Wollongong is a beautiful area to move to – living here is like living in a big country town but close to the beach. It is rare to go to the grocery store and not run into someone you know; people look out for each other. Kids ride their bikes or play handball in their street; the vibe is friendly and welcoming.
There are not a lot of negatives to living in Wollongong; it’s the kind of place where you can build a home you don’t need a vacation from. Living in Wollongong is affordable compared to Sydney both in the cost of living and house affordability. If you are moving to Wollongong or considering a move to our region, here at Parents Guide Illawarra, we have sourced everything you need to know right here, from schools for your kids to how to meet new people and build your community.
Reasons to Move to Wollongong & the Illawarra
From the beaches at your doorstep to the ease of finding your tribe, moving to Wollongong and the Illawarra is a beautiful place to raise your family or even move to without children.
If you love nature-based activities, Wollongong and the Illawarra have mountains for bushwalking, bike tracks for cycling, and enough beaches to give you plenty of beach and pool options to choose from. There are also heaps of other activities to choose from; continue reading to find out more.
Suburbs & Where to Live in Wollongong & the Illawarra
Moving to Wollongong & the Illawarra region: what families need to know – Wollongong Harbour – photo c/o Jo Wetten
There are many places to live in Wollongong and across the Illawarra. Each town has its own vibe and atmosphere. The northern suburbs, which are Thirroul and north (Austinmer, Coledale, Wombarra, Scarborough, and Stanwell Park), are more boutique-y, with more expensive housing, but with great community and a focus on caring for the environment. There are lots of families, and the local library in Thirroul is a community hub in the area. The more expensive housing prices in the northern suburbs are mostly due to the proximity of the beach, as the mountains almost sit on the beach.
In between Bulli and Wollongong are more moderately priced houses, with options of living ocean-side or mountainside. There are great communities and schools, and plenty of places to live where you wake to birdsong and often can hear the ocean while falling asleep. Some of the most popular suburbs include Bulli, Woonona, Corrimal, Fairy Meadow, North Wollongong, and Wollongong.
South of Wollongong are some beautiful areas to live as well. Housing is again more affordable, and there are plenty of opportunities for building community. Stand-out suburbs include Windang, Wongawilli, and Figtree. There are also some beautiful places to live in the Shellharbour area.
Public Transport in Wollongong & the Illawarra
Moving to Wollongong & the Illawarra region: what families need to know – Wollongong Trains
Public transport in Wollongong and the Illawarra is easy to navigate. We have regular trains and buses that can take you to most places you need to go. Most towns have a train station, and trains run to Sydney regularly. There is a mixture of express trains that stop at major train stations only: Wollongong, North Wollongong, Thirroul, and Helensburgh. There are also plenty of trains stopping at all stations for your convenience. Buses run regularly, and if you have an Opal card, you can easily travel on buses or trains.
Doctors, Hospitals, and Medical Centres in Wollongong & the Illawarra
Moving to Wollongong & the Illawarra region: what families need to know – view from Wollongong Hospital
The local hospital is in Wollongong, and an Emergency Care Department is open 24 hours. Bulli Hospital also has an Emergency Care Department, but it is only open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on weekdays. For after-hours doctors, Wollongong has a Radio Doctor service that is bulk-billed.
Follow this link for a list of medical centres with their contact details and opening hours. Most suburbs have a chemist, but please see a list of after-hours pharmacies here. Child and family health care centres are available in many suburbs. Here is a list of their details.
Preschools & Childcare Centres in Wollongong & the Illawarra
Moving to Wollongong & the Illawarra region: what families need to know – preschools and child care centres.
Although there are a huge amount of preschools, in most suburbs, waiting lists are long. Putting your child on a waiting list ahead of time (by a year or two) is a wise decision. There are a range of great preschools and childcare centres to choose from. KU preschools are highly sought after because they are amazing, but many others are also fantastic. The preschool at Illawarra Christian School or Cedars Christian College is affordable and a great introduction to that amazing school as well. The local and trusted team at Mount Ousley Preschool has been serving Illawarra families since 1972 and is always taking enrolments and enquiries for their waitlists. Once you find where you want to live, finding a preschool is easy with a quick search online.
Schools in Wollongong & the Illawarra
Moving to the Wollongong & Illawarra – Schools – Illawarra Christian School
Wollongong has many great schools, from public to private schools. It is easy to find whatever you are looking for in a school in the Illawarra. There are big schools and small schools, schools for kids with special needs, and a Montessori School. Five Islands Road Secondary College has recently been featured on Gardening Australia for its alternative approach to schooling. It is highly sought after by many families with kids who don’t fit the regular school mould. If homeschooling is more your cup of tea, there is also a thriving and welcoming homeschooling community in the Illawarra.
Playgroups in Wollongong & the Illawarra
Moving to Wollongong & the Illawarra region: what families need to know – playgroups
Playgroups can be a life-changing community when you move to a new area or have your first child. Finding one close to you with the right vibe can take a few attempts, but there is a huge range in the Illawarra. Here is a link to find one near you or in the area you are hoping to move to.
Family Fun in Wollongong & the Illawarra
Moving to Wollongong & the Illawarra region: what families need to know – playgrounds
Wollongong has an enormous amount of playgrounds for kids of all ages and abilities. There’s a huge range of activities for kids, from toddlers to teens. At the end of this article, we have articles listing the best playgrounds in the Illawarra and their features. The beaches in the Illawarra are gorgeous, and many of them have tidal pools that are regularly cleaned and beautiful to swim in, but remember that they are mostly not patrolled by lifeguards, so you must supervise your children. These local public pools are also great to swim in and have lifeguards on duty.
There are many bush walks (also see here) or bike rides to do. The Illawarra is surrounded by mountains and has a focus on making cycling more popular. A cycleway runs from Thirroul to Wollongong along the beach, with a splattering of cafes and playgrounds along the way.
Wollongong City Library has a range of branches in Helensburgh, Thirroul, Corrimal, Wollongong, Unanderra, Dapto and Warrawong. Each runs activities (mostly for free) during term and school holidays. These are catered to all age groups: adults and children. It’s free to join and has a great selection of books, magazines, audiobooks (and more), computers, and printers. They are a great place to meet new people.
Wollongong also has a great art gallery, Project Contemporary Art Space, and museums. The Wollongong Art Gallery run activities like tours and art classes for kids and adults. There are a range of amazing museums in the Illawarra. There is the Illawarra Light Railway Museum, where you can ride miniature trains, and they have family-friendly events. For aircraft enthusiasts, we also have HARS Aviation Museum. The University of Wollongong has created some fantastic children’s museums with hands-on activities. It is easy to spend a day there. These are the Early Start Discovery Space and the Science Space. There is also the Australian Motor-life Museum for car enthusiasts. Bulli has a Black Diamond Heritage Centre, and in the centre of Wollongong is the Illawarra Museum, where you can see an old-fashioned classroom as well as other historic relics.
Making New Friends & Connections in Wollongong & the Illawarra.
Moving to Wollongong & the Illawarra region: what families need to know – Black Duck Ceramics.
There are lots of opportunities for making connections and new friends in Wollongong and the Illawarra region, from attending playgroups and kids’ activities to attending classes for adults. You will find there is something for everyone, as well as a real sense of community. Still, the best way to connect with people with similar interests is to attend a church, join a surf club, join a gym, attend classes you are interested in or attend the libraries.
Wollongong City Libraries cater for everyone with free events and welcoming staff. Some of my favourite classes for adults have been at Black Duck Ceramics and Art with a Glass at Two Doors Up Cafe & Bar. For dance classes, Miss Zoe’s School of Dance also has some fantastic adult dance classes as well as kids classes. Follow this link for a list of some of Wollongong’s best kids’ activities. There are also many fantastic churches in the Illawarra, where you will surely find a caring and welcoming community.
Finally, make the most of family life in our stunning Illawarra – Subscribe to the ultimate guide to family living weekly email by Parents Guide. Say NO to bored kids and get inspired! Click and sign up for our Parents Newsletter here. Get all the local inspo!
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About the Author: Lisa Hagan
Lisa grew up in Thirroul and is a mum of four children. A student to life, Lisa loves learning and searching for the most fun things to do with her kids. She loves exploring the Illawarra and surrounds. Searching for fun and educational activities are her favourites for her kids whom she homeschools.