including Otford and Darkes Forest
Originally known as Camp Creek, Helensburgh - which overlooks the Royal National Park – was built in the late 1880s when workers on the Illawarra Railway line discovered coal. Such is the depth and breadth of the Bulli seam at Helensburgh that Excel Coal continues to produce around 1.4 million saleable tonnes of coal each year through its Metropolitan Mine.
Helensburgh continues to service mining families, but has also grown to service families living in the coastal villages of Stanwell Park and Coalcliff.
Cold beers are always available at the Centennial Hotel, which has accommodation, a bistro and entertainment on the weekends,
The Helensburgh Workmen’s Club also has its own restaurant and hosts bands on the weekends.
The bush zoo
Less than 100 metres from the roundabout at Helensburgh is a sign pointing to one of the Northern Illawarra’s most unusual features - a zoo in the middle of the bush.
The Symbio Wildlife Park is a major draw-card for local and international tourists keen to get close to native animals such as wombats, kangaroos and koalas. Local families (especially those with young children) also enjoy getting close to farmyard animals, such as goats, pigs, sheep and cattle. Symbio has more than 1000 animals all up.
The Radnidge family, who lived around the corner from Symbio for several years, purchased the park a few years ago and immediately set about improving the 4.5ha property.
They invested more than $300,000 in a new crocodile enclosure designed to enable the safest and closest possible view of five freshwater crocodiles.
In 2005, Symbio won the Australasian Society of Zoo Keeping (ASZK) award for Exhibit Excellence - a real honour, as the ASZK is dedicated to promoting the exchange of information on all aspects of wild animal husbandry, and the conservation of rare and endangered species. John Radnidge says that, while he wants to continue protecting endangered species, he doesn’t want to keep them at arm’s length. Indeed, one of the unique things about Symbio is that it allows visitors to get close to the animals, not only through regular demonstrations, but by being able to cuddle and hand feed many of the animals.
Symbio has its own café, souvenir shop, free swimming pool and gas barbecues.
The zoo is open from 9.30am to 5.00pm daily (except Christmas Day).
Sri Venkateswara Temple
MANY VISITORS to the Northern Illawarra do a double-take at the sight of a genuine Hindu temple in the middle of the bush.
There are good reasons why devotees of Lord Venkateswara decided to start building a temple on the site in 1978. According to Vedic principles (Agama Sastras) the Helenburgh site met all the five criteria to make it divine.
- The land must be virgin land
- The land must be an island
- There must be a forest surrounding the land
- There must be a water source nearby
- There must be an ocean nearby
The temple has four “praharam” or encircling corridors, and is now a House of Light offering spiritual guidance and solace to a community of Australian Hindus.
The temple - while spectacularly beautiful and open to the public - is a genuine place of worship, so discretion is required.