Stanwell Park - Places to See

Symbio Wildlife Gardens
On Lawrence Hargrave Drive, near the intersection with the Old Princes Highway, are the Symbio Wildlife Gardens, which have recently been revamped. A highlight are the six freshwater crocodiles on display in a large $300,000 enclosure designed to enable the closest possible safe views. Their stated aim is to offer "a state-of-the-art, cage-free wildlife experience that both entertains and educates visitors and helps conserve wildlife." There are over 1000 native, exotic and farmyard animals in all, including spider monkeys, brahman cattle, cassowaries, camels, ostriches, dingoes, reptiles, including sizable boa constrictors, eagles, llamas, wombats, a 'twilight' house full of nocturnal animals, and a barking owl known as 'Arnie,' which has appeared in a Delta Goodrem music video and TV documentaries and will soon appear in the Hollywood film Mask 2. Visitors can cuddle koalas, hand-feed and pat kangaroos and emus, chat with the cockatoos and bottle-freed goats. Lions, tigers, alligators and Tasmanian devils are soon to be added to the menagerie. There is also a cafe, a souvenir shop, free swimming pools and gas barbecues.

The Gardens are open from 9.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily with signs indicating the way from the Princes Highway. Entry, as of 2011, was $22 for adults, $12 for children and $20 for seniors and concessions, tel: (02) 4294 1244 or check out:

Hindu Temple
Just east of Symbio, on Lawrence Hargrave Drive, is the turnoff to the Hindu temple which is well worth a visit. However, it is a genuine place of worship and visitors are expected to be quiet and respectful.

Monument to Lawrence Hargrave
'The blue plain of the sea fringed by white lace as surf runs up broad beaches or beats relentlessly on cliff faces and mountains plunging sheer into the sea, so the spectacle is revealed from Bald Hill, the most imposing approach of all.'

On top of Bald Hill there is a monument to Lawrence Hargrave with the inscription:

'Lawrence Hargrave - 1850-1915 whose pioneering research in aeronautics with engines, monoplanes and box-kites, much of which was carried out at Stanwell Park, played a vital part in the development of the aeroplane'.

Sharing with Hargrave an understanding of the impressive aeronautical potential of the area, the hang-gliding fraternity still use the hill as a launching point for their spectacular flights out over the Pacific and back onto the beach far below. Tandem flights and lessons are available from Sydney Hang Gliding Centre at Otford, tel: (02) 4294 9994.

Across the road from the Hargrave Memorial is Intabane, a strange mansion with a witch�s hat roof which was used as an army lookout during World War II. It was originally built in 1917 for �3000 and became a guest house between the wars.

There is a pleasant bushwalk to Kelly's Falls. Turn left at Bald Hill and proceed towards Helensburgh. You will see a large stone monument to your left (if coming from the north) between the two forks of Stonehaven St and opposite is a smallish wooden sign denoting the start of the walking trail. After 1 km you come to a clearing, take the track which leads north across the clearing and Kelly's Falls will appear after 50 metres. The trail continues on to a viewing platform. Another track runs from Stanwell Park train station up to the Peace Garden, a pleasant spot, where there are historic Aboriginal carvings on the trees. Bushwalking maps and details are available from the Tourist Information Centre in Wollongong.


The Coastal Villages
From Stanwell Park Lawrence Hargrave Drive snakes its way south along the coastline, passing through the well-named Coalcliff where a narrow winding section of road is sandwiched between sheer cliffs and a precipitous drop into the ocean. It is with a feeling of some relief that land soon opens up on both sides of the road at Clifton - the first of several small, picturesque villages with beautiful sandy beaches and rock pools at the eastern edge of rocky cliff faces. Surfers, swimmers, anglers, sunbathers and beachwalkers are all attracted to this stretch of coast.

Although these 'villages' - Coalcliff, Clifton, Scarborough, Wombarra, Coledale, Austinmer, Thirroul and Bulli - now form a continuous residential strip, they were originally separate coalmining settlements which developed in the mid-19th century and they retain a sense of integrity and beauty that renders the term 'suburban' inappropriate. Houses huddle together along the coastline but they also continue up the escarpment where the environment becomes quite verdant and beautiful without ever seeming yuppified (a testimony to the area's unpretentious working-class roots).

Because of its proximity to industrialised Wollongong this area was largely ignored until the arrival of the electric train service in 1987. In the past decade it has become an increasingly desirable, and expensive, commuter region for Sydneysiders.

Clifton and Scarborough retain modest and popular pubs which hang over the cliffs. Stanwell Park and Coalcliff are noted surfing beaches.