There are numerous fabulous beaches in and around the Illawarra-Shoalhaven. All offer a great day out for young and old alike and you don't even have to get in the water to enjoy yourself.
While it is always recommended to visit only patrolled beaches when lifeguards and lifesavers are on duty if you are planning to swim, and stay between the flags, the good news is there are plenty of other things to do without getting wet.
So whether you are looking for something to do this weekend or you are in town for the 2022 UCI Road World Championships, why not visit one of the seven beaches on our list.
Read more: What to do in the Illawarra
Known as Mystics Beach, Mystics or Minnos beach to locals, Minnamurra beach is located near Shell Cove.
The beach stretches from the rocky headland towards the volcanic outcrop known as Stack Island (Rangoon Island) the estuary of Minnamurra River.
Just a 30-minute drive from Wollongong, it is popular with day trippers and families thanks to the scenery and great surfing. In fact, the beach is part of the National Surfing Reserve at Killalea State Park.
The beach was also included in Tourism Australia's Top 20 Beaches for 2020.
Tourism Australia ambassador Brad Farmer described the beach and the tranquil waters of the Minnamurra River as an inviting sanctuary.
"From the rivermouth to the backwaters, Minnamurra lives up to its Indigenous name 'plenty of fish' and 'Minnos' is a coastal site of immense natural beauty," he said.
Why not pack a picnic and stay for the day?
Some of the best beaches are off the beaten track. Among them is Garie Beach, just north of the Illawarra in the Royal National Park.
The beach is patrolled during the summer months by its own surf lifesaving club, and it is a wonderful place to visit all year round.
The beach is great for swimming, whale watching, fishing, surfing and walking. It also offers an opportunity for bird watching, and you may spot an albatross, sea eagle, or rare peregrine falcon as they cruise on the updraft from coastal breezes.
Pack a picnic lunch and make the day of it. While you are there you can also explore the rainforest gullies near the beach and check out the view from Governor Game lookout before heading home.
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North Wollongong beach
One of the most central and best beaches in the area for families is North Wollongong beach.
The only beach in Wollongong to offer surf patrols all year round, it is the safest option for those wanting a stress-free day at the beach.
As well as a beautiful stretch of sand and good surfing conditions, the beach offers rock pools and wading areas perfect for little ones.
There is also plenty of grass, shade and picnic booths in nearby Stuart Park, which has a great adventure playground.
It is conveniently located alongside a shared cycleway for those wanting to walk or ride to the beach, and there is also free parking.
Pack a picnic or bring along some food to cook on the barbecues provided. There are also plenty of shops, cafes and amenities close by.
Each year, the beach hosts the NSW leg of the Beach Netball Festival and a round of the Nutri-Grain IronMan and IronWomen Ocean Six Series, as well as a New Year's Eve fireworks display.
Stanwell Park beach
Stanwell Park beach is Wollongong's most northern patrolled beach.
It is located in a beautiful spot under the escarpment off Grand Pacific Drive beside a lagoon.
There is also a large reserve nearby with its own playground and amenities such as barbecue facilities, making it a great place to spend the day or have a picnic.
From the beach, you can watch the hang gliders as they sail off the nearby cliff at Bald Hill, Stanwell Park.
The beach is patrolled in summer along by Helensburgh-Stanwell Park Surf Life Saving.
At the eastern end of Bass Point Reserve in Shellharbour you will find Bushrangers Bay and Aquatic Reserve.
This small sheltered area includes an inner and outer bay which makes up the three hectare aquatic reserve.
Underwater you will find six-metre high cliffs that resemble an amphitheatre, and provide hundreds of small crevices housing sea urchins, crabs, anemones and sponges.
There are also intertidal rock pools, filled with marine life, while seagrass beds and reefs provide a nursery for various fish species and a home for some types of tropical fish.
The area is great for snorkelling and scuba diving, or you can simply sit back and relax on the shore and take it all in.
Seven Mile beach
Located between Kiama and Nowra is Seven Mile beach. It is part of the Seven Mile Beach National Park which extends from Shoalhaven Heads to Gerroa.
The small coastal park offers a great day out for the whole family thanks to activities including fishing, swimming, picnicking and walking.
There are picnic areas at either end of the beach, as well as two sand tracks, heading north and south.
The south track starts from the southern end of the Beach Road picnic area, and takes you through an ancient and untouched forest of majestic blackbutt trees, rare bangalay sand forest and littoral rainforest before you emerge in the middle of Seven Mile Beach, halfway between Gerroa and Shoalhaven Heads.
The north track also starts at the Beach Road picnic area and meanders north through dune blackbutt, bangalay forests and a littoral rainforest where you can spot birds including thornbills, wrens, honeyeaters and the brown cuckoo dove.
Pack a picnic to enjoy on the beach or at the picnic areas at either end.
Located around 30 minutes drive south of Nowra is one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia and perhaps the world.
Hyams beach in the Shoalhaven region of the NSW South Coast is an idyllic beach which is known for its white sand and crystal clear waters.
Located on the southern edge of Jervis Bay Marine Park, the beach features calm turquoise waters, making it perfect for swimming, snorkelling, fishing and stand-up paddle boarding.
If you want to stay dry, take a stroll along the beach and feel the soft, squeaky sand underfoot or just stretch out and relax and listen to the gentle waves roll in.
While you are there, keep an eye out for bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and little penguins, or even a humpback or southern right whale during their annual migration along the coast.