20 great hidden parks and coastal trails in the Illawarra 24 Sep 2016, 2:45 p.m. Magnificent coastline trails and hidden parks to explore in the Illawarra. 20 great hidden parks and coastal trails in the Illawarra BOMBO: Explore the headland and the dramatic desert-like landscape of the old Bombo quarry, which is considered to be one of the most important geological sites in NSW.BERKELEY: Hooka Creek is an idyllic location in Hooka Park beside Lake Illawarra which underwent a transformation in 2001 with a community-driven project called Bright Lives. The idea was to develop the area as a special place that incorporates indigenous and non-indigenous concepts of healing and well being. The creek, bridge and pontoon with its decorative carvings are in one distinct area, but connected by paths to the circular walking track closer to the lake. One of the favourite stop-offs on the track is a two-story caged bird-watching tower that looks out over the water to Kanahooka.SHELLHARBOUR: Blackbutt Forest, in the heart of Shellharbour, is the last remaining viable remnant of coastal plain forest in the Illawarra region, covering 250 acres. There are three points of access to the reserve: Shellharbour Road, Shellharbour Blackbutt Way, Barrack Heights Wattle Road, Flinders. The forest contains a diversity of vegetation and wildlife, picnic and barbecue facilities, playgrounds, and an open air amphitheatre depicting various Australian wildlife and fauna. BULLI: Bring your cameras to capture the stunning coastal views as you walk along the top of Brickyard Point to Coledale Beach. MANGERTON: The five-hectare reserve is a mix of subtropical rainforest and turpentine woodland slopes and is positioned smack in the middle of Mangerton, surrounded by homes. "I don't think a lot of people around here even know it exists but it's a terrific place with so much diversity in terms of fauna and flora," horticulturalist Ron Miller said. PORT KEMBLA: If you want an insight into what lies at the heart of the Illawarra, the Port Kembla Heritage Park walk is essential. Although most of us associate Port with heavy industry - and there's plenty of that on the walk - we forget its strange beauty. Start from the Port Kembla Heritage Park near the end of Darcy RoadWOMBARRA: Walk past the ocean pool and Scarborough Surf Club, up the hill through the bush and down to the rock platform north of the beach. More: www.landcareillawarra.org.auAUSTINMER: "I love what it's become, with its top tier for kids to play their ball games and the lower tier for picnics and weddings," resident Robert Woodhill said in 2012 of Glastonbury Gardens. "It's not so well known to people from outside Austi because it's a little hidden from the main road [Lawrence Hargrave Drive]." Mr Woodhill says the terraced stone walls on the lower tier are a focal point, built by a Wollongong City Council gardener who was employed full-time to look after the park up to the 1980s.WINDANG: There are several entry points to off-leash Perkins Beach, but the Murrie Street entrance will take you through a forest-like area dotted with melaleuca trees. Birdlife includes currawong, kookaburras and black cockatoos and there are plenty of lizards to be seen when the weather warms up. Walkers hit the beach after a few hundred metres and can then exit on a different path. Warning: Perkins Beach is not patrolled.JAMBEROO: Lush growth at sleeping beauty Jerrara Dam creates filtered light and a sense of serenity. The earthworks dam has not been used to supply water to Kiama since Sydney Water took over that role in 1975, and it has since been maintained by Kiama Council as a dam on hold, surrounded by lush rural countryside with pockets set aside for picnic areas. BELLAMBI: This easy, level walk is essentially a circuit of Bellambi Lagoon, starting out at the Towradgi ocean pool (end of Towradgi Rd) and following the coast - Corrimal Beach, Bellambi Point, Bellambi Harbour and the first part of Bellambi Beach. You then turn and join the bike track, skirting the bush of the Bellambi Recreation Area, the lagoon, the caravan park and then back to Towradgi Point. On the way, you pass two of the region's finest ocean pools at Towradgi and Bellambi.PRIMBEE: Who would have thought Wollongong Botanic Garden had a birdwatching paradise annexe at Primbee, just metres from a busy road? Established in the early '80s, Korrongulla Wetland is a series of inter-connecting lagoons and wetlands that eventually drain into Lake Illawarra. Accessed from Nicolle Road, off Windang Road, the circuit around the waterway takes about 20 minutes and takes in a changing environment.FAIRY MEADOW: Enter Puckey's Nature Reserve at Fairy Meadow Beach and emerge at the lagoon in North Wollongong.BASS POINT: Bush Rangers Bay is an internationally renowned dive site. Take a walk and discover the reasons this marine park is so special. Photo: Visit NSWALBION PARK RAIL: Macquarie Shores Arboretum sounds a tad formal, but to the locals it has always been a fun place to go to fish and swim. It features nearly a kilometre of tree-lined path from the end of Shearwater Drive in the Macquarie Shores Estate and stretches down to a point that passes underneath the highway, crossing the Shellharbour and Wollongong boundary. Photo: panoramio.comMOUNT KEMBLA: For more than a century the Mount Kembla community has kept alive the memory of the 96 men and boys from the village who died in a thunderous explosion at the Mount Kembla mine in 1902. It happened on July 31 when the naked lamp flame ignited built-up methane gas, killing the miners and 20 horses. The village fire brigade sounds its bell at 2pm on the anniversary every year as a gesture of respect, but a more tangible tribute these days is the Mount Kembla Mine Memorial Pathway, a community initiative, which starts at Cordeaux Road. CONISTON: Discover the amazing transformation of the Old Builders Tip into Wollongong Greenhouse Park - from dirty dump to a wildlife haven linking the Coniston Woodlands and the escarpment foothills. Photo: ingress-intel.comTHIRROUL: Take your dogs for a walk along the sand and rock platform between McCauleys Beach and Sandon Point. WOLLONGONG: The rainforest walk in Wollongong Botanic Garden leads up to the historic Gleniffer Brae manor. Photo: DPBphotographyMINNAMURRA: The beautiful rainforest walk along raised timber walkways caters for all ages and levels of physical ability and is a fun day out for the entire family. The well-known tourist attraction has picnic tables, benches, barbecues, amenities and a small kiosk.MOUNT KEIRA: 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.TweetFacebook of ╳exitFLICK THROUGH THE GALLERY ABOVE for magnificent coastline walks and hidden parks to explore in the Illawarra.