Thirroul to Kiama via Wollongong, Port Kembla and Windang
Total distance- about 57 km from Thirroul, including a few short diversions to scenic points.
The route is easy to follow and mainly flat all the way to Minnamurra, but fairly complicated for the last few km into Kiama due to the hilly terrain and cycleway routing to avoid the highway. The highway is often busy and not very bike friendly but the bike route over Minnamurra Headland to Kiama North is very scenic. An alternative might be to catch a train from Dunmore or Minnamurra to Kiama if one was due! Another alternative is Swamp Rd at a right turn off the highway just south of Dunmore. This road comes out on Jamberoo Rd, which leads back east to Kiama.
We took the 7.44 am (Sundays) from Central (check latest timetable) and got off at Thirroul at 9 am. A short cruise east on Station St then a right-left-right gets you to Hamilton Rd. At the southern end of this road is the start of the coastal cycle path to Wollongong. It is an easy 15 km pedal on the path past Bellambi and Towradgi to Stuart Park and North Wollongong Beach. Just watch out for other cyclists and pedestrians.
Have a short break where the path meets Cliff Drive, near the Surf Club, and continue along a narrow section of shared path (often congested) through a cutting past the swimming pool and the boat harbour to the Flagstaff Hill area. Checkout the view from the hill or continue on the bicycle route (some path, some road) southward from the roundabout, past the surf beach on the left and the football stadium on the right and on towards the edge of the BHP complex. A bike path then turns west off Port Kembla Rd (which is a dead end) and goes through some bush and wetlands until it hits Springhill Rd.There is a shared footpath along this major road then along Five Islands Rd and Flinders St, right around the edge of the huge BHP complex on your left, quite easy to follow.
The route then follows Old Port Rd and Foreshore Rd towards Port Kembla breakwater, coming out at a boat ramp for fishers. There is a good viewing point of the local pelicans, the breakwater and harbour from a grassy hill above theboat ramp near the signal station.
It is about 11 km from Flagstaff Hill to Port Kembla.
The bike path continues on from Port Kembla on a short path to Gloucester Bvd which goes along a beach front then over a hill to Military Rd. Cross here onto a marked cycleroute along Cowper St and Parkes St overlooking some sandy scrub and a beach, to a left onto a short section of neglected cyclepath through to Shellharbour Rd. There is a wide foot/cyclepath along this road to King St and Windang Rd. You can use the wide footpath on Windang Rd most of the way to Windang, where Lake Illawarra comes out. There is a greasy fish and chips shop just before the bridge and a cafe of sorts just after the bridge if you want to stop for a drink or snack. Better maybe to bring your own snacks and find a spot with views of lake Illawarra if you need a break.
It is about 7 km from Port Kembla to Windang.
Windang bridge has footpaths you can ride on but you may have to dodge people fishing off the bridge. The road wasnt too bad with a group. Windang Rd now becomes Shellharbour Rd and you keep following this road south for 8 km to Dunmore. There are three wide lanes or some on-road shoulder and some shared footpath along here – fairly good going until a hill near Shellharbour, where the path runs out and the shoulder disappears. Typical! Brave this nervewracking section (maybe it has been improved by now) for a km or two past the exclusive Cove housing estate on the left (you can take detour through here and avoid a little bit of main road) and the road improves as it heads down to the Princes Highway at Dunmore Railway Station. Turn left here onto a path and there is a kilometre or two of pleasant off-road path through the bush next to the highway. Cross the new Minamurra Bridge using the shared path on the east side, which is a big improvement on the old bridge.
Immediately over the bridge, turn left onto Trevethan St and onto a cyclepath that goes under the railway line into Minnamurra. There is a marked bike route through quiet streets to Charles Av, which leads uphill to a sign indicating cyclists should make a sharp turn onto a steep uphill on Carson Place. This doesnt look promising but Carson Place leads to a path over the headland, which has beautiful views and is worth the short steep climb. If you called it quits here you would be quite content,but if you are hungry you will have to persevere through some more hilly terrain for a few more kilometres to get to the fleshpots of Kiama. See a map here. Google Maps with the cycling overlay also shows the route quite well.
The route off Minnamurra Point goes down to North Kiama Drive, past the Surf Club and Jones Beach. At the top of North Kiama Drive as you leave Jones Beach there is a right turn over the railway. At this point
you will see a sign on Cliff Drive saying No Thoroughfare. Ignore this(the alternative is to cross the rail line and turn right onto Iluka Crescent and then turn right onto the Highway and follow into Kiama – not too difficult but traffic can be heavy) and follow Cliff Drive down a big dipper and up the other side to the next headland for some more views. There is a path and cycleroute over the headland, past the Water Pollution Control Plant and down to Bombo Beach. Rejoin the Highway via an underpass at Bombo Railway Stn. There is a new bit of cyclepath along here.
Just before a left onto Gipps St you might see a cyle route sign ducking off sharply to the left. You could follow this but the Gipps St turn is an easier grade. (The cyle route works better on the way back.) Follow Gipps St onroad for a short distance until an offroad cycle/footpath starts. This leads over another hill(the last one!) and down into Kiama. Plenty of cafes in Rosebank St or fish and chips by the harbour. Visit the blowhole at Blowhole Point, in the reserve due east from the end of Rosebank St.
Trains leave regularly back to Sydney from Kiama (2 hrs 15 to Central) or take a ride out to Jamberoo and on to Albion Park for some more hills! For real hill freaks the road up Saddleback Mountain behind Kiama is the ultimate challenge.
Some of us decided to ride back to Wollongong and were lucky to get a good tailwind. We retraced our steps except for a more direct route along King St to rejoin the cylepath around BHP from a handy right hand turn lane just after the King St/Wattle St intersection.