The tenth largest city in Australia, and the third largest in New South Wales, Wollongong was unexpectedly interesting. It had the usual sandy beaches and coastal views, but also the most unusual palm trees I’ve seen, and the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere.

A morning run was my opportunity to explore the waterfront, though it was sweaty work in 90% humidity and 26C temperatures by 7am. City Beach was a treat as the sun rose, with the industrial Port Kembla in the distance to the south, and an opportunistic guy with a metal detector scanning the beach.

Flagstaff Point gave views south over City Beach and north over the imaginatively named North Beach. It is also home to the 1936 lighthouse and a few cannons, and nearby the 1871 Breakwater Lighthouse and an impressive sea wall.

Heading out to Stuart Park offered sunrise views of the harbour, a classically Australian swimming pool, and a few more cannons.

On my way back from there I found a couple of nice pieces of street art.

The evening before I wandered the pedestrianised part of the CBD, finding the strangest palm trees I’ve ever seen. Some imaginative genius was at work here, with trees growing at near right angles, and another attached to the top of a lamppost. Even the locals were bemused, asking me for some reason whether I knew what they were.

There was also a typically flash Australian shopping mall, complete with a colander covered ceiling, rolling pin covered columns and a snazzy floor.

Leaving town we headed up to Mount Keira Lookout for a wonderful view of cloud…

Final stop in Wollongong was the wonderful Nan Tien Buddhist Temple, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, which opened in 1995. It is home to a pagoda, cute statues, a sizeable temple, and some unusual topiary.

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