What I love about raising kids in the Illawarra

 Kate Mayhew - Guest Author Mon 1 April 19


I was fortunate to grow up in the beautiful town of Kiama, not that I appreciated it at the time. I couldn’t wait to leave, spread my wings and hit the big smoke. After time travelling overseas and almost a decade living in Sydney, I decided to move back to the Illawarra to raise my children. The area that I couldn’t wait to leave now seemed like the perfect place to live (the irony is not lost on me).

While I’m living closer to Wollongong these days, it’s still got the beautiful regional charm that I missed once I lived in a bustling city. So, what else do I love about raising my kids here?


The beaches
We have some of the most beautiful beaches in the country on our doorstep. And there’s something about the salty air that seems to calm my kids down (my two-year-old is the exception to this rule - salty air turns him into a sand-throwing, stick wielding, seagull chasing monster). Our favourite sunny spots include Port Kembla Beach, The Farm at Shellharbour (Killalea Beach) and a beautiful little spot called The Boneyard near Kiama (this is an unpatrolled swimming spot). Some of these spots require a little bit of walking up and down hills to get there, but the reward at the end is worth it. 


Car parks are a plenty
A bit boring, I know. But I blow little kisses to the Illawarra whenever I’m looking for a carpark, because usually I can find one that doesn’t require reverse parking or walking 2km to my intended destination with three kids in tow (and often it’s free – woo hoo!). What’s this got to do with raising kids? EVERYTHING! These days when I visit Sydney my palms start sweating as I do laps of blocks or car parks, looking for somewhere to leave my car, while the growing shrieking of three banshees in the back starts making me twitch. I know, I know, trains, public transport etc etc but please see the bit about three banshees.

Great schools
We really are spoilt for choice when it comes to schools in the Illawarra. Public or private, you can’t really go wrong. While it’s a decision many parents fret over I don’t think I’ve met many mums or dads who’ve been disappointed with the school their child/ren go to.

Pretty parks
Another abundant feature of the Illawarra – beautiful parks to let the kids run wild! There are too many to mention. But some of our favourites include the great park at Thirroul Beach Park, Reid Park in Jamberoo (it’s an older style park but the kids love it and it’s a gorgeous drive) and you’ll often find my kids stuck on the giant silver slide at Towradgi Beach Park (someone really needs to spray some WD40 on this one to get the slide speed up).

And…. I’m not going to lie, I love any park that’s gated (some may say caged or trapped, it’s open to interpretation). Here’s a great little Parent’s Guide Illawarra  article from a little while back with more information about gated parks in the Illawarra. Or if you want a comprehensive list of all Illawarra parks and playgrounds try here.


Other friendly mums and dads
The Oxford dictionary describes down-to-earth as “with no illusions or pretensions; practical and realistic”. Which is great for me because I love a chat and in the Illawarra there is an abundance of these lovely down-to-earth people who are willing to oblige. I’m grateful for every new mum or dad I meet at the park, beach or doctors waiting room who is happy to gasbag about the predicament of supermarket collectables when you have multiple children or the lack of slipperiness on slippery slides (see above section “Pretty parks”). There’s something lovely about raising my children in a place that’s relaxed, friendly and kind. It takes a village to raise children and I love the people that live in mine.

There are so many more things that I love about raising my children in the Illawarra, we really are spoilt for choice. I’m a big fan of the local bushwalks around the escarpment, rockpools, local libraries, Early Start Discovery Centre and Science Space, options for sport and the abundance of FREE activities on offer. See you at the park soon! 

With thanks to author Kate Mayhew for bringing this inspiring story and sharing it with Parents Guide Illawarra, your comprehensive what's on and fun guide for parents and families in the Illawarra :)



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