East Coast Of Australia Itinerary

Before arriving to Australia we visited so many other countries so I didn’t plan too much beforehand, I just knew the main spots that I wanted to visit and enjoyed each day as it came. It all worked out very well! I put that down to travelling with Greyhound Australia and meeting like-minded backpackers along the way to gain advice and travel tips. I traveled to 8 different countries during my trek around the world and the East Coast of Australia is still etched in my mind and I am dying to return as soon as possible. If I was you I would book your KM pass down the coast with Greyhound before you travel to Australia, that way it will give you much more of an idea of how much spending money you have left.

Australia is blessed with a range of natural wonders, friendly people and, in my opinion, is one of the best places for a backpacking adventure. I made friends in Australia the day I landed, there is always such a warm vibe in the hostels I stayed in!

As I had the BEST time travelling from Cairns to Melbourne, I thought I would put together an ultimate itinerary for backpacking along the East Coast of Australia which lists not only the highlights but also my top tips, some off beat places to visit as well as including my favourite backpacker hostels. Unfortunately, I didn’t include Frazer Island in this review as we spent 1 day on the island and had to return due to Cyclone Debbie! Another reason for me to return to Australia. The sunshine coast is another place you could visit but we just didn’t go there as we wanted to spend a week in Sydney! Although we did visit Noosa which is a coastal hub to the Sunshine coast, so I guess we did visit part of it! I included the recommended amount of time I think you should stay in each location. It’s just a guide and hopefully it will help you!

Budget: At least AUD$100 (£60) per day

Most backpackers start their adventures in Melbourne and travel their way up to Cairns. We did one day in Melbourne and flew to Cairns. Our travel advisor at STA Travel told us to do it that way but if I was you. Definitely Start in Melbourne, don’t book any flights up along the coast (like we did) because then we are restricted if you are enjoying somewhere, meet friendly people and want to stay longer! As we traveled down the coast people were coming to the end of their journey and you could compare the energy levels. We were upbeat and beginning our adventure and they were winding down. This wasn’t the case for the whole trip but we did notice it for a few days at the beginning.

Don’t forget to book your accommodation package before you go to make life so much easier!! YHA Australia offer a pre-purchased accommodation package and you save so much money if you buy it! They will have you covered in all the places you want to visit below! I’ve placed the prices below for you!

7 NIGHTS$225.00                10 NIGHTS$315.00                          15 NIGHTS$430.00
21 NIGHTS$625.00              28 NIGHTS$829.00

 

When we got to Cairns we popped into Liam Poyser in Greyhound Travel Agents, he was so helpful and was surprised at the fact we had flights booked. He told us we should try and cancel them and travel all the way down with Greyhound as it will be a much more smooth experience! We learnt that the hard way but we wanted to ensure we saw as much as possible in 3 weeks. Ring Greyhound and ask to speak to Liam, he will put you at ease and sort everything for you!

The Greyhound bus pass we bought was the 2500 KM for $419 which will bring you from Cairns to Melbourne!

Melbourne – 3 nights 

We flew into Melbourne from Bali so we were literally exhausted and looked like we had been run over by buses with about 5 hours sleep! We sorted out our transfers when we arrived to the airport, there is a desk outside the terminal building Still determined to see Melbourne we dropped our bags into YHA hostel. Getting to YHA from Melbourne Airport is easy, you catch the Skybus to Southern Cross Station and the Skybus Terminal. The hostel is a short walk from Southern Cross Station. Exit the station and go right down Spencer St. Turn left on to Flinders St and the hostel will be on your left.

We didn’t spend long in Melbourne but in hindsight now we are sorry we didn’t spend an extra 2 days there. We used the hop on hop off bus and saw most of the city and made it our business to go to St Kildas which was about a 30 minute train journey from the centre of Melbourne.

Cairns – 3 nights 

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We stayed 5 nights in Gilligans Hostel in Cairns. Gilligans is THE place for young backpackers and there is a different theme party there everynight, it’s so lively and every night never failed to impress. We met so many people there and the staff were so friendly. If I was you I wouldn’t stay anywhere else.  As lovely as Cairns was, 5 nights here was probably too long! I had itchy feet on day 4. Cairns is full of life, most people hang out at the lagoon which is massive and has such a nice vibe.

On day one in Cairns, the first thing we did was booked some excursions and Uncle Brians Tour to see all the waterfalls was at the top of our list and get that Peter Andre experience. As I mentioned earlier, we went into Greyhound and booked, Uncle Brians, Whitsunday tour and Frazer Island Tour. We were a little disappointed with our Whitsunday boat, the tour was absolutely fantastic but the staff on board our boat even told us they didn’t want to be there. If I was you I would book with Airlie Beach Day Sailing, we heard wonderful things about the staff on board and the service! Everyone I  met along the coast recommended that company but unfortunately it was too late and we had already booked.

I heard great things about the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation tour too. In Cairns, you can scuba dive/snorkle the Great Barrier Reef, we decided to wait until Whitsunday tour to do this as we wanted to save money and we could still say we did the GBR. When we did the Great Barrier Reef in The Whitsundays, so many people said it was a much better experience in comparison to Cairns as a lot of the Reef there had disappeared which is such a shame!

Make sure you check out the night markets and Rusty’s Market in Cairns, you won’t miss them! Don’t forget to look out for bats in Cairns too they cover the sky at dusk!! Never seen anything like it!, incredible!

Mission Beach – 1 or 2 nights

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The day before we left Cairns we booked our Greyhound bus and we were lucky that it wasn’t high season so it was never booked up! During the busy season just make sure you book it 2 days before. Mission beach was so pretty but we stayed in the wrong hostel. The doors wouldn’t close in our room and some people walked in during the night. Definitely stay at YHA hostel in Mission Beach! In mission beach, it’s where most people do a skydive! Make sure you visit Wongaling Beach! There were no tourists or backpackers on this beach and it was absolutely beautiful! Mission Beach, situated midway between Townsville and Cairns is made up of four beach villages linked by 14 kilometres of wide golden sands. This beautiful little beachside town, blending vibrant art and culture with unique tourism attractions, invites you to relax and unwind.

Again we hopped on the good ole reliable Greyhound bus and left our hostel in Mission Beach.

Townsville- Magnetic Island – 2 nights

I wouldn’t spend any time in Townsville if you do have a choice, there isn’t much there and its just a gateway for backpackers to get the ferry to Magnetic Island (Aka Barbie Car Island). We did spend 1 night there because we arrived late. The next morning we got a taxi to the ferry terminal and paid for our return ticket at the terminal. There are 2 hostels on Magetic Island, Base which is a big party hostel and Yha hostel which are little huts and give you a unique experience. There’s one thing for certain, the YHA Bungalow Bay Koala Village at Horseshoe Bay, is more bustling than an international airport when it comes to different ages and nationalities. It’s the kind of place you check into when you’re not afraid of making new friends on your island adventure. You’ll find every type of accommodation here from camping through to private suite. Did we mention that on Thursdays their pumping bar serves two-for-one Pina Coladas? Enough said – take our money now! YHA also is the home of the Koala Bear sanctuary, when I heard this I was instantly sold! It was the one thing I wanted to do in Australia, I mean, who doesn’t want to hold a Koala Bear? You can also visit the Koala Bears in Brisbane zoo but in Magnetic island they also you hold red tongue lizards, snakes and lots more. If you want to visit Maggie (that’s what the locals call her) in a weekend, here’s how we recommend you spend 48 fun-fuelled hours on this island, smack-bang in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.

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  • There are 19 return trips to Magnetic Island daily with SeaLink (passengers only). An adult return will cost you $33.
  • There’s a vehicle ferry operated by Fantasea Cruising Magnetic, operating eight trips daily. An adult in a standard vehicle can expect to pay $80 each way for the trip over to the island, but prices vary according to time of year.

Airlie Beach & Whitsundays – 4 nights

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Really the number of nights here depends on whether you would like to do the Whitsunday day tour or 1/2 night tour. If I was you, I would do the day tour, you will see the same things and won’t be restricted to 1 minute showers like we were on our boat. Book your trip with Airlie beach Day sailing Tour. They will not disappoint! If I had a pound for the amount of people who advised us to book this tour, I’d be Dan Bilzarian!! There are some really nice restaurants, bars and boutiques in Airlie Beach, if your budget will allow you to stretch that far. We ate in Little Vegas Bar and Burger and Sorrento Restaurant both were divine!! The port where you will depart on your yacht for Whitehaven Bay (The top beach in the world) is about a 25 minute walk from the town so if you have an over night bag, maybe think about taking a taxi or leaving a lot earlier.

Noosa – 3 nights

I was so glad to finally make it to Noosa. Noosa is a surfer’s dream, this coastal stretch of point and beach breaks is intermingled with sheltered bays and coastline surrounded by pandanus trees. Discover the delights of Noosa Heads, the Noosa North ShoreNoosavilleTewantinPeregian Beach and Sunshine Beach. Noosa was packed with surfers, fabulous beaches and Australian holidaymakers. We stayed here for one night but it is such a relaxing area that you will want to spend more time here. It has a nice little seaside town too and a few bars and restaurants. The greyhound bus station is a bit away from the hostels, so this is the one place I would say make sure you have transport arranged! It took us a 30 minute walk in the heat to walk from the hostel on the way back! Chip in and get a taxi!

  • Walk through the Noosa National Park

If you ask anyone about what to do in Noosa, I can guarantee {unless they are an avid surfer} that the first thing they will mention is the the National Park. You can spend the whole day, or as long as you like, walking the coastal route and paths within the park and if you’re at the right time of year – whale and dolphin sightings aren’t uncommon. There’s lots of little bays and benches to take a rest on along the way so pack in lots of water, some snack and also your swimmers if you fancy a dip in the big blue!

  • Hang Out on the Main Beach

Take your surf board down or just some snacks and a beach towel and enjoy the gorgeous sands and water here in Noosa.

  • Look out for Koalas

Koala sightings aren’t unusual in Noosa so keep your eyes peeled at all times. We spotted one climbing for his dinner on the way up to Laguna Lookout in the trees.

Must Eats Noosa:

  • Taco Boy {For delicious burrito / mexican}
  • Betty’s Burgers located near the main beach {recommended by all locals}
  • 10 Hastings Street Boutique Motel + Cafe {on Hasting Street, the main street parallel to the beach}

Brisbane – 2 nights

We spent 5 nights here altogether. In Brisbane you can, cuddle one of Australia’s favourite furry marsupials at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s first koala sanctuary. Ed Sheerhan has even done it! Make sure you visit China town in Brisbane it was one of the best I’ve been to. There is also plenty to do at Moreton Bay – from exploring gigantic fig trees to sandboarding to venturing on the walking trails that lead to breathtaking views of the Cape Moreton Lighthouse and Honeymoon Bay. You can also indulge in the many sea-sports from scuba-diving to snorkeling to kayaking around mysterious shipwrecks.

Byron Bay – 3 or 4 nights

Byron Bay was the most laid-back, chilled and dainty town I visited along the coast! Don’t bring your shoes to this destination if you want to fit in. I was personally in my element here as the beach was a 2 minute walk from every hostel and there was a collection of instagrammable coffee shops and a range of boutiques along the backstreets of Byron.

You can see all of Byron in a day but if you want to experience if fully and relax I would suggest 3 or 4 days. Here is the place you should take some surf lessons, the waves are even too extreme for the professionals at times so pick your day wisely.

Sydney – 5 nights

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We stayed in Sydney for a week because we just wanted to relax in the one spot as we were constantly on the move for months and I am so glad we did. Sydney was not the place to relax but the city revived our energy and we didn’t want to stay inside on our laptops watching Netflix! We were eager to make the most of our time there. We stayed in Bounce hostel in Sydney and had the best time, all the staff were really friendly and they arranged nights out together with other backpackers, so if you are a solo traveler then this is the place to go! Other options are, use your YHA accommodation pass or stay in WakeUp! hostel which is also another good option.

On day one in Sydney, we walked around and got a feel for the city. The first place I rushed to was of course, the Opera House as I had never seen it before. I advise you to spend your first day taking in breathtaking views of the city.  Head to the summit of ‘Sydney Tower Eye’ which offers views across the city to the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Blue Mountains in the west.  Make sure you go to Blue Mountain on a Sunday as travel is 2 dollars all day on a Sunday so you’ll save lots of money.

The Sydney Skywalk experience is a moving, glass-floored viewing platform which sits at the top of the Tower. I am terrified of heights and even flying from Ireland to Sydney was a massive deal for me so I didn’t do the bridge climb. If you feel up for it, book in to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge – not only is the climb incredibly adventurous and will keep your Adrenalin pumping, but you’re greeted with spectacular views over Sydney once at the top. Remember, do not drink alcohol for 24 hours before, my friend had 1 cocktail and had to pay 260 dollars again to climb it! Not worth wasting that much money!! The bridge climb is relatively expensive – for those traveling on a budget, crossing the bridge on foot is free and offers just as spectacular views and photo opportunities which is what I did!

Sydney Harbour YHA is located right near Sydney Harbour bridge so it is in an excellent location!  It offers complimentary Wi-Fi and many hostels around Australia ask you to pay $5 a day for WIFI so at least when you visit YHA you know you’re saving money too. With views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, the hostel also provides exclusive amenities and services, including a rooftop terrace.

If you are a fan of home and away make sure you go there on either a Wednesday or Thursday, as that is when they film! We hopped off the bus in Palm Beach and a little piece of paradise! The town is instantly recognisable as Summer Bay from the Australian television series Home and Away and caused us to break into a rendition of the theme tune. ‘Closer each day, Home and Awaaayyyy…’, you know the drill! The excitement levels were very high! I was fixated in looking for ALF and James Stewart was standing right alongside me for 5 minutes and it was only when I returned to Ireland and caught up on the latest episodes that I knew who he was, major regrets!

Bondi Beach

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We also spent a day at Bondi beach, which was probably the highlight of my visit to Sydney! The waves were like nothing I’ve seen before, but make sure to swim in between the flags as we were so excited to begin with we just rushed in oblivious to that important rule, stupid I know!

Taking a cruise on Sydney Harbor should be an essential part of any Australian itinerary – Sydney is, after all, a harbor city. Cruise the harbour and get a good view of the Opera House while travelling on the ferry to Manly Island. There you will find beautiful beaches and more of a relaxed atmosphere in comparison to the busy lifestyle of Sydney. Although if you don’t want to go and visit Manly, numerous cruises are available and travelers can choose between sightseeing cruises, a dinner cruise, a dance cruise, or choose from the multitude of ferries which operate out of Circular Quay to a number of destinations within greater Sydney. Manly is home to Shelly Beach which is one of Sydney’s best spots for snorkeling.

You can also visit Cockatoo Island – a historic island now a haunted naval storage facility.  The island provides stunning views overlooking Sydney Harbour and is home to the Island bar, famous for its tropical cocktails and wood-fired pizza.

 Hope it all helps, Zweena x

Congratulations to Shaunagh Dunican and her Boyfriend for winning the Irish Travel Kid competition on my instagram page @irishtravelkid which included the following:

  • A pass from Melbourne to Cairns each
  • 1 day sailing the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef with Airlie Beach Day Sailing each
  • YHA 5 night pass each
  • 3 nights accommodation at Gilligans Hostel Cairns each
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