My last trip was on the East Coast of Australia, where I backpacked by myself for a month. At first, I chose Australia because it was the last continent I had to go to complete my own challenge of seeing them all before turning 25. I really didn’t regret my choice: Australia is amazing! While getting ready for my trip, I had a lot of difficulties choosing where my stops would be. In the end, I’m really happy about the itinerary I chose and that’s why I want to share it with you!
- How to travel the East Coast
There are many ways of transportation to travel the coast. Lots of people chose by car: They buy a van when they first get to Australia and sell it at the end. I would have loved to do it this way, however, since I don’t have my driver’s license yet, I had to choose another option. Another great way to travel the East Coast is to book a Hop-on-hop-off pass with Greyhound Australia. For example, the Sydney to Cairns pass is 435$AU and you can hop on the bus and hop off in the cities of your choice. You can also buy cheap Greyhound bus ticket in between close cities and book flights with cheap airlines (like Tigerair and Virgin Australia) for bigger distance. I did this last option and realized that I spent less money than if I had take a Sydney-Cairns bus pass.
When you backpack the Australian East Coast, a frequently asked questions you’ll hear is: “Are you travelling North or South?”. I chose to travel from South to North for the main reason that I was there in winter and wanted to finish my trip with the warmer weather of Queensland. So I started my trip in Sydney. I booked my first hostel for 5 nights, wanting to make sure I would have time to recover from Jet Lag before enjoying the city. I would have been ok with 3 or 4 days, though. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in Sydney at first. Compared to Europe, it has less history, hence, less pretty buildings to visit. However, after taking a free walking tour, I learned more about the city and enjoyed it more. You obviously have to see the Opera House. Go see it in daylight and at night. The Rocks, the historical area of Sydney is also a cool place. The botanic garden is also gorgeous, especially with its exotic birds that will gladly land on your hand and shoulders. The Harbor Bridge has to be seen (and crossed for a beautiful angle of the Opera House). If you go during summer time, there are nice beaches just outside the city!
- Byron Bay
I have a confession to make. I didn’t stop in Byron Bay. Like I said earlier, I was there in the winter and I couldn’t wait to go more North to get in the heat (Summer is short enough in Canada, I didn’t need a second winter, even if it felt like spring). However, if you are traveling in warmer days, I heard Byron Bay is totally worth the stop. It is known to have a hippie atmosphere and be a great place to surf! I would stay around 3-4 days there as well.
- Surfers Paradise
Like I said, hurried to get in warmer weather, I skipped Byron Bay and flew to Surfers Paradise, in the Gold Coast instead. Surfer’s paradise was really different from Sydney, since it’s more of a beach town. Actually, lots of people call it the Miami of Australia and that’s definitely what it looked like. The beach is splendid, of course. While in the Gold Coast, I went to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can see australian animals, take selfies with Kangaroos and hold Koalas. This was definitly a highlight of my trip ! Surfers Paradise has also great places to go out at night. I stayed at Backpackers in Paradise Hostel and it was a great place to make friends and it had a pool!
From Surfers Paradise, I took a bus to Brisbane, which is a really pretty city. I had the chance to enjoy the view from the rooftop of the Hostel I stayed at (Summer House Backpackers). This city is particularly beautiful because of all its cool looking bridges. I had a really great time, there, dancing Salsa in the street with strangers (an event a new friend dragged me to) on my first night. The next morning, I went walking at the South Bank where there is a artisan market. There’s also a street beach in this area, which is really nice to enjoy in warm weather. Something absolutely cool in Brisbane is the fact that you can take the ferry for free! Leave from one of the South Bank boat stop and enjoy a 1h “cruise” to see the whole city. I ended that day by getting lost in the botanical garden and the city. I only spent 2 nights in Brisbane but would totally recommend staying there longer, if you have the chance!
I then took a short Greyhound bus ride from Brisbane to Noosa, a small beach town that totally amazed me. The beach there is totally gorgeous and I would have gladly stayed there forever if I could have. Noosa is known to be one of the best places to learn to surf: The waves are perfect and you don’t need to worry about sharks (compared to Byron Bay, I heard). I don’t know about you, but the less sharks there are around me, the happier I am! I booked a group surf lesson with Learn to Surf Noosa, not thinking I would get a chance to actually stand on the board (but hoping I would) and guys… I actually stood on the first wave!!! And on others after that! I loved it! You can read more on my surfing experience in my First Impressions on Surf article. Noosa is also great for its National Park that has beautiful view points. It is also one of the only two places in the world with an everglades eco-system (the other one being Florida)… totally worth exploring! I stayed at Nomads hostel, which was perfect since it’s also the best place to go out at night in the city! I spent 3 days in Noosa but would have gladly spent 4 or 5!
- Fraser Island
While in Noosa, book a tour to Fraser Island. It’s a heritage-listed island that contains eucalyptus woodland, mangrove forests, wallum and peat swamps, rainforests, sand dunes and a gorgeous lake. You have to take a ferry to get there and a four-wheel drive is required for all travel on the island (so you kind of have to book a tour to see it). There are many tours options, I took a one day options with Fraser Free called 1 Day Fraser Discovery Tour. During this tour, we drove through the Cooloola National Park, we stopped a bit at Rainbow beach, we swam in Lake McKenzie (a gorgeous lake with perfect limpid water) and we took a walk in the rainforest. I enjoyed my day on the island but, having more time and more money, I would have preferred a tour that includes one or two night on the island (lots of people I met picked this options and had a blast!)
From Noosa, I went back to Brisbane for a night before taking a flight to Cairns. That’s where I stayed the longest. I actually spent almost two weeks there. And would have stayed longer if I could. Cairns is a city where lots of backpackers enjoy staying long term because it has such a laid back atmosphere and great places to go out (Mainly Gilligan’s and The Woolshed!) The main things to enjoy in Cairns are the lagoon, which is gorgeous and essential on hot days (which is, every day in Cairns) and the night market, which is enormous and holds great food spots. However, you are also right next to the Great Barrier Reef, so it’s the best time to go Scuba Diving to see it! I tell you all about this experience in my post on my first impressions on Scuba Diving! I stayed at Asylum Hostel and this was probably what got me to stay there so long: I met great friends and the atmosphere is just… the best! Also, not a lot of people know this but, right outside of Cairns, there’s a Wallaby breeding place, you can ask around for it and go see it, if you haven’t seen enough Kangaroos yet on your trip!
- Cape Tribulation
While in Cairns, I had the chance to take a short road trip to Cape Tribulation with three other friends. We stayed there for two nights. It’s a coastal area within Daintree National Park where you can both enjoy the beach and go hiking ! We hiked Mount Sorrow (650 m) and it was a hard hike but, if you go on a sunny day, the view you’ll get at the lookout will be totally worth it ! There are not many accommodations and the grocery store closes at 6pm (not really practical), there is also no phone service so, it’s the perfect experience if you want to disconnect from the world!
I’m telling you, Australia should be on every travellers’ bucket list! It’s great because it has both big cities (with historical areas and great architecture) and natural places (with beach and rainforest). The best of both worlds. It might not be the cheapest place to visit, but it’s totally worth all the bucks you’ll spend on it! Following this article are my own travel pictures from my trip!