Helensburgh is a historic coal-mining town founded in the 1880s, when European settlers discovered coal and the Illawarra rail line was built, linking the area to Sydney. Helensburgh is said to be named either after Helen, daughter of the first mine manager Charles Harper, or after the Scottish town of the same name. The Metropolitan Mine continues to operate today but the town no longer pins its prosperity on ‘black gold’. Today ‘the Burgh’ has become a commuter town, with families moving here to enjoy the joys of raising children in a close-knit community with bushland on their doorsteps and beaches down the road – all an hour south of Sydney. The town has a thriving cafe culture, a free public pool, many active sporting groups (including rugby league’s Tigers and Tigerlillies) and makes a great base for outdoors types, who can take their pick of bush walking, mountain biking, hang gliding, swimming, surfing and horse riding. Abandoned old train tunnels, including one with a colony of glow worms that famously shine in the dark like the Milky Way, provide scenic locations for photographers, trainspotters and ghost tour operators. The small town has two surprising big tourist attractions. Built on the town’s outskirts in 1978, the impressive Sri Venkateswara Hindu temple welcomes thousands of devotees a year. Also nearby is one of the nation’s best boutique zoos – Symbio Wildlife Park, a family-run conservation centre, home to tigers, cotton-top tamarins and lemurs, as well as Australian natives including emus, dingoes, koalas and crocodiles. Kids can even hand-feed kangaroos here. Despite the influx of city folk, the Burgh remains the kind of town where people help their neighbours and pull up to allow ducks to cross the road.