You could say that it all started for me in Kiama. Quite literally, because I was born there, back when all the babies in the area were delivered in the Birrahlee Maternity Ward in Kiama Hospital.
We didn't live in Kiama, and back then the drive seemed an eternity. It's only a 20-minute drive now from where I grew up but without the new road infrastructure it would have been quite a bit more, and for a woman in labour, it must have seemed like a long way.
During my childhood, Sunday afternoons were occasionally spent driving to Kiama and visiting the famous blowhole and spending time in Hindmarsh Park, eating hot chips and playing on the Rocket Slide (now gone, unfortunately).
As the years have gone by and as I come and go in the Illawarra and South Coast area, Kiama was still a favourite place to visit on the weekend. I even used to have a regular stall at the Kiama Markets and used to take my kids to the then Great Australian Ice Creamery for hot dogs and ice creams. Very healthy indeed!
I have to say in the last few years I have neglected Kiama somewhat and have only recently begun to visit again. But with that lapse of time also comes changes which mean I can revisit Kiama and discover all the new things it has to offer as well as relive childhood memories visiting all the old haunts.
I have even found a few new favourite restaurants through friends and attend a weekly watercolour class run by artist Kathy Karas at The Kiama Art Society in The Coach House.
It has been lovely becoming reacquainted with Kiama.
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Artist, Hela Donela
A few weeks ago I attended an Art Exhibition Opening Night for artist Hela Donela.
I had never met Hela, but she is a member of a Facebook Group I run with Kathy Karas, The Travelling Artists and thought it would be lovely to meet her in person and of course to take a look at her work.
The opening was held at the Little Blowhole Art Bar, and it was a great evening. The café owners hosted a lovely event, there was a good turnout of people, but the hero of the night was, of course, Hela’s artwork.
I was blown away by the beauty of her work. What makes Hela’s work even more unique is that a poem accompanies each piece, either one Hela has written herself or one that she found.
Hela’s paintings have stories, and her methods of painting are unusual (abrasive and industrial in nature perhaps), and it is quite surprising the use of metals in her work given that her paintings have such a soft and gentle appeal.
If you get a chance to see Hela's work make time to speak to Hela herself and hear the stories behind her beautiful creations. Her exhibition will be running at the Little Blowhole Art Bar until 8 July.
You can also visit Hela's website and subscribe to her newsletter where you can find out more about her art and keep updated on upcoming exhibitions - heladonela.com
Or find Hela here on Facebook
The Little Blowhole Art Bar
Needless to say, I was so taken by the Little Blowhole Art Bar and Hela’s work that I took my partner back to visit on the weekend after the opening so that he too could enjoy the atmosphere and so that we could sample the food.
But silly us didn’t book. And we forgot it was a long weekend. Working for ourselves we tend to forget these sorts of details. So being the great spot it is, it was fully booked. BUT we could get a seat outside if we liked.
Being an overcast day, and a little chilly it wasn’t ideal, but I wanted to try the food, so we agreed. And to our delight, we found a pile of cosy blankets we could use to wrap around ourselves and feel warm. The only other time I had used a blanket at a café or restaurant was in Venice when we were seated right next to the canal, and there was a fresh breeze blowing. So the bonus was that it brought back fond memories. It's a nice touch and very much appreciated.
We ordered, we ate, we drank, and we thoroughly enjoyed it all. Looking at the tapas menu offering a good range of dishes, we decided on the Almond Crusted Pork Ribs, Beef, Orange & Garlic Skewers and the Smokey Paprika Potatoes with Aioli to share followed by the best gelato ever from The Pines.
The Pork Ribs were our favourite, and the Sour Cherry Gelato was the bomb. Oh and don’t forget the cakes we had with it that were delicious too, but I have to say they were overshadowed by that awesome gelato. And I’m not usually a fan of gelato, but I would eat that by the bucket load. Sadly no photo, it didn't last long enough!
The Little Blowhole Art Bar is out of the main area of Kiama but well worth the drive to find it.
Located at 4 Tingira Crescent, Kiama you can find out more at here
or find them here on Facebook
The Little Blowhole Art Bar gets busy on weekends so be sure to make a booking to avoid disappointment.
The Little Blowhole
And of course, just down the road from the Little Blowhole Art Bar is the Little Blowhole. Surprise!
With just a little patience, but not a lot needed, stand on the viewing platform and wait for the Little Blowhole to put on its show.
The spray can reach a good height, and it is pretty much guaranteed there will be a show worth watching here, a better chance than at its famous big brother.
It is worth the drive out of the Kiama town centre to see it, and a must see after visiting (or before) the Little Blowhole Art Bar.
The Blowhole is Kiama’s major tourist attraction and located next to the Lighthouse. It is the one I most remember as a child when it would really “blow”, and we would all get drenched.
It has been a long time since I have seen it do that, and most times in recent years it has not been very obliging in putting on a grand show.
But the blowhole can shoot water up to 25 metres into the air given the right conditions so if you are visiting Kiama you cannot miss this. You never know you may be lucky to see a spectacular sight.
Drive around or better yet walk around Kiama Harbour, Storm Bay and the foreshore. Kiama is beautiful and is better seen on foot. Take in the stunning views. It’s even lovely on an overcast day like the one we had.
Kiama has some beautifully preserved heritage buildings that you can easily see by driving or walking around Kiama.
Most visitors to Kiama spend time browsing in the stores in the Terrace Houses. Built in 1886 for quarry workers, these houses are now home to homewares, craft, collectable and clothing stores as well as a few popular cafes.
It’s always a nice way to spend an hour or so when visiting Kiama.
If you love art, and even if you don’t, it’s worth a stop at the old Kiama Fire Station in the main Street (you can’t miss it) where there is usually and art exhibition or display.
Just look for the big cow!
Plenty of Reasons to Visit
So if you are visiting the South Coast of New South Wales, make Kiama a stop on your itinerary. It is a beautiful coastal town worth seeing. I promise you will love it like I do.
Cindy Reid is the founder of Travel Charm. Cindy has travelled extensively both personally and with her groups. She has now combined her love of art, food and travel and hosts Painting Trips to Europe and continues to explore and roam in Australia.