The Australian east coast has dominated the world of travelling and travel blogging for some years now. So has this place already been written about too many times? Is it really worth all the hype to do the stereotypical camper van hire from Cairns to Sydney? The answer? Well, of course, that will be different depending on who you are because all of our experiences are different. I love travelling, even to hyped up places that seem to be on everyone’s bucket list because I know that my experience is going to be totally different from anybody else’s on this planet. This is why travel as a whole is empowering and extraordinary. So in answer to my own question is the Australian east coast worth all the hype?
Absolutely. The Australian East Coast is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and cities that I’ve visited so far. And let me tell you, hiring a camper van and living in it for over a month is the best life experience I’ve had so far. As a gal who usually enjoys relaxing in a five-star hotel, I threw all that out of the pram for this road trip. I was a little apprehensive, to say the least, but I’ve come out of the other side a changed woman! I’ve been converted to van life 100%.
So for this blog post, I’ve compiled some of my favourite destinations from our Australia east coast road trip! As I’m writing this I can’t call this post a ‘top 10, top 5, top 15’ because until I finish as I have no idea how many destinations I’m going to include because I could include everywhere we went! BUT just for this post, I’m going to try and whittle it down to the places I couldn’t imagine this journey without!
Sydney Australia – Home of the Legendary Opera House
I’m kicking off this post 100% mainstream with Sydney and let me tell you why. As we got closer to Sydney I knew that it was going to be a love or hate type of relationship. Before we left for Australia I had pre-conceptions of Sydney being just like London. Busy, overcrowded, traffic stalled in the streets with nowhere to turn. Now, as much I love visiting the UK’s capital for a weekend that’s more than enough time for me. So I was a little apprehensive about how I would take to Sydney. That said, as soon as we arrived in this vibrant city I fell hook, line and sinker for the place.
Sydney is one incredible city. There’s a different beach around the corner, a new bar opening up on every street, gorgeous views from every bay and some of the best beer we’ve tasted here in Australia. Sydney offers the best of both worlds. A busy city with connections to the rest of the world and a laid back beach lifestyle for everyone to enjoy. Don’t get me wrong parts a very touristy like Bondi and obviously Circular Quay. But you can find secluded beaches and bays at your fingertips like Camp Cove at Waston’s Bay and Milk Beach.
The Opera House is pretty special too I even wrote about it on my phone after the first time I ever saw it…
‘We’ve arrived in Sydney to feel like we’ve transported back 10,000 miles to the UK because it’s chucking it down! None the less we pulled on our rain macs and headed to see Sydney’s most iconic landmarks, The Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Sydney Opera House. I didn’t think I’d be overly bothered about the Opera House I’m not a huge performance goer and I knew I was just seeing it because of how famous it is. I don’t know why but the moment I saw it in the distance my face lit up with the biggest smile and it just wouldn’t go away. As we got nearer I felt such excitement as I saw the building take form and I was filled with such awe standing before it. My heart is so happy at this moment’
If you’re about to embark on an Australian east coast road trip then you’ll probably have Sydney as either your start or end point. It was our last destination and boy that moment above just finished off our Australian east coast roadie perfectly. My advice to you? Don’t let your pre-judgements about this city take over, go and visit and then decide.
Top Tip: If you are heading to Sydney make sure you book earlier rather than later! Hotels and hostels get booked up pretty fast! Booking.com offer all sorts of deals on last-minute hotels and hostels. Click below to secure your accommodation! ‘Wake Up’ Hostel on Pitts Street has one of Sydney’s best reputations and even has a cheese and wine night!
Sail The Whitsundays
The Whitsundays, wow wow wow! Where to start? I can hands down say this is our favourite experience we had on our road trip! I haven’t met a person yet who hasn’t loved every minute of their time on the Whitsundays! Whether it’s a day trip or an overnight sailing tour just make sure it’s high up on your Australian east coast bucket list!
Now, this was the most expensive trip we paid out for but it was well worth it! As we arrived in Airlie Beach, the moment we saw the aqua coloured water we knew we were in for a real treat. We set sail on board an old wooden sailing boat for two nights with thirty-two others, some of which were about to become friends for life, and headed out to sea! Three days of, snorkelling, star gazing, sunsets and Whitehaven Beach made for an incredible experience (& plenty of Goon too!).
The highlight of The Whitsunday Islands has got to be the incredible Whitehaven beach! If you’ve read anything about Australia then you’ll have heard of it for sure! If you haven’t then you’ve been reading in all the wrong places! Whitehaven beach is home to the purest sand in Australia. The white sand here is 92% silica. To put that into perspective, 100% is glass! This beach is honestly incredible. It’s one of the most Instagrammed beaches in the world and it doesn’t need any kind if filter! The definition of true beauty lays on Whitehaven beach. But don’t just take my word for it! Nope, Whitehaven beach has been nominated the second best beach in the whole world!
The World’s Biggest Sand Island – Fraser Island
Fraser Island, also known as K’Gari to the aboriginal people, is one that a lot of people miss out during their Australian east coast trip. I urge you to not be one of those people. Fraser Island is listed as a world heritage site and is the worlds largest sand Island. Made up of 98% sand and 2% rock it’s one of a kind! We had an incredible few days here exploring all it had to offer!
This place was like something I imagined to be in a movie, we set off from the mainland on a forty-five-minute ferry journey and turned up with our luggage on an island with no phone reception what so ever! It was truly liberating! The highlight of Fraser Island is, of course, driving along that coastal beach highway at 80km/hour! The main beach that runs from one end of Fraser to the other is classed as a national highway where normal driving rules apply, it’s actually INSANE!
Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island is pretty impressive…
As well as driving along beaches, Fraser Island is packed with stunning lakes. Lake McKenzie is the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen with a water PH of 4.3-5.2. Once you wet your hair in this water you’ll never want to return to the mainland again! As well as Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek is up there with my favourite lake on Fraser! Those lazy rivers you get at water parks? Imagine those but natural! Eli Creek is a natural lazy river where your tour guide, if they are as good as ours, will bring the rubber rings and you can float down with a beer in one hand and of course the Go Pro in the other!
As well as lakes Fraser Island is bustling with amazing bush walks where you’ll walk through the rain forests and learn more about the Aboriginal Tribes that live on Fraser. I say live in the present tense because two Butchulla elders remain living on Fraser Island now in 2018.
The history that this island has is incredible and not the mention it’s wildlife! We were lucky enough to a dingoe on our trip to Fraser Island! I could go on all day about Fraser Island but I won’t because there are so many other places on the Australian East Coast worth a mention in this post! But I am planning on doing a Fraser Island Guide in the New Year so make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss it!
Byron Bay – A little haven of paradise
Byron Bay was easily the destination that surprised me the most on our Australian east coast trip! If you’ve read my post from when we were on the road, East Coast Roadie: Part 2, then you’ll already know that Byron exceeded all of my expectations! I expected hippies galore, people preaching on the streets about being free and spiritual, people walking with no shoes on (actually pretty standard in Australia) and to be honest I thought it was all going to be a little bit over the top for me.
What I was actually found was a luxurious beach town that I never wanted to leave! Byron was the only place on the Australian east coast where we stayed longer than we had planned, by full two days! Now a place really has to impress me to change my plans because I’m a little bit of a perfectionist and my itinerary timings were very precise!
Call me mainstream here but we spent the most relaxing week in Byron, we walked, we ate pastries, we strolled along the gorgeous beaches hand in hand (making some pretty big life decisions might I add) and enjoyed the most beautiful sunrise. Byron Bay will forever be the place I go to when I’m looking for an escape from a busy life where we are all in a rush. I would go as far as to say there’s definitely some kind of magic in the waters near Byron Bay. The smile on my face hasn’t budged since I started thinking about it again. Also, Byron is the ONLY place so far where we’ve seen a wild Koala!
The Great Barrier Reef
The second world heritage listed reserve featured on this post is, of course, The Great Barrier Reef, I’m sorry but whoever can go to Australia and not go to The Great Barrier Reef baffles me! Not only is it one of the most famous places in this land down under it’s home to the very lovable fish NEMO! What an amazing day we had out here on the reef!
The feeling you get whilst you’re surrounded by the tropical marine life is magical! I’ve never been so speechless, and I don’t just mean because of the snorkel, in my life. I’ve never been up close with fish or turtles so this was an experience I will treasure forever. My favourite part of this trip was the snorkelling because the reef is so shallow the fish congregate near the surface so there really is no need to dive if you don’t want to!
The best advice I can give anybody who is about to visit The Great Reef is don’t expect the coral to be colourful because unfortunately, it isn’t as everyone pictures it. BUT do expect to see hundreds of schools of fish in a vast array of colours! After all, it’s the fish we all want to see right? And if your like us and lucky you might even get to see a sea turtle! To get to the Great Barrier Reef you have to go to Cairns which is a great city full of people ready to explore Australia’s waters. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the few places I struggle to write about because you really can’t put into words how amazing it is to be swimming alongside some of the most beautiful sea life.
Now I’ve just realised that I lied above. THE BEST ADVICE that I can give you is to make sure you’ve got a good underwater camera! I recommend a Go Pro because they are the best in the business and we had such a great time using ours down the coast! We use the Hero GoPro 5 Black which you can buy here! We also used the underwater filters which allowed us to capture some amazing footage! If you do opt for a camera like the Hero 5 even though it’s already waterproof, make sure you buy a waterproof case as well, if not you’ll get blur on the screen (see in the picture of us snorkelling above!)
Please note that if you do choose to buy any of these products I may receive a tiny commission at no extra cost to you! So here’s me giving you massive thank you in advance!
My Two Hidden Gems of the East Coast
Okay so, I’ll be honest until I was doing a shift at work with a girl who’s sister lives out in the Tablelands I hadn’t really heard of them! The Tablelands is home to some of the most stunning lakes that I’ve seen here in Australia and it oozes beauty everywhere you look.
I would say that the Atherton Tablelands is one of my most memorable destinations on the Australian East Coast for how stripped back and beautiful it was. The drive into the Tablelands is about an hour or so inland from Cairns. As you drive you’re surrounded by the rain forest and drop backs that you only dream of! The Tablelands is pretty famous for its freshwater waterfalls, which yes I’m guilty of knowing nothing about!
“Atherton Tablelands – The most underrated place in Far North Queensland!”
All I can say is that I’m thrilled I found out about this place before it was too late! Having spent two days up in the Tablelands it just wasn’t enough and both Dave and I will definitely be back before we leave Australia!
The highlight of this paradise for us was swimming in Josephine Falls and staying at Lake Tinaroo. The falls are crystal clear and in good weather, you can swim in and around the boulders that form this hidden tranquillity. There’s also a natural water slide that everyone slides down which is epic!
Lake Tinaroo was probably the most peaceful campsite we stayed it. Since it was the low season the site was pretty empty and we literally had the entire lake to ourselves, we saw a glorious sunset and spent the next morning taking in the breathtaking views! I have no idea how big this lake is but you certainly can’t walk around it!
Not to be mistaken with Port Macquarie, we stumbled upon this little gem on our way to Sydney. After a month on the road I’ll be honest on this day we were tired, fed up and just ready get to Sydney!
Other than Byron Bay we had been quite disappointed with the other places we’d stopped off at in New South Wales until we ended up here by total accident! This place was bustling with wildlife, I’m talking pelicans and black swans swimming literally 50 yards in front of our camper van. This place was exactly what we needed! The weather wasn’t on our side but it brought out the beauty in little lakeside town. We didn’t really venture from the campsite but we didn’t need to not with these views.
& for now, that’s a wrap…
This has by no means been an exhaustive list of the places we visited on the Australian east coast but they are a collection of my favourite’s! What I mean by this is if you or someone you know is visiting Australia then you don’t want to miss any of these places! I wrote this blog post in November 2018 and I have a feeling I’ll be updating it at some point as I explore more wonderful places in Australia!
Of course nowhere really disappointed us but these were, for me the highest of the high’s! These towns, cities and national parks hold such special memories and what I love about them the most? They are all so different! From Whitehaven Beach to the Tablelands, The Australian East Coast has literally something for everyone!
I’d love to hear if you’ve visited any of these destinations and if your experience differs from mine, you can leave a comment below or just shoot me an email and I would LOVE to chat all things Australian east coast! Don’t forget to subscribe and keep up to date with all my latest adventures AND keep checking this post for updates where in the world I’m going next!