Travelling up the East Coast of Australia is one of the worlds most popular backpacking routes – but what’s the best way to tackle it?
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…
Updated for 2023
What’s The Best Way To Travel The East Coast Of Australia?
Out of all the options on the list, the Greyhound Australia Bus is easily the most popular – simple, easy and budget friendly!
They’ve had a few pass options in the past, but currently they have two Greyhound Bus Passes options for people looking to travel around Australia.
The first is the Greyhound WHIMit bus passes – which offers unlimited travel across the entire Greyhound network valid from 7 days to 3 months 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.
Price wise it really depends on your length of travel:
- 15 Day Greyhound WHIMIT Pass = $349
- 30 Day Greyhound WHIMIT Pass = $439
- 60 Day Greyhound WHIMIT Pass = $499
- 90 Day Greyhound WHIMIT Pass = $629
Secondly is the new Greyhound East Coast Australia Passes. They’re pretty similar to the WHIMit, however there are two main differences:
- The limited to routes between Melbourne and Cairns (so no Red Centre, NT or WA routes)
- They comes in 7, 15 or 30 day options – so they’re ideal for shorter trips.
Oh, and they’re slightly cheaper too:
- 7 Day Greyhound East Coast Pass = $249
- 15 Day Greyhound East Coast Pass = $319
- 30 Day Greyhound East Coast Pass = $389
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. Plus you can self manage your trips using their online portal – so you can quickly check bus times and reschedule your bus trips when your travel plans change.
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
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!
2023 UPDATE: Unfortunately Stray Australia is currently not running their hop on, hop off options for 2023, but hopefully they’ll be returning soon!
The new kid on the block so to speak is Stray Australia (formally Loka Travel). The brainchild of the guy who launched Oz Experience and Kiwi Experience, it’s a hybrid and mid ground between the hop on, hop off bus passes and a full blown tour.
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 Stray 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!
Stray Australia 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.
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. And with up to 12 months to complete your trip, it’s a great flexible option for those staying in Australia for longer.
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 Intro Travel.
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.
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.
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!
Buy A Campervan/Car
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!
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!
Vanlife isn’t always as Insta worthy as it might seem though so make sure you do your research and prepare for van life properly!
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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