119km (74 miles) S of Sydney
Kiama (pop. 10,300) is famous for its blowhole. It jets water up to 60m (197 ft.), but it takes a large swell and strong southeasterly winds to force the sea through the rock fissure with enough force to achieve that height..
Pick up a map from the Kiama Visitors Centre to guide you on a Heritage Walk through the historic district of this quaint village, where you can tour a row of National Trust workers' cottages built in 1896.
Getting There -- From Sydney, travel south on the Princes Highway via the steelworks city of Wollongong. There's also regular train service from Sydney, and Greyhound Australia (tel. 13 14 99 in Australia, or 07/4690 9950; www.greyhound.com.au) coach service. The trip by coach takes about 2 hours, the train trip a little less.
Visitor Information -- The Kiama Visitors Centre, Blowhole Point, Kiama (tel. 02/4232 3322; or 1300 654 262 in Australia; www.kiama.com.au), is open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Waltzing the Tilbas
The south coast of New South Wales hides two little gems between hills the color of emeralds. The first is the tiny gold rush town of Tilba Tilba. Its rolling hills are studded with contented cows and frogs croaking from the verges in the valleys. Long-neck turtles often stumble toward the creek across from the wide veranda belonging to the charming 1879 bed-and-breakfast stopover Green Gables, 269 Corkhill Dr., Tilba Tilba (www.greengables.com.au; tel. 02/4473 7435; A$150-A$180 per night, extra person A$20-A$40). They do dinners too for between A$30 and A$40 a person. It's hard to believe this is Australia; the countryside is just so remarkably green.
Across the road from Green Gables, at the historic Pam's Store, you'll find the Tilba Tilba Track, which leads to the top of Gulaga (or Mount Dromedary). This ancient extinct volcano is heavily wooded and topped with rainforest. It's a moderate walk, with some relatively steep sections toward the top. Allow 5 hours round-trip. The mountain is the spiritual heart of the local Yuin Aboriginal people.
Back in town, the highlight of Tilba Tilba is Foxglove Spires (open to the public daily; admission A$7.50), a complex of businesses that include antiques and gift shops, a fabulous cafe, a gorgeous nursery specializing in rare herbs and perennials, and one of the best open gardens in Australia. The gardens are set around a 100-year-old cottage and run to nearly 1.6 hectares (4 acres) of flower beds, oak trees, rambling roses, and fruit trees. The colors are amazing in autumn. Plan your entire day around lunch at the associated Love at First Bite Café (tel. 02/4473 7055). This is a seriously good eatery, with groovy jazz, and a huge range of meals including gourmet sandwiches and fresh vegetable and fruit juices. Standout dishes include the Thai chicken laksa and a legendary lentil burger.
A short drive away is Central Tilba; like its smaller twin, it's classified as a heritage village under the National Trust. The quaint wooden buildings here make it perhaps the most attractive of all the historic settlements in Australia. You'll develop a soft spot for the village's Old Time Lolly Shop, Tilba Teapot Café, and the Tilba Woodturning Gallery, which specializes in carved bowls, wind chimes, rocking horses, and so much more. I left with some Applebox Smoke and Summer Herb cheeses from the award-winning ABC Cheese Factory, the first cheese co-op in NSW. With a bottle or two from Tilba Valley Wines and a loaf of granary bread from the local bakery, you're well set up for the next day's lunch.
For more information, visit www.tilba.com.au.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.