I have to be honest, I have no idea where to start with summarising this amazing country. I guess the best place to start is the place we first touched down…
Whilst I’m being honest, I have to say that Sydney is not my favourite city in Australia. If I were to go back tomorrow, I’d probably skip it but we have spent a lot of time here and have seen everything we wanted to see. My advice to you is that you should go, after all Sydney Harbour is one of the most popular icons of Australia!
Sydney’s CBD (central business district) is great for a day of shopping and wandering around. Many of the hostels are situated near George Street which is where it is all happening, right in the city centre. The CBD comprises of mostly new buildings as the majority of the city was rebuilt and modernised.
There are some great spots within easy reach of the city and my recommendations are: –
Sydney Harbour and the rocks
Check out Sydney Harbour, the famous Sydney Opera House and Harbour bridge. You can even climb the Harbour Bridge now if you don’t mind spending a fair few $$$$.
Whilst your here head to “The Rocks” for a little dose of history, independent shops and café lined cobbold streets. I have a fantastic memory here of sitting in a french inspired café with my family who were visiting from England.
Top Tip: Check out “Wok on Inn”whilst you are in the area. Delicious street food and at a reasonable price!
Manly ferry and Manly
The Manly ferry is a great way to have a trip over the Harbour. You can see the house the Royal Family use when visiting Sydney, the beautiful beaches that line the Harbour and of course a fantastic view of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House!
I enjoyed many runs along Manly Beach and this place will always hold a special spot in my heart. A must do if you are in Sydney!
Top Tip: Head to the Manly Wharf in the evening and enjoy a nice drink overlooking the harbour.
A great place to stay it you want to be away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, however Bondi can get very busy so to get ready to fight for a spot on this popular surf beach!
One time we were here and “Bondi Rescue” came and shot Alex (my partner) for the popular Aussie show! I was most upset that I wasn’t the “chosen one”!
Another time a shark was spotted by a surfer as it lept up and slid over his board!
There are some lovely shops, restaurants and places to stay in Bondi, check out Airbnb to get your hands on a little house rental near the coast!
Top Tip: Head down to Bondi for the sunrise, you will have the place to yourselves, aside from the odd runner!
Coogee beach and Little Bay
These beaches are a little quieter than the main Sydney beaches, especially Little Bay. You can walk along the rocks here and explore this fabulous rocky coastline. We hired a car and made a day of finding the various little hidden bays along the coats.
Top Tip: Take a nice picnic with you and stay for sunset!
If your in Sydney, why not get the train up into the mountains? Six bucks for a scenic two hour train ride into the mountains, how can you say no? Once you arrive in Katoomba, hop on a bus to see the three sisters. From here you can also head over to the steepest passenger train in the world and experience the mountains in a unique way.
Top tip: If you prefer to be away from the crowds, perhaps don’t stay at the Three Sisters for long and rather head out for a bush walk.
If surfing is your jam, definitely look into doing a surf camp. We did the Spot-X camp at Arrawarra with Mojosurf and stayed for a week in a shipping container; surfing, eating and chilling. It was unforgettable – though tough of the abs!
Top Tip: Take a wander down the beach here and check out the rock pools at low tide. Sometimes you will spot stingrays which have gathered in the rock pools waiting for the high tide to head back out into the ocean.
Byron Bay and Nimbin
We had a great time in Byron Bay. Alex is a fan of “The Inbetweeners” so we stayed at The Arts Factory, famous for being where the boys stayed in the Inbetweeners movie!
As you can see below we hired bikes and explored the beautiful Byron Coastline. We also took a trip to the town of Nimbin. A funky little town west of Byron. I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this hippy inspired destination. You are able to buy “magic cookies” here if you know what I mean. It is highly overlooked in this little hideaway!
Top Tip: Enjoy but stay safe and go in a group!
We loved “Brissie”. We called it Melbourne’s younger sibling. Not as big as Melbourne but just as vibrant!
There is always lots happening on South bank with it’s beautiful subtropical parklands and man-made beach. A great escape on a hot summer’s day in the CBD!
We hiked up to Mt Coot-tha to get a better vantage point of the city and it did not disappoint! Stop at the top for a delicious ice cream looking over the city skyline.
Top Tip: Check out the South Bank Market
Noosa is popular among Australians. Thousands flock here for their summer holidays. Situated on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, Noosa is considered to be a millionaires playground these days. It used to be a tiny village but it grew and grew!
We very much enjoyed our time in Noosa, we didn’t have a very good hostel mind you but we made the most of it. We swam in the beautiful ocean, laid on the beach and hiked Noosa Heads and the stunning Noosa National Park. Get yourself there if you have the time. You will love the beautiful views but you may not love the high prices so much…
Top Tip: Don’t go hiking in the National Park without sufficient water… we spontaneously decided to go for a walk and ran out of water. It was not pleasant!
Oh wow. Fraser Island is probably the biggest must do in this travel guide. We had a great time driving around in our 4×4 “Harry”,along long stretches of beaches and camping in the wilderness. Watch out for the dingo’s though!
My favourite memory of Fraser is when we took off from the beach in an old propeller plane. Not everyday you use a beach as your runway! Incredible memories from this outstanding island.
Top Tip: Listen to your guides when they tell you not to wander off on your own!
Airle Beach and Whitsundays
Head to Airle Beach and book onto a live aboard Whitsundays adventure. Enjoy a BBQ on board with a beautiful sunset backdrop, snorkeling and jumping into the ocean from the yacht. Check out Whitehaven beach, with its stingrays and lemon sharks. Admire the gorgeous Hill inlet and a hike through the rainforest. If you really feel like treating yourself, book a hotel on Hamilton Island and live in a little slice of luxury for a few days.
Top Tip: Careful when swimming, I did get stung by a jelly fish here… (don’t let that stop you though!)
Further up the coast you will find Townsville. It’s here you get the ferry over to Magnetic Island, “Maggie Island”. We booked a hostel on the island and hired an open top Suzuki Vatara. We spent our days exploring the island, finding hidden beaches and enjoying the perfect island life. MAGGIE IS A MUST!
Top Tip: The rental companies can be a bit dodgy so take pictures of your rental before you take it off their hands to make sure you can’t be accused of any “damage” on return!
Most backpackers end their East Coast adventure here.
Cairns has some good nightlife and a fab fresh food market.
Cairns is a great place to take a trip to the Great Barrier Reef for some scuba diving. I’d highly recommend trying scuba diving here if you are a beginner.
I found the clarity of the water when snorkelling the reef was so much better than when we did our scuba. Perhaps something for you to think about? If money is a little tight, you could skip the scuba and just have a day of snorkelling. These reef trips usually include all your gear and a yummy lunch, trust me, you need it after all that swimming!
Top tip: Head to the market in the mornings to try the various fresh tropical fruits on offer. It makes a free delicious healthy breakfast!
This is more of a luxury holiday destination but is fabulous if you fancy a few days of laying by a pool, on a beach and just generally relaxing. We stayed here, with family, in a beautiful villa on a golf course with a private pool. We visited the Great Barrier Islands for a snorkelling adventure. Yet another unforgettable experience!
Top Tip: Head into town and try to Irish Pub (there is always an Irish Pub wherever you go!), they do great backpacker priced meals in this expensive town!
If you can afford to go just that little bit further up the East Coast, do it, you won’t regret it! The Daintree Rainforest is outstanding. We had our very own treehouse cabin and it was a superb way to experience Cape Trib.
Don’t miss ziplining through the Daintree Rainforest with Jungle Surfing – we even got my mum going upside down on the ziplines!
Top tip: Only swim where the locals advise you too and don’t go too near the shore, crocodiles are no joke!
As ever, accommodation depends on how you are travelling.
If you are travelling as a couple, it pays to look into how much a double room is compared to a dorm room in a hostel. On the most part we found, for a few extra bucks, we could enjoy a room to ourselves!
If you are travelling in a group, definitely check out Airbnb. You can split the cost of an entire place between you and end up paying less than you would for a hostel!
Top tip: I can’t stress how much it pays to check out Tripadvisor reviews before you book a place. Honestly, there is nothing better than finding out what other travellers thought of the place before you spend your valuable money on a bed for the night. You don’t want a fright when you arrive after an uncomfortable overnight coach journey!
Here is a breakdown of a tight daily budget for one person: –
- Breakfast $5 – cereal at the hostel
- Lunch $5 – supermarket sandwich and snacks
- Dinner $15 – meal at a backpacker friendly pub or hostel restaurant
- Hostel dorm room $13 (12 bed dorm)
- Double room, shared bathroom – $45 (two people sharing = $22.50 each)
- Double room, private bathroom – $77 (two people sharing = $38.50 each)
- Entire place – $188 (six people sharing = $31.33 each)
There are several coach companies which offer hop on, hop off travel on the East Coast.
We used Premier Motor Service and found them to be perfectly fine. A few of our friends used Greyhound and benefited from in-seat screens, charging points and more comfortable chairs.
We didn’t feel we needed all these extras but the choice is totally yours!
Other options include: –
- Buy your own camper/car (difficult to budget, you’d need tax, servicing and of course the cost of the vehicle itself)
- Rent a car/camper – an expensive option but still an option!
Top tip: We planned our travel to take place overnight and we’d sleep on the coach to save money on accommodation!
This is a difficult area to budget. It really depends on how much you want to do. Are you the type to want to do everything or are you the type to do a couple of bits and then just enjoy the simple things like beach hunting and waterfall chasing?
I have summarised a few activities a below to give you an idea on the cost of these: –
- Spot X Surf Camp – $895 (7 days, 6 nights, all inclusive)
- Fraser Island 4X4 tour – $409 (2 days, 1 night)
- Fraser scenic flight – $100 (15 minute flight)
- Scuba dive day trip – $190 (with lunch and intro dive)
- Snorkelling day trip – $140 (with lunch)
- Skydive – $320 (Skydive the beach at Mission Beach)
- Live aboard Whitsundays trip – $399 (2 days, 1 night)
- Zip lining in the Daintree – £109 (Canopy tour)
This is just a few of the activities available on the East Coast, as you can tell it could end up costing you quite a bit!
Top Tip: Wait until you arrive in places to book activities where possible. You may be able to bag a bargain! For example, on Fraser we headed to the beach as the Scenic Flights landed and had a chat with the pilot, he took us up for 15 minutes for 60 bucks each!
I hope this helps with your planning guys, let me know if you have any more questions about anything and I’ll do my best to help you out!
I’ll be working on more Aussie travel guides shortly. This amazing country is too big to fit into one travel guide!
Until next time…
Love Travel and Coffee