Enjoy a Weekend of Live Music in Wollongong With Great Southern Nights

Alec Jones
February 08, 2024

We've got your next trip to Wollongong sorted, with everything you need to catch live gigs during Great Southern Nights.

If you haven’t heard, a huge music festival is taking over New South Wales from Friday, March 8 to Sunday, March 24. Great Southern Nights is showing some well-deserved love to our state’s regional hubs, namely Newcastle, Wagga Wagga, Tamworth, The Northern Rivers and Wollongong, with a lineup of some of Australia’s most popular musicians from across genres and generations.

To help inspire you to book a trip, we’ve compiled a guide to getting the most out of your Great Southern Nights adventures in the capital of the Illawarra — Wollongong.

The Festival

The concert series runs for 17 nights, with concerts happening simultaneously across the state. Who are the headline acts turning things up in Wollongong? We’re glad you asked.

There are over two dozen gigs taking place on stages across Wollongong and Thirroul, starring popular pop-punk star Alex Lahey, emotive pop artist Gretta Ray, southwest Sydney rap superstar L-Fresh The Lion and support act-turned-soloist Pania.

You’ll also find alt-rock foursome Redhook, instrumentalist legends The Cruel Sea, narrative musicians The Vanns and globally popular blues duo The Teskey Brothers. There’s a splash of emerging talent, too, such as ARIA-winning First Nations vocalist Budjerah, alongside icons like James Reyne and alt-pop star Sarah Blasko.

Want a sample? We’ve prepared a playlist to soundtrack your drive between gigs here:

Image: Destination NSW

Where to Stay

After your drive along the stunning coastal roads, check in at your accommodation and drop off your bags before you get in among the action of the mosh pit. Which brings us to our recommendations.

A great pick for something simple but comfortable is Novotel Wollongong Northbeach in North Wollongong. With rooms that look out over Wollongong City and North Wollongong Beach, plus five on-site eateries, you’ll get all the convenience you need before hitting the town.

If you’d prefer accommodation close to Thirroul, you can’t look past Headlands Hotel on Austinmer Beach. With nine-room varieties (from studio apartments to two-bedroom penthouses) and ocean views that take your breath away, you can unwind after a day out by the pool or at the on-site restaurant.

Top image: Destination NSW

Local Food

Once you’ve sung and/or hollered your lungs out at a show, you’ll need a place to refuel. Wollongong has no shortage of great dining picks from which to choose. At the top of that list is Steamers Bar and Grill, a spacious Wollongong institute with hospitality awards that go back years. The menu focuses on street foods of the world — from vegetarian poke bowls to venison hot pots and beyond.

If fancier fine dining isn’t your thing, fret not. Wollongong is home to His Boy Elroy, one of the best regional burger bars in Australia. There’s nothing delicate about the menu, with glorious burgers dominating alongside sweet treats and curated cocktails. 

And finally, a third pick sits in the middle of the fancy scale: Rookie Eatery. Here, the menu is contemporary Western food with Eastern influences, made with local ingredients.

Images: Destination NSW, His Boy Elroy

Local Drinks

To go along with all that great food, you need some equally awesome drinks. We’ve selected some of the finest local watering holes for you to seek your beverages of choice. First up is Headlands Distillery, one of Wollongong’s first distilleries (despite only opening in 2015). Headlands champions a ‘grain to glass’ philosophy with its spirits and liqueurs, which are made with locally sourced grain and native ingredients. The distillery runs free tasting tours every Friday and Sunday, where you can sample the ingredients and products while chatting with one of the four founders. 

If you love a speakeasy, make a beeline for Howlin Wolf Whiskey Bar. Tucked away in an alleyway off Crown Street, this dimly lit space has a whisky list that’s 350+ strong. Beyond that, there’s a damn fine selection of vodka, gin, rum, tequila, cognac, beers and non-alcoholic picks. It’s the perfect place to grab a drink with close company between gigs. 

But if spirits aren’t your cup of tea and you’d prefer a cold beer, let’s talk about Five Barrel Brewing. This local brewery churns out a range of craft beers, from classic styles to limited brews, all available for tasting and purchase at the taproom on Keira Street. The kitchen is open from Thursday to Sunday, so you can choose from one of the 16 taps and grab a tasting platter or a burger plus some moreish sides.

Top image: Jasmine Low

Images: Destination NSW, Jasmine Low

What to see

No matter how hardcore a muso you are, you will need to break up the itinerary with some local sightseeing. There are more than a few ways to see Wollongong, but here’s an unconventional suggestion: from 15,000 feet while falling. Skydive Wollongong is the only coastal skydive in the greater Sydney area, and what better way to appreciate the stunning Illawarra coastline than from that high up? Just remember to bring a Go-Pro and a spare pair of undies. 

For a similar viewpoint with less screaming, consider Touchdown Helicopters. This local aviation team offers scenic flights over the coast, canyons and waterfalls of the Illawarra region. If you’ve got cash to splash, you can charter a flight or even book a training flight to get a taste of pilot life.

Of course, the option to stay on solid ground is also available. If you like a taste of country living and enjoying some cold refreshments, head to Glenbernie Orchard, the home of Darkes Cider. If your visit is timed with Great Southern Nights, you’ll be able to book apple picking and hit the farm shop during your visit, where you’ll find fresh fruit, cider, honey and mead — all grown and made on the farm.

Another local attraction that’s certainly worth a visit is Symbio Wildlife Park, a family-owned zoo just north of Wollongong. The residents include cheetahs, ring-tailed lemurs, red pandas, meerkats, small monkeys, penguins and a range of Australian species, several of which can be met face-to-face with bookable hand-feeding experiences. 

Top image: Touchdown Helicopters

Images: Destination NSW

For more information on Great Southern Nights, including the lineup, venues, local areas and to book tickets, visit the website.

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