Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Stephen goes to the South Coast

Its school holiday time and we pack up the kids and head to a caravan at Easts Beach just south of Kiama. This caravan is a family heirloom and one of our favourite holiday's, in this business I get to stay in a few fancy resorts and posh hotels but, a  week in the caravan is something we always look forward to.  But I digress, the South Coast of NSW is a great destination for your next conference or event, there are some first class venues, and a wealth of social, scenic and team building activities on offer.

Kiama and Gerringong are my favourite parts of the coast, but if you need the convenience and  energy of a big city Wollongong will be very satisfying.

7 Mile Beach - Geroa
There are some good restaurants in Kiama but being a fishing port we always get down to Kiama harbour and get some fresh seafood from the market. Delicious. And although we are not fishermen ourselves, a dear neighbour of ours at the caravan park regularly comes to our door with freshly caught flathead, he tells us that there are many great places for throwing in a line from beach, rocks, rivers and estuary's. If you are looking for  a social activity for your conference delegates there are several fishing charter vessels that operate out of Kiama Harbour.

Minnamurra - Budderoo National Park
Or maybe you just want to have some sweet dumb fun, release your inner child. I am happy to report I have spent time laughing like a loon at Jamberoo a water based fun park offering waterslides, swimming pools, mini golf and bob sleds. Another wondeful place to visit is the Minamurra Rainforest Centre in Budderoo National Park, just a  few minutes from Jamberoo and 20 minutes drive from Kiama. Budderoo National Park offers some short rainforest walks and is a great introduction to our amazing rainforests. The Kangaroo Valley, Geroa and 7 Mile Beach, Huskisson are some other destinations in the area that are well worth a visit.
Lawrence Hargrave Drive
Destinations like Wollongong, Kiama & Gerringong are all blessed with picturesque coastal locations and are less than 2 hours drive from Sydney Airport. The venues in these areas are well versed in the logistics of transporting delegates to and from Sydney Airport and can provide great assistance in making these arrangements. If you delegates are making their own way, trains are regular, roads are good and parking is inexpensive. And if your delegates are driving to the area, I suggest a detour along the majestic and much photographed Lawrence Hargrave Drive. If you have the time, the coastal road into Wollongong is well worth the drive.

Wollongong is the largest city in the area, 3rd largest city in NSW, and has a rich history and a lively culture to accompany its beaches and businesses. Novotel Northbeach Wollongong and The Chifley Wollongong are the 2 major conference venues in Wollongong and both enjoy great beachside locations. Wollongong is just on 1 hour south of Sydney.

Novotel Northbeach Wollongong

Illawarra Deck - Novotel Northbeach
Novotel Northbeach Wollongong is the largest of the venues boasting a ballroom that can seat 600 delegates along with a selection of additional rooms that can host smaller meetings, breakout groups and workshops. The huge amount of conference space here also makes Novotel Wollongong a popular choice for Exhibitions, Trade Displays and Expo's. This venue can also offer 'drive in' conference space making it a popular choice for car and truck companies. Novotel Northbeach Wollongong has also recently opened the Illawarra Deck, an area that is well suited cocktail functions, team building activities or informal dinners. Novotel Northbeach can also offer an on-site nightclub venue that can be used exclusively for your group if you want to kick on until the early hours. The restaurant at this venue enjoys a great reputation among locals and offers views and plenty of natural light. Accommodation at Novotel Northbeach is spacious and comfortable, suitable for both Holiday makers and business travellers. 

The Chifley Wollongong is the newer of the venues and just a few minutes walk from Wollongong City Centre with its shopping, dining and corporate offices. This venue is also right on the beach and sits next door to the Wollongong Entertainment Centre and WIN Stadium. The Chifley Wollongong has an inviting coastal contemporary feel, the accommodation is well equipped and comfortable offering good sized work desks with accessible powerpoints, internet access and foxtel business, movie and sport channels. The conference rooms are versatile with all but one room conveniently situated on the same floor. The ballroom can seat up to 450 delegates and each of the conference rooms can be easily divided into smaller spaces suitable for breakouts and work shops.

Just over 30 minutes south of Wollongong, or 90 minutes south of Sydney we find Kiama and The Sebel Harbourside Kiama, this is a unique conference venue partially housed in the, heritage listed, original Kiama School House. The Assembly Hall in this late 1800's building features high ceilings, plenty of natural light and can seat up to 90 people. The accommodation is of a high standard with many rooms offering balcony's and the hotel can offer some apartment accommodation with views of the Harbour. This is a venue that is well suited to smaller boutique events. We have booked several conferences into this venue and always received positive feedback

The School Room - The Sebel Harbourside Kiama
Superior Balcony Room - The Sebel Harbourside Kiama
Another 10 minutes down the road and we come to Gerringong, still within the ever popular 2 hour drive from Sydney. The Mercure Resort Gerringong, this is another elegant boutique conference venue that is ideal for a small conference or executive retreat. The Resort features 2 pools (one of them just for Adults ) a conference room with natural light that can seat up to 200 people, but just 50 accommodation rooms which is why I say it is well suited to smaller conferences. The secret treat at this Conference Resort is the Restaurant which is run by the former chef at Cafe Sydney, a man who wanted a change of pace, relocated to the idyllic coastal village of Gerringong and picked up a job at Mercure. The food here is very good! The accommodation is spacious and offers facilities that business travellers will appreciate. There are also interconnecting rooms with kitchenettes that will be good if your delegates are travelling with their families.

Pool - Mercure Gerringong
Meeting Room - Mercure Gerringong

In conclusion, the South Coast of NSW offers meeting planners a great selection of destinations and venues along with ample opportunity for team building and social activities. These venues are far enough from the big smoke to get some separation from the office, but close enough for access and transfers to be relatively easy, these locations are well within the oft requested 2 hour drive from Sydney CBD. Conference organisers may even find that the lower prices in the regional destinations compensate for the extra costs associated with transfers. These are some venues that are ideal for residential conferences and executive retreats. So use my experience and contact us for more information and quotes. 


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