Guide to travelling the East Coast | Australia + Video

The East Coast = the backpackers top trip within Australia.
Its an iconic adventure and has everything a traveller would want from the surf spots at Byron Bay, wild nightlife of Surfers Paradise, the beach havens of Noosa through to the major sites of Fraser Island, The Whitsundays and the Sydney Opera House. 
Its the right of passage whilst you're travelling here to complete the popular East Coast and journey through some incredible destinations.
Now as you may be aware, Australia is massive so this trip should not be taken lightly - it will take approximately 30 hours of non stop driving from Sydney to Cairns! But wheres the fun in that?! 
You need to stop, explore, have fun, visit some incredible places along the way and make all the memories! 

From personal experience I would highly recommend hiring a campervan and roadtrippin' you're way (up or down). Gather yourself a group of adventurous friends, new or old and travel along the popular routes between Cairns & Sydney and camp along the way. 
Check out companies like Juicy, Spaceship Rentals, Hertz, Thrifty etc to compare prices of your rental! 

Click HERE to access amazing travel savings from the lovely people at Spaceship Rentals!

If driving isn't an option for you, the East Coast has a brilliant network of bus services like the  Greyhound or Premiere lines which offer hop-on hop-off passes so you can travel and get off as and when you please. 

Entirely up to you! 
We took 25 days to travel from Ayr to Sydney with plenty of time in each town or city and even arrived into Sydney with time to spare so we could have seen more. 
I would say 2 weeks minimum if you want to visit alot of places, otherwise try and spend as long as you can exploring, & not just the popular places, go off the beaten track and head slightly inland and visit some gorgeous national parks! 

Well, if you have the luxury of your camper van then you don't need to find hostels. Wiki Camps App is amazing for finding accommodation and camping spots (paid and free) and shows all the facilities and contact info. 
This was our bible for our trip and helped us find all our places to park up, whether it be in caravan parks using powered-sites or at free camps. It was so handy! 
If you're driving in a car and not camping or using the buses then you can still use the App to find yourself hostels, or just look on in each town to get yourself some good priced backpacker hostels. 

So this is a mix of spots i've visited as a solo backpacker with the route me and my friends took from leaving our farm in our camper van and can be used as a guide to you.

The adventure capital of Australia. You can do anything from bungy-jumping, white water rafting, scuba diving, sky diving, jungle surfing ... you name it! This is the place where most backpackers either start or end their road trip and is oozing with a cool tropical atmosphere. 
Cairns is also the main gateway to The Great Barrier Reef so if you're after a boat trip, snorkelling adventure or scuba dive experience then this is your place to go! 
That being said it is also a party hub with an abundance of lively hostels, bars and clubs! For a reasonably small city it has alot going on! 
If you're visiting Cairns make sure to take a couple days to head North to Cape Tribulation and visit where the 'rainforest meets the reef'. It is a truly beautiful part of the world and not to be missed! You can read my post on Cape Tribulation here

Stay at: Cairns YHA & Cape Tribulation Beach YHA

This party beach town is a must to add to your route. From the beautiful lagoon to the hippie markets and the bustling nightlife you won't be short of things to do in Airlie Beach. 
Also the gateway to The Whitsundays; a collection of 74 heavenly islands which you need to visit FYI. Book yourself a boat trip in Airlie Beach 
The Whitsundays was a highlight for me, easily one of the most beautiful places in Australia and has something for everyone - from one day trips, overnight adventures or for those with extra dolla to spend you can stay on one of the beautiful island resorts. 
We opted for the 2 day / 1 night sail boat The Hammer and LOVED it! 
From the snorkelling, the views and getting to visit the famous Whitehaven Inlet & its pure sand, it was an incredible trip. 
My post & video on my trip with The Hammer can be found here. 

Stay at: Nomads Backpackers

If you're looking for a pitstop after Airlie Beach then Cape Hillsborough is the one. Wake up early and visit the beach and witness all the wallabies on the beach at dawn. Or walk the beach trail and across the rocks to Wedge Island. Further down the coast are the Capricorn Caves where you can go on the Cathedral Cave Tour. It showcases their most spectacular limestone caves, leads you through zig zig passageways and you get to learn all about the special cave acoustics. 
Or in our case, volunteer yourself to sing & test them out yourself.

" I dreeeaaamed a dreeeeaamed in time gone byyyyyyyy"

A great place to stopover is Rockhampton to break up the journey - take a quick visit to the FREE zoo and say hi to the chimps, kangaroos, crocs and koalas. 

Discovered by Captain Cook in 1770 this beach town is where the Surf Coast meets the Great Barrier Reef. 1770 & Agnes Waters are a popular spot for backpackers to chill out on one of the beaches, watch the amazing sunsets or throw on some leathers and take part in the popular Scooteroo tour (driving round on a Harley-Davidson watching the sunset and spotting kangaroos). Its an awesome way to travel round the towns and you look super badass at the same time. 

Home to the infamous Bundie Rum, stop here for a tour of the rum distillery and make sure to stock up on the discounted bottles of this glorious rum for your road trip. 
I personally recommend a bottle of the Chocolate Coffee Rum Liqueur - its to die for!
& if you happen to visit on your birthday like I did, let them know ... you get extra free rum to taste ;)

Both Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach are both quaint coastal towns that offer access to Fraser Island. During winter months, Hervey Bay is also one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales as they migrate. 
The beach here is a great place to spend the day relaxing & pop into a selection of small bars along the esplanade. 

Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, is an essential stop on your East Coast journey. With miles of beaches, rainforest and crystal clear lakes, rusty shipwrecks and an abundance of dingoes you won't be short of things to do here. 
You can explore Fraser Island in 2 ways; either hire a 4WD and explore yourself or join on a tour varying from 1 day to 4 days. 
We opted for a 1 day tour with Fraser Adventure Tours and got to visit some of the main sites; Maheno Shipwreck, Eli Creek, Lake McKenzie & Central Station. 

Noosa really is a hidden gem. It is blessed with beautiful secluded beaches and a stunning National Park. Take a day to explore the different trails and hikes on offer in the park and see if you can spot the turtles bobbing out of the water along the coast. 

Ok so the Gold Coast has got a bit of a bad reputation for being a little tacky and touristy - with Surfers Paradise being like a mini Miami. But I actually really enjoyed it there, great vibrant city with plenty to do in terms of beach culture, surf, shopping & some fun theme parks on its doorstep. We ventured to Wet n Wild & Warner Bros theme parks and had a blast at both! 
TIP: lock your doors, windows in the car parks! Hide anything valuable out of sight! We had out camper broken into and alot of bags stolen. 

If Surfers Paradise isn't really your scene then have no fear, head inland and explore the wonders of these beautiful areas. From Mt Tamborine you have fantastic views of the skyscraper jungle of the Gold Coast and the vast ocean beyond. Enjoy one of the hikes and take a visit to Curtis Falls and look out for the bats hiding in the trees. 
A bit further South you will find Springbrook National Park; a top on my visit list. Here you can find the beautiful Natural Bridge. A short walk from the car park takes you round a loop of the forest and ends at the natural bridge where. Its a little spot of heaven away from the busy cities. 

Byron is probably one of the most popular stops on the East Coast, with its busy surf culture, amazing sunsets & cool, bohemian vibe. Take a stroll on the beach, try our surfing, or walk to the Byron Bay Lighthouse on Australia's most easterly point. 
It actually rained our whole stay in Byron so we never did any of that stuff, we did a bar crawl instead! 
I know everyone raves about Nimbin and that you've got to go but tbh it was a shithole. 
Yes it looks fun with its creative and cultural art scene but when you're walking down the street and literally every single local is offering you drugs its a big daunting. 
We may have sampled a cookie or 2 but with zero effect so don't bother or waste your time. 

Stay at: The Arts Factory 

Onto Coffs Harbour & home to The Big Banana - you can't miss it. 
Stop here for a photo and even play a game of laser tag or test out the toboggan tracks at this adventure area. It was actually great fun! 
Just up the road you can find Sealy Lookout - a walkway overlooking the East Coast with amazing views. 

Another national park worth a visit is Dorrigo. Venture on a hike, visit some beautiful waterfalls or just take a small walk along the skywalk & take in the amazing green forest views that it has to offer. A nice place to stop for lunch and break up the journey! 


Onwards to Sydney but time for a pitstop at Newcastle to break up the drive. We explored the esplanade & spent some time relaxing on the beach, jumping in the ice cold swimming lagoons & played a spot of volleyball on one of the beach nets available. 

Probably Australia's most iconic city, and a must see! 
Try to give yourself plenty of time to explore Sydney, it is blessed with a stunning harbour, lovely beaches and of course home to some pretty major landmarks; the Sydney Opera house & Harbour Bridge. 
Make sure to check out Darling Harbour & grab a bite to eat at one of the many bars and restaurants lined up by the water. 
One of my favourite things in Sydney was the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, simply hop on a bus or train to Bondi and start your walk by the Icebergs Hotel. 
If you have more time, or even on your way into Sydney, take a day trip to visit the Blue Mountains; a UNESCO listed site with beautiful panoramic views, waterfalls and fun hikes. 
Check out the Three Sisters while you're there & prepare to feel the burn after climbing up & down all the stairs on the trails! 

There are SO many more places you can add to your trip & go wherever appeals to you! 

Below is my video of my East Coast Road Trip from Ayr to Sydney that I did with my friends just after we completed our farm work! 

G Goes Global - Australia #12 East Coast Road Trip from G Goes Global on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading & happy travels 

♡ G

Join me on Instagram @gemwills 

& follow me on my Australia Adventure! 

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