East Coast Itinerary For Backpacking Australia!

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Where do I start?

Deciding where to start can be a game changer when it comes to travelling the east coast but it’s nothing to stress too much about. The majority of travellers will fly out to Sydney as their starting destination and move up the east cost from there. However, by doing this you completely miss Melbourne and will have to pay more to back track out of your way. But again, this is not a huge stressor! If your plan is to work and travel up/down the east coast then it makes sense to start at either end! So either Melbourne or Cairns are your best choices and from there go up or down the coast. Cairns however is much more expensive to fly into due to it being a tiny airport in comparison with the bigger cities.

Where should I go?

Melbourne

Melbourne CBD
Melbourne CBD

As we all know, Melbourne is my favourite City for a million reasons! It is so rich and diverse in culture, it isn’t just another city, it’s painted beautifully in breathtaking, world famous street art. The fashion can go from chic to crazy just by turing the corner! Plus for all you coffee lovers, Melbourne is the land of coffee snobs and justifiably too! You will never get bored in this cosmopolitan city with live music, comedy clubs and free events happening every single day!

Check out FREE THINGS TO DO IN MELBOURNE

Sydney

Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge
Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge

Sydney is a favourite of many travellers, expect mine. It is probably one of the most well known cities in Australia and it’s Opera House and Harbour Bridge bring tourists and celebrities from around the globe to gaze upon these iconic landmarks. You can easily settle down and spend weeks or even months exploring Sydney and its surrounds. The CBD (central business district) itself is enormous, not including all the awesome day trips you can make to Bondi, Manly etc…

Byron Bay

A true paradise
A true paradise

If you love sun, sea and surf then you cannot for one second miss Byron Bay. A hippy town on the coast will make you consider the idea of pitching a tent on the beach and living out your days here. The atmosphere is chilled and relaxed. Along the streets you can get your hair wrapped/braided, buy some amazing local art work or just grab a set on bongos and join in on the jam! It’s a pretty free and easy lifestyle, but if you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie then Byron offers tonnes of activities, from sky diving to hang gliding!

Brisbane

Southbank Lagoon
Southbank Lagoon

The sunshine state of Queensland brings 300 days of sun to this city every year. Brisbane is one of my favourites and where I spent a lot of my time working and exploring. Everyone might tell you that the city is super tiny compared to Sydney and Melbourne, but that is one of the things I love about it. It is perfectly located between the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. With trains running to both of these, you don’t have to spend every day wandering the city. Southbank dawns rows of stunning eateries and watering wholes along with a city beach!

Check out FREE THINGS TO DO IN BRISBANE

Noosa

Noosa National Park Coastal Walk
Noosa National Park Coastal Walk

Noosa is by far one of the prettiest places in Queensland. The National Park includes a must see coastal walk which will cause your memory card in your camera to fill up pretty quickly!

Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay is basically one of those transition stops you make to get to another place. Along with rainbow beach, this is a popular spot to head over to Fraser Island. But whilst you are here, you may as well explore for a day and take in the sea air!

Agnes Water/Town of 1770

Surfers Enjoying The Waves in Agnes Water
Surfers Enjoying The Waves in Agnes Water

Mostly over looked by backpackers, Agnes Water is a tiny quaint beach side town which is the perfect stop to make after your 3 day adventure on Fraser Island. There is not much to do other than hire a little boat to do some fishing or drinking a beer over looking the beach. Doesn’t sound too terrible to me!

Airlie Beach

Now, even though this is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach is an ultimate, no messing about, party town! Hostels are brimming with die hard backpackers ready to get there face right into a jug of beer!

If partying isn’t your thing, then don’t worry, it’s not mine either, a day or two here is good for meeting new people and grabbing a boat trip to the Whitsunday Islands!

Cairns

Stunning views of Cairns
Stunning views of Cairns

Reaching up towards the North of Queensland, is Cairns. A infamous party town for backpackers from around the world, a great place to visit the Great Barrier Reef and a good town to find some bar work to top up your travel funds.  Cairns is a lot more than just a party town though. With mountainous forests acting as a aback drop to this tiny town, you get the best of both world, from late night happy hours to scenic bush retreats.

There are plenty of activities to take part in, however, most come with a hefty price tag!

Port Douglas

The St Tropez of Australia Indeed!
The St Tropez of Australia Indeed!

The St Tropez of Australia, Port Douglas is the land of the million dollar mansions, breathtaking views and some amazing boutique shops. The majority of backpackers stop their road trip at Cairns. Big mistake. Further North lies the OLDEST RAINFOREST IN THE WORLD! The Daintree.

Port Douglas offers a few youth hostels but there is little in terms of free and cheap attractions which puts a lot of budget travellers off the idea of visiting. I was lucky enough to have a friend in the area who I could stay with which meant I could spend my money on enjoying coffee’s with a scenic view

Cape Tribulation

The Glorious Daintree Rainforest
The Glorious Daintree Rainforest

In the heart of the Daintree rainforest, you can only hope for fair weather for 6 months of the year, but even then it’s not guaranteed. For the other 6 months they battle extreme rainfall and floods. It’s pretty tough living in such a beautiful tranquil area! If there is one thing which you can take away with you is that you will be standing in the Words Oldest Rainforest! Pretty cool, huh?

Whilst you are there why not check out some Exotic Fruit Tasting or even jungle surfing?? Both I highly recommend and they don’t come at a bad price either!

 

 

What to do!?

There are a million activities and road trips to make on Australia’s East Coast, so this isn’t a extensive list. However, here are just a  few of my top recommendations for your time along this iconic coast line.

Queensland

Whitsunday Islands & The Great Barrier Reef

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands

The picturesque white sand and the ultimate bucket list must do! Whereas Fraser Island has lots of wildlife, walking and adventure, the Whitsunday Islands have squeaky white sands and gorgeous reefs to explore. Whether you opt for a day trip if you are low on money (around $80-100) or you are going for the full yacht trip lasting 3-7 glorious days (around $350-800) you will never forget the feeling of the sand at Whitehaven Beach between your toes.

Tours include options to either snorkel or dive amongst this world famous reef so all levels and abilities are catered to. Just hope you like priceless sunsets, swimming in some of the clearest waters and relaxing to the point where you question if you even have bones anymore.

Fraser Island

Lake Mckenzie, Fraser Island
Lake Mckenzie, Fraser Island

The worlds largest sand island is something which no traveller should miss off their eat coast trip. 3 days and 2 nights is what I would recommend and there are many ways which you can explore the island. You could hire your own 4WD through a company, which is the path I took and couldn’t recommend it more. You are given a full briefing about driving on the beach and through wash outs, you get to pitch your tent amongst the sand banks which will  allow you to watch the sun rise each morning. But more importantly you can explore the island at your own pace with your own itinerary provided by the hire company. I went through Fraser Dingo 4WD Hire and I would recommend them to anyone.

The next two options I would not recommend so much but they are very popular, especially if you don’t have a licence. You can be part of a tour bus or a 4WD tour. Your itinerary is completely planned by your guide and you set up camp in enclosed camping areas.

Fraser Island really has it all! From Eli Creek where you can swim in the crystal clear waters, to huge sand dune to watching dingos  making special appearances!

Check out my FOLLOW ME AROUND FRASER ISLAND video to see for yourself!

Victoria

The Great Ocean Road

12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road
12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road

Whether you decide to do a one day whistle stop tour or take your time over a few days, you cannot miss out, there is a reason why Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous coastal stretches in Australia! I would always recommend to drive yourself and experience the winds and turns of the road as it weaves its way along the coast. You will be tempted to stop at every single look out and the road is well signed foe tourists. Along the way you have many stopping points, all justifiably stunning in there own right. After a long day of driving, you will be rewarded with the most iconic landmark found on this whole trip, the 12 Apostles.

Check out my post  The Great Ocean Road:Chasing The Sun here.

The Grampians

The Grampians
The Grampians

Another iconic destination in Victoria which can easily be incorporated with your Great Ocean Road trip! The Grampians offer sweeping vista’s, majestic waterfalls and enough hiking to let you sleep peacefully for a week! There are also a lot of accommodation options around the local area as well as tourist information points to help you plan your stay. Make sure you take plenty of water and be prepared for a lot of walking. The views are the ltimate reward along with the wildlife scuttling around you as you explore!

New South Wales

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains

No trip to Sydney would be complete without a day or 3 at the Blue Mountains. Whether you decide to jump on the train and explore with your own map, or join in on an organised tour, the Blue Mountains will no doubt make for one of your best experiences in Australia. The stunning surroundings of eucalyptus trees causing the mountains to look a thousand shades of blue make for an enlightening environment. If you are super active then you can take the long walk route, or just ask at the tourist information desk on small tours. There is just something about being surrounded by such incredible scenary which will make you wish you could pitch a tent and live out your days here swinging between the tall tree’s and listening to the kookaburras sing.

Check out my post about my trip to the Blue Mountains: A View To Remember here.

How long should  you spend in each place?

This is all up to you and your experience with each place! It is a very common questions which I struggle to answer half the time. If you plan to work and travel up the east coast then you will generally stick to one place you like for a couple of months to save money, and then move on up/down on a mini road trip. How long you spend in each place all depends on how much you like it! You are free to move on whenever you feel so don’t stress too much about planning out every single detail!

So, let me know in a comment where I have missed! Like I said, this is not an extensive list but I will be looking to update it over time, so let me know your suggestions below!

You can get 30% of Lonely Planets Bundle of Australia Guides here! Australian East Coast Bundle (Print Only) by Lonely Planet

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Hi! Name’s Aly! Originally from Birmingham, England, I have been discovering the world for over 3 years straight. I am a psychology graduate with a love for Pho and red wine. Whether I throw myself into a novel or from 14,000ft up out of a plane, I look at adventure big and small and say “Let’s do this!”
  • Sometimes the best places can be the ones you don’t expect. I went to Mackay as it wasn’t some where I had heard much about, and to be fair, there wasn’t a huge amount in the town itself. I did meet a couple of other backpackers who were there and into similar things (hiking in national parks rather than partying) however, and we hired a car and went to Cape Hillsborough, about 45 mins away.

    This was amazing, the water on the beach seemed to glitter, there were amazing views down the cliffs (and we saw turtles), and we got to meet a really nice Australian family staying on the camp site nearby, rather than just other travellers.

    • Aly

      Absolutely! I love getting lost and finding the little gems! =]