Forget the Goldie, try the Coalie! Stanwell Park is only an hour south of Sydney by train. It’s a tiny beach town with so much to offer. Located on the edge of the Royal National Park and close to other adorable villages, it’s a great spot for a vacation close to Sydney. Whether you’re a surfer, hiker, hang glider, sunbather, reader, or after some serenity, ‘Stanny’ has something to offer.
Why visit Stanwell Park & the Coal Coast
- Endless coastline with many beaches to enjoy
- Explore Royal National Park and all the hiking trails in the area
- Only an hour from Sydney by train
- Take the road less traveled and have an authentic Aussie beach town experience
- Outdoor activities abound: surf, kayak, SUP, rock-climb, hang-glide
- Great base to explore neighbouring towns and their many cafes, bars and restaurants
- Lots of interesting sites and activities in the region
What is Stanwell Park
Stanwell Park is a small seaside town an hour south of Sydney, 30 minutes north of Wollongong. It’s part of the ‘Coal Coast’ which is a collection of seaside towns just south of Sydney, stretching down to Wollongong. The population of ‘Stanny’ is only 1200, but there are many more residents in nearby Helensburgh, Thirroul, Coalcliff, Coledale, and Otford. Stanny consists of a beach, an escarpment, and a small set of shops, set amongst many beach houses and bushland.
How to get to Stanwell Park
By car: It is the most convenient option, as a car gives more freedom to explore the surrounding region. One hour drive from Sydney.
By train: Take the train from central for a 1-hour ride. The train station is at the top of town and it’s a 10-minute walk down to the beach. The train connects Stanny to other towns along the coast. They’re not that regular, so always check the timetable.
Where to stay
- Tumbling Waters Retreat
- Ocean Blue B&B
- Fernleigh Cottage B&B
- Rent a beach house: The Peace House, Seaside Classic Beach House, Leafy Sea Cottage, The Annex, Stanwell Beach Arthouse. Check Airbnb for more options.
Hikes in the area
There are so many hikes in the area, it’s hard to narrow down a few favourites.
- Wodi Wodi (6.5km)
- Werrong Beach track (4km)
- Bulgo beach track (3km)
- Coastal Classic (30km)
- Otford to Figure 8 pools (13km)
- Minnamurra Rainforest (3.5km)
- Garrawarra Farm to Garie Beach walk (8km)
There are many great surf beaches in the area, including Stanwell Park beach. Some of the others include: Coalcliff, Wombarra, Headlands, Sharkies, and Thommos. There are also surf lessons available.
What to do in Stanwell Park
- Walk across the Sea Cliff Bridge and enjoy coastal views
- Visit Symbio Wildlife Park, a small zoo, for close encounters with Australian wildlife
- Have a cheap, delicious lunch at Hindu Temple Sri Venkateswara (Fri, Sat, Sun)
- Hang glide or paraglide from Stanwell Tops
- Skydive in Wollongong for thrills and views
- Water sports: SUP, kayak, surf, swim.
- Explore the rock pools and enjoy a beach day
- Visit Minnamurra Rainforest for strolls amidst rainforest and possible wildlife spottings
- Sunset drinks with a view, or bar and restaurant hop down the coast
- Go see live music in Thirroul at Frank’s or Anita’s Theatre, circa 1925
- Play lawn bowls at Scarborough Womborra Bowling Club, they have cheap drinks and tasty food
- Rent a rowboat or picnic at Audley Dance Hall cafe in Royal National Park
Other great towns nearby
- Thirroul – is a funky town with excellent food and drink options. This would be the second pick of towns to stay in for those who like more nightlife.
- Coledale – has cute cafes galore and is very scenic.
- Coalcliff – Beautiful ocean pool, and right beside the Sea Cliff bridge.
- Austinmer – has a great surf beach and an oceanview hotel restaurant, Headlands Hotel.
- Helensburgh – the bigger town near Stanwell Park with more shops.
- Wollongong – ‘The Gong’ is more of a city than a town, with a lovely beach and vibrant nightlife.
Stanny is really small and only has a cafe and a couple of restaurants. There are lots of other great spots in neighbouring towns to explore.
- Stanwell Park: Loaf cafe – coffee, breakfast, and lunch
- Thirroul: Jose Jones – tapas and mains
- Thirroul: South Sailor – oysters, raw bar, poke bowls, cocktails in a very cute setting with an outdoor patio
- Thirroul: Bread, Espresso & – cafe
- Thirroul: The Old Siam – Thai food
- Wollongong: has a plethora of restaurants
- Thirroul: Frank’s Wild Years – buy a record, listen to live music, have a drink at the bar, or enjoy the back patio. Don’t miss the sangria jugs!
- Headlands Austinmer Beach – this hotel, bar, and restaurant has a large patio with ocean views, happy hour specials, and an airstream cooking up dumplings and other goodies.
- Scarborough Hotel – has epic views and a large grassy lawn for soaking in the sun.
When to visit
Best months: October November, late February, and March. For warm weather, outside of summer holidays. You also skip the scorching heat of December, January and beginning of Feb. The Coal Coast is beautiful all year round, but to really enjoy the beaches it’s best to visit when the water temperatures are warmer. The warmest water temperatures are from January to April. The school holidays make the beaches much busier from December through to mid-February. Winter lasts from June to August, when temperatures are at their coolest and it’s too cold for the average person to swim. Expect more rain and wind in winter, it gets quite cold.
- Supplies: Stanwell Park General Store, Coles supermarket Helensburgh.
- Alcohol: Stanwell Park Cellars
- Getting around: There’s Uber, but not too many drivers. Wollongong Radio cabs Ph: 02 4254 2111, Helensburgh Ride Share Ph. 0421 112250
- Coal Coast online magazine is a great resource for your travels https://www.coalcoastmagazine.com/
- Flights: Fly into Sydney International airport (SYD). Take a 1-hour train from SYD or pick up your rental car at the airport.
Take the road less traveled, skip the Gold Coast and head to the Coal Coast!