The East coast of Australia is a must for all travellers heading that side of the world, and one of the top places I’ve travelled to, it topped any expectations by miles. The entire coastline is full of white sandy beaches, exhilarating sites such as the great barrier reef, the Sydney opera house and many bucket list worthy bars.
Australia was never number one on my travel list but as I was this side of the world and everyone raves about it so much I thought I best spend some time seeing what it was all about. I spent 3 weeks traveling the east coast from cairns to Byron, 3 weeks in Sydney and 2 weeks in Melbourne…I will never ever forget these 8 weeks! Honestly, I now know why people go to Australia and never return home, it is a fun, friendly, outdoors life that everyone dreams of and everyone should take at least 2 months exploring, it’s a place I could call home and I’ll be back very shortly to see what the west coast is all about.
Keep reading to find out what I got up to, my experience on the tours I done as well as my time in hostels across the country and finally why I fell in love with Australia.
While working in Vietnam I had time to research into the east coast, so I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go before arriving. If any you have been travelling your to know there’s no point in planning as they always change due to meeting people or enjoying a place that much you stay longer.
The following is a list of the Tours and Trips I experienced over my time in Australia:
The Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling Trip – Passions of Paradise Boat
The amount of snorkelling and diving boats to choose from was a little overwhelming but with the help of the travel agents in Gilligan’s hostel I choose the Passions of Paradise boat. The Passions boat was a beautiful catamaran that had the perfect tanning spot on the netted deck trampoline at the bow of the boat for your journey out to three reef locations.
When boarding the boat, I was already slightly disappointed as I had always dreamed of diving on the great barrier reef, turns out if you have asthma like me you need a doctor’s note of a medical test that takes a few days to say whether your heathy to dive. Sadly, due to my lack of research I didn’t get either of these done and didn’t have enough time in Carins to wait for a medical. However, I still went along to snorkel and I’m so glad I did, the staff on the boat came over and discussed with me the dangers of me diving and made sure I was happy, due to my asthma they took my asthma pump and kept it behind the bar in case anything happened, and I needed it while snorkelling they could access it quickly. The staff on the boat actually enjoyed their job and was passionate about everyone exploring the reef. As a solo traveller i went alone but even though the boat was full of groups of people, family’s couples, it was still very social, and I spent the day with two great swiss girls. If ever alone of the of the crew members would come over and chat to you was a very friendly and fun environment. Lunch was provided and was suited to all dietary requirements, i had half creamy pasta and half tomato pasta which was both super tasty and to go with it was a salad bar style buffet. So overall the boat, the staff and food were perfect.
Now let’s talk about the reason we actually go, the reef and what we saw snorkelling. A lot of people say the reef is dying/dead and that it’s not what you see on David Attenborough shows, so I wanted to find out for myself if it’s still worth visiting. My answer to that is YES! Yes, I’m not someone who knows much about the coral but what I did learn on the boat was that the whole reef is continually going through different stages of its life meaning some look less bright than others, but this is a constant cycle and I can confirm what I saw when snorkelling was incredible. We saw so many beautiful bright coloured fish, coral of all kinds and even got to see a reef shark so my opinion is yes, it’s still so beautiful and worth every traveller’s time exploring. Just wish I’d seen a turtle but you can’t have it all can you. This tour cost $189 and an extra $45 to dive.
Uncle Brian’s Waterfall Tour
I had an extra day to kill in Cairns before my night bus that evening and rather than day drinking round the pool I decided to tag along with a few girls I met in the hostel and spend the day touring the waterfalls and rainforest in the spectacular Atherton Tablelands Region. The tour covered a number of stops such as the Babinda Boulders, Josephine Falls, Milla Milla Falls and Lake Eacham. Obviously booking on to this last minute I didn’t know what to expect from the day but I’m so glad I booked on. We had Sid as our driver and he got everyone chatting and making friends the moment we got on the bus from the hostel, this is a great tour for solo travellers as your 100% going to make friends, some may even be staying in your hostel. We had sing songs going, games being played all set up by the driver, while he gives us all the history or the rainforest and the plants/animals that live in it. The swimming spots are perfect one even has a natural formed rock slide which is super fun. Sid had a camera and took photos for us all day and even made us get the perfect hair flick in the ‘mysterious girl’ waterfall (little fact this is not actually where peter Andres video was filmed but it does look very similar). I really recommend this to solo travellers especially if your starting your east coast trip in Cairns as you’ll make friends you bump into as you make your way down the country, never know you may even end up traveling with them. This tour cost $119.
The Whitsundays – Clipper Boat
The Whitsundays is said to be the highlight of the east coast so as you could imagine I was super excited to do this. However, when I arrived in Airlie beach the day before my boat was meant to depart the weather was really bad and a cyclone was on its way, that night we were still told that the boat will go out. When we woke up in the morning we were advised it was not safe to go out on the boat and that they would have to cancel our tour. ABC travel was wonderful during this time with great customer service and told me I could either switch to a later date or get in touch with the company I booked through for a refund. Sadly, due to me wanting to make it to Sydney for Christmas I couldn’t do this at a later date, so ABC rang Traveling Whitsundays where they were happy to give me a full refund and was really apologetic. I was very lucky to get a full refund lots of my friends who booked via PeterPans had a bad customer service experience and was only offered 80% refunded!! Personally, I do not think this is fair as they are just keeping 20% for themselves as the actual boat companies were offering full refunds. So, heads up to anyone booking with PeterPans make sure you’ve read the small print. The clipper tour cost $495.
Dingos Tag Along Tour – Fraser Island
Fraser Island was one of the main tours I was excited for when I decided to go to Australia and it defiantly lived up to my expectations. The night before you all stay at the same hostel in rainbow beach and get a briefing on what to do and what not to do, they explained what animals were on the island such as dingo’s and snakes that could harm you, this briefing scared everyone slightly but don’t worry don’t let it put you off we all survived. During the briefing you get to meet the group you’ll be in the car with which is good for solo travellers as you see familiar faces in the morning as your up early about 7am to watch the driving brief, load up the cars and head to the ferry. The tour is run by an amazing team of staff, we were a group of 64 so had mazza and Joel as our lead drivers both of them were so much fun and great people to meet. We saw some of the most amazing sites such as lake McKenzie, the famous shipwreck, Airlie Creek, champagne pools and Indian head over the course of the weekend. The driving was challenging at times as it’s not every day you drive along a beach through a forest or through deep water, but everyone managed, and it was such a fun experience. (be warned you have to be over 18 to drive and have your license with you so if your planning on driving take this with you on your travels). The dingo campsite was massive had everything you need, clean toilets and warm showers ($2 for 5mins). If you’re a bit of a princess take a proper pillow with you as the floor and a hoody wasn’t very comfy but after a few glasses of goon, you sleep like a baby. The food was provided the organisers was amazing and so much of it!! They also gave everyone with allergies their own bags which was really nice and organised. You cook your own meals within your groups on this trip but that made it more fun was like being in I’m a celeb. If you’ve read any other reviews on the tour you will realise you don’t go to bed to early, we had a campfire singalong with marshmallows, plenty of mazzas famous drinking games and everyone partied throughout the evening music does get turned off at 12:30 but then you can head to the beach and carry on there just watch out for the dingo’s. We then stayed back at the dingo’s hostel the evening we got back to recover for the best few days we’ll I say recover it ended up us being in the bar till 1am. This was up there with one of the best things I done on my travels with some of the best people I met. This tour cost $514 but with 2 nights accommodation either side of the tour at rainbow beach in £554 I recommend booking the accommodation with the tour as you get to meet people you’ll be on the tour with.
Australia Zoo is most famous for being Home of the crocodile hunter (owned by Steve Irwin, now ran by his family). I recommend everyone that has a day spare and is passing this direction to defo visit, I’m not a huge fan of zoos but I was pretty impressed with this one. I never planned to visit or even knew where this zoo was but due to friend’s id met going I thought I’d follow. We got on the grey hound bus from Noosa in the morning spent the day exploring the zoo then got back on the grey hound and headed to Brisbane, this made to zoo so easily accessible (Will explain more about the greyhound bus below). This zoo is full of rescued animals and each animal has a plaque explaining where Steve, his wife or Bindi his daughter recused these animals from and why they were brought to the zoo, this made me feel like this was more than just a zoo made for tourists. A big part of the zoo is home to a tribute to Steve Irwin, which is quite emotional maybe because I watched him a lot as a child but either way it really made you apricate what him and his family have done and are still doing. As I came from Noosa I had all my bags with me, but the zoo provides very large lockers for only $15 all day which would easily fit two people luggage in if you’re going with a friend. So, if you have a day spare go check out the zoo you can feed kangaroos, hold a koala all the Australian animals ticked off your bucket list. The entry fee to the zoo is $59 for an adult or $47 if you are a student.
Happy Coach Nimbim Tour
Nimbin is a small village west of Byron Bay known as Australia’s hippest destination and also known to many travellers as Australia’s weed capital. As it was my first time in Byron bay and back to solo traveling as I left friends id met in sunshine coast, I was keen to check out the day trips, I was torn between the kayaking and the Nimbin tour but as id done a lot of kayaking over my trip I thought I’d try something a little different. The following morning the bright colourful rainbow bus pulls up at the hostel and my first thoughts was hmmm what am I getting myself in to this does not look like my kind of scene. So, from the outset I knew this trip was a little too hippy for me, anyway with an open mind I hop on the bus and off we go. The drive there was roughly 2 hours but constantly has beautiful views to keep you entertained. Mid-way we stopped at a waterfall, through the advertising of the trip I assumed we could swim in the waterfall however this is not the case you literally take a picture and get back on the bus. We finally arrived in Nimbin and I was expecting a really bright colorful hippy town where all the buildings looked like rainbow cottage but in fact this was the only house like it. Nimbin was a tiny town that had a few cool shops and standard cafes along it and shops that sold weed and weed brownies, so unless you’re really into weed and want to spend $50 getting there and back this trip is for you, however for me I felt it was a very long car journey to nowhere. So, to be honest I don’t recommend taking the day to see Nimbin.
Bondi to Coogee walk
The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk seemed dauting in the Australian heat, however we look a few beers and strolled slowly along the coast, for anyone in Sydney this is a must and I recommend doing it in your first few days, so you can see all the smaller beaches and then spend the rest of your time on your favorite beach. Advice to anyone doing the walk in 28-degree heat reapply your sun cream!! Was the first time I’ve ever lied in bed in pain due to sunburn. Once we finished the walk we decided to go for drinks in coogee hotel which sooner turned into a full day sesh in the sun in the cutest bar was the first time I realised why no one ever wants to leave Sydney.
If you’re in Sydney over the Christmas period the Randwick Races is a must, there held on boxing day and free entry for anyone with an international passport. Was the first time in months I was able to dress up in a dress and heels, so this made me excited I also won $100 on the first race woo. I went to the races with a group from my hostel but ended up spending the day with 3 girls I met that morning and had the best day ever, days like this made me realise why I love backpacking as it’s so normal to and easy to make friends and feel like you’ve known them forever.
Seadeck Boat party
Seadeck is a boat party that takes your around the Sydney harbour (also one in Brisbane) it’s a unique party venue with the most incredible views. They run every Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer, but tickets sell out quickly so pre-book your tickets in advance. The cruise last about 5 hours so plenty of time to get some food, drink lots of the amazing cocktails and dance to a range of different DJ’s. The tickets for Seadeck for $30
Skydive Australia – Wollongong
Skydiving was the top of my bucket list when I set off on my travels and one I did not want to miss, I was going to skydive on mission beach but due to the weather when I was that end of the country I decided to wait and book it for my birthday when I was in Sydney sadly due to wind the was rescheduled for 2 days later, all I can say is it was so worth the wait!!
So, Skydive Australia has a talented bunch of divers through the country and the ones at Wollongong made the day, they make you feel relaxed and excited for the jump. The Sydney drop zone is just one hour south of Sydney CBD and they provide free return bus transfers every day of the week. Its Australia’s highest altitude of up to 15,000 feet and you jump directly over North Wollongong beach. The feeling is unexplainable but the minute you land you want to do it all over again, the freefall was such a crazy experience and then once the parachute is pulled you have time to take it the most amazing views. There’s to photo options one with a go pro on your diver’s wrist or an option where someone jumps with you and films all of it. I went for the more expensive version, but it was completely worth it you can see some of the amazing photos I got below. Anyone thinking about skydiving it’s a must and a feeling your never forget. The skydive cost $299 and with the person to jump and take the photos it’s an extra $180.
Yarra Valley Wine Tour
The Yarra Valley is a region in Victoria, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne. We booked a full day tour which picked us up from St Kilda at 9:30am we then drove to the Yarra valley within this hour the driver told us all about the history of the valley and a lot of I depth detail about the different wines we would be trying today. We visited 4 winery’s all very different but equally as beautiful, lunch was included at the 2nd winery you had 4 different options to choose from, we sat and ate lunch as a group so even as a solo traveller you can go on this tour and meet people, we ate in a beautiful setting overlooking the vineyards. The last stop of the tour was the most beautiful. Overall a great day with more than enough wine and so worth doing if you’re in Melbourne. We booked through Australian wine tours and it was about $140.
Wilsons Promontory National Park Tour
Wilsons Prom is one of Australia’s most spectacular national parks. With a few days left in Melbourne and the weather not being beach worthy I booked this tour via bunyip tours and was $135 be warned it’s a long drive out and over half the day is spent in the car however I still think it’s worth visiting. You visit a few key spots such as Squeaky Beach which is one of Australia’s most famous beaches as the quartz sand really does squeak as you stroll
along. You also get to explore the hiking tracks such as Lily Pilly Gully and Mt bishop, the top of Mt Bishop is so worth making it to as the views were breathtaking. Be prepared for a long day in the car as you leave at 7:30am and don’t arrive back in Melbourne till 8:30pm they provide lunch and stop for dinner on the way back so don’t worry about food but be prepared for the long day and you’ll hopefully have as much fun as I did.
Great Ocean Road Day Trip
The Great Ocean road is one of the most famous road in the world, I also done this tour through Bungyiptours for $135 which included the famous 12 Apostles, the Loch ard gorge shipwreck legends. Like the Wilsons prom be prepared for a long day, personally if I done this again I would get a camper van and spend about 4 days exploring the road properly. There is so many amazing coastal towns I would have loved to spend longer than 30 minutes in along the way, so much wildlife we could have watched such koalas and different types of birds. The views are out of the world and its a round anyone in Australia should drive down. I would recommend going in a campervan to avoid the crowds as it was so busy in certain spots that you just couldn’t enjoy where you were.
My East Coast Itinerary:
Day 1-3: Cairns
Day 4-5: Airlie Beach
Day 6: Rainbow Beach
Day 7-9: Frazer Island
Day 10: Rainbow Beach
Day 11-12: Noosa
Day 13-15: Brisbane
16-19: Byron Bay
Break: 5 Weeks in New Zealand
Day 34-54: Sydney
Day 55-65: Melbourne
Places on my itinerary:
I started my Australia trip in Cairns, where I stayed at Gilligan’s. This hostel had a lot to live up to as friends who had previously stayed there spoke to highly of it. The pool area was amazing as well as the bar and social aspect they really did make everyone get involved. Only issue was the nights they put on mad me feel like I was in Maga or Zante for example wet t-shirt comp and pole dancing comps, a guy’s dream but just made a lot of us feel quite uncomfortable watching people get fully naked for a free drink. Beds where comfy and rooms were clean but lack of plugs for a room of 8. Kitchen area was massive and always clean and organised.
Cairns was a lovely little town with lot of good restaurants and events to do you could easily spend a week here.
I stayed in Base backpackers and it was one of the worst hostels i stayed in their ones I recommend staying in. The kitchen was so dirty with no utensils, rooms had lack of plugs, beds were hard and had cockroaches running around in the evening. No info given on evening events when checking in, don’t think it’s a hostel suitable for solo travelers.
Airlie beach is the cutest little place, unfortunately it rained the whole time I was there, so it put a massive damper on my time there however I want to go back as it would be beautiful in the sun.
I stayed at Dingo’s Backpackers, we were welcomed at the bus stop by a friendly staff member. We weren’t able to check in for 2 hours but there was a nice chill out area for us to wait and relax. The rooms here were very spacious great bathroom one of the most powerful showers I’ve had in Australia only downfall which seems to be a common thing is Australian hostels are the lack of plugs, comparing them to Asian hostels where you get a plug and a light next to every bed. Kitchen was also a nice outdoor kitchen with plenty of space.
Rainbow Beach is a tiny little town with not much going on but has a lovely beach and sunset walk, makes it the perfect place to leave for Fraser island from.
I stayed at Nomads Noosa, the rooms where very spacious but bathrooms were a bit grim and they had a code system for the doors which caused problems when my phone died as I didn’t know the code and the after-hours security were a bit rude and took a while for me to prove I was staying there. The swimming area was nice, and bar was very social.
Noosa was the most beautiful little beach town one of my fav on my trip, has the best restaurants and bars, somewhere id defiantly go back to and spend longer.
I stayed at Bunk in Brisbane which was amazing the reception area was lovely and welcoming, the dorms were small, but you had your own plug/light and the bathroom was very modern and clean. Reception staff were lovely not a bad word to say about this hostel. The pool area looked amazing but sadly we didn’t have the weather for it.
I had heard mixed reviews on Brisbane, we were there on a weekend and there was so much going on, the nightlife he buildings, the bridges, the shops and the quirky little restaurants made me completely fall in love with Brisbane.
Byron bay was the hippest little town ever. I stayed at YHA and this was honestly the cleanest nicest hostel I’d stayed in so far on my travels, maybe not so good for solo travelers as there’s no bar or social area other than the kitchen but I had friends staying there so worked well for me. Or even if you’ve had enough of slumming it as most Australian hostel are grim this is the perfect treat for you, the beds all have curtains lights and plugs this may sound strange but it’s a dream come true when there all next to your bed!! The kitchen and BBQ area were amazing and had so much equipment and cutlery for everyone.
Byron was a rather chilled few days for me, one because it New my following week in Sydney would be hectic but also because it had such a chilled vibe you just wanted to be lazy.
I stayed at Base hostel, it is in a great location near darling harbour, town hall station, Westfield’s and easy buses to everywhere else in the city to Bondi. The kitchen and cinema area are clean and the rooms spacious only issue the beds are soooo squeaky!!! A lot of people that stay here are living here so if you’re coming to Australia from Asia don’t expect the same friendly vibe in the hostels, you’ll make friends don’t worry but it’s harder than Asia. I also stayed in Bondi Backpackers, this hostel was incredible, has a sea view with a room of 4 so was loads of room and the bed were super comfy, bathrooms were clean, and the roof deck was perfect social spot. The hostel puts on events every day of the week so it’s easy to make friends and get to know the area.
Sydney is a place I hope to call home one day its honestly amazing, friendly, lively, chilled out city that’s worth spending along time in.
I stayed at Nomads St Kilda, it was a social hostel with great events and roof deck, the rooms were nice with own curtain, light and plugs. This kitchen in this hostel was way to small for the amount of people there and was always a mess. I would consider looking at base hostel if I go back to Melbourne.
Melbourne was a beautiful city with great nightlife but during the day there wasn’t much going on and due to the weather being rubbish I felt myself not doing much during the days.
If you’re thinking of traveling the east coast and looking at what to do and where to visit I hope you found this useful.