ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Travel and Places»
  • Visiting Australia & Oceania

Road Trip at Dawn to Kiama and The Nan Tien Buddhist Temple, Wollongong on the 2014 Southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice

Updated on December 24, 2014
Kiama Blowhole in the Southern Hemisphere Autumn
Kiama Blowhole in the Southern Hemisphere Autumn | Source

Kiama, New South Wales, Australia

Located roughly 120 km (75 miles) south of Sydney on the south coast (Illawarra region) of New South Wales in Australia, Kiama is one of the most famous holiday destinations in the state apart from Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley, predominantly due to one unique geographical feature - the 'Kiama Blowhole', a blowhole which was first discovered by explorer and sailor George Bass in December, 1797. The blowhole has attracted numerous visitors to the town over the years and has essentially become the landmark (along with the light-house) for Kiama and thanks to intense tourist activity, has made it one of the most expensive real-estate markets in New South Wales.

You can easily commute to Kiama by either train or road - the Sydney Urban Train Network runs regular services between Sydney-Central and Nowra on its Intercity Trains and all services travelling either direction stop at Kiama. If you're driving, you need to travel down the Princess Motorway (M1) south of Heathcote and Waterfall and proceed past Wollongong - the journey in moderate traffic taking at least 1 hour 30 mins (due to possible lengthy delays lack of freeways within southern suburban Sydney).

Both the road and rail journeys are spectacular in terms of their visual appeal (especially around Wollongong where if you're driving south, you'll hurtle down 300 meters in altitude at at least 100 KPH with breath-taking views of the city).

More information about Kiama can be found at: http://www.kiama.com.au



Five insane tourists jump down Kiama's blowhole

My Road Trip to Kiama on The Winter Solstice

Earlier this morning, I decided to drive down from Sydney to Kiama at roughly 5:00 AM to catch the beautiful sunrise next to the Kiama Blowhole 2 hours later on the Southern Hemisphere's winter solstice (which occurs each year between June 20 and June 22 with slight variations each years).

After picking up my travel companion from her place, we drove off into the darkness at 5:00 AM sharp and planned we'd make no stops until we reach Kiama's lighthouse.

Given this was a Sunday, the traffic was fairly thin but did get a bit crowded near the junction of the A3 (King Georges Road) and the M5-M5 East Motorway due to the morning rush for Sydney Airport, but once we went further south and crossed into Beverly Hills and Hurstville, the constant flow of green signals and very few cars was a breath of fresh air.

Still being shrouded in darkness as we began approaching the southern most fringes of Sydney's metropolitan region, we reached the Princess Motorway (M1) at Waterfall and began our 110 KPH zip with very few other vehicles in sight - however, given the NSW Police was targeting speeding drivers this weekend, I ensured I didn't exceed the speed limit despite all temptations and drove in a restrained and civilized manner :)

Two hours later, just after the breath-taking coastal drive along the M1 at Bombo, we exited for Kiama just before Kiama Heights and made our way to the light-house (reaching there at roughly 6:35 AM - quite a good run). The sky was dark-blue with a splash of orange towards the North-East however the sun was not scheduled to make its way over the horizon until exactly 7:04 AM.

It was now time for us to just take a walk and wait until the sun was up to mark the shortest day of the year. The view was spoilt a bit by a massive but distant thunderstorm cell however that surprisingly added a hidden touch to the photographs I took.


Kiama Blowhole roughly 20 mins before sunrise on the winter solstice of 2014 (June 22)
Kiama Blowhole roughly 20 mins before sunrise on the winter solstice of 2014 (June 22) | Source
The Kiama Lighthouse (next to the blowhole) at sunrise on June 22 2014 (Southern Hemisphere's Winter Solstice)
The Kiama Lighthouse (next to the blowhole) at sunrise on June 22 2014 (Southern Hemisphere's Winter Solstice) | Source
A Pine Tree near Kiama Blowhole and Lighthouse receiving the first rays of the sun as it finally emerges from the clouds on June 22 2014 (Southern Hemisphere's Winter Solstice)
A Pine Tree near Kiama Blowhole and Lighthouse receiving the first rays of the sun as it finally emerges from the clouds on June 22 2014 (Southern Hemisphere's Winter Solstice) | Source
One Final picture of the sun over the Tasman Sea  on the 2014 Southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice (22/06) before we departed back towards Sydney
One Final picture of the sun over the Tasman Sea on the 2014 Southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice (22/06) before we departed back towards Sydney | Source

The Nan Tien Buddhist Temple

As we drove back up towards Sydney from Kiama after eating a hearty breakfast consiting of coffee and bacon and egg, we decided to stop en-route at the Nan Tien Buddhist Temple, the largest Buddhist Temple located within the Southern Hemisphere.

Situated just south of Wollongong in the suburb of Berkeley (near Shellharbour), the temple boasts some iconic decorations and building structures (including the famous Pagoda which contains a calligraphy and chanting room on its ground floor) and is a must-visit for anyone even remotely spiritual or just curious about buddhism or spirituality.

I admit that despite living in Sydney for over 8 years, I had never visited the temple and just as I was about to cross the exit of the M1 for it, it struck me that perhaps I should go and check it out (A very distinct possibility being this was a signal or test from the allmighty that I should not ignore certain 'signs' from the universe).

As we made our way to the entry, I couldn't believe how beautiful and big the whole temple-precinct was so after parking my car, we made our way into the shrines before walking along to the Pagoda.

The two main shrines contain nothing but spectacular wall-decorations (divided into mini see-through closets containing small statues of Buddha) while showcasing a giant statue of the deity (in the first shrine) while 5 giant statues of Buddha (each showing him meditating with his hands in a different position, signifying the geographical direction and purpose) in the second shrine. Both areas greeting anyone with strong aroma of incense sticks and some reading material on the inner walls giving an explanation of the deity's position and significance etc.

Since photography isn't allowed within the shrine (and Pagoda) as a mark of respect, I was unable to take pictures so I strongly recommend anyone to read the temple's website or if possible visit the place in the flesh.

As we made our way uphill beyond the second shrine and reached the Pagoda, we were even more stunned at how beautiful the structure looks from within and outside - it is within the Pagoda that lies a chanting hall at one end and a Chinese Calligraphy room at the other (with the latter containing information about how to master the art of calligraphy).

Lastly, we walked right to the rear of the temple's complex and to its highest point where they have a structure called the 'Gratitude Bell' - legend has it that ringing this bell acknowledges well wishes and gratitude for your parents and ancestors and brings good luck - considering I could always use a stroke of luck in my life, I rang the bell 3 times and that marked an end to our visit and we our way back down to the car park and departed for Sydney.

The Nan Tien Temple also contains a souvenir shop and allows visitors to offer incense donations for a small fee.

More information about the temple can be found at: http://nantien.org.au:88/en/



The front shrine of the Nan Tien Temple with the Pagoda in the background
The front shrine of the Nan Tien Temple with the Pagoda in the background | Source
The Pagoda at Nan Tien Temple
The Pagoda at Nan Tien Temple | Source
The Gratitude Bell at the highest point of the Nan Tien Temple Complex with the Pagoda in the background of this pic, looking N-NE towards Sydney.
The Gratitude Bell at the highest point of the Nan Tien Temple Complex with the Pagoda in the background of this pic, looking N-NE towards Sydney. | Source

Conclusion

There was certainly no better way I could think of spending the shortest day of the year and this trip certainly ticked all boxes.

I'd highly recommend any visitor to Sydney to take a day out to visit Kiama, Robertson, Nan Tien and the Sea Cliff Bridge and to record cherish the sights,



Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Hackslap profile image
      Author

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks again DDE .. yes these pictures were taken on my phone by me :) .. Follow me on Instagram to see more (#Haztagz)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You have inserted such lovely photos and I love to travel I have a list got to add this one more to my list. Awesome, beautiful and I vote up.

    • Hackslap profile image
      Author

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for your feedback worldswithlove!

    • wordswithlove profile image

      Neetu M 3 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Fantastic article, Hackslap - very temptingly described to someone who loves to travel. Thank you!

    • Hackslap profile image
      Author

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      No problem torri :) ..thanks for the feedback!

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 3 years ago

      road trips are always fun especially those that are not planned. thanks for the hub and the wonderful photos.

    • Hackslap profile image
      Author

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Happy to have introduced you to Nan Tien ..but mate don't say you'll probably never see something ..you still have at least 20 years in your life left buddy ..a lot can be accompolished in 20 yrs (or more :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The temple is spectacular....thank you for taking me to a place I probably will never see.

    • Hackslap profile image
      Author

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for your comment Annart :)

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      What a great trip! Your photos are spectacular and certainly give me inspiration to take a look at these amazing places. Next time I go to Sydney I'll remember to take that detour. Thanks for the info.

      Ann

    • Hackslap profile image
      Author

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for the comment rebelo... drop in anytime! :)

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 3 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Thanks for sharing your Sydney sightseeing adventure. The photographs are beautiful! I thought the blowhole video was amazing. I certainly would love to travel to Sydney, Australia, someday.

    • Hackslap profile image
      Author

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Indeed they are ...thanks for the feedback :)

    • Hackslap profile image
      Author

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for the feedback vkwok

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Those look like some awesome places to visit. Thanks for sharing!

    • Cananwms profile image

      Cananwms 3 years ago

      It is beautiful.

    • Hackslap profile image
      Author

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for the comment Blossom ..yeah I love road trips the moment I get time off work ... I was worried the clouds will ruin the view but they actually added to the beauty of it...

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thank you for such an interesting 'day out.' I love that Kiama blow hole and have stopped for another look or to show it to grandchildren several times over the years. Your photo of sunrise and the storm clouds is especially beautiful.

    • Hackslap profile image
      Author

      Harry 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for the comment daywriter ... the temple's truly magnificent..

    • daywriter profile image

      daywriter 3 years ago from USA

      The shrine, the Pagoda, the Gratitude Bell - beautiful and interesting!