Epic surf. Tick. Beautiful waterfalls. Tick. Lush rainforest. Tick. Laidback seaside village vibes. Tick, tick, tick. Shellharbour is a picturesque seaside town that’s fast becoming a favourite for east coast road trippers. Wedged between the Illawarra Escarpment and the Tasman Sea, this slice of paradise has something for everyone. In fact, there’s enough things to do in Shellharbour to fill an entire seaside holiday checklist.
No seaside holiday is complete without beachside accommodation. Make it the first thing you tick off your list by booking a stay at NRMA Shellharbour Beachside Holiday Park. Just a two-hour drive south of Sydney and metres from the beach, the Shellharbour Beachside Holiday Park is a great place to rest your head. The park is home to a number of caravan and camping sites as well as cabins, and also features a playground and plenty of activities for the kids throughout the school holidays, making it a great option if you’re travelling solo, as a couple or with the whole family.
What’s next on that checklist? Try these top 15 things to do in Shellharbour:
1. Cruise along Grand Pacific Drive
Looking for the perfect way to kick off your south coast road trip? Cruise along the Grand Pacific Drive, which hugs the New South Wales coastline. Starting at Sydney’s Royal National Park and ending in Shoalhaven, this scenic drive is one of our favourite routes into and through Shellharbour, as it leads travellers past Lake Illawarra and the sea.
2. Take a dip in Shellharbour’s Ocean Pool meters from your accommodation
Built on the rocks south of Shellharbour North Beach and only 100m from NRMA Shellharbour Beachside Holiday Park, the Beverley Whitfield Ocean Pool is an idyllic, safe and sheltered outdoor swimming pool. In the vicinity you’ll also find a shaded children’s pool and barbecue/picnic facilities, making it a great family friendly place to spend the day.
3. Soar through the trees at Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk
Journey through the Illawarra Rainforest and unwind surrounded by nature. The 1.5km Treetop Walk features an elevated steel walkway with two gently swaying cantilevers, and a central tower rising 45 metres above the forest floor.
Soar through the treetops on the Illawarra Fly Zipline Tour, with three flights, two suspension bridges and four cloud stations. Learn about the unique history of the rainforest from experienced Tour Guides, who control all departures and arrivals throughout the course. Suitable for ages 4 and up, it’s the perfect “my first zip” experience and something the whole family can enjoy.
4. Dive or snorkel at Bushrangers Bay
Water lover? Grab your mask and snorkel and head to Bushrangers Bay, located just south of Shellharbour Village, within the Bass Point Reserve. This aquatic reserve has an inner and outer bay that’s well sheltered, making it a great spot for scuba diving and snorkelling. Under the water you’ll find cliffs with hundreds of small cavities; home to all sorts of marine life, including sea urchins, tropical fish and the occasional weedy sea dragon.
5. Kayak along the Minnamurra River
Shellharbour isn’t short of water activities, but a paddle down the Minnamurra River would have to be one of the region’s best aquatic adventures. Join a tour or BYO kayak and explore Rocklow Creek, where you can weave through and under a canopy of hidden mangroves.
6. Catch waves at “The Farm”
Known to locals as “The Farm”, Killalea Beach is a must-visit for wave chasers and land dwellers alike. Declared a National Surfing Reserve in 2009, The Farm boasts a point break that’s pumping all year ‘round, a secluded beach that offers a prime spot for a picnic, and some of the best bushwalks along the south coast (that’s what we like to call a beachside holiday triple threat!).
7. Grab a bite to eat at Shellharbour Village
Head to this oceanfront café strip for the best in seaside dining. There are delicious foodie options to suit anyone’s palate – from outdoor cafes, to award-winning restaurants and, of course, fish and chips – and a range of boutique shops full of trinkets and treasures.
8. Dine like royals at Ravensthorpe
If scones, bite-sized sweet treats and strawberry cocktails sound like your jam, then you’ll want to experience Ravensthorpe’s High Tea. Dress in your Sunday best and head to Ravensthorpe’s Victorian manor house, where you can spend all afternoon sipping tea and dining like a royal.
9. Chase waterfalls in the Macquarie Pass National Park
Need to stretch the legs? Head to the Macquarie Pass National Park where you can embark on the Cascades Rainforest Walk, a one-hour stroll which will take you through rainforest and under tall eucalypts, along a creek and eventually to a beautiful cascading waterfall.
10. Pilot a plane
Looking for more things to do in Shellharbour? A visit to the HARS Aviation Museum is a no-brainer. This museum isn’t just for avid aviators, promising visitors an incredibly unique, behind-the-scenes aviation experience. What exactly does that mean? Among other things, you can explore a cargo hold, hop in the cockpit of a fighter bomber, then walk on the wing of a Qantas Boeing 747.
11. Ride on a miniature train
For something a bit more kid-friendly, head next door to the Illawarra Light Railway Museum, where you can ride a steam and/or miniature train. Demonstrations of working steam engines and locomotives, as well as miniature train rides, are held on the second Sunday and fourth Saturday of each month.
12. Entertain big and little kids at Jamberoo Action Park
Adventure seekers won’t want to pass on a trip to Jamberoo Action Park, a theme park filled with water slides and wild rides. There’s The Perfect Storm, a waterslide that’ll have you flying through two vortexes and then a gigantic Twister; the Funnel Web, which sees you drop 30km/h into a giant spider’s funnel; and Rapid River, a series of rapids, waterfalls and rolling waves that you travel down and through on inflatable rafts. For little adventurers Banjo’s Billabong is the place to be – a water playground featuring slides, climbs, bridges, cannons and more.
13. Swing into The Links Shell Cove
If your idea of fun equals plenty of time spent on the green, then you’ll want to check out The Links Shell Cove. Voted one of Australia’s top 50 golf courses, The Links is set in a valley and features natural wetlands and the Killalea Lagoon. This picturesque driving range is also home to the Shell Cove Tavern and sports bar, where you can grab some food and a nice cold bevvie.
14. Go fishing at Lake Illawarra
Located between the Illawarra Escarpment and the sea, Lake Illawarra is great for a spot of fishing. With 13 boat ramps, the lake is a popular location for anglers, but there are also lots of places to cast a line from the shore. Prawning and crabbing are also popular at the lake, which is made up of a mixture of fresh and salt water. NB: save yourself a fine by ensuring you’ve got the correct fishing licenses before you rig up your rod.
15. Discover local artworks along the Lake Illawarra Art Trail
This 3km-long walking trail is a must-do for lovers of art. Traverse along the banks of Lake Illawarra, where you’ll discover artworks by local artists, constructed out of natural and fabricated objects. The track also features a series of sculptural totem poles that depict stories of Shellharbour, its history, Aboriginal heritage and flora and fauna.
Image credits: Destination NSW, Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures, Tourism Shellharbour.