Wollongong Event Planners Guide

Famous Faces

We tracked down some notable locals to get their perspective on why life is so sweet here in The Gong.

Nikki Gemmell-famous writer

Nikki GemmellNikki Gemmell has enjoyed critical acclaim worldwide. Her novels include Shiver, Cleave, Lovesong, The Bride Stripped Bare, its sequel, With My Body and the conclusion I Take You, Alice Springs and The Book of Rapture. Her non-fiction work includes Pleasure: an Almanac for the Heart, Why You Are Australian and a collection of columns from THE AUSTRALIAN weekend magazine: Honestly. 

Nikki’s work has been widely translated. The French literary review “Lire” included her in a list of the fifty most important writers in the world - those it believes will have significant influence on 21st century literature. Born in Wollongong, she lived in London for many years but has now returned to Australia with her family.

Favourite thing about Wollongong?
It’s dramatic beauty. There’s nowhere like it on earth. 
That glorious escarpment rushing down to the roaring ocean. 
I always feel refreshed, cleansed, after a trip to ‘the Gong’.

Where would you go for a coffee?
Diggies. I went there recently and adored it.

What is a must do when you are in town?
The Science Centre and Planetarium, the Art Gallery, the beaches, the gorgeously addictive shops around Thirroul, and a visit to my old mate from Primary School, Jennine.

Which is your favourite beach?
Austinmer. My dad used to be a lifesaver there!

If you could take a day trip from Wollongong where would you go?
The kids never let me go past Jamberoo Action Park. They’re completely addicted. They’d live in the place if they could. I park myself on a sun lounger while they run off in different directions.

Where did you grow up?
On the foothills of Mt Keira, at Keiraville. I loved my childhood. The bush was my backyard, and then on weekends we’d go to the harbour for fish and 
chips and the beach of course.

Read more about Nikki

Sally Fitzgibbons-champion surfer

Sally FitzgibbonsSally started surfing when she was six years old, but this wasn't the only sport she excelled in. She represented NSW and Australia in athletics, touch football, soccer, and cross-country.

In 2011, Sally won her first ASP World Tour event - the 50th Anniversary Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. The following year, she won the inaugural Australian Open and became the first person to hold the US and Australian Open titles simultaneously. March 2012 saw Sally take out the Rip Curl Pro event again and finish World Runner-up for a third consecutive year. Sally is still chasing her dreams of becoming the World Champion...stay tuned!

Favourite thing about Wollongong?
I love coming home from a long trip overseas and driving down Mt Ousley to look out over all of Wollongong, so beautiful. I love how the mountains meet the ocean and we have such
amazing beaches in the Illawarra.

Where would you go for a coffee?

One of my favourite places to go for a juice or coffee with friends is Diggies, right on the beach at North Gong.

How did Wollongong help shape your success?

I’ve had such amazing support from Wollongong and the Illawarra. Growing up it provided so many sporting opportunities with different contests and events. It definitely gave me the spring board I needed to jump onto the international stage and chase my dream of being World Champion.

What is the best route around town?
The best route would be along the beach from North Gong, along the harbour, then around the Lighthouse and down around the Park by WIN Stadium.

What’s your favourite weekend activity in the Gong?
I love going to the footy to cheer on the mighty Illawarra Dragons at WIN Stadium. So much fun going with family and friends and cheering them home for big wins.

What’s the best part of living on the coast?
Being able to live and breathe the ocean. I can surf somewhere different every day; it is fantastic having such a variety of breaks to choose from.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Gerroa, an awesome little coastal town. I attended Gerringong Primary School and Kiama High School.

What sets Wollongong apart from other regional cities in Australia?
The Gong is truly special because it has beautiful beaches, great restaurants, shopping and there are always fun events and shows on. For me personally it is an amazing landscape for training, with pathways for running and riding, it also has facilities for fitness and swimming.
The Gong has the lot!

Read more about Sally

Richard Tognetti-violinist extraordinaire

Richard TognettiRenowned violinist, conductor and composer Richard Tognetti has established an international reputation for compelling performances and artistic individualism.

He studied at the Sydney Conservatorium with Alice Waten, in his home town of Wollongong with William Primrose, and at the Berne Conservatory in Switzerland, where he was the top graduate soloist in 1989. Later that year he was appointed Leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and subsequently became Artistic Director.

What is Wollongong’s best kept secret?
Wollongong Town Hall, where I first trod the boards, playing the violin when I was about five years old. It’s a great performance space with wonderful acoustics. There were plans to demolish it but fortunately it was saved after a passionate public campaign. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Which is your favourite beach?
For me it’s all about the surf, and the beaches of North Wollongong are among the most beautiful in Australia. This is where the escarpment meets the coast, and the landscape is quite dramatic.

If you were taking a day trip, 
where would you go? What would you do?
Minnamurra Falls, in the Budderoo National Park about an hour south-west of Wollongong, is one of the great little spots on earth. There is a nearby river and a beach, which you get to by rowing across. This offers much-needed respite after a heavy touring schedule.

Read more about Richard