Stanwell Tops - South Coast NSW
Updated: Feb 27
Finally, I am getting around to putting this trip all in one place for you; in what has been an extremely busy October. I managed to squeeze in a trip to Byron Bay (blog pending), celebrate my birthday and move into a new apartment - amongst all this madness since my fantastic mini vacation during the October long weekend!
Stanwell Tops – What a little beauty this area is. Impressively, only 1 hour away from Sydney, you would think we travelled a lot further down south to discover; a Balinese style café, a Hindu Temple, a majestic waterfall creek and one of the most admirable coastal beer gardens I have ever been to. Below, I unpack my 3-day itinerary, have a read of this, you might just get some inspiration!
Breakfast: I suggest paying a visit to the Uluwatu Blue café. This is in the centre of the town with plenty of outdoor and indoor seating. As the name suggests, it is inspired by Bali, however, also has a Mexican feel to it with a Mexican menu along with Indonesian food. Such a laid-back cool vibe, there is also some beachwear items to purchase e.g. bikini’s, sunhats, towels etc. Check out their insta handle here @uluwatublue. The açaí bowls are delish and presented perfectly for that IG shot!
Activities: Tick another item off your Aussie bucketlist while in the vicinity of Wollongong and take a scenic trip along the Seacliff Bridge. This was magnificent, and only took us about 5-minute drive after our breakfast to get here! Make sure you enjoy a decent meal before trekking to this sight, as you will need all the energy possible to hike to the very top of the lookout for incredible views! Be prepared for parking to be limited, we had to park a little bit away and then walk from the start of the bridge which is essentially part of the Grand Pacific Drive. While everyone is so focused on getting to the top of the Seacliff Lookout, don’t forget to venture below the bridge to take it all in from this viewpoint under the bridge. The architecture of it is honestly, mesmerising.
Now – getting to the top – let me tell you, this part just isn’t documented on social media. No one really prepared me for clinging to a rope, muddy shoes, dirty clothes and slipping most of the way. It is a bit challenging getting up and getting down to be frank! There is a little area hidden in the trees on the main road on the bridge, where you need to find first and then you will see yellow marks painted on the wooden trees – this is your trail , off you go climbing. The views at the top are breath-taking and you will have a few viewpoints to get your shot from. When you get back down you will feel a sense of achievement - trust me!
Beach: Stanwell beach was extremely busy; my advice is to walk there if you can or park a little bit away and get those steps in. There is a lagoon-like area for kids to play in the shallow-end, a popular kiosk café, and an area where hang-gliders land. There is plenty of BBQ areas here to have picnics and the main beach is a long stretch plenty of room to sunbathe.
Accommodation: Air B&B The Loft Studio this was superb (click on the link to see more). The Studio Stanwell Park is within proximity to the beach, shops, and cafés. It was an amazing little studio within the trees, and it was so calm and peaceful away from the hustle & bustle of city living. I highly recommend visiting for some relaxation. There were so many hidden antique items that pleasantly surprised us, and the hosts were super friendly and relaxed. The bathroom had a rainforest feel to it, where you can listen to the sound of nature’s surroundings. Little Tip: In Stanwell Tops, most places close early so this place is ideal if you want to chill some wine and play board games after a hectic day of sightseeing.
Places to see: A spectacular second day on this mini trip involved travelling to the nearby town of Helensburgh in the morning to visit Sri Venkateswara Temple; one of the most famous of its kind in the southern hemisphere and has been there since 1985. I had never been to a Hindu Temple before, so this was new to me and quite simply, fascinating! You do not wear anything on your feet when you enter the grounds, you can take photos outside however not indoors as this is completely against their beliefs and the rules. It was free entry, however, they encourage a small donation, and you can purchase a mask for $1 and they accept card also. Take in the beauty of this building and immerse yourself in the culture of Hinduism – such a colourful religion.
Trails/Walking tracks: This was the highlight of the trip when we eventually got down to the stunning Kelly’s Falls! Not an easy trek, following the Seacliff climb, and again wear your comfy footwear, don’t carry anything too heavy, and be prepared lose your footing slightly along the way. It is a challenge finding the place – please make note of this as it is easy to get misled and you may end up going in the opposite direction. When you start your trail in the Kelly’s Falls car-park take a look at the signs to make sure you take the PRINCESS MARINA TRACK. Do not take the Kelly’s Falls Walking Track – as obvious as the name sounds, unfortunately this doesn’t get you to the waterfall below – and (of course we took this route initially before realising it was a dead end). Take the yellow marked trail and be prepared for lots of steps, steep climbs, a rope to hang on to (yes more strength needed!) You then need to take the road less travelled and veer off from the main track once the black fencing ends and this is the start of your descent. I believe there are a couple of ways to get down there as we returned another way also. Take my advice; when you eventually hear the water falling and you see the glistening green pools in front of you on a hot day after that mission from the top – all you will want to do is sink under the water and bask in natures glory!
Sunset Spot: Bald Hill Lookout – this was just beautiful. Admire the view of Stanwell beach from above as the sun sets beyond the mountains and the sky turns golden.
Dinner: Helensburgh Raya Thai – this was delicious and quite busy so be sure to book in advance. This is a BYO restaurant and very reasonably priced, an award-winning restaurant and the fact that is has been around since the 1980’s speaks volumes. If you are in the area and enjoy Thai food, absolutely pay this restaurant a visit.
Explore more: Venture up the coast and you will see Coledale and Austinmer beaches with plenty of surfers along these beaches. I loved the little coastal town of Austinmer with little houses and a colourful church. There are lots of café options on the main street opposite the beach for a juice/smoothie to cool down.
Scarborough Hotel: Arguably one of the best beer gardens I have ever sat in – this view was absolutely worth the Covid queue outside to get in. The establishment is huge with many areas to sit, across several levels. Relax for the afternoon here before your journey back home. I noticed a lot of seafood options on the menu so if that’s what you enjoy this will be ideal. Again, this closes early so make sure to get there late morning/midday to make the most of your visit. The nautical décor and the welcoming hospitality was the cherry on top! Check it out for yourself... @thescarboroughhotel
Also in the area – on our list for next time:
· Symbio Wildlife Park
· LOAF Kitchen
· Austinmer Headlands Hotel
I really recommend paying a visit to this area of the South Coast, as they can easily be forgotten and get left behind the likes of; Jervis Bay, Shellharbour, and Batemans Bay! Why not include Stanwell Tops as part of your road trip in line with the famous town of Berry!