I’ve been getting a lot of email from readers lately asking about travelling the East Coast of Australia, an area of the world I’m pretty clued up on having spent heaps of time there over the last few years.

I’ve already chatted about how long you should take to travel the East Coast and how much you should budget for Australia so since it’s a topic a lot of you guys want more info on I thought I’d put together a stand alone blog post for you all showcasing some of the ways you can travel around on this awesome part of Oz.

So if you’re looking at heading that way – on a working holiday visa or just some time backpacking –  there’s a heap of options for you to choose from…

 

What’s The Best Way To Travel The East Coast Of Australia?

Oz Experience

One of the most famous ways of getting up the East Coast trail is the Oz Experience. Admittedly it has a bit of a reputation for being a bit of a mental boozey, party bus – however this has changed recently. Basically the Greyhound Bus company bought them out, so the Oz Experience is much more chilled now and the bus passes actually use the Greyhound buses – so it’s a totally different experience these days!

The Oz Experience travel passes come in a variety of routes (including Melbourne – Cairns and Sydney – Cairns which are the most popular) and you can even bundle in some of the main tours (like the Whitsundays and Fraser Island) to make things easier and save yourself some dollar too.

It’s a hop on, hop off style throughout, so you dictate where you go and how long for, which is perfect for those who want to wing it, or those who want to simply structure it all before they leave!

Passes are usually valid for 3 months but you can pay to extend this to 6 if you’re staying longer.

 

Greyhound

Essentially the Greyhound is now the same as the Oz Experience (or the other way around depending who you look at it!) however the Greyhound bus passes come in a couple of different formats.

greyhound travel passes hop on hop off km austraia oz epic gap year-2

Greyhound – Flexible and Budget Conscious

The first is the destination passes, like Oz experience this is a one way route from point to point – however the Greyhound ones have much more variety depending on how you travel around and again are valid for 3 or 6 months.

The second option is the KM pass, where you buy an amount of KMs and are free to use them how you please.This comes with 2 massive advantages.

Firstly the pass is valid for 12 months, so if you’re on a working holiday visa or longer stay it’s perfect.

Secondly you’re only limited with distance, not route – so if you decide to fly from Brisbane to Melbourne and then travel back to Sydney you can simply use the same pass, this is great for those who are bouncing around a lot of flying between spots to find work.

If you’re running low on KMs you can top it up and if you have a few too many you can also exchange it for day trips and tours.

And finally in 2018 Greyhound launched the new Greyhound WHIMit bus passes – which offer unlimited travel across the entire Greyhound network valid from 7 day up to an entire year depending on the pass you choose – including backtracking and even their routes to/from the Red Centre!

This is perfect for those who aren’t sure of their plans but who have a set time frame in which to travel.

The Greyhound Bus Passes tend to be the option of choice for self guided East Coast Australia Package Deals as they’re cheap, flexible and hit up all the major spots.

The Greyhound Sydney to Cairns Pass will set you back $435AUD (approx £270)  or $535AUD (approx £335) for a Melbourne to Cairns Pass.

The Greyhound WHIMit Passes start at $249 for 7 days and run all the way to $1499 for the year long pass.

This would be my personal choice if I was doing the East Coast again as it’s cheap, flexible and takes in all the major stops. If you’re looking for a full list of where the Greyhound stops check out this post – it’s also the option I suggest using for the trip in my How To Spend 1 Month In Australia, Sample Itinerary post

Premier Bus

The other main hop on, hop off style bus service is the Premier Bus. It’s the same as Greyhound in structure – running up/down the East Coast stopping at all the major destinations en route.

For the budget conscious the Premier Bus Passes are cheaper than Greyhound (roughly $100 per pass) so if money is the deciding factor this is the option to go with!

However with these savings come some disadvantages. Firstly you won’t be able to include Melbourne on any hop on hop off pass (although you can buy a Sydney to/from Melbourne pass with Greyhound on top) but more importantly is the fact Premier only has one departure per day compared with the multiple ones on Greyhound.

For some this won’t be an issue and the savings are worth it – but for certain route and overnight options this can be a huge inconvenience – especially into Noosa and Rainbow Beach when you have to attend safety briefings the night before your Fraser Island tour.

Still if you plan well and need the save as much money as possible it’s a solid option!

 

Loka Travel Passes Stray Australia

**UPDATE – Loka have now merged with Stray Travel and are now called Stray Australia – check out the full range of Stray Australia bus passes here**

The new kid on the block so to speak is Loka. The brainchild of the guy who launched Oz Experience, Kiwi Experience and Stray it’s a hybrid and mid ground between the hop on, hop off bus passes and a full blown tour.

loka tour east coast australia hop on hop off gap year-12

Getting Off The Beaten Track With Loka

Basically it’s guided throughout, but you can hop off at any destination and extend your stay. This means it attracts a broad range of travellers – those who like to wing it and those who want some more structure, meaning there’s always a great group vibe and dynamic whichever pass you choose.

The Loka travel passes also mix it up a bit in terms of transport too – buses up to Noosa and then trains from there to Cairns. This cuts down travel time and also makes the journey heaps more comfortable too!

Loka also takes in some more off the beaten track destinations too – including wine valleys and cattle farms. This means you’ll get to meet heaps of locals and see a different side to Oz.

Since merging with Stray they have now also launched the Freestyle Tour Passes too, which include your first nights accommodation in each stop and top tours like Fraser and Whitsundays, sos you can use them as a mini tour option as well.

The only downside is that the passes are only valid for 3 months – so if you’re staying for longer you might need to split the passes up, however it’s sweet as if you’re on a smaller time scale!

UPDATE: Loka Passes now have a full 12 month validity, so they’re even more flexible!

Check out my full review of Loka Travel Bus Passes here

 

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A Guided Tour

If you’re travelling solo, are nervous or have a strict budget or time frame then a straight up tour through Australia might be a solid shout.

There’s heaps of different options on the market – including G Adventures and Topdeck.

These usually work out more pricey than the bus pass options and are fixed times and dates – so it’s not for everyone. The fixed price and massive amount of inclusions do however have their advantage if you’re working within fixed time frames and money.

Personally I’m not a huge fan of the whole organised tour thing, especially since the East Coast of Oz is so much fun and easy to travel off your own back. Each to their own though and if it’s something you don’t feel comfortable doing solo or you really want to kick back and have all the key things organised for you this would be the option for you.

 

Campervan/Car Hire

If you want a bit more flexibility in your routing and really enjoy a road trip experience hiring a car or campervan could be worth a look.

britz backpacker campervan hire australia gap year east coats

Campervan Chaos…Although It Was The West Coast Instead!

The main advantage hiring a campervan in Australia is the fact you can obviously stop off wherever and you’re in control of your itinerary. Unlike buying a van it also means your hire is a fix cost (except fuel of course) and you don’t need to worry about selling it at the end.

If you add in breakdown and pay the extra for a full comprehensive insurance it also means there’s little in the way of worries about mechanics and what not too.

It can work out costly if it’s just a couple of people or over a long time period though and you do need to have set start/finish dates and places., but for shorter trips and groups it’s a great alternative way to travel.

I campervanned Perth – Darwin on the West Coast of Australia and it was heaps of fun, just don’t underestimate the travelling distances and times!

Check out companies like Spaceships, Jucy, Britz and Travellers Auto Barn – all of which have different models and prices. Or let the guys at RTW Backpackers find you the best deal with their Australia campervan hire enquiry form!

Ultimate Australia Guide backpacker travel working holiday oz

Buy A Campervan/Car

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My East Coast Beast…aka Leslie!

If you’re looking to be in complete control of your trip buying a campervan or car is the best option by far, in fact this is what I did on my working visa in Australia!

I bought a van, chucked a bed in the back, built a mini kitchen/BBQ thing and loaded my surfboard on the roof – easily the best travelling decision I’ve ever made!

HOWEVER this option does come with a rather hefty price tag and there are some serious pitfalls you need to avoid!

Do some homework before buying and it might even be worth paying a mechanic to check it over, the last thing you want is the engine to blow up 100km down the road after buying it…which actually happened to my buddy!

I lucked out with my van, the only extra cost was a replacement battery (because I left the lights on!) and sold it at the end of my trip with only a minimal loss. If I’d sold it in either Sydney or Cairns I would have easily made all of my money back!

campervan east coast of australia

Fond Memories Of East Coast Roadtripping!

Apart from dictating your own timescales and routes this option all means you can save some serious money on accommodation too. There are heaps of spots around Oz where you can camp for free, although in key areas (like Sydney, Byron Bay and Melbourne) you may well have to pay for a camping spot, so keep that in mind.

If you’re sensible thought and buy a non graffiti covered car or van you can sneakily stay in residential areas to save some money….I spent 3 weeks in Melbourne on a residential street and 2 weeks at Bondi Beach (amongst others!), just be quiet, considerate and don’t push your luck too much as they can hand out some hefty fines!

 

Find The Option That Suits You

As you can see no matter what your style of travel, budget or time frame there’s a good selection of ways to travel the East Coast of Australia – so check them all out and figure out which suits you best.

What I can say though is no matter which way you opt to travel around the East Coast is always full of treats and I’m sure you’ll be back for more…I’m always looking for a way to pencil it into my travel plans again!

If you’re heading there soon check out RTW Backpackers for heaps of awesome packages and travel passes. Or let me help plan your Aussie adventure with my East Coast Australia Trip Planner!

 

Click here for more info and to book your Australia travel options

 

 

Have you travelled the East Coast of Oz?

Which option did you go with or did you use an alternative I’ve not covered?

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35 Responses

    • Chris

      The campervan is haps of fun – especially if you have a solid idea of where you want to head! Good luck with your test!

      Reply
  1. Kerry

    I’m looking at hiring a camper van to travel between Melbourne and Sydney. Any ideas on costs??

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Kerry – it really depends on size of the van, length of your trip and the season you’re heading there so it’s best to check out the sites for a quote.

      Reply
    • Samantha Alexander

      Hi Kerry!! Its nice that you are planning to travel Australia!! I have travelled there once and booked online. I will recommend you to follow Aussie Campervans which offers best campervan suppliers for road trips in Australia. It consist of a huge collection of campervans , Motorhomes and RVs. There you can compare the rates in campervan on the basis of your requirement. Get a quote and enjoy the journey in the budget.

      Reply
  2. Joe

    Now im thinking…….i land in sydney in january 2016…..do i do Sydney to Cairnes, or Cairnes to sydney? either way im flying back to the uk from sydney, will be using a greyhound pass in between. Whats the most popular? Which way do most backpackers go?

    joe

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Joe – sounds like an epic plan to me! To be honest you’ll have to get a flight in between the two anyway so it’s more personal preference, you’ll follow the better weather up the coast to Cairns, but over 5 weeks it won’t make heaps of difference. There’s plenty of people going both ways so if you’re landing in Sydney I’d use that as your starting point!

      Reply
  3. nicky

    Hi Chris,

    Have you heard much about the LOKA bus? They’re a lot more expensive but sound pretty fun rather than the greyhound bus. Hoping to do Sydney to Cairns next January but there are just so many options!

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Nicky,
      Yeah I’ve just patterned up with them on my other site – Epic Gap Year – actually after one of my buddies did it and had a blast! Greyhound is defo still the best option price wise but it depends what you want to get up to really, I think the LOKA fits the gap between bus pass and tour pretty nicely!
      For more info check out http://www.epicgapyear.com/travel-passes or drop me an email

      Reply
  4. cate

    Hey Chris!!
    I first read your blog in january and it’s one of the main reasons why I decided to book my east coast trip. Like I’ve always wanted to do it but I was so scared! I’ve been on the road for three weeks and I’m in byron bay now! I think I saw you walking on jonsons street two days ago and I was like WOw haha I got so excited it was like bumping into a celebrity!! On here it says you’re in byron so it could have actually been you! Well thanks for the inspiration! Have a great time
    Caty

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Cate – stoked I convinced you to hit up the east coast – you loving it here?
      Indeed I’m in Byron Bay at the moment – staying at Aquarius Hostel! Let me know if you’re around for a while and we’ll grab a beer!
      hahahaha like a celebrity?! Awwww that made my day!

      Reply
  5. Ellie

    Hi Chris!

    Just stumbled upon your blog and I love it! I’m currently planning my WHV year in Australia for June 2016 and I’m so excited It’s been my dream ever since I can remember. I’ll be starting at Adelaide and working my way up to Cairns. I’ll be working inbetween and I just wanted to ask if it’s easy to get a job out there and save money? I want to work for a few months and then spend the rest of the year with the money I’ve hopefully saved to travel and explore properly. Where would be the best place to settle and work for a couple of months? Thanks in advance!

    Ellie x
    PS- you’re hot!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Ellie – first off thanks for the PS, totally made my day!hahaha!
      Stoked to hear you’re heading to Oz, good on you for following your dream trip! The only thing I’d quickly mention is Adelaide will be pretty cold in July, so keep that in mind!
      With finding work it really depends on how fussy you’re being and how proactive!haha! Land with your CV all ready to go and check out sites like seek.com.au to see whats around even before you land. Hostels are a great way to find jobs too and work for accommodation is an epic way to cut down your costs. Personally I’ve always worked in Byron Bay (love that place!) but there’s work everywhere if you’re prepared to put in the time finding it.
      Basically if you want and put in the effort it you’ll find it!haha!

      Let me know if I can help out at all!

      Reply
  6. Carla

    Liked your comments about Oz Experience and Greyhound now being essentially the same thing.
    Really good summary of East Coast trips!
    I actually did the Premier bus and found it suitable for my needs. One bus a day. Timetable not too bad, met lots of fellow backpackers on there. I know it doesn’t have such comfy seats and Wi Fi like the Greyhound….but i enjoyed saving over $100!

    Reply
    • Chris

      hahaha it’s pretty true though hey Carla – same same but different!
      Yeah Premier is a solid should too, although the single departures aren’t going to suit everyone, the savings might though!

      Reply
  7. kraig marsh

    Hi Chris

    Quality blog I am flying to sydney on the 19th December so I ca be there for new years and then going to travel up the east cost.. Bit of stupid question really I know its going to be HOTTTTT but is there any clothing I will need other than shorts and and t shirts haha

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Kraig,
      Stoked to hear you’re heading to Sydney for xmas and new year, it’s epic fun! I’d pack a hoodie and a pair of trousers too just to be safe – especially if you’re doing trips like Fraser Island as the evenings can get a little chilly if you’re camping!

      Reply
  8. Louisa

    Hi. Would you recommend buying the greyhound bus pass in the UK or when I get over to Australia? Thanks.

    Reply
  9. Tina

    Hey Chris,

    Absolutely loving your blog! I’m planning my WHV year at the moment, starting May 2016! Very excited and the east coast is my no 1 priority! I may be traveling on my own, which is quite nerve racking, but it’l be an experience to remember! I was just wondering, what time of the year would you recommend for the East coast? I am thinking of doing my farm June-Aug and then setting off to work and travel :) Thanks for all your info on your site! Such a huge help!! :)

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Tina,
      Nice to e-meet you and stoked you’re loving the blog! You’ll love the WHV experience in Oz, so much fun! With the East Coast it really depends how long you’re spending going up/down. Peak summer (Nov/Dec/Jan is best in the south for weather whereas ‘winter’ around June-Aug the weather will be better in the north.
      If you need any travel passes check out my other site – Epic Gap Year – you can even get the Oz Essentials sorted for free

      http://www.epicgapyear.com/destinations/australia/

      Reply
  10. Rachel Darby

    hi chris,
    my plan is to go traveling the east coast for 6 weeks from mid august – end of september via greyhound bus and i’m deciding on either doing melbourne to cairns or sydney to cairns, what would you recommend for the short time that i am there?

    thanks rachel.

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Rachel,
      I’d say you could easily do the Melbourne to Cairns route in that time, depending on what extra stuff you wanted to fit into your time in Melbourne. Check out my post on East Coast travel times for some sample itineraries and see which suits your plans!

      Reply
  11. Lyndsey

    Hey Chris.

    Thanks so much for these guides – they’re incredibly helpful! Wonder if you could provide some advice please?
    I’m looking at how to do Sydney to Cairns in 2 weeks this August with my boyfriend who is visiting me while I travel on my big trip away. What would you recommend as the best way to travel up the East Coast? We’ve looked at both campervan hire and greyhound passes and just aren’t sure of the best mode of transport to maximise the time we have in each place.
    Thanks so much
    Lyndsey

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Lyndsey – stoked the site is helping you out!
      Hmmm with only two weeks to play with there’s a lot of ground to cover, have you thought about just doing a smaller stint with him, say Brisbane to Cairns? That way you spend less time travelling and more time enjoying stuff! Just an idea!
      With that time frame though I’d say Greyhound is your best bet as you can make use of overnight bushes (like Sydney to Byron) so maximise your actually time in places.
      I’ve actually just launched another site – OzBackpacker.com – so have a look around that and let me know fi you need any help packing everything together!
      Take it easy
      Chris

      Reply
  12. Chloe

    Hi! I’m coming to Sydney in March 2017 and booked my flight to Byron bay to start my east coast adventure! Not really sure I want to do one of thes ‘topdeck’ trips as there’s some activities I’m not fussed about and I want to go with the flow! Do you think that’s a good idea? And what travel service do you recommend? Greyhound or Loka? Thanks! :-)

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Chloe,
      Stoked to hear you’re heading to Australia! If you’re looking for flexibility I’d maybe book an open dated package so you’ve covered the cost of the main trip (greta for budgeting) but can lock in the date when you know them for sure.
      Greyhound v Loka is a tough call – Greyhound is heaps cheaper, but Loka is greta for meeting new people and experiencing some of the awesome Loka special stops!

      If you need help booking anything check out my other site – RTW Backpackers – and I’ll sort you out with some discounts!

      http://www.rtwbackpackers.com/tour-category/east-coast-packages/a

      Reply
  13. Heidi

    hi Chris

    We are hoping to camper van from cairns down to Sydney with two children, aged 8 and 6 in tow… any recommendations in where to go to book … all seem pretty pricey…..many thanks

    Reply
  14. SeKap Travels

    Really awesome tips, so much of it resonated with me from my own trip! All these ever-changing laws are so difficult to keep track of though, aren’t they?!

    Reply
  15. EduAid

    Awesome tips!! I think The best way to travel east coast of Australia that is planning!! If you travel not only Australia but other country you must follow your budget and plan!!

    Thanks for helping tips Chris

    Reply

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