About 70 kilometres south of Sydney you'll find Thirroul, one of a series of towns fringed by the Pacific Ocean on one side, and a towering green escarpment on the other. This quaint and quiet part of the Illawarra feels more like a retreat than a rush. With a frame of natural beauty, and unique little landmarks home to the town, it's quite the escape.
Between the beach and the mountains
Here's a list of things to get you started on what to see.
One of the first things spotted on our adventure in Thirroul was a couple of pretty little floral patches that had been preserved despite development on all sides. Around 1920, Mrs Margaret Riach lived on these grounds just by Thirroul station. While her cottage no longer stands, today, the array of plants are maintained by volunteers and have become a local war memorial.
Thirroul seems to treasure plant-life. Down the road from Grannie's Garden you'll find the Niche Nursery, which will find a soft spot in the nature-lover's heart. Most species are sourced by passionate owner Russell from non-mainstream suppliers so look forward to an exotic variety, inclusive of some rare carnivorous species like Sarracenia. See here for a preview of this range.
A plant from the Niche Nursery decorating the next door cafe.
Many would agree that the face of Thirroul is its kilometre-long stretch of golden sand and "huge rhythmic Pacific," as D.H. Lawrence describes after his ten-day stay in the town. As the scenic swimming spot attracted more at the turn of the 20th Century, Thirroul developed one of its claims to fame, the Surf Life Saving Club in 1908 - one of the first established outside of Sydney. If the surf isn't your thing, there's also an Olympic-sized ocean pool.
Behind the beach is a scenic estuary that meets the creek traveling down from the escarpment. Also find a sprawling field of grass complete with picnic tables. This makes an ideal place to unwind away from the big smoke, and alternatively, to get active. If you're up for it, take on the waterside cycleway toward Wollongong.
4. Retrowombat Recycle and Reuse Foundation
Thirroul boasts not only natural beauty but antiquity. One must-see establishment for those who enjoy a dig through second-hand goods is The Retrowombat on Lawrence Hargrave Drive. The rooms and courtyard of this place have become a museum for a great diversity of vintage goods and antiques, of varying origins and sizes.
Spotted was a miniature version of the Garuda Wisnu statue I saw in Bali years ago, great classic hits in the form of vinyl records, and an old wooden caravan out back that looks like it's seen quite the Aussie adventure. Find yourself a unique souvenir to take home.
5. Anita's Theatre
A pair of masks, one tragic and one comedic, watch over the heart of Thirroul. These are, literally, the face of Anita's Theatre. Originally opened in 1925 as 'King's Theatre', the venue has since undergone many renovations, including an adaptation for roller-skaters in the 1960s. While in town, experience one of the plays or concerts that continue to give the colourful 91 year-old venue plenty of life. See site for program.
6. Homeware stores
We found it hard to resist wandering into at least a couple of the gorgeous interior design stores that call Thirroul home. Brightly-lit, and full of contemporary furniture and decor pieces, they offer quite the visual feast. A couple I might recommend a squiz in are No Chintz which has a focus on curtains, and Nest Emporium which is the go-to for those who want beach meets bedroom.
Everywhere you go in this slow-paced seaside town, you'll be followed by the soothing sound of the ocean and a backdrop of mountains. If you find a day just isn't enough, why not spend the night in the Thirroul Beach Motel?