MERCURY SERIES - SUMMER DAZE
There are plenty of hidden gems in them thar hills, and to find them all you need is a pair of boots and a bottle of water.
Ask any of the region's bushwalkers and they'll tell you the Illawarra is spoilt for choice when it comes to stunning walks suitable for any fitness level.
A popular and easily accessed walk is the Mount Keira Ring Track, a moderate five-kilometre loop taking in lush vegetation and staggering views.
From flat, rocky stretches to lush, palm-lined climbs, the track is an excellent introduction to the region's diverse landscape.
Illawarra Ramblers president John Stewart, of Keiraville, recommends the track to anyone wanting a good workout.
"It's a really good walk if you're trying to get fit for something; if you were going to walk the Kokoda Track then I'd recommend you'd need to be able to do the Mount Keira Ring Track," he said.
An experienced bushwalker, Mr Stewart counts Otford to Burning Palms as one of his favourite trails.
He recommends planning ahead and taking a few provisions to get the most out of your walk.
"In summer you need to take at least two litres of water and obviously a hat and sunscreen," he said.
"You should wear sturdy shoes if not bushwalking boots - it depends on the grade of the walk you're doing."
Taking a few snacks such as sandwiches, crackers, cans of tuna or trail mix can help stave off hunger pangs, Mr Stewart said.
He also suggested dressing in layers in cold weather, and carrying a jacket in case of rain.
"I advise people not to wear jeans when walking because if they get wet you can get cold and they take a long time to dry," Mr Stewart said.
"I prefer to wear shorts myself when I walk."
Before setting off, make sure the walk matches your fitness level and don't head off-road if you have no idea where you're going, he said.
"Some of the walks in the national park can be a bit tricky and it might be best to go with someone who has done it before," Mr Stewart said.
Importantly, take in the scenery and remember to enjoy yourself.
"For me walking is a good way to socialise and meet people," he said.
"You're getting the exercise plus you get to walk through the great Australian bush; it really is beautiful.
"We are really blessed with this beautiful bush."
TEN OF THE BEST
1) Otford to Burning Palms
2) Kelly’s Falls, Stanwell Tops
3) Forest Walk to Sublime Point track
4) Austinmer to Sublime Point
5) Mount Ousley to Brokers Nose
6) Mount Keira Ring Track
7) Mount Kembla Summit Track
8) Hoddles Track, Saddleback Mountain
9) Kiama to Gerringong coast walk
10) Cooks Nose, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve
Sources: environment.nsw.gov.au, illawarraramblers.com.au