Stanwell Tops, New South Wales

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Stanwell Tops
Wollongong,  New South Wales
Population 495 (2016 census) [1]
Postcode(s) 2508
Elevation 275 m (902 ft)
LGA(s) City of Wollongong
State electorate(s) Heathcote
Federal Division(s) Cunningham

Stanwell Tops is an exurban locality between the cities of Sydney and Wollongong on the New South Wales, Australia coastline. It lies northwest of Stanwell Park and southwest of Otford.

Sydney City in New South Wales, Australia

Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and extends about 70 km (43.5 mi) on its periphery towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north, the Royal National Park to the south and Macarthur to the south-west. Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas and 15 contiguous regions. Residents of the city are known as "Sydneysiders". As of June 2017, Sydney's estimated metropolitan population was 2,436,019 and is home to approximately 65% of the state's population.

Wollongong City in New South Wales, Australia

Wollongong, informally referred to as "The Gong", is a seaside city located in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia. Wollongong lies on the narrow coastal strip between the Illawarra Escarpment and the Pacific Ocean, 68 kilometres (51 miles) south of centre of Sydney. Wollongong had an estimated urban population of 299,203 at June 2017, making it the third-largest city in New South Wales after Sydney and Newcastle, and the tenth-largest city in Australia. The city's current mayor is Gordon Bradbery who was elected in 2018.

New South Wales State of Australia

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In March 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 7.9 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.



With a population of fewer than 500 residents [1] Stanwell Tops is almost entirely residential. In 1996 Australian Bureau of Statistics data reported Stanwell Tops as having the fourth-highest proportion of males in the state at 59.4%, [2] however by 2011 Stanwell Tops had lost its outlier status with that percentage figure dropping to 51.8%. [3] The population of Stanwell Tops decreased from 545 to 471 between 1996 and 2011, indicating a loss of 13.6% of its residents. [3] [2]

Australian Bureau of Statistics Australias principal government institution in charge of statistics and census data

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is the independent statistical agency of the Government of Australia. The ABS provides key statistics on a wide range of economic, population, environmental and social issues, to assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussion within governments and the community.


In statistics, an outlier is an observation point that is distant from other observations. An outlier may be due to variability in the measurement or it may indicate experimental error; the latter are sometimes excluded from the data set. An outlier can cause serious problems in statistical analyses.


There are no retail stores or industrial facilities in Stanwell Tops. Groceries, liquor, public hotels and some restaurants can be found in the surrounding towns and villages less than 10 minutes drive away. The majority of residents work either in the Greater Sydney area or in the Wollongong metropolitan area, and the proportion of households whose income is above A$3000 per week is more than double the Australian national average. [3]

Businesses that operate in Stanwell Tops are the 'Tumbling Waters Retreat', [4] 'The Tops Conference Centre' [5] (formerly known as the Christian Conference Centre, [6] a wholly owned subsidiary of Churches of Christ Community Care), [6] [7] 'Stanwell Tops Technical Services' and several hobby farms – some with farmstay options. At least one hang gliding businesses operates from Bald Hill, which is technically a part of Stanwell Tops.

A farm stay is any type of accommodation on a working farm. Some farm stays may be interactive. Some are family-focused, offering children opportunities to feed animals, collect eggs and learn how a farm functions. Others don't allow children and instead offer a peaceful retreat for adults. For the accommodations, guests normally pay rates similar to area bed & breakfasts or vacation rentals, although pricing varies considerably. The term "farm stay" can also describe a work exchange agreement, where the guest works a set number of hours per week in exchange for free or affordable accommodation.

Hang gliding air sport or recreational activity

Hang gliding is an air sport or recreational activity in which a pilot flies a light, non-motorised foot-launched heavier-than-air aircraft called a hang glider. Most modern hang gliders are made of an aluminium alloy or composite frame covered with synthetic sailcloth to form a wing. Typically the pilot is in a harness suspended from the airframe, and controls the aircraft by shifting body weight in opposition to a control frame.

Bald Hill (Australia) hill on the Illawarra Range, in the state of New South Wales, Australia

Bald Hill is a hill on the Illawarra Range, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. With an elevation of approximately 300 metres (980 ft) AMSL, Bald Hill is one of the best known and most popular lookouts in the Illawarra region providing panoramic vistas across the Illawarra escarpment and over the Illawarra plain and the Tasman Sea of the South Pacific Ocean.


Stanwell Tops rests on the Illawarra escarpment, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the neighbouring village of Stanwell Park. It is bounded on all sides by state-forest reserves and other forested crown lands, which are contiguous with the Royal National Park and the Garawarra State Conservation Area.

Illawarra escarpment

The Illawarra escarpment, or officially the Illawarra Range, is the fold-created cliffs and plateau-eroded outcrop mountain range west of the Illawarra coastal plain south of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. The range encloses the Illawarra region which stretches from Stanwell Park in the north to Kiama, Gerringong and the Shoalhaven River in the south.

Stanwell Park, New South Wales Suburb of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

Stanwell Park is a picturesque coastal village and northern suburb of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. It is the northernmost point of the Illawarra coastal strip and lies south of Sydney's Royal National Park. It is situated in a small valley between Bald Hill to the north, Stanwell Tops to the west and Mount Mitchell to the south. It has two lagoons from the village's two creeks, Stanwell and Hargrave Creeks and a beach running between headlands. Like other towns in the region the village is known colloquially known as TFOE, this is an acronym for the postcode (2508).

Royal National Park Protected area in New South Wales, Australia

The Royal National Park is a protected national park that is located in Sutherland Shire in the Australian state of New South Wales, just south of Sydney. The 151-square-kilometre (58 sq mi) national park is about 29 kilometres (18 mi) south of the Sydney central business district near the localities of Loftus, Otford, and Waterfall.


Stanwell Tops has its origins as a private parcel of land owned by property developer Henry Ferdinand Halloran. Since the 1930s, the area had been host to health retreats, recreational facilities, and popular bushwalking tracks. [8]

The Stanwell Tops Pleasure Park complex operated during the 1930s and 1940s and evolved into a caravan park, until it was shut down in 1951 due to stagnating business. At the same time, the majority of the site was subdivided and sold, creating the permanent community that exists today. [8] The site of the dance hall, the only remaining building of the former Pleasure Park, remained unused until it was sold in 1970 to a private owner who renamed the property and the accompanying mineral pools as the 'Garden of Peace', a meditation retreat and de facto community centre. At the turn of the century, the site was sold again and in 2003 opened as the boutique hotel and function centre 'Tumbling Waters Retreat'.

At the same time as the original Pleasure Park, the Princess Marina Cliff Walk [9] was established; also by Henry Halloran. The walk extended throughout the surrounding bushlands and is still largely intact. Another walking track, the Wodi Wodi trail, [10] links Stanwell Tops with Stanwell Park railway station.

Indigenous history

Stanwell Tops is a part of the Aboriginal land formerly occupied by the Tharawal people, specifically the Wodi Wodi clan.

Recent history

Black Christmas 2001

On 25 December 2001, Stanwell Tops and Helensburgh were the sites of the most dangerous bushfire to reach the area in living memory. The fire affected the entire population of both localities, with 12 homes and two businesses destroyed and more damaged. Helensburgh residents were issued with a general evacuation order. [9] [11] The immediate fire danger lasted from midday on 25 December until midnight. Helensburgh was still closed for the next three days due to the health hazard associated with a malfunctioning electricity grid, and sewage and water systems, which were also damaged in the fire. [12]

Local community groups remarked on the solidarity of residents during the crisis, particularly in helping to preserve property; however opinions of the actions of authorities were mixed. [12] An official inquiry found that fire originated from powerlines operated by Integral Energy, and that the company was liable for compensation claims made by residents of affected homes and businesses. [13]

In 2008, five Helensburgh firefighters who responded to the Black Christmas bushfires were awarded bravery medals and meritorious conduct awards by the NSW Fire Brigades, as well as a Commissioner's Commendation for their courageous efforts during both the Black Christmas bushfires and the Waterfall rail accident. [14]

Development controversies

The nearby town of Helensburgh has been the subject of numerous proposals, beginning in the early 1970s, for expanded urban development. [15] Since then, various additions to the township have moved its effective boundary closer to Stanwell Tops, however development that would increase the urban footprint of Stanwell Tops itself has not been approved.

More recent proposals that included plans for expanding Stanwell Tops as well as Helensburgh and Otford were submitted to Wollongong City Council from 2004 [16] onwards. Proposals to rezone Environmentally Protected '7(d)' zones in 2010 and 2011 were met with large-scale community opposition. [17] [18]

See also

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Low rainfall across winter and spring 2001 combined with a hot, dry December created ideal conditions for bushfires. On the day of Christmas Eve, firefighters from the Grose Vale Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigade attended a blaze in rugged terrain at the end of Cabbage Tree Rd, Grose Vale, believed to have been caused by power lines in the Grose Valley.

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  1. 1 2 Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Stanwell Tops (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 16 July 2017. Blue pencil.svg
  2. 1 2 Australian Bureau of Statistics (15 January 2008). "Census of Population and Housing: selected characteristics for urban centres and localities, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory, 1996". Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 Australian Bureau of Statistics (31 October 2012). "Stanwell Tops (State Suburb)". 2011 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 17 February 2017. Blue pencil.svg
  4. "Tumbling Waters Retreat and Restaurant". 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  5. "Welcome to The Tops Conference Centre". 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  6. 1 2 Australian Tax Office (3 November 2009). "ABN Lookup - Current details for ABN: 41 041 851 866". Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  7. , itself a division of the Churches of Christ in Australia Churches of Christ Community Care (29 June 2012). "Churches of Christ Community Care: Creating Communities of Care where people can find a place". Churches of Christ Community Care. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  8. 1 2 Helensburgh and District Historical Society. "Holidaying and sightseeing in 1930s" . Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  9. 1 2 Helensburgh and District Historical Society. "The Princess Marina Cliff Walk" . Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  10. NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (9 March 2012). "Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area". NSW Government. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  11. Mercer, Phil (2003). "Eyewitness: Sydney's residents face fire wrath". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  12. 1 2 Helensburgh and District Historical Society. "Black Christmas" . Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  13. Trenwith, Courtney (27 April 2009). "Black Christmas bushfire victims still battle for compensation". Illawarra Mercury. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  14. "Disaster heroes finally honoured for bravery – Local News – News – General – St George & Sutherland Shire Leader". 2008-07-25. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  15. "The Hacking River Catchment". Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  17. "Helensburgh rezoning faces opposition – ABC Sydney – Australian Broadcasting Corporation". 2011-11-30. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  18. Laurel-Lee Roderick (2010-09-08). "Thousands oppose Helensburgh rezoning bid – Local News – News – General". Illawarra Mercury. Retrieved 2012-06-09.

Coordinates: 34°13′12″S150°59′31″E / 34.2199°S 150.99181°E / -34.2199; 150.99181