One of the reasons I visited Kiama, New South Wales was to do the coast walk, one of the most spectacular NSW bush walks. I was intrigued by this small town and wondered why I had spent so little time there. As I began to dedicate more time to coastal walks around Sydney such as the North Head to Manly Walk or the Bouddi National Park Coastal Walk, a 22-km hike became an exciting challenge and I’m always looking for new getaways from Sydney. The local recommendation is to split the walk in three sections, however, as I decided to spend three days and two nights in the Kiama region, I figured out how to do the Kiama Coast Walk in two days.
How to do the Kiama Coast Walk in two days
The distance from Sydney to Kiama is 120km and the drive takes about two hours. There are many walking trails on the South Coast NSW but this is one of the best hiking near Sydney.
The Kiama Coastal Walk stretches over 22 km along the diverse Illawara coast, from Minnamura to Gerringong. The three recommended sections each take 1.5 to 3 hours, a good amount of walking time without being too taxing…
Typically, those three sections are:
Minnamura River to Kiama Blowhole
This is a medium grade, 8.4 km walk, taking around three hours.
Blowhole Point to Loves Bay
On this stretch, the grade is medium to hard, for a distance of 5 km in 1,5 hours.
Loves Bay to Gerringong
The final stretch is a grade medium to hard, a distance of 6 km and takes around 2 hours.
First Day: Minnamura River to Kiama Blowhole
So, on the first day of the walk, I drove to Minnamura, a quiet suburb north of Kiama. I left my car at the Commuter Car Park on Charles Avenue, near the train station. I was expecting to get back by train, so it made sense. The car park is nothing more than a row of cars parked on the grass, so it’s quite informal and there is no time limit. The walk actually starts at James Oates Reserve, and you can park there. There are also toilet facilities.
The walk starts with the gentle climb of a grassy headland and it’s instantly beautiful. I am immediately drawn to looking back at the Minnamura River and the iconic sandy tip of Boyd’s Beach. A little off the coast is Stack Island.
The coast is quite dramatic and sometimes the path is very close to the cliff edge, so be careful where you step. The footpath is very comfortable and the area is still quite suburban.
Along the headland, the footpath gets to a slope with a whale watching platform. This is a big activity in Kiama, where locals often spot whales and dolphins cavorting off the coast. Whale spotting is one of the best things to do on the South Coast NSW but I need some training in that and it was a little late in the season… Maybe I’ll do a whale cruise some day to try my luck!
The next stop is Jones Beach and you get there by walking in front of a row of houses. It felt a little strange to walk past people’s gardens and front rooms but it’s actually a constant of this walk, you’ll get you used it…
To get to Jones Beach, you need to walk on the rocks (volcanic, of course…) before you get to the sand.
Here is another excellent reason to visit Kiama: the beaches are stunning and even though I was only at the start of the walk, the surf looked incredibly inviting. Further down the beach, there is an off-leash area for dogs. Kiama is quite democratic like that, I came across several beaches which allowed dogs one side.
Just off Kiama Downs, Jones Beach has fairly soft sand, even on the “wet area” and that part was a little laborious…
At the south end of Jones Beach, you can get to Cathedral Rocks. If you are looking to photograph these iconic rocks at sunrise or sunset, this is the best access. I tried to get to them from Cliff Drive, over the headland, but I couldn’t really find a path and the hill was too steep anyway…
So, from Jones Beach, you can walk on the flat bedrock and go around the headland but… you can only do that at low tide, as the waves come crashing… It was probably mid-tide when I was there and I still didn’t attempt it for fear of a larger wave that would ruin me and my camera…
The next stop is Cliff Drive but I didn’t find a way around the headland. I had to backtrack through the grass area at the back of the beach, and through the suburban streets.
This is a suburban street finishing in a cul-de-sac at Boneyard Carpark. There is a grassy area at the front and it can be a nice photography spot for Cathedral Rocks. The views of the coast all the way to Stack Island are quite beautiful too.
At the end of Cliff Drive, there is a memorial to Cameron Boyd, a famous local with a passion for surfing. At the end of Boneyard Carpark, the stairs will take you down to Boneyard Beach.
This is a rocky beach, sheltered from the wind and popular with sun bakers when I passed through. This is also a place of historical significance, as evidence of shell middens was found, meaning Aboriginal tribes used to gather there before colonisation.
From there, the path climbs around the headland and up through the bush.
A classic of Kiama walks, Bombo Headland is quite forest-like and feels a little like a maze. Thankfully, the signs help direct you. From the rocks at the top of the headland, you can view the remnants of the quarry. The volcanic rock latite was mined in the 1880s and the site, sitting atop a flat sandstone member looks as though it’s been hollowed out…
There are a few basalt pillars remaining close to the shoreline. In order to get to the quarry, you have to get back to the street and walk around the Water Treatment Plant. Why a water treatment plant was set up there is a little puzzling, but is probably related to the industrial nature of the site… It doesn’t smell very nice either…
To get to Bombo Quarry, you need to walk past the gates of the Water Treatment Plant and find the path to the concrete stairs through the bush. The basalt pillars are reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway. If you are looking for spectacular colours, you can visit early and watch the sun rise and the colours change.
This is one of the best places to visit near Sydney for sunrise photography…
To get to the beach, leave the headland behind you and you will get to the Bombo Beach Carpack, where you can find some toilet facilities. Bombo Beach is another gorgeous surfing spot. The sand was a little firmer so more comfortable to walk on, and I was again tempting by a dip in the ocean… I’d say Bombo is my favourite Kiama beach…
The Kiama Lighthouse is in sight… In order to get there, you have to find the bridge and get back on the street. Incidentally, this is where the Spring Creek swamp ends, it’s just on the other side of the A1 freeway.
I ended the walk at the Terrace Houses on Collins Street, which were initially built for quarry workers at the end of the 19th century. It’s a nice street, with antique, fashion shops and cafés now occupying the heritage houses. This is the perfect place to reward yourself with a coffee or a light meal at the Hungry Monkey.
I completed the first part of the walk in three and a half hours, with several stops and plenty of time for photos. I walked to Kiama train station to head back to Minnamura station.
Second Day: Blowhole Point to Gerringong
On the second day, I started the walk at Blowhole Point and parked my car opposite the Pilot’s Cottage, now a museum and tourist information office. Parking had no time limit. Note that some of the spaces around the lighthouse are limited to two hours or four hours.
The lighthouse is on a headland, in a very prominent spot of course. It is still an active lighthouse, now running on mains electricity and built in 1886. I have a mild obsession with Australian lighthouses and I love to include them in my NSW walks…
Nearby is Kiama’s superstar, the Blowhole! The word Kiama actually means “place where the sea makes a noise” and British explorer George Bass viewed the blowhole in 1797… Blowholes have a special place in the development of tourism in Australia and are big Kiama attractions. They seemed to be a popular attraction for 19th century day-trippers… Upon my first visit to Kiama, I was quite disappointed by the Kiama blowhole as it certainly didn’t blow any water…
Little did I know that blowholes are actually a complex phenomenon. First of all, the waves have to carve a long, horizontal sea cave, in the volcanic rock. This takes millions of years and the Kiama Blowhole is estimated to be around 260 million years old… As the waves push through the cave, the air contained inside is pushed upwards, eventually carving a hole… a blowhole…
And this is how is works: the swell pushes the waves through the cave and when the balance of water and air is right, the water is pushed upwards, making a whooshing sound, much to the enjoyment of viewers… It’s almost an exact science and waves coming through are simply not enough to make magic happen. You have to have the right balance of sea swell and wind. This particular blowhole performs best when the wind blows from the south east…
So, after spotting a measly spouting of water, I headed off to the second part of the walk…
Every small town has its showground and Kiama is not exempt. This one is somewhat peculiar in that it’s on the headland and on the delightfully named Bong Bong Street.
The footpath is really good and it looked as though the walk was going to be another perfect day.
At Surf Beach, Kiama starts the pattern of the second half of the walk: beach, headland then beach again. As a holiday spot, Kiama has its share of caravan parks and I have to say I was quite taken by the neat cabins, nicely aligned along the beach.
I noticed that Kiama caravan parks are very neat and inviting… I could easily stay a weekend in those little cabins…
From Surf Beach, you get back onto the headland and walk in front of suburban homes. Kendalls Beach is not much different, with another charming caravan park. Leaving the beach, the path is in the scrub and goes a little around the headland before going up. When I got to the top of the headland, I thought of continuing in front of the houses and there was a narrow footpath.
However when I got down on the rocks, I realised there was no way through… You actually have to get back on to the suburban streets to continue along. You can access Boanyo Avenue through a gap between two houses at the top of the headland.
The next stop is the Little Blowhole… As I said before, Kiama is famous for blowholes… This one is very well signposted and you turn left to get back to the water’s edge. There is a little viewing platform and lo and behold, this blowhole actually works! Yes, I saw it spout water every three waves or so! The hole is actually quite small and very visible from the viewing platform. This one performs better because its best wind configuration is north east, which is more common… Not many hikes near Sydney have that many blowholes!
After the blowhole, continue around the grassy headland. There are more houses and at some point, you have to climb a steep hill back to Tingira Crescent. Walk along the street for a bit, then turn left between two houses to get back to the grassy area… It seems a little complicated but eventually you make your way to the next beach.
This thing of finding paths between suburban houses is actually quite common and I am getting better at spotting them…
Easts Beach, Kiama
Another beach, another caravan park. The Big 4 East Beach Kiama is a private caravan park and there are signs everywhere saying no entry… This made me hesitate but you do need to walk on the beach, in front of the cabins to continue the track.
You need to cross a little stream, using the bridge and continue on the track, passing through the powered tent sites.
From then on, the scenery changes a fair bit, it’s a lot more rural. There is no more paved or concrete footpath, but paddocks and the houses are further away from the water’s edge. We’re getting into the more remote and wilder part of the walk.
After all the sand beaches, it’s time for a change. Loves Beach is a narrow volcanic rocks beach, so a bit less attractive for swimming but nevertheless beautiful. Loves Beach is also the start (or finish) of the final section of the walk. There is a carpark but no train station. It’s also the last place where you will find toilet facilities and access to water.
This is an important fact to take into consideration as the rest of the walk to Gerringong is quite exposed. I travelled without a hat, which is not the best idea, and I dehydrated pretty fast. I had enough water but I would have hated to run out… Usually, this is not something I need to worry about when I go on hikes around Sydney.
After Loves Bay, there are virtually no houses, it’s all rural land. The track is not difficult but alternates between descents and climbs as you approach each new beach. Look out for sandstone members with volcanic rock on top. The coast is a lot wilder and remote, and less diverse, but I think it’s the most beautiful part of the walk.
Train Walking Lookout
At some point the trail gets very close to the train line, just off Kiama Heights. There is a sign explaining that the local dairy industry was transformed by the arrival of the railway. Before that, local dairy farmers could only export butter because transport delays were unsuitable for milk. Once there were trains and refrigeration, they turned to exporting milk to Sydney.
After Bare Bluff, Gerringong is in sight and I met a few local walkers coming from there. We agreed that NSW coastal walks are very scenic. Some parts are unprotected cliff tops though, so make sure you stick to the track.
When you get to Werri Lagoon, the scenery changes quite a bit. The township of Gerringong is in sight, which somewhat feels like a relief. On a clear day, you can even see as far as Gerroa and the Shoalhaven Heads. At the end of this long Kiama walk, I wouldn’t blame you for taking a dip in the water…
Werri Lagoon offers much calmer waters and is popular with families. At the end of the walk, you cross a small stretch of sand at the northern end of Werri Beach. Bear in mind that, after heavy rain, Werri Lagoon may open onto the sea and crossing is not possible. If you are unsure, it’s best to contact the Kiama Tourist Information office before you start that section of the walk.
Windswept and pristine, Werri Beach is the reward you can hope for at the end of a long walk. Like many hikers, I find walking on the sun tiresome so I elected to walk along Pacific Avenue, just behind the sand dunes. I was also a bit sun struck at that point, and missed my hat…
By the time I got to the southern end of Werri Beach, I needed a rest and there was yet another headland to climb… The views from the top are beautiful, as you reflect on the long walk, but it nearly killed me…
Whale Watching Platform
I found another whale watching platform atop the headland, near the cemetery, and wished I had done the walk during whaling season… To get back to Kiama train station, I walked along Belinda Street, from the top of the headland.
I returned to Kiama on the train, which runs close to the sections of the walk at times. There is a phone number you can call to organise a taxi, please check with the Kiama Visitor Information Centre.
What to Pack on Short Getaways from Sydney
Apart from its length and a few steep sections, the walk is not technically difficult. However, you need to be prepared for the weather conditions and pack accordingly. Water and sun protection are really important. I didn’t pack a lunch and didn’t feel hungry as a managed to complete each section before lunch.
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I packed two large bottles of water, about 2 litres, and that was about right. I missed my hat though… Finally, a good camera is essential, there are so many beautiful views you will want to capture… Walking in NSW is a great activity and you need to be a little bit prepared. For a more comprehensive gear list, this is how to pick the best gifts for hikers.
Kiama Coast Hiking Tips
I walked from north to south, which seems to be the recommended way. This meant I had the sun in my back, which was nice for photos and probably felt not as harsh… I’m really pleased I walked the length in only two sections. This decision really hangs on how much time you have in Kiama and how much time you want to spend on the track.
The second section was definitely more challenging and has to be one of the best hikes in NSW. There are a few sections between Minnamura River and Kiama Blowhole that go through suburban streets, which I find less attractive. I also think that combining the two last sections is a good idea. It’s a bit more challenging and I felt quite tired towards the end but I can blame my lack of hat for that…Even in spring, travelling without a hat wasn’t a good idea. I dehydrated quickly, so I learned that lesson!
Kiama Council has approved the extension of the walk to Gerroa. Currently, the walk from Gerringong to Gerroa is only 45 minutes but once a proper track is designed, the total walk will be 30 kms long… This will be a worthwhile third section and I’ll have to visit Kiama again on further weekend trips from Sydney!
Bushwalking in NSW
Best Things to do in Kiama NSW
Bouddi National Park Coastal Walk NSW
Have you walked the Kiama Coastal Walk, tell me about your experience in the comments below!
Save these Kiama Coast Walk tips on Pinterest!
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