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Known as 'the Gong', Wollongong was incorporated in 1859 as Australia's first country municipality and is now the third largest city in New South Wales. It is 104 km south of Sydney and has a population of over 211, 400.

Navigators Bass and Flinders landed at Lake Illawarra in 1796 and the area was first traversed by Europeans in 1797, when survivors from the wreck of the Sydney Cove discovered coal at Coalcliff. For many years, due to the
ruggedness of the surrounding ranges, all visits to the district were by sea, but in 1815, on the advice of Aboriginals, explorer and pastoralist Charles Throsby pushed a mob of cattle through to good pasture. Others followed, and cedar-getting became an important industry and a town was planned in 1834. The name Wollongong is thought to be an onomatopoeic attempt by the local Aboriginals to duplicate the sound of waves breaking on the beach.

These days, Wollongong has a reputation of being a 'smog city', largely due to the proximity of Port Kembla -a steel-producing centre since 1928Ñand as such, considered not worth visiting. Nothing could be further from the truth. The local lighthouse was built in 1872. Illawarra Historical Society Museum has a Victorian parlour. Mount Kembla Village has a pioneer kitchen, blacksmith's shop, original miners' huts and a reconstruction of a tragic mining disaster in 1902. At Bald Hill Lookout, overlooking Stanwell Park Beach, is a monument to the aviation pioneer Lawrence Hargreaves. It is also a popular spot for hang gliding. Those who prefer to be more active can also enjoy the many good surfing beaches, foreshore parks, or go prawning, fishing or sailing -there are hire boats available on Lake Illawarra.

As Wollongong is completely ringed by national parks -indeed, there is a chronic shortage of building land into which Wollongong can expand -there are plenty of walking trails in the district. The panoramas from the Illawarra Range, particularly Mount Kiera and Sublime Point, above Austinmere, are simply stunning.

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