The East Coast, it’s a classic first timers bucket list item in Australia. But, where should you start your trip; north or south? Where should you go? There’s so many questions that sometimes you need not only someone who’s seen it all, but someone who is from Australia to tell you how to tackle this mammoth coast line. Roxana Oliver who’s a Sydney girl born and bred has collaborated with me to create this post! Follow her here and here.
Firstly, if you’re wondering how to get up the East Coast from Melbourne – Sydney, there are various ways of doing so.
- Take the Greyhound bus which costs $549 from Melbourne to Cairns
- Hire a car or campervan from Wicked Campers (approx $1000 for a mini camper, 26+ years and over for 3 weeks), or Hippie Camper (you can get upto 30% off here)
- Buy a car or campervan from Gumtree
- Do a tour with PeterPan from just $874 for 16 day trip from Sydney to Cairns or with a smaller group like Intrepid Travel do a trip from Sydney to Cairns as well.
East Coast Guide: 13 places you absolutely must visit
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1. Start off with Melbourne
You can always choose your own direction of traveling the East Coast, but the best way is to fly to Melbourne and slowly work your way up to Cairns as that’s what most people actually do. Just remember when it’s summer in Victoria and NSW, it’s rainy season in Queensland.
Melbourne is home to some of the most popular restaurants and clubs, film festivals, markets and much, much more. During these two days, don’t miss out on the ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, where you can see some of the best exhibitions in the world.
Melbourne is basically known to some as the cultural centre of Australia. Expect awesome coffee shops which spill out into the laneways, incredible street art you probably won’t find anywhere else in the country, and some hidden bars which definitely won’t be controlled like they are in Sydney (I’m talking about how the doormen can be in Sydney!), Melbourne tends to be known as Australia’s version to London.The magnificent Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs!
When you start making your way onto Sydney, make sure you stop off at Mornington Peninsula for the hot springs and to Wilsons Promontory National Park.
2. Stay the night in Eden
If you’re going to camp, I’d recommend staying in Eden for the night. The old whaling town is a proper little gem on the east coast of Australia. You’ll find some absolutely stunning beaches and you should stop off at Bega to buy some of the famous Bega Valley cheese!
Image via NSW National Parks
Mt Kosciuszko is the tallest mountain in Australia at 2,228 metres high. You can hike it in 6-8 hours (find out more about hiking to Mount Kosciuszko here), but the real reason I’d be heading there is to go for a dip in Yarrangobilly Caves Thermal Pool. It’s only a 700 metre walk from the car park so don’t expect any hiking although it’s a bit on the steep side so be careful if you’re with kids. The main thing is the temp stays at an inviting 27C all year long!!
4. Head over to Jervis Bay
If you’re looking for some of the best beaches in Australia, head over to Jervis Bay, just three hours away from Sydney. Hymns Beach is known as having the whitest sand in the world but I think Chinaman’s Beach next door is way better. Make sure you check out my guide on what to see here.
5. Continue onto Sydney
You can easily catch a bus over from Melbourne to Sydney or if you’re driving then continue on over after you’ve been to Kosciuszko National Park. Stay at one of the best hotels with a view, take yourself for a posh dinner, and discover one of the many gems around the city. Sydney is known for its incredible beaches and hikes so make sure you spend a good day checking them out and hire a car here to do so.
Make sure you don’t miss a trip over to Blue Mountains which is one of the most beautiful places near Sydney.
6. Stop off on the Central Coast
The central coast is an amazing gem near Sydney. Make sure you stop off at places like Avoca Beach for Byron Bay vibes, Newcastle for the beaches, Port Stephens for one of the best spots for families (because there’s so much to do!). Don’t miss a night at Seal Rocks campsite, it’s truly one of the most beautiful spots in Australia!
7. See the stars in Barrington Tops
Once you’ve hit all of the awesome spots in the central coast, make a beeline for Barrington Tops National Park. This one is so gorgeous, I’ve never seen a sky full of stars like I did when I visited there before.
8. The road trip experience to Byron Bay
You can either jump on the greyhound bus from Sydney or drive the 10 hours up to Byron Bay – a must visit along the East Coast. If you’re driving, I recommend stopping off to see some of the big stuff Australia is known for. You’ll be able to get an insta with the big banana in Coffs Harbour and the big prawn in Ballina!
If you’re wondering why Byron is known as being a favourite spot along the East Coast, it’s easy to see why; there’s a laid back, surfer, hippy, healthy eating kinda vibe going on in the town but when you venture out into the hinterland, that’s when it really gets beautiful. You’ll see views over looking the countryside and beaches, it’s a no brainer Aussie man, hot stuff, Chris Hemsworth lives nearby. Make sure you check out Crystal Castle, Wategoes Beach and some of the best places to eat in Byron. If you’re looking for the most amazing place to stay right on the beach, I have you covered here.
9. Next stop: Noosa
Noosa is the next stop worth visiting. It’s located in Australia’s Sunshine Coast, and even though it’s a popular getaway to Fraser Island (an absolute MUST visit!), it’s also the best place to see the Australian Zoo. You can also visit some of its many secluded yet amazing beaches and explore its wildlife. If you’re a nature lover, then the Noosa National Park simply has to be on your bucket list. Noosa is a popular place for families and as I’ve heard, it’s like a posher version to Byron Bay.
10. Full Aussie experience in town of 1770
Overlooking the beautiful Agnes Water
Once you’re done with Noosa, work your way up the East Coast and stop by the small coastal town which is called 1770. This is one spectacular place – here is where the Grand Barrier Reef meets the surf coast, which is something you definitely need to see. However, one of the best things this place has to offer is the Scooter Roo Tour. You will get to drive a Harley Davidson in a leather jacket while spotting for kangaroos, which is the ultimate and authentic Aussie experience. You don’t want to miss out on this!
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11. Sail the WhitSundays and party in Airlie Beach
The popular backpacker town of Airlie Beach is a must visit because it’s the gateway to the Whitsundays. One of the top beaches in the world lies here and you’ll be mad to miss out on going on a boat trip around the islands for a few days. This is an absolute must visit on your East Coast trip!
12. Use the ferry to get to Magnetic Island
This is the place that you want to visit in order to relax, snorkel, swim in the crystal blue water, and also – party. If you don’t really care about the time you will be going on this amazing Australian road trip, you could plan your trip around the Island Life Beach Party on the Magnetic Island, a must for the partygoers. I loved renting out the fun barbie like jeeps to scoot around the island. You won’t want to miss out on this place!
13. Final stop: Cape Tribulation
After you’re done with partying in Airlie Beach, head up to the area of Cairns for snorkelling and diving the Great Barrier Reef as well as a seaplane ride over the reef, you won’t regret it! I’d recommend staying in Cairns for the backpackers, Palm Cove for the couples and Port Douglas for the families.
Two hours north of Cairns lies the amazing Cape Tribulation in the oldest living rainforest in the world – The Daintree National Park. Over 165 million years old, it’s hard to get your head around how beautiful it is. Make sure to have a night walk through the area and then have breakfast on the Cape Tribulation Beach – around 8:30 am, you will see no one around which makes it an excellent place to have the first meal of the day and just enjoy.
Even though this road trip has other things that are worth seeing and exploring, these are some of the more worthy places we’ve remembered on our trips to the East Coast, and it’s highly recommended to spend a couple of days at each of these destinations.
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