The city and surrounding conurbation is located on a coastal plain and backed by a forested escarpment. It's modern origins are in coal mining and steel production, industries which persist, notably the BHP steel facility at Port Kembla to the south. A dedicated port exists for the transport of materials whereas private craft and fishing boats use a separate facility nearer the city centre.
It is not so much a tourist destination but a base, there being many interesting and beautiful locations within easy reach. The immediate area possesses some fine beaches and reasonable body surfing.
Transport Infoline provides up-to-date information on train, bus and ferry travel statewide.
The grandly titled Illawarra Regional Airport is more often referred to as Albion Park Airport, and is located to the south of the city at the intersection of the Princes Highway (F6) and the Illawarra Highway. A number of unsuccessful attempts to introduce commercial services have been made, although this is not to say new initiatives have not been made since writing, so check. The airport is used by private pilots, flying schools and possibly charter services. It is a base of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) see See.
From Sydney take the F6 south to Wollongong via Mount Ousley pass. There is an exit from this freeway to the Bulli Pass which throws itself straight down the escarpment (so don't take it unless you are immune to travel sickness). From the South Coast region, take the Princes Highway (F6).
An interesting alternative (if you are in no particular hurry) is to take the road through Royal National Park from Loftus to Otford, then drive through the seaside towns such as Stanwell Park and Coalcliff to Wollongong. Unfortunately the rain washed part of this road away so it will be closed to through traffic until 2007 when they will open a spectacular roadway built over the sea.
The South Coast Cityrail line between Sydney and Nowra passes through Wollongong. This train is very crowded during the morning and evening peaks. The views of the ocean and rain forest from the train are spectacular so sit on the left hand side of the train (looking in the direction of travel) when travelling from Sydney or the right hand side travelling to Sydney.