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The East Coast of Australia Touring Guide
Starting in Far North Queensland and travelling down to Sydney, the East Coast is one of the busiest touring routes in the country. Tropical rainforests and spectacular hinterlands, the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands and stunning beaches, it is little wonder this is such a popular drive.
The Great Barrier Reef is the star attraction with a multitude of diving, snorkelling and sailing options to choose from. There is so much to discover on a road trip down the coast – whale watching, driving along miles of sandy beaches, heading inland to the outback regions…
Many travellers self-drive the East Coast as part of a Big Lap of Australia, taking a few months or even years to tour the country.
This self-guided itinerary below explains what to expect when touring the east coast, highlights and a few hidden gems. There will also be places to discover that we have not mentioned, which makes the journey all the better as a little ‘serendipity’ can be an awesome thing.
Grab a real paper map, pin it to your wall and start planning your East Coast adventure.
How long does the drive along the East Coast take?
4 weeks is the minimum time to spend touring the East Coast from Cairns to Sydney, though 6-Weeks would be our suggested time frame to comfortably enjoy everything the Coast has to offer. Even longer if you can. Some travellers do the journey in two weeks, it is a squeeze to get the most out of the trip within that time frame, but it can be done if there is no more time available
The drive is 2,615 kilometres / 1,625 miles. Include a return trip north of Cairns to visit Cape Tribulation which is about 280 km return, plus a few other deviations and the miles and time needed soon adds up.
Sydney, Cairns and Brisbane all have international airports, using a flight finder such as Sky Scanner is a good way to source the best deals on international and local flights.
Find a list of all Australian airports by state here.
Are you maybe coming from the South of the country to then follow the coast back down? Go inland on the way and visit some of the outback regions.
Tours and Activities
Viator, a Trip Advisor Company, is one of the best ‘go to’ online travel agents to help in planning and booking tours or activities anywhere in the world. They have a huge range of experiences along the East Coast too.
Buying an activity or tour for a family member or friend who is planning a trip is an ideal gift idea. Ask the person to see what they might like?
Is it expensive to travel within Australia?
Yes, it costs more to travel here than in our neighbouring countries of South East Asia, but our wages and living expenses are higher. Does it cost much more than The U.K., most of Europe or North America? Not really.
Tours and activities can be pricey, travellers need to budget carefully. The East Coast has so many activities on offer – diving, sailing, bungy jumping, sky-diving… we have listed some of the best tours available in the itinerary below.
Petrol is about half of what it is in Europe. Yes, we tend to travel longer distances here perhaps but the whole East Coast trip from Cairns to Sydney is 2,615 kms – to drive from Amsterdam to Gibralter is 0ver 2,400 kms. Not allowing for diversions on either route.
Accommodation can be expensive but we have many budget options too. Free camping is plentiful for anyone to use and most of our campsites are usually open all year round.
Don’t be put off travelling here because of the constant comments about expenses. Be savvy when you travel.
Weather, Seasons & Best Time to Tour the East Coast
The temperature in Tropical North Queensland is an average of approximately 29°C (85°F) all year-round. The temperature fluctuations between the summer and winter seasons are a lot less than in Europe or North America.
The rainy season rolls in during December, January and February so it tends to be really wet and humid up in tropical Queensland. Not ideal weather for touring as the waters get murky, visibility for snorkelling and diving is poor and sailing the Whitsunday Islands would not be quite so much fun, perhaps. This does mean it is the low tourist season though so accommodation and rental prices will usually be less. It is jellyfish and stingers season up north, which means swimming is not safe unless wearing a ‘stinger suit’ or swimming in safe inland rivers (read more below).
October/November are generally dry months though winds can be strong and the Stingers and Jellyfish start arriving (see below).
June/July/August/September tend to be the most favoured months for an east coast odyssey as the days are warm, generally sunny with blue skies. Awesome weather to go road tripping.
March/April/May can tend to be quite hot still but usually ok for travel.
Warnings – Jelly Fish, Dingoes & Crocodiles
Jelly Fish and Stingers can pose a serious threat to swimmers up north during the summer months. Pay attention to signage and be aware of the dangers. Read more about Dangerous Animals in Oz.
Dingoes are quite common in some areas up north and in Central Australia/Northern Territory. Our native dog does not necessarily pose a threat to humans BUT –
- Do not feed them or try to get close.
- Do not leave food out at night in areas that have dingoes.
- Read more about them here.
Crocodiles – Saltwater (or Estuarine) crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are the world’s largest living reptile species, growing up to 6m long and weighing up to a tonne. ” Read more from Australian Geographic.
It may sound like you will be taken by a Dingo, eaten by a croc or stung by a jellyfish in Australia, take care, be sensible and heed cautions in the limited areas that these animals may pose a threat and you will be fine.
Don’t be put off coming down under for an adventure, it really is not so dangerous in Australia – we don’t have bears at least!
Who Travels This Stunning Route?
Everyone you can think of! Many Australians are on the East Coast touring route as well as thousands of international visitors. It is a backpackers mecca, a family adventure, singles, couples and groups will be on the road. People of all ages are out there exploring. Australians are friendly and if you need help, just ask. The word ‘mate‘ does get used often.
Renting a Motorhome or Car
Renting a car or campervan to tour the East Coast or anywhere in the country is a good option. Getting onto the open road and exploring at your own pace means stopping when and wherever you please.
DriveNow is one of the best websites search for a good price across different vehicle rental companies. Simply enter the required dates etc. and a page will display showing all the different hire prices for cars and motorhomes from all the major companies. You are then taken through the secure booking process.
Buying a Car or Van
Having your own vehicle is one of the best ways to travel in Australia. Before leaping into buying a car or even beginning your search, read this article for some really useful information and tips.
Travellers Auto Barn is a good place to research buying a vehicle as they offer a set buyback price when the trip is finished, which takes the stress out of selling.
Joining a Facebook Group for buying or selling a car is also a good idea, Backpacker Cars Australia is a large group with plenty of vehicles on offer.
East Coast Bus Tours
A range of value packed adventure tour options within Australia can be booked through specialist online travel agents such as the Trip Advisor Company – Viator.
A Sydney to Cairns ‘Hop On – Hop Off Bus Pass is an ideal way to see the coast. Stay with the same group or stop and start as you please.
Sydney to Cairns travel pass, guidance, flexibility and adventure! Hop-on and hop-off anywhere along the way, experiencing amazing off the beaten track locations on the east coast of Australia along the way. Learn about the history, culture and best nightlife spots from your fun, local guide and make new friends from all over the world. Travel by mini-coach from Sydney to Noosa and then on comfortable, fast trains. Visit remote communities, kayak through a marine reserve and take part in other amazing activities. Learn about Australia’s incredible culture, while taking in its mind-blowing scenery from the world’s best beaches, historic towns and dense rainforest.
A fully guided tour bus option from Sydney to Cairns taking 14 days is another option to consider.
Explore the East Coast of Australia in a small group, with a locally owned & operated company that loves nature, food, wine & the friendly faces that we work closely with. Includes nature based activities each day and the chance to relax with some “Me Time” too. Sleep well in hand picked 3 & 4 star accommodation. Must be 18+ to travel on the tour unless an approved minor (8+ years old) is accompanied by an adult. There is not age limit, but all guest must be young in spirit & active enough to participate daily in light to medium walks, some lasting up to 2 hours.
Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling & Diving Cruises
Cruises operate from a number of destinations along the coast offering a variety of options from 1 day to multi-day trips.
We have some highly rated options for snorkelling and diving trips listed below in the itinerary. Browse lots of snorkelling and diving tours to get an idea of what is on offer.
Costs can very soon add up when travelling, as everyone knows. Accommodation is a major expense to factor into travel budgets and finding ways to cut costs will save $$’s that can be spent on other fun things instead. We have some recommended places to stay in the itinerary below – Hotels, resorts, backpacker hostels, camping, dog-friendly places…
Free Camping Queensland and New South Wales
Camping at free sites saves money and also allows for flexibility as bookings are not made in advance.
Download the WikiCampsAU app (there is a small charge to buy the app but it is well worth it) as it is one of the best resources available.
Australia is a country with a great range of free camping grounds and low-cost campsites, use the Wiki Camps App to find suggestions. It is a good idea to aim to arrive early in the afternoon if looking for a site in a free camp during the busy season as they can fill up quickly. People often leave late morning, so arriving around midday or soon after is a good plan.
Free campsites usually have basic toilet facilities, do not expect running water as a rule. Some sites will require campers to be totally self-sufficient. Check details of campsite facilities before arriving, if possible (using the WikiCamps App).
Food Costs – Eating out on the East Coast & Saving Money
It costs to eat whether you are at home or travelling. Naturally. But it is possible to save money.
Food can cost a lot, not being careful and dining out will add $$’s to any budget if it is done too often. It is certainly easy to find cheap places to eat as well as fine dining restaurants in Australia. Have a look at grocery prices here to get an idea of food costs compared to where you live.
We have cafes and restaurants that are as good as any in the world, coffee is usually great and Aussies love a cuppa. Having your own portable cook stove, using a thermal cooker to prepare meals and packing a coffee maker will save a lot of money – you can then choose the view you want to have when dining!
Drinking out a lot will quickly deplete any budget, though some of the Aussie Pubs are well worth a visit to meet locals and get a feel for the country, look for the type of pub where the locals drink for a bit of Australian flavour.
Wine boxes are very popular here and will often be referred to as ‘Goon’. They are mostly quite a respectable drink, practical and economical. They are often talked of as something to drink when really desperate and that the quality is poor – not at all. Read more about the history of cask wine over the past 50 years in Australia.
Free BBQ’s are often available in parks around the country, or certainly available for a low cost. Perhaps pick up some groceries and have a bbq. Take advantage of camp kitchens at campsites.
6 WEEK SELF DRIVE ITINERARY FROM CAIRNS TO SYDNEY
This 6-week East Coast itinerary has been designed to provide enough time at locations along the way without hurrying too much. It can easily be lengthened for travellers with more time to explore the coast and the hinterland regions or shortened if time is a problem.
CAIRNS – 5 days
Cairns is the largest city in Far North Queensland and a major destination for travellers. It’s a city with a really chilled vibe and a population of less than 170,000. Not too big but with everything needed as a touring base. An international airport provides easy access to start a journey from Cairns down the East Coast.
What is the Time in Cairns?
Australia uses three main time zones: Australian Western Standard Time, Australian Central Standard Time and Australian Eastern Standard Time. Regulated by each individual state government, some of which have daylight saving during the summer months.
Cairns is in the AEST time zone and the best way to find out the current time in Cairns or any Australian location is here.
Things to do in Cairns
The Cairns Lagoon (man-made) is a top spot for everyone to chill out or swim with no worries about stingers or crocs during any season. The city centre is a busy hub with plenty of places to eat, sleep and shop. Cairns does not have the long golden beaches like most of the coast, but it does have easy access to nearby beaches, the Barrier Reef and a few lovely, tropical islands.
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park – Discover where Australia begins at Tjapukai. Explore the rich history of the world’s oldest living culture, dating back over 40,000 years.
Reef Cruises, Diving and Snorkelling
Snorkelling and diving trips depart from Cairns (as well as other spots along the coast). Hop aboard a luxury cruiser for a day trip or maybe a yacht for a day to Green Island.
There is a large choice of trips to the reef, some of the best rated and most popular tour companies are listed below. Green Island and Fitzroy Island are both close to Cairns and are popular places to take children in particular, though most of the companies running trips further out are child-friendly too.
Our favourite trip out to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns was on a smaller yacht. The experience of sailing and being part of a small group was so good. The Green Island sailing experience is extremely popular, allowing plenty of time for snorkelling and swimming, plus enjoying a delicious lunch onboard.
If a sleek, luxury catamaran and a bit more space onboard are more appealing though, the Luxury Snorkel and Dive Cruise are highly rated and one of the best.
Viator offers an impressive collection of tours and experiences from Cairns, find more things to do in and around Cairns.
Kuranda is a super little town up on the nearby Atherton Tablelands, the local market is famous. The best way to get there, other than self-drive perhaps, is to take the famous tourist train up the mountain and then return via the Skyrail cable car.
Tours and Adventures from Cairns
Bungy Jumping, Skydiving, Hot Air Balloon Rides, River Rafting and the Sky Rail! There is so much on offer around Cairns! These are a few of the best-rated activities we have found.
An Indulgent Helicopter Flight, perhaps?
From Cairns, The Barron River is the nearest rafting experience available, half day trips offer a good introduction to rafting, or floating down the Mulgrave River on a tube might be a more relaxed option.
A whole day of extreme rafting on the Tully River was our favourite experience! Swimming at the lunch stop and flying over rapids – ooh yeah! The kids loved it too!
Accommodation in Cairns
We stayed in our camper trailer at the Coconut Holiday Park about 6 km south of Cairns town centre, they also have really good cabins to rent. Plenty of things to keep kids happy – water parks, pools, mini-golf and open-air movies.
Cool Waters Holiday Park allow dogs, check with them prior to coming in case the conditions change. Dogs are not allowed in cabins but welcomed in the caravan and camping sections.
For a great backpacker option, there is the chilled out Travellers Oasis The hostel has a fun vibe and is well located within easy access to the centre of Cairns. It has a pool, hammocks, dorms and double rooms in a bright and funky setting.
CAPE TRIBULATION & THE DAINTREE RAINFOREST – 2 days
Cairns to Cape Tribulation – 141 kms/ 2 hours 45 minutes
Any holiday to Far North Queensland should include at least 2 days in the Daintree and Cape Tribulation. Rainforest, long golden beaches and a little bit of serenity.
The Daintree is the world’s oldest rainforest, a guided walk to see the biodiversity and unique plants, is a must.
Beyond Cape Trib, the adventure can continue to the northernmost tip of Australia – Cape York. A 4 wheel drive and some serious preparation will be needed to do that section… and plenty of time.
Things to do at Cape Tribulation
Mossman Gorge is a stunning park on the way to Cape Tribulation and definitely worthy of a visit. Sweet Farm Tours – Chocolate and Sugar Farm – for the sweet lovers amongst us, is fabulous for anyone to visit.
Once at Cape Trib there is plenty to do – hire a bike and ride along the beach, join a local tour by day or night. Go ‘Jungle Surfing’. Find deals and inspiration here.
Day Tours operate from Cairns to Cape Trib. This one includes a one-hour cruise down the Daintree River, time to wander in the rainforest and on the beach then a stop at Mossman Gorge before returning to Cairns.
Cape Tribulation Accommodation
PK’s Jungle Village has been established for decades and has always been a backpacker favourite.
Black Palm Resort is a central base to explore Cape Trib further and is very popular.
Browse a range of other Cape Trib accommodation options and excellent offers here.
Beachfront camping with powered or unpowered sites is available at the well-known Cape Tribulation Camping Park. Suitable for tents, camper trailers and caravans… even hammocks.
MISSION BEACH – 3 days
Cape Trib to Mission Beach – 4 hours 30 mins/ 278 kms
Driving down the coast from Cape Trib and passing by Cairns (unless continuing the trip from Cairns of course), Mission Beach is the next stop on your East Coast adventure.
Mission Beach is along what is known as the Cassowary Coast and a giant sculpture of one of these amazing birds greets visitors as they enter the town. It is a very popular place, laid back and right on the beach with great access to the Barrier Reef.
Things to do in Mission Beach
Go out to the Reef to snorkel or dive or perhaps take a water taxi over to Australia’s famous Dunk Island, ride the rapids of the Tully River in an inflatable raft, tour Charlie’s Chocolate Factory or, for the ultimate buzz, leap out of a plane over the coast and do a tandem skydive!
Accommodation in Mission Beach
So many fantastic accommodation options in Mission Beach. Our favourite, The Eco Village is a fabulous place to stay.
The Jackaroo Tree House has become one of the best hostels in Mission Beach and deserves the reputation. Backpackers have raved about the place, its cool vibe and amazing location. Check it out here.
When travelling with our caravan, the Dunk Island View Caravan Park has been a winner for our family. They also have great cabins.
The Dunk Island View Park is also pet-friendly.
TOWNSVILLE & MAGNETIC ISLAND – 2 days
Mission Beach to Townsville – 3 hours / 235 kms
Sugar Cane fields and banana plantations make this drive to Townsville interesting, with tropical islands just off the coast the whole way down. Take a detour to visit the Wallaman Falls Australia’s highest single drop waterfalls, the region is UNESCO World Heritage-listed.
Things to do – Townsville and Magnetic Island
Townsville is a nice spot, its biggest claim to fame is the quick and easy access to one of Australia’s best known tropical Islands – Magnetic Island or ‘Maggie’ for short. Playground for the wealthy, but still accessible to everyone who wishes to explore. Koalas in the wild, kangaroos, horse riding and hiking. Magic Maggie!
Find some of the best activities around Townsville, including cruises, Helicopter rides, Snorkelling and diving.
Check the timetable and prices for the ferry ride over to beautiful Magnetic Island.
Accommodation in Townsville
Townsville has a range of accommodation to choose from. Budget-friendly options as well as luxury resorts. find the latest prices and amazing deals here.
Accommodation on Magnetic Island
Resorts and hotels on ‘Maggie’ are not known to be budget-friendly but some good deals can be found, including backpacker hostels, family units and luxury apartments.
The Bungalow Bay Koala Village YHA is an ideal backpacker and family option on the Island that has been highly recommended by travellers.
AIRLIE BEACH & WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS – 5 days
Townsville to Airlie Beach – 3 hours / 275 kms
Airlie Beach is a sweet little town, lovely beaches and a really chilled atmosphere. The big drawcard to the area – it’s the ideal spot to begin a Whitsunday Islands adventure.
Things to do in Airlie Beach
Whitehaven Beach is one of Australia’s most famous beaches. Super white sand and an absolutely dreamy location. Airlie Beach offers easy tours to Whitehaven as well as a number of awesome activities.
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands
74 amazing tropical islands. The islands have dense rainforest, super stunning beaches, hiking and are a paradise for travellers.
Many are uninhabited and it is a sailors dream. Charter yachts and organised cruises operate so visitors can do a self-sailing holiday or join a professional cruise.
So many options to choose from – overnight sailing and longer, full day tours, luxury and budget options – browse all the tours available on Viator.
Accommodation in Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach offers a range of accommodation from hostels to luxury apartments. One of the most popular backpacker hostels is Backpackers By The Bay
Find the latest specials on more of the best accommodation options in Airlie Beach click here.
Families will love staying at the Big 4 in Airlie Beach as they offer cabins as well as caravan and camping spots. The playground and kids activities are a winner too.
Reef Sleep – A unique accommodation experience.
For somewhere totally different to sleep, how about staying out on the reef aboard a specially built pontoon for a night? It is permanently moored by Hardy Reef and includes transport to the pontoon and two days/one night to experience the sunset, sunrise, all inclusive of meals. Sleeping under the stars in swags for one or two people is part of the experience.
ROCKHAMPTON – 1 day
Airlie Beach to Rockhampton – 5 hours 20 mins / 481 kms
The journey down to Rockhampton passes through the town of Mackay, jumping off point to the well known Hamilton Island. It’s not the most interesting drive and if time is not a problem, there are a few extra options along the way including seeing Platypus in the wild and heading inland to see the incredible Carnarvon Gorge.
A stay at the Takarakka Bush Resort would be a fabulous indulgence, located in the stunning Carnarvon Gorge, it’s a perfect spot to see Platypus in the wild and explore the remote area.
Things to do in Rockhampton
Rockhampton is the cattle country capital and a great Aussie Town. Read about 9 Must-do’s according to the writers of the blog on Queensland Tourism.
Accommodation in Rockhampton
‘Rocky’ has some awesome options for accommodation. you can find the best deals here or have a look at the beautiful Heritage Hotel for somewhere to stay that is rather special and a real Australian style building, oozing with history.
The Rockhampton YHA is a good, clean base for a stay in the area. Centrally located and popular with backpackers as well as families.
AGNES WATER AND TOWN OF 1770 – 1 days
Rockhampton to Agnes Water – 2 hours 30 mins / 224 kms
The Town of 1770 – funny name for a town? Yes, read about why the name was changed decades ago.
Known as ‘The Discovery Coast’ – This is one of our favourite places along the East Coast. Mostly due to the wicked little ‘bikie gang’ that gets around the place – you can join in the fun with Scooter Roo Tours.
It is a great little area with fab beaches, good walks and plenty to do such as an afternoon coastal tour in an amphibious vehicle! – Experience the delights of the town of 1770 and the thrill of a unique amphibious vessel. Enjoy the wildlife and magnificent views of Round Hill Creek and the Eurimbula coastline. Then enjoy a splashdown into the water with entertaining commentary.
Find all the awesome activities and tours to do in this brilliant little town!
Accommodation in the towns of Agnes Water and Town of 1770
The Southern Cross Backpackers is a fab hostel and is the home base of ‘Scooter Roo’ Bikie Tours.
Agnes Water Beach Holidays park is pet-friendly in the camping/caravan areas. Pets are not allowed near the cabins.
HERVEY BAY – 2 days
Agnes Water to Hervey Bay – 2 hours 40 mins / 231 kms (via Bundaberg)
One the way to Hervey Bay, make a stop by Bundaberg and maybe take a tour at the famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery. It features an oversized bottle of whisky at the entrance. There is, of course, more to do in Bundaberg than checking out the local tipple. Families can easily spend some time here exploring.
Hervey Bay is famous as a Whale Watching location and is also a jumping off point to Fraser Island (see also Rainbow Beach below). It’s a lovely coastal town with plenty of activities to keep visitors entertained.
Things to Do in Hervey Bay
Tours to Fraser Island and Whale Watching are both the main drawcards to the region and a number of options are available.
If you do not have a 4 wheel drive it is easy to join a tag-a-long tour to Fraser Island. Get a few friends together perhaps and share the rental cost.
Browse tours and activities around Hervey Bay including whale watching.
Accommodation in Hervey Bay
There is so much choice in Hervey Bay. Find more of the best deals and prices here.
Spread out over 4 building in lush tropical gardens, The Aussie Woolshed Backpackers is great. A cool vibe, close to everything and award-winning.
The Big 4 Holiday Park is a clean and well-known site that is pet-friendly too.
RAINBOW BEACH & FRASER ISLAND 3 days
Hervey Bay to Rainbow Beach – 1 hour 30 mins / 123 kms
Rainbow Beach, the little town with a really sweet name and a mecca for travellers heading over to the World Heritage Listed Fraser Island. It is the world’s largest sand island and one of the top tourism destinations in Australia.
Things to do in Rainbow Beach
Horse Rides, tandem sky-diving, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking can all be done from Rainbow Beach. Find plenty of choices here.
The Great Beach drive is an adventure for off-road vehicles that might just entice some travellers...- or maybe a tour option would be fun to experience 70 kms of sand driving…
“Escape the bitumen and indulge in a unique once in a lifetime touring experience on the Great Beach Drive, from Noosa to Rainbow Beach, gateway to Fraser Island. Experience intimate, flexible and personalised 4WD tours over 70 kilometres of golden sands”.
Accommodation in Rainbow Beach
Rainbow Getaway Apartments are ideal for families or anyone. With cooking facilities in each apartment, it is easy to self-cater. There are a playground and a solar heated pool too.
Pippies Beachhouse has been operating for years and is a very popular backpackers. they organise backpacker tours to Fraser Island so it’s a great choice.
Rainbow Beach Holiday Park has camping, caravan sites and lovely cabins to rent.
Rainbow Beach Holiday Park – dog-friendly cabins. This park has been recommended by people travelling with dogs.
Fraser Island 2 Days
The world’s largest sand island, World Heritage listed and quite simply an all-around fantastic experience for locals and international travellers. Fraser Island has so much to offer whether you want to experience the fun of driving along massively long golden beaches, swimming in freshwater lagoons, snorkelling, diving, sand boarding, hiking or just hanging out for a while. Dingoes roam the area and are great to see in the wild – but do not feed them or leave food accessible. They can be a problem if fed as they will naturally look for more and can become aggressive.
A few days or more on the island is ideal to really get to know the place though one-day tours operate as well, taking in the sights the island is famous for.
Find a lot more of what to do on Fraser Island with this self-guided itinerary.
Getting to Fraser Island
Car and foot passenger ferries leave from Rainbow Beach, taking about 10-20 minutes or so with regular crossings.
Book a Tour or Do a Tag-Along Tour of Fraser Island.
Fraser Island is for 4 wheel drive vehicles only. Visitors can also cross over and hike on the island. Driving on the beach is one of the highlights of the island as well as lagoons, rainforest and massive dunes.
Browse some options for getting to Fraser Island.
Most Tours depart from Hervey Bay, though hostels in Rainbow Beach offer self-drive options for small groups to hire a 4 wheel drive and explore the island. This is a good way for travellers to get a group together and share the costs. Pippies Beach House is one hostel offering this type of tour.
Cool Dingo guided tours for 18-35’s operate fun, all-inclusive Fraser Island adventures.
Accommodation on Fraser Island
Fraser Island has plenty of choice of accommodation from camping to luxury stays and cottages. Check out the best accommodation deals on Fraser Island here.
Find all the information needed to camp on Fraser Island here. Off road camper trailers are allowed on the island or bring tents. Caravans and pets cannot go on the island
NOOSA – 3 Days
Rainbow Beach to Noosa Heads – 1 hour 40 mins / 134 kms
4 Days in Noosa will be plenty of time to relax and do some local sightseeing. Noosa is a gorgeous spot, very popular with Aussies so it does get busy during the peak holiday times.
This region is known as the Sunshine Coast, for good reason – plenty of Sunshine. It was previously known as ‘ Near North Coast’ a most unromantic and ‘meh’ sort of name to be sure. In 1958 the powers to be decided to jazz things up and hence the name of the Sunshine Coast came into the mix.
A stay in Noosa could be shortened by a couple of days and then a couple of days spent touring the hinterland towns of Maleny and Montville as well as the Glasshouse Mountains which are located inland from the Sunshine Coast.
On the way south from Noosa, perhaps drop into Australia Zoo, run by the family of Steve Irwin, it is well regarded as a great place to visit.
Things to do in Noosa
Noosa Heads is a great spot, funky cafes and restaurants plus water activities. beautiful beaches and National Parks.
Read this guide about the best things to do in Noosa with kids, written by a local.
The Noosa National Park takes in forests as well as the coastal area of Noosa Heads, a sanctuary for wildlife and a good place to visit.
Noosa and the sunshine coast offer all the activities travellers come to expect from an East Coast holiday! Surf lessons, scenic flights, markets and more… Discover some fabulous tour options…
Accommodation in Noosa
The Coral Beach Resort has 1-3 bedroom townhouses in a fantastic setting with three lagoon style pools, spas and a tennis court. It is an affordable stay for families and is highly recommended.
Noosa Heads Motel is the perfect base to explore the area, located close to the main beach and with a pool on site as well as spacious rooms. Find the best price here.
The Noosa Backpackers Resort has everything! A smaller type of hostel with a great atmosphere, onsite cafe and in a fabulous location. They even offer free kayaks so guests can explore the nearby Noosa River.
Camping and caravan park options are abundant and offer some fantastic facilities.
Noosa Caravan Park has cabin accommodation as well as powered and unpowered sites.
Noosa North Shore Retreat has lovely cabins available which are not dog-friendly but the powered and unpowered sites are fine for fur-babies.
BRISBANE OR SURFERS PARADISE – 2 days
The Capital City of Queensland, Brisbane is not overly large but has a lot to see for anyone wanting a city escape after all the beaches and islands of the East Coast so far!
Lots of great accommodation and plenty of places to see and things to do such as climbing the Brisbane Story Bridge perhaps, Brisbane is also popular with backpackers on work visas in Australia. Find more activities and tours...
Surfers Paradise & The Gold Coast
Love it or loathe it! Surfers Paradise is, on the one hand, full of buzz and fun things to do and on the other hand an overdeveloped coastal town. More nightlife than you can poke a stick at, theme parks, surfing and plenty to do for a few days.
We spent a week on the Gold Coast so the kids could go to a couple of theme parks. A cheap flight from Melbourne, budget accommodation and a rental car made for a good holiday for kids.
The Sky Point Observation Deck is amazing, especially at night. Seeing all the waterways from above and looking along the coast in both directions, it also has a good, informative history display.
The Heritage listed, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary a little further south from Surfers Paradise, in the community of Currumbin, is well known and very popular spot to visit.
What to do on the Gold Coast
There is so much to do whether it is roller coasting at a theme park, surfing or one of the many other activities on offer.
Accommodation on the Gold Coast
There must be more high rise accommodation options on Surfers than anywhere else in Australia. Apartments with spectacular views over the Pacific Ocean or Villas with easy pool access… take your pick and have a look here for some good deals.
Bunk Hostel is one of the newest backpackers on the Gold Coast. Really close to the beach, it has a pool and plenty of chill out areas to meet other travellers.
Two Gold Coast Tourist Parks that are dog-friendly – At the northern end of the Gold Coast is Jacobs Well and at the southern end is Kirra Beach. Both parks offer a special dog-friendly site area where you may comfortably holiday with your dog.
BYRON BAY – 2 days
Surfers Paradise to Byron Bay – 1 hour 15 mins / 94 kms
On the way to Byron Bay there is still lots to see… stop in at Burleigh Heads maybe or Kingscliff.
Mullumbimby is one of my favourites, a lovely little town on the edge of the Border Ranges.
Fingal Head, near Tweed Heads, will surprise visitors as it is known as a mini ‘Giants Causeway‘!
Climb Wollumbin/Mt Warning – the first place to catch the sun in all of Australia!
There are many good reasons to visit Byron and the surrounding area, it is one of the most popular destinations along the coast. Known for wonderful beaches, great hikes and a famous lighthouse walk, surfing, kayaking, dolphins and whale watching as well as a vibrant bohemian come hippie atmosphere with a wonderful range of places to eat.
With so many activities and tour options, it is easy to fall in love with this Byron and the surrounding towns and hinterland. Try kayaking, surfing, local bus tours, tandem skydiving, whale watching and so much more…
Accommodation in Byron
The Arts Factory has been a favourite since staying there when backpacking years ago. It is a funky place with a variety of rooms including a TeePee dorm. With its own cafe, pool and jacuzzi – there are plenty of reasons to stay here.
The Oasis Apartments and Tree Top Houses – these ‘tree houses’ are set amongst beautiful bushland, each one with a stunning outlook and individually furnished. Absolute stunners. Stay in Bryon Bay but secluded at the same time.
The Big 4 Caravan Park has 28 acres of bushland and direct access to Tallow Beach via a beach track as well as a pool, playground and camp kitchen. It is also small dog-friendly.
Plenty of reasons to stay in Byron Bay when travelling with your fur-babies. The Byron Bay Holiday Park welcomes small dogs. Powered as well as unpowered sites available and pet-friendly cabins.
Nimbin – Inland from Byron Bay
Byron to Nimbin – 1 hour 15 mins / 77 km
Be sure to go into the hinterland and visit the somewhat famous town of Nimbin and also see Minyin Falls. The drive from Byron to Nimbin through the forest is lovely and the little town is quite different to possibly any other town in Australia.
Join the fun of The Hippy Trail and Hinterland Tour– “Join us on a journey through the magnificent Northern Rivers hinterland. Check out the markets (farmers or arts and crafts market, depending on the day). Explore the hippy town of Nimbin, visit Nimbin Candles. Enjoy a locally sourced picnic lunch at Crams Farm next to Mount Warning. Explore the arty town of Uki. See Main Arm and Mullumimby the epicentre of the hippy movement in the Northern Rivers’.
Accommodation in Nimbin
A night or two in the area would be fun as there is plenty to see. Grey Gum Lodge is rather a funky accommodation option in Nimbin.
The Nimbin Rox YHA Resort is a go-to hostel with funky decor and a very Nimbin vibe to the place. It has a pool, games room, super views, rooms or rent a glamping tent, yurt or tipi!
The Nimbin Caravan Park is a good option for campers and it is pet-friendly too.
BYRON BAY TO SYDNEY – 2 Days or more…
If you plan on heading straight down the coast to Sydney, Port Macquarie would be a good stop (Byron to Port Macquarie – 4 hours 30 mins / 391 kms ) or travel on further as there are numerous pretty towns and superb beaches to be found as well as an amazing lake system. Maybe drop into The Pub with No Beer.. except it does have beer actually, go figure that one out by visiting this historic little gem.
It may seem like the East Coast journey is ending… but there’s still plenty to see.
AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO FOLLOWING THE COAST ROAD TO SYDNEY
This may be an ideal time to head away from the coast and see some waterfalls and mountain country as National Parks are plentiful…
BYRON BAY TO DORRIGO – Extra Days Required
Byron Bay to Dorrigo National Park via Coffs Harbour – 3 hours 50 mins / 303 kms
The drive towards Dorrigo National Park follows The Waterfalls Way which stretches from Coffs Harbour to Armidale. This spectacular drive winds through five awesome national parks with beautiful waterfalls.
Dorrigo National Park
This spectacular National Park and the drive over the mountain ranges along the Waterfall Way is definitely worth including in a road trip. A number of beautiful waterfalls with easy access make the drive to Dorrigo and beyond a delight.
Dorrigo itself is a small town on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, just an hour inland from Coffs Harbour.
Accommodation in Dorrigo
The Lookout Mountain Retreat is in a stunning location with beautiful views and a large open fireplace in the main reception area. It has a wide choice of rooms available.
Camping in or near the National Park can be found in a few locations. Read the details or each campsite carefully for facilities and requirements.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation search on Air BnB for pet-friendly options in the area. If you are not an Air BnB, sign up with this link to get a credit towards your first stay. When searching, make sure to fill in all your requirements in the filters section, including the pet-friendly option.
Continuing on from Dorrigo
Options: Return to the coast to continue towards Sydney or keep driving over the Waterfall Way to Armidale then down to Australia’s Country Music Capital of Tamworth and on to Newcastle and Sydney or go over the Mountains again and visit the Cottan Bimbang National Park and then down to the coast at Port Macquarie then onto Sydney.
SYDNEY – 4 days
The Capital city of New South Wales and definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Sydney offers so much to visitors from incredible coastal walks, beaches, surfing, cruising on the harbour and adrenalin-inducing activities.
4 days have been suggested when visiting Sydney which could include a day trip (or longer) to the Blue Mountains as well.
Things to do in Sydney
Sydney has an insane number of options to keep visitors busy for weeks. From amazing walks around the famous harbour to beaches, history and day trips to the nearby Blue Mountains. We have researched a round-up of some of the best tour options available. It is easy to stay for days in Sydney and not spend a fortune, just exploring the beaches and suburbs.
One of our favourite things to do in Sydney is to catch the Manly Ferry across the Harbour and follow one of the best walks in Sydney from Manly to the Spit.
Accommodation in Sydney
Stay in 5 Star luxury at the Sydney Hilton Hotel for an indulgent break very close to the city centre.
Budget-friendly rooms at the Ibis Budget Motel near the Sydney Olympic Park with parking onsite.
Darling Harbour has a good selection of accommodation, the Novotel being one of the best for budget-friendly rooms.
Search for more places to stay in Sydney on Hotels Combined.
Sydney Central YHA Clean and comfortable with a friendly feel, it has been a popular backpacker hostel for years.
Wake Up Sydney hostel. A fun place to stay, well managed and friendly with a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. Cafe on site, fabulous rooms and centrally located in the heart of Sydney.
Wanderers Rest is on the outskirts of Sydney but in a good location and free for members, nominal charges for non-members.
The Poplar Tourist Park is another pet-friendly site with a good location not too far from the city.
Hotels Combined is an awesome place to find the best deals on rooms wherever you might be. Last minute booking can be made, even in peak season, there will usually be somewhere available, though having a plan and pre-booking is a good idea all the same. This is our favourite place to find accommodation for our family.
Booking.com is also a good choice for finding deals, plus it is not always required to pay all the cost upfront, check details when looking for accommodation. Backpacker hostels can also be booked through them and some really good deals are often available.
Air BnB We use Air BnB as hosts and guests as we have a vintage caravan that is rented out on Air BnB, it’s a fabulous service. Sign up using our link for a great discount of up to $35 on your first Air BnB booking (we receive a small bonus if you do, but you get a bigger bonus for your first time using Air BnB). Once you sign up, share your link with friends to receive further credit towards future stays.
Pin for Travel Planning later…