not make a weekend of it and hit the road on the ultimate musical GSN road trip with family and friends.
Great Southern Night GigsSpend your evenings swaying to the sounds of Missy Higgins (21 March), Jessica Mauboy (25 March) and James Reyne (7 April) at Thirroul’s historic Anita Theatre. Then put your hands in the air at Wollongong’s UOW Unibar for Sneaky Sound System (24 March) and UOW Unihall for Baker Boy (31 March). These gigs will soundtrack a South Coast adventure that reverberates with natural beauty and a relaxed beat.
Eat and Drink
With bush-covered escarpments backdropping what must be one of the most spectacularly located beer gardens in Australia, heritage-listed The Scarborough presides over the Pacific Ocean as its patrons sip ice-cold Riesling and peel prawns by the bucketload. As you drive into Wollongong after the Sea Cliff Bridge, this is the perfect pit stop anchored in good times.
Dagwood Bar & KitchenTake the greatest menu hits from all corners of Asia, from bao to bulgogi, shake it with some coastal classics and garnish with a Mexican-accented drinks list and you have Dagwood – a neon-lit, shiso-laced feast with a side of chips and edamame. It’s a mix tape of riotous fun and flavour in the city centre.
With Bill Murray as their poster boy, you can expect some American-style irreverence. This burger joint in Thirroul and Wollongong has dive-bar vibes, live music and flips the classics of cheeseburgers, chilli cheese fries, and fried chicken. You’ll find yourself nodding to the beat and considering a trucker cap purchase in no time.Births and Deaths This sophisticated CBD watering hole may have an administrative-sounding name, but the records kept here are of a bacchanalian nature. Sip on something well-put together and antipodean-focused such as a gin with smoked pepperberry soda and some popcorn crocodile. Juniper Bar
Another small city bar, this one is gin-centric with more than 60 different incarnations of the spirit. You’ll find your own good spirits here as you settle into a holiday state of mind.
Say hello to a motley crew of cheetahs, red pandas, lemurs and koalas at Symbio Wildlife Park on the outskirts of Royal National Park home - along with some less cuddle-receptive reptiles. Once you’re done ogling the residents, point the kids in the direction of the Splash Park and let the squeals ensue.
Hang Glide Oz at Bald Hill, Stanwell ParkIf you feel inclined to check your adrenaline reserves, place yourself in the reassuring hands of Hang Glide Oz. The almost-theatrical beauty of the Stanwell Tops escarpment may be lost on you as you prepare to launch yourself off the edge, but no doubt, as the wind gently guides your descent and your pounding heart calms, you’ll find a moment to appreciate the landscape and an intoxicating sense of mid-air liberation.
Anita’s TheatreThis iconic Thirroul theatre, built in 1925, spent time as a roller-skating rink in the ’60s after a decline in theatre patronage until it was restored to its designated purpose as a venue and reopened in 2007. Since then, Anita’s Theatre has been the source of all hot tickets in town and surrounds, including this year's Great Southern Nights gigs featuring music legends Missy Higgins, Jessica Mauboy and James Reyne.
Wollongong Botanic Garden As you tread the well-tended pathways of this half-a-century-old garden, allow your chattering mind to hand the reigns over to your senses. No matter your botanical preferences, there’s a garden here to satisfy your horticultural inclinations, from succulents and palms to natives and rainforest plants. Ascend to the annexed Mount Keira Summit Park to absorb the sweeping vista of Wollongong below.
Grand Pacific Drive Threading through pins dropped at points of wonder, the Grand Pacific Drive road trip is a pilgrimage of veritable joys. Stretch out the journey for as long as you can to take in the Illawarra’s unrelenting charm. Starting from Sydney, navigate through the waterfalls and white cliffs of the Royal National Park, frolic in the waves of Wollongong’s beaches, ascend to a state of tranquillity in the Minnamurra Rainforest, sip local wines and slurp river-harvested oysters at Crookhaven River and delight in diving dolphins on a Jervis Bay boat cruise.
Novotel Wollongong NorthbeachLocated in a front-row position to take in the ocean’s perpetual show, the Novotel is also close to many of the city’s best-loved attractions, such as restaurants, WIN Stadium and the Botanic Gardens. Hop from beach to bar and back again before returning to roost for the evening.
Coniston Hotel Well located in Wollongong’s Coniston neighbourhood and recently refurbished in soothingly cool tones, this may be pub accommodation, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. All mod-cons are present and accounted for in this exceedingly convenient four-star hotel.
Headlands Austinmer Beach Just minutes from Thirroul, Headlands Austinmer Beach features apartments ranging from studio to penthouse, offering gaze-lingering views of the ocean and the city’s protective Illawarra Escarpment. There’s a brasserie and bar, pizza and dumplings dispensed from an airstream caravan, and, of course, the turquoise beach right in front of you.
For more information on Great Southern Nights and to purchase tickets go to greatsouthernnights.com.au. Start planning your Great Southern Nights roadtrip and learn more about New South Wales’ diverse destinations and experiences at sydney.com and visitnsw.com.
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