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Best Illawarra Suburbs for Families

Living in Wollongong and the surrounding suburbs is like living in paradise; there are many suburbs with pros and cons. Here at Parents’ Guide Illawarra, we have chosen fifteen of the best suburbs for families to consider. We look at amenities, schools, a sense of community and all the important things you need to look into when choosing somewhere to live. Where are the affluent suburbs? Where is it affordable? We look at it all. Wollongong is an amazing place to live with kids. A huge range of activities are available for any of the interests you and your family may have.

Here are some links for more information about private schools, childcare providers, and public school searches.

If you are considering a move to Wollongong or are about to move here, check out our Moving to Wollongong & the Illawarra Region: What Families Need to Know Guide.

1. Best suburbs to live: Figtree & Mangerton

Figtree is a suburb with a lot of positives to it, from its centrality and close vicinity to Wollongong city to its huge range of shops all within Figtree. House prices here average $975k. This suburb has a primary school and a high school, and Figtree Anglican Church is a wonderful place to find community in the area. There are playgrounds and all the amenities you could need, like a doctor’s surgery, dentist and grocery stores. At the foothills of Mount Keira, there are lots of beautiful walks to do that are only a short drive away, and the local Scouts group are active and another wonderful community to join. If you need a childcare provider, Figtree has seven, with even more in the surrounding suburbs.

Mangerton is a little town on the hill overlooking Figtree. It has a lovely community and is central without being right in town. House prices in Mangerton average $1.3 million. Local schools include The Illawarra Grammar School, which is Prep-12. The local public primary school is Mount St Thomas Public School, and the local public high school is in Wollongong or Figtree. There are a range of schools to choose from in the Wollongong area. Please see our article about private schools for more information on this. Mangerton has one child care centre, but there are many more in Wollongong and Figtree.

2. Best suburbs to live: Balgownie

Best suburbs to live: Balgownie Football Club

Balgownie is a beautiful little town and hub where I would love to live. Although it’s not right on the beach, it is at the foothills of the mountain and has some beautiful walks. The community is just that, a community, and it has most things you need. Around the corner is Fairy Meadow, which has bigger grocery stores like Aldi, Woolworths and Coles. Home prices average $1.2 million, but they tend to be bigger homes and on larger blocks than some other suburbs. There are five different childcare centres in the Balgownie area and even more in the surrounding suburbs. Balgownie has a beautiful little public school for primary-aged children. There are many schools in Wollongong to choose from for high school, but the local one for Balgownie is Keira High School, which is in Fairy Meadow. There is no train station in Balgownie, but buses run regularly.

3. Best suburbs to live: Wongawilli & Dapto

Best suburbs to live: Dapto Library

Dapto and Wongawilli are together here because of their proximity to each other. Dapto is in town and has all the shops you could ask for. It has a great library with beautiful, helpful staff. There is a free public pool to enjoy on hot days during the warmer months. Dapto is an easy drive to Wollongong, but the expressway does get busy during peak times. It has petrol stations, a medical centre and a train station.

Wongawilli is on the western side of Dapto and is a new (ish) estate with new houses that often have farmland views. It is a quiet place to live. The community is welcoming and lovely, with lots of new families moving into the area. Wongawilli has a great playground, which is really popular. House prices in Dapto average $740k, while Wongawilli average $1.1 million. For childcare, Dapto has twenty-three centres, Wongawilli has one, but the neighbouring suburbs more than make up for this. Dapto has a high school and primary school for school-aged children, and Wongawilli has a primary school as well.

4. Best suburbs to live: Windang

Best suburbs to live: Windang Beach

Windang is a little pocket south of Wollongong, near Shellharbour. It is beachside and lakeside. For those who love water sports and also a close community, this may be the suburb for you. Windang has great walks with a bike track around the break-wall and Lake Illawarra. It is a popular place for fishing and has beautiful playgrounds. Close to Warrawong and Shellharbour, it is a nice distance for peace and quiet but convenient for any shopping you may need, whether it be gifts or groceries.

Windang is a beachside town with a smaller price tag (the average property costs $960k) than the northern beachside towns—surfing and wind-surfing are popular sports in the area. While Windang doesn’t have any childcare centres, its surrounding suburbs have fourteen. The local primary school is in Windang, and the high school is in Lake Illawarra. Windang has both a train station and bus services in the area for public transport options.

5. Best suburbs to live: Bulli & Woonona

Best suburbs to live: Bulli Football Club

Bulli and Woonona are neighbours, and I’ve included them together as a lot of the information about them is similar. Both have great eateries and shops for groceries in the centre of town. Both have beachside and mountainside living, with the mountainside being more hilly than the beachside. Bulli has a hospital with a limited Emergency Care Department. Both have two primary schools and one high school each. Woonona has the Woonona-Bulli RSL, which is a great place for family meals. Both have sports teams and active Surf Clubs with nippers and activities on regularly.

Sandon Point Beach is a popular spot for surfing and swimming, with a dog-friendly beach on the northern side of the point. Both also have beautiful beach pools, which are cleaned regularly and popular year-round. For childcare options, Bulli has eight, while Woonona has five childcare centres. There are also more in the surrounding suburbs. House prices average between $1.4 million and $1.5 million. Both Woonona and Bulli have train stations and regular bus services for public transport options. Most places are within walking distance of the shops, unless you live at the top of the mountainside areas, which are more remote but very peaceful.

6. Best suburbs to live: Towradgi

Best suburbs to live: Towradgi Beach Hotel

Towradgi is a beachside town that is next door to Fairy Meadow, which has grocery stores and shops galore. My favourite is the cake and coffee store Zweefers. Towradgi has petrol stations, cafes and a great playground right on the ocean. Its ocean pool is also beautiful, and there is a lovely walk from Towradgi to North Wollongong that is dog-friendly and takes in some of the area’s history and a lot of its beauty. House prices average $1.3 million. It is a very central position, with great public transport options and a beautiful patrolled beach at its doorstep.

For childcare, there are two in Towradgi, but many more in the surrounding suburbs of Corrimal and Fairy Meadow. Towradgi has a local public primary school, and its local high school is Corrimal High School. Towradgi Beach Hotel (pictured above) is also a great place to visit for lunch or dinner, with a playground and enormous fish tanks inside to amaze the kids and adults alike.

7. Best suburbs to live: Stanwell Park

Best suburbs to live: Paddle Against Poverty, Stanwell Park Beach

Nestled in the far north of Wollongong is the beautiful Stanwell Park. The average house price here is $2.1 million. It is a beautiful part of the world, with a great playground on the beach and a great cafe. It has lots of boutique-like shops to browse as well. Stanwell Park has a train station but no buses for transport. It is a small, creative, beachy village with an art gallery and a beautiful, relaxed vibe. The surf club was chosen Surf Club of the Year in 2021 and is a great place to build community and friendships. There are two childcare centres in Stanwell Park and more in Helensburgh. There is also a beautiful little public primary school in Stanwell Park, and the local high school is Bulli High School.

8. Best suburbs to live: Corrimal

Best suburbs to live: Corrimal Public Pool

Corrimal is a busy town with all you need for a convenient lifestyle. It has ten childcare centres to choose from, its own primary and high school, and St Columbkille’s Catholic primary school. Corrimal is very central and has great public transport options, with both regular trains and buses running into Wollongong or Austinmer (and everywhere in between). It has petrol stations, cafes, restaurants and Coles, Aldi and Woolworths. There are beach and mountainside options, with the median house price being $1.1 million.

9. Best suburbs to live: Helensburgh

Best suburbs to live: Charles Harper Park, Helensburgh

Helensburgh is a beautiful community in the far northern part of the Illawarra. It has everything you could need, from the express train to Sydney (but no buses) to a beautiful free public pool in the warmer months. Depending on how close to town you live, you could walk everywhere, but you would need a car to travel outside Helensburgh (unless you catch the train). Helensburgh is a beautiful, safe community with affordable housing and everything you could need. It has a supermarket, many shops, a library, and a community centre. There are six childcare centres in the Helensburgh area, and the average house price is $1.2 million.

10. Best suburbs to live: Austinmer & Coledale

Best suburbs to live: Coledale Markets

Austinmer and Coledale are primarily beachside towns; most of the community is within walking distance of the beach. There are steep, hilly parts though, so watch for that if buying in the area. The hilly parts provide a bush living experience, with heaps of birdlife and a peaceful lifestyle. Both Austinmer and Coledale have shops for your weekend breakfast, and for buying essentials, you might need. Thirroul is also a short drive away, with grocery stores and restaurants galore.

Austinmer is home to the famous Headlands Hotel, and Coledale has a great dog-friendly beach. Austinmer also has a petrol station and mechanic. Both have a small community feel with friendly neighbours and small schools for your kids. The average price tag of the houses here is between $2.3 million and $2.4 million. When buying into this area, you are buying into a tight-knit beachside community. Both have beautiful primary schools. Coledale Public School is home to the monthly Coledale Markets, and both have beautiful beach pools to swim in. Coledale has two childcare centres, but there are more in Thirroul. There is also a great KU preschool in Wombarra, and Austinmer also has a childcare centre as well. The local high school is Bulli High School.

11. Best suburbs to live: Keiraville & Mount Keira

Best suburbs to live: Wollongong Botanic Gardens, Keiraville

Mount Keira is a beautiful, quiet suburb that feels like a country town, but it is also close to the amenities and conveniences of Wollongong. Close by are many bush walks and beautiful places to escape for peace and fun in nature. The average house price in Mount Keira and Keiraville is $1.1 million to $1.2 million.

Keiraville is a suburb close to everything, with the Botanic Gardens as a beautiful drawing card to the area. It is on the doorstep of the University of Wollongong and Illawarra TAFE. It also has North Wollongong Station as its train station and free shuttle buses into Wollongong or Fairy Meadow. Keiraville is a great place for students but also professionals and families. It has a neighbourly atmosphere and lots of cafes and restaurants close by, as well as a variety of schools in the local areas of Fairy Meadow and Wollongong. There are two childcare centres in Keiraville, three in Gwynneville, and many in Wollongong.

12. Best suburbs to live: Shellharbour

Best suburbs to live: Shellharbour Nursery

Shellharbour is its own little beach-side village and a beautiful one at that. The average house price is $1.2 million, but you get a piece of this historic and picturesque seaside town for that. There are great cafes, shops, a library, as well as health and wellbeing services. The atmosphere here is relaxed and laidback, with lots to do for people of all ages. Surfing, golfing and fishing are all popular past times, and there are some award-winning restaurants to choose from. The playground on the beach is perfect for young kids, and there is even a seaside pool to paddle in. There are twelve childcare centres in the Shellharbour area and more in the suburbs surrounding it. Shellharbour also has a range of primary and high schools, including public and private schools.

13. Best suburbs to live: Mount Ousley

Best suburbs to live: Mount Ousley Public School

Mount Ousley is at the foothills of Mount Keira and is a beautiful place to live that is peaceful and central, with friendly neighbours and streets where your kids can ride their bikes and have fun. There are parks and lots of beauty in the area. Mount Ousley has easy access to both trains and buses, with many schools within walking distance. TAFE Illawarra and the University of Wollongong are close by as well. The average house price is $1.1 million. Although Mount Ousley doesn’t have a grocery store, there are ample in the nearby suburb of Fairy Meadow. There are three childcare centres in Mount Ousley and many more in Fairy Meadow, Balgownie and Mount Pleasant.

14. Best suburbs to live: Thirroul

Best suburbs to live: Thirroul aerial view

Thirroul is a hub of activity, with heaps of cafes, restaurants and shops. The free local pool is a 50-metre saltwater pool with lifeguards and includes a great toddler pool as well. Opposite the pool is a playground suitable for most aged kids. Thirroul is a station where the Express to Sydney train stops and has lots of parking for commuters to park for the day.

In the centre of Thirroul is the beautiful library and community centre, which is a hub in itself. The library hosts a large range of community activities for kids and adults alike. It is a great place to meet new people and get on your feet in a new area. Thirroul Public School and St Michael’s Primary School have great names and strong communities. There are beachside and mountainside locations in Thirroul; both are beautiful. The beachside living is generally a flat walk to the beach, while the mountainside living is set in a quiet area, with wildlife and bush at your doorstep. Thirroul has two childcare centres; the local high school is Bulli High. The average house price in Thirroul is $1.9 million.

15. Best suburbs to live: Oak Flats

Best suburbs to live: Oak Flats Public School

Oak Flats is a family-friendly village with lovely views across the lake and the escarpment. The average house price is $855k. Industrial Road is a busy street with lots of shops and local businesses; otherwise, the area is quiet and a friendly community. Oak Flats has two primary schools, a high school and a private high school. It also has a TAFE and its own library branch. It has a recently upgraded heated pool. Oak Flats also has a train station for easy travel to Wollongong or south. There are five childcare centres in Oak Flats, and many more in the surrounding suburbs.

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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.