backpacking east coast australia

East Coast Australia – It Has To Be Done!

The East Coast of Australia is one of the most iconic places to go backpacking.

The stretch from Melbourne to Cairns is filled with everything a traveller could want – from the chaotic nightlife of Surfer Paradise, the amazing surf breaks of Byron Bay and the arty haven of Melbourne through to many iconic sites – like the Sydney Opera House, Whitehaven Inlet or the Great Barrier Reef.

I’ve travelled up the east coast three times now and I enjoyed every moment of it. So to help you guys plan your backpacking adventure to Australia I thought I’d pass on my East Coast Australia Mini Guide – something I passed on to my customers at STA Travel and a heap of travel buddies that they said helped them out, so I think it’s time I gave it to all you guys too!

It’s by no means exhaustive – you’ve got to leave some surprised along the way – but it’s a quick run through of places I’ve stopped off at and some key activities in each spot to get you started!

Get a map and start planning your adventure!

 

The East Coast of Australia, My Backpacking Mini Guide

Cairns

scuba great barrier reef cairns australia

The Great Barrier Reef – A Bucket List Must!

Cairns is the party town of the East Coast where most backpackers start or finish their trip. The general consensus is laze around the town’s lagoon pool during the day and party away the night in the infamous bars; The Woolshed and Gilligans being the main venues. It’s also the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef so if you’re looking to snorkel, SCUBA or go all out with a PADI dive course this is the place to do it.

In fact if you’re going to the Great Barrier Reef check out my other site RTW Backpackers for a huge range of Great Barrier Reef Tours.

For those looking to explore a bit more why not spend a day at the Crystal Cascades water falls or hire a car and drive through the landscape of the Atherton Tablelands. If you have a bit more time on your hands do an overnight trip to Cape Tribulation where the two world heritage sites of the rainforest and reef meet together over a bed of golden sands.

 

Mission Beach

This spot is an underestimated stop on the East Coast and many backpackers will simply bypass it – don’t make the same mistake! A couple nights here will reload you after party chaos in Cairns and you can get your adrenaline fix skydiving (which offer gorgeous panoramas of the barrier reef and a beach landing) or white water rafting the Tully River.

Sure you can do both from Cairns but you’ll find yourself with 4 hours of bus time as both trips operate from Mission Beach!

Be a savvy traveller and add the stop in!

Ultimate Australia Guide backpacker travel working holiday oz

Magnetic Island

A great weekend trip to relax either pre or post Cairns. Base Hostel is located right on the beach and is perfect for a relaxing cocktail before swimming in the sheltered bay. You can even hire a Mote or Barbie Car to drive around the island a bit more and explore the many secluded beaches!

If you want somewhere more chilled to stay though Bungalow Bay YHA is an epic choice – surrounded by lush rainforest their koala cuddle package also includes an awesome wildlife tour and you get to hold a koala!

Check out why Magnetic Island is one of my East Coast highlights here!

 

Agnes Water/1770

The town of 1770 is the first western settlement in Australia and great is you want to brush up on a bit of Aussie heritage. For those less interested in that there’s some great Mini Motorbike tours to keep you occupied.

 

Bundaberg

The source of the infamous “Bundie Rum”. Stop here for a tour of the rum distillery and stock up on discounted bottles for the roadtrip!

 

Airlie Beach

Airlie oozes the vibe of a beach side town but this is equalled with party vibes as it is the stop off before and after a chaotic few days sailing the Whitsunday Islands. When you’re not busy partying the lagoon pool here is a great place to catch up on some reading, top up your tan or simply swim away the hangover!

 

whitsunday islands south molle australia

Welcome To The Whitsundays…

The Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsundays has something for everyone – a day trip, a weekend living on a boat or for those with a bit more cash to splash why not stay on one of the many beautiful island resorts?

The sailing again has an option for everyone – party on the goon fuelled Atlantic Clipper, or enjoy a bit more adventure on board Tongarra,  learn to sail or even take a trip on one of the many dive boats.

There’s plenty to see and the underwater world is the main focus – whether this is jumping off the bow, snorkelling or simply taking pictures of the famous Whitehaven inlet – with the world’s purest sand.

 

Rainbow Beach

This quaint beach side town offers access to Fraser Island. There are a couple of hostels which are populated almost solely by people coming to a from Fraser – Dingoes is my pick. But it’s a great place to unwind and explore the beaches that surround it.

 

Fraser Island

When it comes to unique experiences Fraser is one of them! The largest sand island in the world boast miles of open beaches, the worlds purest wild dingoes, tropical rain forest and freshwater lakes – all accessible on 4×4 guided Fraser Island tours. Yup, bomb around the island in your own off roader! Highlights include Indian Head Lookout, the beautiful Lake Mackenzie and generally just camping on the sand dunes under a blanket of stars.

noosa surf east coast australia backpacker

Perfect Noosa Lines…

Noosa

Noosa is a bustling up market town that offers a lot in the way of water sports – try your hand at stand up paddle boarding, learn to surf or go all out and explore the Noosa Everglades on the Gagaju Canoe Safari. The national parks that surround it offer some great walks or places to have a BBQ amongst the backdrop of Tea Tree Point.

Time your trip well and you can immerse yourself in the abundant surf culture during The Noosa Longboard Pro which attracts surfers from all corners of the world or simply chill out with a chai latte in pure Noosa style.

 

Brisbane

One of the major cities on the east coast route – and a great place to fly in too if you’re only doing a short trip. It has all the appeal of every city and is packed with museums, galleries and heaps of nightlife – and even comes with a man made beach! The main appeal for residents is its proximity to some of Australias best beach side towns, so is a great place to base yourself on a working holiday visa.

 

Surfers Paradise

Often referred to as the Miami of Australia Surfers combine all the lures of a skyscraper filled city with the added appeal of being a mere stones throw form miles of sandy beaches. A great place to stop off between Brisbane and Byron to let your hair down!

 

Coolangatta/Tweed Heads

“Coolie” and Tweed Heads border the NSW and QLD divide – at certain times of the year one side of the town has an hours time difference from the other! It’s also the home of the annual Quiksilver Pro where the crème de la crème of surf descend on the town to surf The Kirra Superbank and Snapper Rocks. 2 x world champion Mick Fanning also calls this place home.

 

surfing in byron bay gopro

Byron Bay – My East Coast Highlight!

Byron Bay

If you want a town that epitomises the Aussie beach lifestyle Byron is it. This bustling coastal town is situated on the most easterly point of Oz and is border by heaps of surf breaks and beaches – from the iconic Pass through to Broken Heads, Main Beach and The Wreck. The town itself is full of alternative cultures, hippie markets and a wide range of accommodation (check out Aquarius Hostel) – and no visit is complete without dancing on the tables at Cheeky Monkeys!

Activities include everything from whale watching, diving Julian Rocks, surf lessons, fishing and even day tours to the hippie mecca of nearby Nimbin – often referred to as the Amsterdam of Oz!

If you want something a bit more relaxing and cheap you could always just relax to the sound on bongos and digeridoos on the beach under a gorgeous Byron Bay sunset.

Check out my Ultimate Backpackers Guide To Byron Bay for heaps more info!

 

rtw-banner

 

Yamba

I only discovered Yamba recently but I quickly decided that it was the hidden gem of Australias East Coast. It has such a laid back and friendly vibe but most importantly it’s ram packed full of gorgeous, empty beaches and world class surf. If you’re looking to relax and top up you tan or put some serious time into improving your surfing skills then this is the place to head.

The YHA there is pretty amazing and you have to check out Shanes $10 Tour – tell him I sent you! He’ll show you around the place, point out all the local celebs and generally help you get the most out of this hidden secret!

And if you’re looking to learn to surf check out the Yamba Surf Camp too.

 

Sydney

Vivid Sydney Festival

The Icon of Australia…

No trip to Oz is complete without a visit to the iconic city of Sydney. As with every major city its ram packed full of things to do and see. Take a ferry to Manly, get face to face with the local wildlife at the Sydney Aquarium and Wildlife Park, party in Kings Cross or sip cocktails at The Rocks or Darling Harbour. It goes without saying that you need a camera in tow to get your holiday snaps at The Opera House, The Harbour Bridge or see Sydney from a birds eye view at the Sky Tower.

Christmas day on Bondi Beach is a must, and if you’re there for New Year take a seat in The Botanical Gardens for the best view of the fireworks.

For places to stay you can’t really beat WakeUp Hostel – centrally located and just opposite Central Train Station it’s a short walk to everything and only a 20 minute tube ride from Sydney International Airport. It also has the bonus of having Sidebar below it – great for a night out or even  $5 backpacker meal deal!

 

Canberra

Australia’s often overlooked capital, Canberra is a purpose built city. A trip to the lookout points is the best way to take in its circular layout. The main things to visit are The Australian War Museum which can easily fill a day or two and Parliament Building – the centre of Australian politics.

Alternatively if you take the coastal route from Sydney to Melbourne you can also hit up spots like Wollongong en route.

 

melbourne mall australia east coast

Melbourne Has a Quirky Side!

Melbourne

Sydney’s arch nemesis! The cosmopolitan city of Melbourne boasts a flourishing arts and music scene – packed full of galleries, live music venues and alternative culture.

The Night Markets in St Kilda is a great place to spend an evening buying heaps of trinkets and the beach provides a great escape from city life. Getting around is easy too with lots of free tram lines.

There is also a major AFL scene here too – why not check out a game. And if sports are your scene make sure you pencil in The Melbourne Cup – a one day horse race extravaganza that brings the whole nation to a stand still! Other sporting highlights include Melbourne Grand Prix and The Australian Tennis Open – if you cant get tickets there’s big screen viewing in Federation Square.

 

The Great Ocean Road

Just outside Melbourne lies one of the best coastal drives in the world – The Great Ocean Road. The route takes you along miles upon miles of winding beaches, through forest and past secluded bays. Highlights along the way include Torquay which is the birth place of Ripcurl and Quiksilver so many a bargain can be had at their factory outlets, Bells Beach which holds the Ripcurl Pro and of course the magnificent Twelve Apostles.

 

Of course there’s heaps of other places to visit and things to do along this backpacker right of passage – but it should give you a heaps good idea of how to get started and I highly recommend grabbing a Lonely Planet Guide if you need even more info!

Need help planning your own Aussie adventure? 

Check out my East Coast Australia Trip Planner!

Anywhere or anything you guys would add into the list – any hidden gems or places to avoid? 

 

For more info on budgeting for Australia check out this post.

For more info on how long to spend on the East Coast trail check out this post.

For info on How to Spend 1 Month In Australia check out this post

Related Posts

116 Responses

    • Chris

      No worries Anne!
      Australia as a whole is epic to travel (I did the west coast as well) and there’s so many off the track places to check out!

      Reply
  1. Ella

    Hi, I leave for Australia in three weeks and am looking to buy/ rent a camper van to travel the east coast with two friends. Do you have any advice about which would be better/ website recommendations? Thanks! x

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Ella,
      If you’re looking to hire then Travellers Auto Barn or Britz are a great option. If you buy then check out Gumtree.

      Have a great trip!

      Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Lily, PADI is one of the worldwide scuba diving organisations that offer dive qualifications from beginners up to professional instructors. SSI is an alternative.

      Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Aoife, I did a mixture actually – I hired a camper, bought a camper, used the Greyhound…it all depends on your budget and time scale really. Camper is the most flexible but also the most expensive (especially for a longer trip and for solo) but the greyhound east coast passes are pretty good value and stop off at all the major places.

      Reply
  2. Natalie

    Hi.
    Do you think, that is possible catch the same destinations in 4 weeks by car?
    Thx

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Natalie,
      Yup I’d say it was possible to cover that all by car too – however make sure you’re aware of driving distances and time because it’s a pretty long route! Might be worth breaking up the driving with some internal flights?

      Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Susan – I actually spent an entire year on this coast!hahaha! I did however do Byron – Cairns in just under 3 weeks. You can do Sydney – Cairns in 2 weeks, but it’ll suck. 4 weeks is a good amount of time, 6 is ideal…anything above 6 weeks is a bonus!
      There’s heaps of travel companies that will try and sell you packages for 2 weeks – but don’t be fooled by the low price as it comes at the cost of relaxation time. Yup the longer you spend there the more it will cost but you’ll also get the most out of each place. Byron Bay alone is a good week long stop off!

      Check out my monthly Australia budget for ideas of what to do, what it’ll cost and help plan how long you can afford to stay;

      http://www.backpackerbanter.com/blog/budget-for-a-month-in-australia

      Reply
      • Laura

        Thanks for this – I have 2.5 months to get from Sydney to Darwin next year and would like to do 2-3 weeks in NZ during that time too. I was worried it would be too rushed but looking at this I think it will be just right and I have a little time at the end of my trip unallocated so can go back to anywhere I loved and spend the rest there.

        Chris your site is amazing thanks so much!

      • Chris

        Hey Laura,
        If you’re doing Sydney to Darwin I’d say a good option would be the enjoy your time up the coast to Cairns and then grab a cheap internal flight from Cairns across to Darwin unless there was a reason you wanted to drive across the top end? NZ is an incredible spot and if you have 2-3 weeks you can cover a lot of awesomeness there too!
        Stoked you like the site!

  3. sebastian

    Hey chris nice post! Im planning on doing melbourne to cairns along the east coast the whole month of july. Is it worth or the weather would be too cold?? Please your advise! Thnx

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Sebastian,
      Basically if you’re starting in July down in Melbourne it’s going to be pretty chilly – however by the time you reach Cairns it’s going to be pretty damn hot up there!hahaha!

      Reply
  4. Paddy

    Super article Chris. How does finding work go in any of these locations? I’d love to do the same trek by starting in Cairns but funds may be tight? Would finding work and working along this route work? Spend a few weeks here and there maybe?

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Paddy, I actually spent most of my time working in Byron Bay – both paid work and work for accommodation. There’s plenty of work to be had on that route, both farming and other areas. If you’ve got any experience in sales or the tourism industry you should be fine. Just be persistent and patient though!

      Reply
  5. Emily

    I am temporarily living in Melbourne and I’m planning an easy coast trip for early August. I’ll start in Cairns and I have about 2 weeks. Do you think I will be able to work my way down to Byron Bay in that time or should I plan to end in Brisbane? I’m a solo traveler and I plan to travel with Greyhound. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Emily, it depends what you want to do on the way to be honest. Personally Cairns-Sydney I always recommend at least 4 weeks to make the most of it. You can in theory get all the way to Byron (it’s only 2 hours from Brisbane by bus) but you’ll be bouncing pretty quickly. Personally for 2 weeks (if you’re not too worried about Whitsundays) I’d maybe fly into Cairns and do the Great Barrier Reef (check out my new site EpicGapYear.com for day trips and diving) then fly to Brisabane, do a weekend trip from there to Fraser Island (or miss it our totally) and then head down to Byron for a few days after. Else you’ll find yourself on buses for a lot of that time frame.
      You can do the whole route in 2 weeks but you’d be looking at 4 days in Cairns, 3 on Fraser, 2 on Whisundays, 2 in Byron and the rest covering the ground in between which is rather fast paced.

      Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Nathalia, It’s definitely achievable in 4 weeks but you’ll need to have a good structure in place. I’d ideally recommend 6 weeks so you’ll have more time to enjoy each stop and not be rushed

      Reply
  6. Saskia

    Hi Chris! Great article. I’m actually in Sydney now starting my east coast backpacking trip. I actually do have 5.5 weeks after leaving Sydney, but I was wondering: which places are the places to stay a little longer? I’ll probably check it out and let it depend on the people I meet etc. but maybe you’ve got any extra tips? Thanks and keep up the good work!!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Saskia – 5.5 weeks is a solid amount of time to explore the east coast so you’ll have plenty of scope to change your plans. You can smash it out in 2 weeks but I’d NEVER advise anyone to do that!
      Byron is by far my favourite stop off on that route but it’s also worth pencilling in Yamba for a few extra days too, totally laid back little town that many backpackers overlook. If you’ve got plenty of time to play with I’d maybe do a longer Fraser Island tour and Whitsundays too (budget dependant!) and when you get up to Cairns maybe head on a couple day trip up to Cape Tribulation.
      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  7. Laura

    Hi Chris,
    Awesome post! has put so many more places on my to visit list!
    Im thinking of going to Aus next year to do my working holiday, possibly going to head over in March time to travel and work the east coast, just wondering if you had any advice on where you would to start Cairns or Melbourne? ive heard from alot of people that its easy to get stuck working and living in Melbourne as it is such a great city so was maybe thinking of levaing that to the end? any tips!? Thanks! x

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hmmmm tough decision Laura! You could always set yourself a time limit in Melbourne if you did want to start there? Personally I liked the city but it wasn’t warm enough of close enough to the surf for me to work there. Plus I’m not a city boy by any stretch of the imagination. I actually started in Cairns myself and had a great time – so if you’re already thinking that way trust your instinct and go with it!

      Reply
  8. Ali

    Hi,

    Heading to Australia after a month in Thailand in December. We are going to buy the Greyhound mini traveller pass and travel the east coast that way. We are thinking of flying into Sydney and start from there then fly back from Cairns to Melbourne. I wouldn’t mind booking an internal flight or two if it would really help but could you recommend which ones? or if we would be ok just using the bus from Sydney to Cairnes?

    Thank you.

    Reply
  9. Verity

    Hi Chris,

    This article is so helpful. I am going with 2 friends in January for 3 months (1 guy 1 girl) and we’re planning to hire a camper and drive up the East Coast for 4-6 weeks of it, and stop at either end for a longer period of time.
    My boyfriend and another friend are planning on visiting for a 2 1/2 week holiday at some point. We’re currently thinking Sydney, was wondering where you thought would be best?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Sounds like an awesome plan Verity! Hmmm with stopping off I did enjoy Cairns heaps but it depends if you like scuba diving or not! In regards to people visiting you I’d highly recommend Byron Bay (seriously I go on about that place heaps!) they could fly into Brisbane and drop down to see you.

      Reply
      • Verity

        Hi again, thanks for your reply before.
        We’ve now booked our campervan and I noticed you said you did some of the journey that way.
        Would you suggest booking sites ahead of arriving, or can you just turn up and get a spot?
        Thanks again,
        Verity

      • Chris

        Hey Verity – stoked for your adventure!
        I’d get yourself a campsite guide book (think I actually got mine when I grabbed my camper van) but it’s very easy to get maps and guides out there. Unless you’re heading anywhere during big events you should be fine with just turning up, of course if you know your dates already you can get them all booked in.

  10. Emma

    Hey, husband and I are planning a trip in 2016 we wanna start in Victoria and work our way up to Brisbane how long do u think? Is 4 weeks enough?

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Emma, it depends how many stops you want to make en route. Personally the main ones for me would be Melbourne, The Great Ocean Road, Canberra, Sydney, Yamba, Byron Bay and Brisbane (maybe the Gold Coast if you had time) and yeah I’d say 4 weeks would be a solid amount of time if you planned it right.

      Reply
  11. Ben Locker

    hey chris,

    great site btw

    flying to Melbourne on oct 20th on a working holiday visa, plan on going up the east coast visiting most places you mentioned. what i wanna know is whats it like finding jobs in these areas? and any advice on 2nd year visa re: fruit picking.

    cheers,

    ben

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Ben,
      Sounds like you have a good adventure planned! My best advice is to get your CV in order before flying out so you can hit the ground running. Sites like seek.com.au are great to check out what kind of work is going before you head out too. Fruit picking wise I didn’t do my farm work so I can’t help on that front. Let me know how you get on!

      Reply
  12. George

    Hi Chris, thinking of hiring a camper with 4 friends at the start of September 2015 and travelling this route over approx. 5 weeks. What are the best party towns? and would you do Melbourne to Cairns or the opposite?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Chris

      hmmmm that time of years it’s not going to make heaps of difference weather wise – but in theory north to south would be the best option. Party town wise I’d say Cairns, Airlie Beach, The Gold Coast, Byron Bay and Sydney are the main stops

      Reply
      • George

        We’ve just booked our flights, doing 2 nights in Perth first then arriving in cairns early on the 26th or September and flying home late October 28th from Adelaide. So have about 30 nights to play with. Going to be a mad rush but it’s what we have. Would you recommend any hostels for nightlife or just got atmosphere? I’ve been told to do Gilligans in cairns. What about for airlie beach, Gold Coast, Byron, Sydney and Melbourne? Or anywhere else along the route we may end up stopping at suggested in this post
        Thanks George

  13. Becca

    This looks fab!
    Planning a trip to taz then to Melbourne to cairns in April next year.. Wondered if you know weather it’s better to buy bus travel over here online for then or buying it once your out there..

    Thanks Becca

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Becca,
      You can sort it online or on the ground easy enough, so it’s really up to you! If you get it over there though you may be able to package it in with some other trips for a saving.

      Reply
  14. Aicha

    Hey,

    This has helped me so much. I’m leaving for a four month adventure up or down the east coast as from January 2015, thing is I want to do cairns all the way to Melbourne but need to finish my trip in Sydney as I’m flying out from there. What do you recommend doing? I was thinking of doing Melbourne first then fly to cairns and wrk my way down from there? Or shall I do the other way and work my way up… Does it matter?

    Thank you!
    Aicha

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Aicha, glad the post helped you out! With your trip I’d probably start in Melbourne as you’ll then follow the peak up summer up the coast and make the most of the weather before flying Cairns to Sydney for your flight. Check out Jetstar or Virgin Blue for your internal flights as they’re heaps cheap.

      Reply
  15. Leeanne

    Great post Chris, thanks.

    My boyfriend and I are in Sydney at the moment and will be going back to Melbourne soon for jobs. We would quite like to take a nice route there (we have a car), any other recommended stops than Canberra on the way?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Leeanne,
      Hmmm I simply hit Canberra en route to Melbourne, however once you’re there I totally recommend a few days on the Great Ocean Road, an epic drive!

      Reply
  16. Chad

    Hey! Great post!

    I’m currently in Forster (awesome costal town). Was just wondering what you would recommend for an on budget traveller?

    I have a great campervan, and want to find places along the east coast to stop and work! Do you know any places that are campervan friendly (ideally not paying but a fee isn’t too bad if I can find work) I’m thinking Byron is the best bet..

    Reply
    • Chris

      No worries Chad! I spent a few days in Forster when I head up the coast too, really nice little place hey?! Byron is always a solid shout, there’s a few campervan places on the outskirts which are pretty cheap, but unfortunately free parking around there can be hard to find. I was actually cheeky enough to park in the Arts Industrial Estate if I was running low on cash ;) but hush hush!hahaha!
      Yamba is also a great stop off too, highly recommend it!

      Reply
  17. Todd

    Hey saw this great page and was just wondering me n and my girlfriend have approx 3-4 weeks to get to sydney for Christmas and new year currently in cairns for 4 days do you think we have enough time to see all the main places along the East Coast also would you recommend greyhound or camper van hire?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  18. Louise

    Hi Chris,
    Such a great post really informative! I’m planning on heading out to the east coast next year. I am a solo female and honestly really scared about meeting people/being alone for the whole time!! What are your best tips?? Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Louise! I wouldn’t be too worried, most people out there are in the same mindset as yourself or travelling solo so there’s plenty of opportunities to meet new people! My bets advice is to stay in shared dorms and get involved in any activities the hostels are organising, always a great way to meet new people!

      Reply
  19. louisa klimentos

    Great post on the east coast of OZ.Visit smokey cape light house at Hathead National park NSW.,the view is amazing.Also Tial Bay in NSW.Also Seal Rocks and Port Stephens NSW.If you have time ,do the south coast of NSW such as Jervis Bay ,the Pinnacles at BenBoyd national park Eden.

    Reply
    • Chris

      Sounds like some solid spots to add to my next trip there Louisa, cheers for sharing!

      Reply
  20. Rachel

    Great post with some helpful ideas :)
    Is there a travel book/guide you would recommend for Austrailia?

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Rachel – glad the post was helpful! Hmmm guide book wise for planning the Lonely Planet series is a good start, they have an East Coast specific one

      Reply
  21. Hem

    Hi Chris,

    great website, really helpful.
    Me and 4 other girls are planning to do the east coast but only have 3 weeks. Are plan is to fly from melbourne to Sydney, then sydney to brisbane. Between brisbane and cairns we wanted to hit the follwing placesL Byron Bay, Fraser island, Whitsundays, mission beach. Spending about 2 days in each place. I had a look at the grey hound passes but it doesn;t look as if it stops in places like fraser island/whitsundays/mission beach. How did you get to these places? TIA

    Reply
  22. Rob

    Hi Chris,

    Great post.

    Heading out to Brisbane to work for a few months in April through the winter, before travelling across the east coast. What did you do about sorting out a mobile phone whilst you were out there for a year?

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hi Rob,
      Glad you liked the post and stoked to hear you’re heading to Oz, greta place! With mobile phones out there I have an unlocked iPhone so I just bought a pay as you go SIM whilst I was out there. I used Optus and had no issues, some good value deals for phone, text and internet too.

      Reply
  23. Jordan Dutton

    Hey

    Nice route…
    one question, how the hell do you get around these places?

    I plan to start at Sydney and end at Cairns and i know you can get a flight from sydney-brisbane and then brisbane-cairns… but how do you get to all the beaches and what not near by for example byron bay.

    Is it like a bus trip away or?

    Cheers! J

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Jordan,
      There’s a few options for doing the East Coast, but the easiest ones are the Greyhound bus passes and the Oz Experience passes – they’re the cheapest and most flexible as it’s simply a hop on, hope off service, with the Oz Exp you can also package in some tours like Fraser Island and the Whitsundays too. They tend to drop off pretty central in each location – for example the Byron one drops you a couple minutes walk form all the accom and the beach!

      Check out my other site for more info on the passes;

      http://www.epicgapyear.com/travel-passes/

      Let me know if you need any help!

      Reply
  24. CK

    Hi Chris,

    Love this site! I am an asian girl and I’m planning on doing some solo travel to Australia end of this year. I was wondering if you had any opinions on greyhound vs oz experience for travelling up/down the east coast? While I can drive, I’m not too stoked about driving alone in a country on roads I’m not too familiar about yet, plus I figured taking the bus would be a good way to meet new people.

    Cheers!
    CK

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey CK,
      Nice to e-meet you and stoked to hear you’re heading to Oz, an awesome spot to travel! To be honest there’s little difference between the two as they’re both run by Greyhound now! The Oz Exp has the added advantage of being able to package in some of the main tours to save some money though, whereas the Greyhound passes also have a KM pass option for heaps of freedom to bounce around.
      Check out this post I did which explains the differences a bit more;

      http://www.backpackerbanter.com/blog/best-way-to-travel-east-coast-australia

      You can also book Oz Exp or Greyhound Passes direct on my other site – Epic Gap Year – so check out the following link;

      http://www.epicgapyear.com/travel-passes

      Reply
  25. CS

    Really good read, starting a 5-6 month trip in Cairns next month, using your route down the coast as a template.

    Just wondering how much of what you wanted to do/places to see did you have pre planned? I have some notes and really just want to go along with things but slightly worried I don’t have enough planned!
    Ho

    Hotel booked in cairns for 2 weeks but that’s it for now! Is it easy to book flights etc a few days beforehand while I’m out there? Any good places to meet more solo backpackers is appreciated!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Carl,
      Stoked to hear about your plans – good to hear you’ve given yourself heaps of time! Personally I only planned a few days in advance unless it was a big event (like new year or xmas) and that worked out pretty well, depends how you like to travel though I guess! Having 6 months means you can relax a lot! With flights the further in advance you boo the cheaper it generally is – have you thought about using Greyhound/Oz Experience instead to get down the coast? Check out my other site – Epic Gap Year – for travel passes, diving and surf experiences too

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

      In regards to meeting other backpackers there’s heaps of bars – like the Woolshed or Gilligans in Cairns – but if you’re travelling solo it might be worth swopping from hotels to hostels (go for a private room if you want your space) as it’s a very social environment and they tend to organise heaps of activities where you can mingle with other travellers

      Let me know if you need any help – have an awesome trip!

      Reply
  26. Ally

    Hey Chris, pretty cool site. Pretty much got everything covered! Im a solo traveller & I’m thinking of heading Aus at the end of December/ start of January for 6 weeks and going to be flying into Brisbane and then travel up to cairns either with greyhound or oz experience. Will stay with relatives for a few days in Brisbane to get over ‘jet lag’ and then wanting to do Byron bay, so should I back track and start my journey from there? Can you just get a single travel pass and then use a greyhound pass to travel from Byron to cairns? Would you do it this way or would you travel another way? Also if I where to get a KM pass that would maybe be better to back track with? What option of KM’s would you suggest to buy, would the 2500km be a safe bet?
    Any advice appreciated!
    Thanks :)

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Ally,
      Nice to e-meet you and stoked to hear you’r heading to Oz!
      Indeed the KM pass is going to be your best option by the sounds of it as you can backtrack easily. Although the other option you can do is to get the Byron Bay Easy Bus from Brissie to Byron (about $40AUD) and then get a Byron-Cairns pass on top, which is the bets value if you don’t want to backtrack throughout the rest of your trip

      You can grab the Greyhound Passes direct through my other site – Epic Gap Year – and can ind the booking page and info on the following link;

      http://www.epicgapyear.com/portfolio_page/greyhound-bus-passes-australia/

      If you went KM wise Bryon to Cairns is just over 1,800km and Brisbane to Byron is 165KM so the 2,500km would cover it all.

      Let me know if you have any questions – always happy to help!

      Reply
  27. Sophie

    This is by far the best blog post on an East Coast Road trip i’ve seen – and i’ve done a lot of research! I’m doing 6 weeks next April and I cannot wait! Would you recommend buses or hiring a car?

    Thanks!!

    Reply
  28. Danielle

    Hi Chris,
    Firstly Id just like to say your blog is helping me plan my trip RTW to an extreme extent, thankyou!
    Me and my two friends are heading to Australia at the end of March 2016, were flying to Sydney where we were thinking to work for a few months and then travel the east coast for 4-5 weeks before heading to Asia. I just wondered if you had any general advice really regarding how to plan, how to get work, where to stay? Is it easy to get work up the east coast? We will be in Sydney for around 2-3 months hopefully before doing our travelling up the coast, just due to the cost of things and not being able to save as much as we’d like before we travel the rest of the world!

    Thanks!

    Reply
  29. Billy

    Great blog! It’s really helped. My friends have recommended package deal which pretty much includes everything you listed as ‘need to do things on the east coast’ it’s ran by Peterpan adventure tours and takes 31 days. It also includes travel via coach and buses etc. Its priced at 3300AD approx £1500. I was just wondering if you would consider that as good value? If you could help that’d be great!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Billy, stoked it helped you out!
      I’ve actually just teamed up with Peterpans to launch my new BPB Travel Shop and that 31 day East Coast Package is one of the most popular packages. There’s heaps included so it’s awesome value for money, I’d opt for the open dates option if you’re wanting to spend more than 31 days on the coast, but that comes down to your time frame more than anything.
      I’ve put together some other packages for the Oz section – and they’re all $100AUD off this week too so check them out;

      http://backpackerbanter.com/blog/travel-shop/australia

      Let me know if you have any questions, I’m based in Oz at the mo so if you pass through Byron let me know and I’ll show you around!

      Reply
      • Billy

        Ah cool, I’m pretty flexible with dates but it would be from early October I start my trip. How would the open dates option work? Would I still get everything included in 31 day trip and just pay extra if I wanted to stay the a little longer at certain places?

      • Chris

        Sounds like a plan – I might still be in Oz too so if we cross paths we’ll grab a beer!
        The 31 night package is a more set itinerary as it includes pretty much all of your accom up the coast so keep that in mind, if you’re looking to be a bit more flexible I’d go with the open dated East Coast Package and then add in some of the key tours like Fraser Island and The Whitsundays.
        If 31 days is your total time frame in Oz though the package covers all the key spots and allows you to fit in the most for the time you have! Use the enquire form and the guys can help tailor everything to suit though :)

  30. Dave

    Hi mate great article , im planning on doing the east coast early in september for 31 days. Whats the best /busiest way to do it? Start North or south

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Dave,
      To be honest it’s not much difference going north to south or south to north that time of year over a month so you’re golden either way and there’s always heaps of people heading in both directions! The north will be slightly warmer that time of year though so maybe follow the heat up the coast?

      Check out my new BPB Travel Shop as there are some great travel packages in there and you can book them all open dated to suit your own schedule!

      http://www.backpackerbanter.com/blog/travel-shop/australia

      Let me know if you have any other questions, always happy to help!

      Reply
  31. Billy

    Ye that’d be cool! I’ll be booking it in the next few weeks, i think the open dates would the best option too. Do i book it through this page or direct with peterpans website?

    Reply
  32. Pauline

    Hey! Great blog! it’s very inspiring!
    I just decided to quit my job and go backpacking east coast by myself this fall. I’m planing on getting a working holiday visa. Thanks to your blog and a few recommendations from friends I have a few things on my to do list, however I like to take everything as it comes and what I feel like in the moment. What I do need though is a start and stop point. So my question is if I’m planing on going beginning/mid November and staying minimum 3-4 months should I start north and go south or the other way around?
    Thank you!
    Pauline

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Pauline,
      Stoked you’re enjoying the blog and great to hear about your Oz plans.
      Hmmmm personally I’d probably head north, start in Melbourne, hit up the great ocean road then onto Sydney for xmas and new year before heading up the east coast to cairns. If xmas in Sydney isn’t your thing then either way around suits though, you’ll be getting solid weather that time of year!

      Reply
  33. Renée

    Hi! My best friend and I want to take a very similar route in January next year. How long does it take to get from Cairns to Adelaide? Do you think 6 weeks are enough? Thanks for your answer and the great blog!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Renee,
      6 weeks is certainly enough time if you plan it right – but the more time you have the better ;)

      Reply
  34. Tayla

    Hey! :)
    I am driving from Brisbane the 12 Apostles in December and we have two days to get to them from Brisbane, do you think this would be enough time? We don’t plan on doing a lot of stops on the way down, we will do those on the way back.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Tayla,
      To be honest I don’t think you’re going to be able to cover that much ground in 48 hours – it’s over 1,600km and about 18 hours of solid drive time! Not something I’d recommend, especially given the cool stops in between…

      Reply
    • Chris

      Hope you’re enjoying it out there Ellie! Let me know if you need any help booking your trip up the coast!

      Reply
  35. Natalie

    Hello! Thank you for this great blog! I have 5 weeks travelling in Australia in Dez/Jan. I am planning to go from Sydney to Cairns by Greyhound. Then get on a flight to Alice Springs to see Uluru for around 3 days. Then stop for a visit in Melbourne and Great Ocean Road for a week. Do you think this is possible in this amount of time -without being on the rush all the time?

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Natalie,
      Stoked to hear about your trip – sounds awesome! Yeah I’d say 5 weeks was fine for that, obviously the longer you have, the better but 3.5 weeks up the coast, 5 days for Uluru and a week in Melb/GOR won’t be too rushed!

      Reply
  36. Liam

    Hey Chris !!

    Me and my girlfriend are traveling from Sydney to Cairns in January 2016, we’ve booked all the flights, hotels and transport etc however we haven’t booked any of the trips ie Fraser island , Whitsundays, great barrier reef etc would you recommend booking them when we are there or book them in advance ?

    Also I understand it is the wet season in Australia at that time of the year and potentially cyclone season? Should we be worried, I don’t want trips to be cancelled etc and I know that its the luck of the draw but from your experience what will the weather be like in January ?

    Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Liam,
      Nice to e-meet you and stoked to hear about your adventures to Oz! How long are you spending travelling up the coast as Jan is pretty solid summer time!
      You can actually book a range of day trips (inc the Whitsundays and Fraser Island) over in my travel shop – which is run by my buddies at Peterpans Travel;

      http://www.backpackerbanter.com/blog/travel-shop/australia

      …everything can be booked open dated too so if for any reason your plans change or the weather hinders anything you can move stuff around, which is always good! I’d personally recommend the Clipper for the Whitsundays and Dingoes for Fraser Island, both great trips!

      Reply
      • Liam

        Nice to e-meet you to ha !! Thanks for your reply i appreciate it and will certainly check out the tours.

        We are there for 3 weeks, would of loved a longer stay just work commitments etc. We start in Sydney for 4 nights then fly to Brisbane where we pick up a car and head back down to Byron bay for 2 nights, then stay in surfers paradise 1 night followed by 3 nights in Brisbane.

        We then have 2 nights at Hervey Bay and 3 nights at Airlie Beach finally stopping for 4 nights in Cairns. Technically its 19 nights but we’ve managed to fit everything in we want, im sure when we get there we will have missed something.

        Whats the weather like generally in January, is there much rainy days or is it just like a massive downpour for a short time?

        Thank you for you help Chris !!

      • Chris

        Hey Liam,
        The only thing I’m worried about in that plan are the travel times – there’s some MASSIVE distances to cover in between spots like Airlie and Cairns – like a couple days drive – have you scheduled that into your plan or are you doing some more flights or overnight buses?
        Should be pretty good weather over that period to be honest – Jan is peak of the summer!

  37. Nicola

    Hi Chris,
    I was hoping to get your advice. My boyfriend and I are hoping to travel and work (while living in a tent!) all the way around Australia. We are thinking 12months to travel. We are going to start on the central coast, nsw in July. Which way round Australia would you recommend? We want to go via Ayers Rock, Cairns, Perth, Adelaide etc etc!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Nicola,
      Sounds like an epic adventure to me! I’d keep in mind the seasons – July is peak winter time so the southern parts of Oz are more chilly. To be honest though it doesn’t really matter which way around you go, you’ll have a blast! If you have 12 month to play with take it slow and if you really like a place sit tight and top up the funds! Check out spots like Byron Bay and Yamba which sound like they’ll be right up your alley!

      Reply
  38. Jonathan

    Hi Chris,
    First, your blog is just amazing, it is by far my #1 ressource for my upcoming trip. I’ve just booked a very last minute plane tickets to come to Australia for 3 weeks, from Jan 23 to Feb 14. I have to organise pretty much everything within the next week, so I have couple things on my mind I would like your advice on.

    I’ll be doing the East Coast from Cairns to Sydney with a friend, backpacking.
    I was planning on renting a car, but I’m not sure anymore if it’s worth it or if I should just go with Greyhound. My main reason for having a car, was because I though the driving down the coast would be great views, next to the ocean, a bit like the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, or the 101 in California. Is it a bit like that, or the road is more inbound in the continent?

    Also, I was debatting wether I should go down to Melbourne as well, in addition to my Cairns-Sydney trip. Is the Sydney-Melbourne route that worth it, after being all the way down the East coast to Syndey, at that point?

    Last of all, I only have 3 weeks, but I would like to squeeze tours like Fraser Islands and Whitsundays. Would you recommand doing Whitsundays, considering I will already be doing snorkeling in Cairns, or is it that much worth it to still book a tour, for the experience of the Whitsundays?

    Thank you so very much Chris for your help,
    Cheers,
    Jonathan recently posted..My Top 10 Travel Bloggers To Follow In 2016My Profile

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Jonathan,
      Stoked you like the blog and it’s helped you out heaps! Love your spontaneous trip plans too…great style!
      Hmmmm personally on that time schedule and route the Greyhound is going to be the best value. Although the drive is good it’s not quite Great Ocean Road style the whole way and the time and money savings are good with the bus passes.
      If you’ve only got 3 weeks I’d maybe skip Melbourne too, it’s great fun but you don’t want to over stretch yourself travel wise.
      You should be able to fit in Fraser Island and Whitsundays if you’re well organised. I love the Whitsundays but if you feel like you’r tight on time then you can always do a day trip to Whitehaven Beach rather than a few days of sailing.
      Also – Greyhound are having a 10% off deal on all their passes starting on the 18th – so head over to my other site – EpicGapYear.com – and bag a bargain! you can find out more info on the following link;

      http://www.epicgapyear.com/portfolio_page/greyhound-bus-passes-australia/

      Reply
      • Jonathan

        Hey Chris,
        Thanks for your quick response. We’re going to skip Melbourne in the end, I think 3 weeks was just too rushed already to squeeze it in.
        I’m now debating 2 things:
        I you would have one night to spend between Surfer’s Paradise or Noosa, which one would you recommend (I know those two are completety different…)

        Also, would you rather spend an extra night in Byron Bay, instead of going to one of those two place (SP or Noosa) ?

        Last thing, I just booked my bus pass with your link, thank you very much for that. I’m not very familiar with GreyHound, so what should happen from now, like how do I actually get my pass and activate it? Do I bring my receipt in a GreyHound booth?
        Also, to book my tickets, I see on their website how to book single bus without a pass (where you pay upon each route)…but me having the pass now, how can I book my different routes, without having to pay each of them?

        Thank you very much again for your time.
        Cheers,

  39. Karen

    Hey Chris,
    My partner and I are doing the east cost the month of June 2016, we were silly at the time we booked our world trip and didn’t consider it would be winter then as we were thinking about our Irish weather seasons. Will the weather be OK to do all the trips in June? We are following a lot of ur route above with only 1 or two changes so thank u very much ur blog has helped us a lot!!

    I drive and we were considering maybe getting a camper van for the 1st part of the trip when the distances between each place is only a couple of hours then maybe going to the greyhound from there. Do you think we would save much campervaning on the likes on accommodation and things or would we be better just doing greyhound the whole way? My partner doesn’t drive so I would be doin it all. Thanks in advance :)

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Karen,
      Stoked to hear about your trip, Australia is awesome!
      Hmmm weather wise the more south parts of your trip (Sydney etc) are going to be a bit more chilly – but it’ll warm up as you head north!
      If you’re looking to mix up buses and camper vans that sounds like a good option, but again keep in mind the weather at that part isn’t going to be great!
      Greyhound wise you can actually book the passes direct through my other site – EpicGapYear.com – and there is currently 10% off, check out the following link for some more details;

      http://www.epicgapyear.com/portfolio_page/greyhound-bus-passes-australia/

      If you have any questions let me know!

      Reply
  40. Lukas

    Hey Chris, Great site! I just quit my job to go travel for a year and obviously Australia is high on the list. My plan is to visit Australia for about 2-3 months and do a round trip from Melbourne – Darwin – Cairns – Sydney (focus on east coast). Or do you think I should skip some places and focus a bit more? Any suggestions are welcome! I want to schedule this anywhere between December and August. Having the flexibility somehow also comes with a bit of weather stress haha. Which 3 months would you suggest and what would be the “best route” for a round trip?

    Thanks a lot for your help!

    Cheers, Lukas (Amsterdam)

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Lukas,
      Nice to e-meet you and stoked that the site is helping you out! To be honest 2-3 months is a solid amount of time so you can easily fit in that whole itinerary, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that! The weather will really depend on which order you want to do things in. You could start in Melbourne Nov/Dec/Jan and make your way up the coast, following the summer and then fly from Cairns – Darwin (or bus depending on what you fancy) or do it in reverse starting in Darwin and chase the weather downwards!
      Check out my new e-book on travelling Australia for heaps of extra info too – http://www.backpackerbanter.com/blog/guide-to-working-travelling-australia

      Reply
  41. Beth Hardy

    Hi Chris,

    Great advice, cant wait for my first ever trip to Australia in January. We will be starting off in Melbourne on the 13th Jan and flying from Cairns on the 15th Feb. Would it be possible to send me a kind of itinerary including how long to stay in each place to ensure we see enough of the East Coast without travelling too much and getting too knackered? We are open to where we stop but I would like to stop in Brisbane, Sydney and see Byron Bay, Bundaburg, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Islands and Fraser island.

    Any advice would be much appreciated :)

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Beth,
      Nice to e-meet you and stoked to hear about your trip to Oz! I’ve just pinged you an email with some extra info and a link to my other site – OzBackpacker.com – for you to check out!

      Reply
  42. Natalie

    Hey Chris,

    Myself and my partner are off to Oz in January ! (well either Decemeber or January we aren’t sure yet depending on how long we spend in thailand) We have no time limit really , we plan on doing our farming work to get our second year visa so we can take as much time as needed in each place. The question is, where would be the best time to start at that time of year weather wise ? We were planning on starting in melbourne and working our way up to cairns. Or would we better starting in Cairns and working our way down ? Any info would be great !

    Reply
  43. Steven Lockstone

    You has amazing adventure Chris, it’s not mini guide for me that you shared. It’s almost picture perfect for backpackers on what to expect on the long trips. Traveling on great ocean road is amazing. I been there once and can’t wait to go back by driving.

    Reply
    • Chris

      Thanks for the support Steven – stoked you loved the GOR too, I think it’s one of my favourite parts!

      Reply
  44. Bianca

    Hi, ive read your article and looks great. Me and my boyfriend are flying over to Melbourne for Xmas and are hoping to spend 6 weeks travelling up to Cairns and flying back to the UK from there.

    However we are worried about the weather as we heard it’s cyclone season up North around that time. Is it still possible to travel successfully through wet season or better to give it a miss? Do many people travel the east coast in January time?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Bianca,
      Stoked to hear about your Oz plans! In my personal experience yes there might be a few days of rain, but travelling in Jan/Feb should be no worries at all and that time of year is super popular as many people hit up Sydney for NYE and then head up the coast!
      If you want some help planning your trip check out this post and I’d be happy to help you guys out;

      http://www.backpackerbanter.com/blog/australia-east-coast-trip-planner

      Take it easy!

      Reply

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