Kiama: Where The Sea Makes A Noise


You can actually hear the blowhole at Kiama, south of Sydney, long before you see it.

The crashing, whooshing and theatrical rhythms of waves – and the spectacular plumes of water shooting high into the air – guide visitors past the iconic white lighthouse towards a rock platform where mother nature often puts on an almighty display.

Here, when there are strong winds and massive ocean swells, plumes of water can shoot up to 25 metres into the air, delighting onlookers who come just for a glimpse of the spectacle.

Located about 90 minutes south of Sydney, Kiama actually means “place where the sea makes noise” in the extinct local Aboriginal language of Tharawal.

It’s a popular coastal holiday spot famed for its beaches, rock pools, fishing – and its sea cave blowhole, which usually attracts around 900,000 people each year.

There are actually two blowholes in Kiama (creatively named the “big blowhole” and the “small blowhole”) each within a few minutes drive of the other. 

The smaller blowhole is tucked away in a residential area about two kilometres out of town near Marsden Head. 

The blowhole was formed inside volcanic rock known as latite, which includes softer basalt. Over time the basalt erodes, creating tunnels and openings in the rock.

The entry to the cave can become completely blocked when water rushes in, forcing compressed air and water to come shooting out.

The impressive display has been known of since the mid-1700s when a whaler moored nearby discovered the spout, noting the deafening boom that accompanied each eruption. 

Arriving at Blowhole Point, you’ll find the restored 1880 Pilot’s Cottage (pictured above).

It’s here that the harbour pilot would tend the gas-fired lighthouse beacon, report weather conditions to Sydney, collect mooring fees and assist ships in distress.

These days the Pilot’s Cottage is a museum run by members of the Kiama & District Historical Society.

It provides an interesting insight into the region’s maritime history, including the once booming cedar industry, the region’s basalt quarries – and the famous blowhole.

While Kiama is steeped in maritime history, it’s also a popular coastal escape for Sydneysiders, with its sandy beaches, restaurants and cafes, markets and various arts and craft shops.

The fish markets on the waterfront also supply some of the freshest local produce to nearby restaurants daily.

Be sure to book a table at Hanoi on Manning, opposite the Post Office, where you’ll enjoy the most delicious Vietnamese cuisine in a casual setting.

We were lucky to secure a table without booking and enjoyed a lunch that included gỏi cuốn (summer rolls), bánh xèo (crispy pancake) and cơm bò xả ớt (beef fillets with lemongrass and chilli jam).

Check out the Hungry Monkey, which has a reputation for some of the best sliders and burgers on the South Coast. You’ll find it on Collins Street at Kiama, and there’s also another location at Berry.

After lunch head 1 km south out of town to Kendalls Beach. You’ll find it nestled in a protected cove between Kendalls Point in the north and Kaleula Head to the south-east. It’s a great spot for an ocean dip, so be sure to pack the beach towel.

Getting There

By car, Kiama is an easy day trip just 1.5 hours from Sydney. Or you can take a scenic coastal train trip that takes just over two hours.

Kiama is on the Grand Pacific Drive touring route. From Sydney, approach Kiama via Sea Cliff Bridge, an experience that’s not unlike driving the coast road in Monaco. It’s also very Instagram-worthy.

Opened in 2005, the 665m stretch of curving, elevated road was designed to solve the problem of regular rockfalls blocking the road between Coalcliff and Clifton.

© 2021 Bernard O’Riordan (Travel Instinct). All Rights Reserved 

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