Sydney Australia, the city often mistaken for the capital, is truly one in a million. After being lucky enough to live here in 2018-19 this city captured our hearts in more ways than one. From the famous landmarks that leave you speechless to the dozens of gorgeous beaches around almost every corner you turn.
Sydney is the city that has it all. It’s the perfect blend of big city living and beach town vibes. Sydney is undoubtedly the most famous city in Australia so naturally, like London, New York, Paris, you except Sydney to come at a price. Which if I’m being totally honest with you, it does. We definitely spend more on living costs here compared when we lived up north in Brisbane. That said, like most other cities in the world there are so many free things to do in Sydney in 2019, it’s just knowing where to look and knowing a few little hacks – like did you know that on Sundays transport in Sydney is capped off at $2.70! You’ll be pleased to know that Sydney is more than doable on a budget and most of the top attractions are actually free!
Here’s my list of Free Things to Do in Sydney in 2019!
Visit Circular Quay
Circular Quay, most would say, is the busiest area for tourists visiting the city and with good reason. Circular Quay is home to the famous landmarks that put Sydney on the map. The Sydney Opera House and The Sydney Harbour Bridge. Both are magnificent pieces of architecture and not to be missed on your visit to the city. Prepare for a busy day or night in Circular Quay whenever you visit, with cruise ships arriving and leaving daily and every tourist wanting a glance of the Opera House! Take your cameras in tow and enjoy making memories at the most famous theatre in Australia!
Walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The views from the Sydney Harbour bridge are stunning. The landscape stretches over the harbour, the Opera House and out into the ocean! (I would show you but my laptop died one me, leaving me without so many of my amazing photographs! Backing up lesson learnt!). There are plenty of epic ways to see this view like by helicopter rides and actually climbing to the top of the bridge, both of which come with a hefty price! To experience the iconic bridge climb you’re looking at around $150 and the helicopter ride coming in at over $200! If you’ve got the cash then these adventures will be worth it, but if you’re like us looking to save wherever you can then take a leisurely stroll across the bridge! You see the identical view from the bridge, you’re just not as high up (which for Dave is always the preferred option!).
Budget: FREE but if you do fancy being a little higher in the air then you can climb to the top of the bridge pylons for just $50!
Picnic and Explore the Sydney Botanical Gardens
The Botanical gardens is the most beautiful place in the inner city. With the biggest business district in the whole of Australia, Sydney is usually full of the suited and booted running around from office to office! Head to the botanical gardens with a picnic and escape the madness. The gardens stretch over 74 acres so you can indulge in lush green lawns, a variety of pools and a gorgeous little bar that you just have to visit, you can check out their page here! The botanical gardens is also home to the famous look out point ‘Mrs Macquaries Chair’ otherwise known as the postcard shot! From here you can see the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and city skyline. It’s one of the best places in the city to catch an amazing sunset in Sydney. The gardens do close the gates at 8pm but you can still access the point via the main road.
Budget: FREE, a few extra dollars for a beer at the bar?
Take a walk at Milsons Point
Milsons point is one of my favourite spots in the whole city. The views looking back on the city are incredible and it’s extremely peaceful, especially at night! If you want views of the famous landmarks without the crowd’s then Milsons Point is your place! There’s a small walkway where you can stroll along the harbour front, taking in all the magnificence of the city from a far.
Visit the Luna Park
Whilst you’re over at Milsons Point you can visit the Luna Park situated just underneath the harbour bridge. The Luna Park is fun for all the family whether you’re into the Ferris wheel ornot, it’s a great place to visit whilst your exploring Sydney! The bonus is that it’s completely free, so if you don’t like rides then it’s a great excuse to have a nosy around the place anyway! Of course you do have to pay to go on the rides and you’re looking at anything from $15 upwards to have a go! Top tip, make sure you get the train to and from Milsons point to save money. The train will cost $2-3 where as the ferry will set you back $6 each way!
Budget: FREE, $15 upwards for the rides.
Bondi – Coogee Walk
Sydney is full of gorgeous coastal and inland walks but this has to be one of the most famous, and actually one of the best! This walk takes you from Bondi Beach right up to Coogee at the other end. You’ll follow the coastal walk along beaches, upon cliff tops and through some of the prettiest suburbs on the along the East Coast of Sydney.
The best stop-off points, I think, on this walk are, Bronte and Clovelly (pack your snorkel)! That said, it’s all breathtaking after all you do get to see five of Australias most famous beaches along the way! The walk itself is 6km (that’s 3.5 miles for us English folk) and will take anything from 2-3 hours or longer! You could easily spend a whole day on this walk because of the awesome stop off points along the way! Make sure you pack your swimmers and swim in all the pools and bathe in all the beaches! The best baths to swim in for free are, Bronte Bogey Hole and Wylie Baths at Coogee!
Visit the Beach
Australia is known for its beach lifestyle and Sydney is no exception! Like I said before, Sydney has a beach around every corner, so having a day on the beach is easy! No more packing up the car for a four hour commute to the nearest beach! The hardest decision will be deciding which beach you’re going to visit! If it’s your first time in Sydney then you have to go and experience Bondi or Coogee (Coogee photographed above), it’s a must!
Though a little touristy they each make for a fantastic day out! You’ll find Bondi lined with cool street art and surfers all day long so there’s never a dull moment! You can try and snag a photograph with the Bondi lifeguards too! Other than Bondi & Coogee my favourite beaches in Sydney are, Milk Beach, Bronte Beach, Manly Beach and Narrabeen beach.
Budget: FREE, make sure you take a picnic for lunch then you don’t have to fork out extra money!
Watch the Fireworks at Darling Harbour
Every Saturday the city lights up with sparkling fireworks over Darling Harbour! Head over for 21:00 and enjoy the display for free! Fireworks are in fact illegal to buy in Australia so, a display is the only way you can watch and enjoy fireworks! I wasn’t sure if this display would be any good considering they do it every week but I must say I was impressed! They last around 20-30 minutes and I just enjoy the fact they do it every week! Its like celebrating life with fireworks every Saturday rather than just on special occasions! The sunset is also gorgeous over Darling Harbour so if you can pair the both together it makes even more spectacular night! Check out more about what’s on in Darling Harbour throughout the year here.
Budget: FREE every Saturday at 21:00
Visit The Rocks
I like to call the rocks ‘England in Sydney’. The rocks is a historic neighbourhood in Sydney located just behind Circular Quay. The Rocks are made up of cobbled laneways lined with pubs, restaurants and bars, it literally feels like a side street in York (Google York in the UK if you have no idea what I’m talking about here!). Slip away from the crazy vibes at Circular Quay and hide away in some Sydneys oldest pubs and restaurants. You’ll find regular open air markets hosted at the rocks as well as speciality markets on special holidays! Be sure to visit at night to see The Rock’s lit up with beautiful fairy lights giving it a magical feel!
Budget: FREE to stroll around
Visit the Markets
Sydney’s Markets have everything from fresh organic foods, products from local businesses, handmade goods and so much more every single week! From the huge fish market over at Darling Harbour to the weekly market at The Rocks, which is home to artists and jewellery makers galore! You can pick up gorgeous gifts for your friends and family back home or a lovely present to yourself – the best kind if you ask me! Find out which markets are on when here!
Budget: FREE unless you make a heap of purchases of course!
Snorkel at Clovelly or Shelley Beach
When in Australia a bit of snorkelling is a must and you don’t just have to do it on the Great Barrier Reef! You can find some amazing snorkelling spots a lot closer to the cities if you know where to find them! In Sydney Clovelly and Shelley Beach are the best snorkelling spots and both diverse from one another! You’ll find Clovelly on the Bondi – Coogee walk in the Eastern Suburbs and Shelley Beach over in Manly. Both spots are filled daily with people on the look out for Nemo and his other fishy friends! You can pick up cheap snorkelling gear at almost any souvenir shop in Sydney from $15 upwards.
Budget: FREE, Snorkelling Gear $15 upwards
The Art Gallery of New South Wales
If you’re into the arts then make sure you head to The Art Gallery of New South Wales! It’s completely free and you’ll see work from artists from all over the world. The gallery is filled with five levels of art and has some spectacular views of the Botanical Gardens. It also includes one of the largest galleries of Aboriginal art in Australia. You can hop on a free guided tours of The Art Gallery available in a number of different languages! Final tip, if you visit on a Wednesday until 10pm the Art Gallery hosts celebrity talks, film, music and inspirational speakers too! It takes about 10 minutes to walk here from Circular Quay! Find out what exhibitions are on here!
Free Walking Tours of the City
First time to Sydney? Then there is no better way to explore the city than with a free local walking tour! The tour covers the main sights of the city and departs everyday at 10:30am and 2:30pm from Town hall square! No need for booking and just look for the guy or gal in a bright green t-shirt – pretty hard to miss! There is also a late evening tour at 6pm which departs from The Rocks! You can find more information on these tours here!
Hermitage Foreshore Walking Track
Milk Beach is one of the many unique beachy coves you’ll find on the Hermitage Foreshore Walking Track just past Rose Bay. In my opinion it’s one of Sydney’s most underrated walks and we stumbled upon it totally by accident! This walk begins on a paved track and winds in and out of tiny beaches and grassland. The views are awesome because you can see right across the harbour with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the distance!
You’ll find Milk Beach about 1 mile into the walk and it’s easily one of the best beaches in Sydney. It’s tiny and not a whole lot of tourists know about it so you can guarantee it will be a lot quieter than the likes of Bondi, Coogee or Manly. Hermit Bay is also another secluded beach area you’ll pass on the walk. Both these bays have calm waters making it ideal for swimming or floating on a magical unicorn or whatever you’re into!
Go for a Swim in Manly Dam
Located in Manly Vale, hidden away from the busy Condamine street, you’ll find Manly Dam. A top hit with the locals and a gorgeous place for a swim on an evening. The Dam is surrounded by grassland completed with BBQ pits creating a great place for a get together! The water is warm in the summer so makes for a glorious swimming destination away from all the noise at the beaches! You’ll also find plenty of other Aussie natives hanging out here from snakes to wallabies!
Swim in the Free Swimming Pools at the Beaches
If you’ve been researching your trip to Sydney then you’re probably dying to jump in the Bondi Icebergs right? I mean just looking at the photograph below makes me want to jump in feet first! Unfortunately the Bondi Icebergs aren’t free! I know, I know c’mon Sydney what are you doing? But there are plenty of other swimming pools around that are completely free! My favourite is the Bogey Hole at Bronte! There’s also free pools at Manly, Clovelly and Coogee & many other places too! Basically if there’s a beach there’s probably a free ocean pool there to go along with it!
Budget: FREE, Bondi Icebergs $7
This is by no means an exhaustive list of free things to do in Sydney but so far these are the best things that we’ve done in Sydney for free! If you haven’t got much time then the main sights you’re going to want to see are, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, both which can be explored for free which I think is brilliant! My top tip if you’ve got more time to do more than just the main sights is to head to the Northern Beaches and I’m giving you an extra day out below so take a look! We literally stumbled upon this gorgeous lagoon and were speechless at its beauty and the fact we were only an hour from the city!
If you’ve got a little time to spare when in the big city then be sure to head north of the bridge to the Northern Beaches. We lived in both the Eastern Suburbs and the Northern side in Sydney. During our time in the Northern Beaches our eyes were opened to a whole new Sydney and I must say maybe a better one!
The Eastern Suburbs are all you’d imagine the Australian beach lifestyle to be. Thongs, BBQ’s and beers all day every day but the Northern Beaches are filled with lakes and dams that are made for walking, kayaking and of course swimming! I mentioned Manly Dam above which is beautiful and perfect for an evening swim but Narrabeen Lagoon is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve visited here in Australia. The vibe is peaceful tranquility especially on the lagoon, you can hear nothing but the water and chirping of the birds! You’ll also see plenty of ducks which really made us feel like we were back in the countryside! You can take a leisurely walk around the lagoon or do the full 8.km loop! There are also options to hire peddle boats, paddle boards and kayaks on the lake! Prices start at $20 for an hour but just walking around the lake is beautiful enough if you’ve got a budget to stick to!
Budget: FREE or starting at $20 for water sports on the lagoon!
So I guess we go back to the question in hand. Can you explore Sydney on a budget? Of course! There is so much to do if you’re watching the bank balance or not! Even if you’ve got the cash to spend I recommend doing everything on this list before you go throwing it around!
When we made the decision to explore Australia in 2018 I must admit I was incredibly excited about exploring some of the best beaches in the world! Coming from England in the United Kingdom it’s safe to say that we don’t do beaches like quite like Australia. Though Scotland and southern England are home to some gorgeous beaches, the weather is often not always in our favour. With at least 150 days of complete sunshine a year all over Australia, it’s safe to say that if it’s beach days you want, beach days you shall have! We’ve been lucky enough to explore some of the Best Beaches in Australia and I’m sharing my favourite beaches here.
Finding Beaches in Australia – Well that’s EASY.
Beaches are all over the place in the land down under. You never have to wander far and you’re stood on a great stretch of sand. I think the farthest away from the beach we ever got was when we lived in Brisbane. That said Brisbane is still only one hour by car to the Gold Coast. So naturally, when we took a road trip from Cairns to Sydney we got to enjoy some of the best beaches in Australia!
The east coast is jam-packed with amazing beaches all of which are completely different from one another! From feeling like you’ve been transported to Hawaii on Mission Beach, to the 98% silica sand Whitehaven Beach to a whole sand island on Fraser Island! Some of the best beaches in Australia live on the east coast. It’s the most popular destination for travellers visiting Australia and usually, people are dying to stretch out on these world-famous beaches.
Getting together a list of the best beaches on the Australian east coast was so hard. The beaches are all SO beautiful! But these are the beaches you just have to visit on your trip to Australia!
The Best Beaches in Australia on the East Coast
Whitehaven Beach – The Whitsundays
Now, no Australian bucket list of any sort would be complete without The Whitsunday’s and Whitehaven Beach! I think this is the only beach I’ve ever become speechless over! The beauty that this place oozes is incredible and it’s exactly like what you see on the pictures! Whitehaven Beach is, of course, famous for its magical swirls and bright white beach with sand made up of 98% silica – giving it its white glow! (100% is glass) This beach is literally like no other in the world!
Did you know: The Australian government in the past paid out millions of dollars to give away some of the sand on Whitehaven Beach! Why? Well, you don’t really come across 98% silica sand that often, it’s pretty unique! Researchers say that the sand drifted to Whitehaven Beach millions of years ago and has continued to form the unique swirls we now admire.
Whitehaven Beach is simply like heaven. The sand is as white as you see on those photo-shopped images and the water as clear as day. Because the sand is 98% silica the sand is extremely dense meaning that it’s cool beneath your feet! Yep, your feet aren’t going to burn on this paradise beachfront! Although the beach looks simply flawless and the ocean so inviting there are a few important things to note about Whitehaven Beach! Lurking in the water you’ll find marine stingers, baby yellow sharks and manta rays!
Swimming in the Waters of Whitehaven Beach
Don’t worry the sharks won’t hurt you and neither will the manta rays because the ones on Whitehaven Beach don’t have their barbs, therefore, cannot sting you. That said, be careful! The marine stingers will get you! Because we were with a tour company, True Blue Sailing, we weren’t allowed in the water without a stinger suit on! So make sure you listen to your tour guides because they are just looking out for your safety!
The only other downfall of Whitehaven Beach is that it’s only accessible via boat so you do have to pay a little to get there! Make sure you take a trip that goes to Hill Inlet as well as the beach! Hill Inlet is the lookout where you’ll get that sensational Instagram post!
I’d go as far as saying that Whitehaven Beach is the best of the best when it comes to the best beaches in Australia!
Mission Beach – Far North Queensland
Imagine blazing sunlight hitting golden sand making each grain sparkle. As the wind blows lightly and the ocean dances in the distance, we were stunned looking out over Mission Beach. I felt like I’d been transported to Hawaii just like that. Mission Beach is a far cry from any of the other beaches in Australia. Lined with palm trees and looking out to dozens of little islands in the ocean, Mission Beach is a tropical paradise! If tranquillity, peace and beauty are what you’re looking for then Mission Beach your place!
As for the other beachgoers and tourists? They were zero. I couldn’t quite believe it! Australia attracts tourists all year round and the majority of places we’ve been have been crawling with people! But Mission Beach surprised us with not one single another person on the beach we couldn’t believe our luck! We actually wondered if we were supposed to be there! – Cue two Brit’s running to their camper van to drive to a different section of beach! But when we arrived at South Mission Beach we were still the only two people!
You can easily spend a full day here or just a couple of hours! Grab your towel, a good book and relax! If you are staying for the day then pack a good picnic! They aren’t any shops on walking distance of the beach so bring lots of food and water! Maybe a beer if you fancy too! – We did! You’ll find a little hut renting surfboards, kayaks and canoes on South Mission Beach if water sports are your thing!
Swimming at Mission Beach One of the Best Beaches in Australia!
A word of warning though, the water is beautiful here and as clear as day! But be warned there are creatures lurking in these waters! Stingrays are all over the waters in Far North Queensland so take care when swimming! We actually saw two when looking in the water so stayed clear! There are warning signs up and down the beach with loads of information on peak seasons etc!
Wategos Beach in Byron Bay
The little surf town of Byron Bay stole my heart. From it’s beaches to its people, it really is the travellers capital of the Australian East Coast. Byron Bay has so many breathtaking beaches it’s painful trying to choose a favourite. From the busier vibes of the main beach to the more peaceful and quieter waters of Tallow Beach they all ooze beauty. But I have to say when it comes to the ultimate beach experience Wategos Beach is pretty special. I don’t know about you but I love beating the crowds and Wategos Beach is a lot smaller than any of the other beaches.
I’d actually call Wategos quite family-friendly, lined with BBQ areas and a little cafe it screams Aussie living exactly how you’d have imagined it! Chilled out sunbathers, happy children playing in the sand, friends getting together for a weekend BBQ! I’d say that this beach is more where the locals go rather than the backpackers! You can find this beach on the way to the lighthouse via the Cape Byron Lighthouse Walk – which by the way is a must-do! If you’re looking for a quiet stretch of sand to enjoy your latest holiday book then Wategos is a great choice!
Top Tip: Take a picnic or a BBQ and take in the gorgeous scenery around you! Be sure to pack your binoculars too! Byron was the place, not too far from Wategos Beach, where we spotted our first wild Koala!
I only discovered Milk Beach quite recently and boy am I glad that I did! Sydney is bursting with surprises but this beach is certainly one of my favourite parts about Sydney! Located in the beautiful suburb of Rose Bay you’ll find again, one of my favourite walks in Sydney, the Sydney Harbour National Park Hermitage Walk! This walk stretches over a mile long and gives you insane views of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House & City Skyline!
As you wander down the weaving path you’ll cross four beaches before you reach Milk Beach! They are all stunning so take your pick but I must admit Milk Beach has the best views of the Opera House and Bridge! That’s of course as long as there aren’t any fancy yachts parked up blocking the view! (I’m only jealous!). Head to Milk Beach with a friend or by yourself with plenty of food and water and a enjoy a day of pure relaxation! This is the beach I’d opt for over Bondi Beach because you can literally escape the mass of tourists and enjoy the beauty that Sydney has to offer! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to visit Milk Beach!
Did You Know: Milk Beach and the beaches near Rose Bay and some of the only beaches in Sydney where you can see the Bridge and Opera House!
Bondi Beach – Sydney
Okay, even though Bondi Beach is extremely tourist heavy, all year round! You have to go and check it out. I won’t lie to you, no matter what time of year you head to Bondi Beach it will be packed, and the number of expats on their holidays will be soaring! I often joke around saying the whole population of England and Ireland has relocated to Bondi Beach! But don’t let put you off because the beach is absolutely stunning! After only ever seeing Bondi Beach on the hit TV programme Bondi Rescue I had no idea what to expect!
On the TV Bondi Beach looks huge! I imaged a long stretch of beach, a little like the gold coast, expanding for miles down the Sydney coastline. Turns out that couldn’t be further away from reality if it tried. The beaches that surround Bondi and it’s neighbouring suburbs are all small bays opposed to long stretches of sand. Bondi Beach is the biggest of the clan from Bondi to Coogee is Sydney’s most urban and chic beachfront! Lined with street art and filled with beautiful bodies Bondi Beach is the place to be to hang with your friends on the weekend and catch a wave or two.
There is Something for Everyone at Bondi!
From backpackers to millionaires, teenagers to retirees Bondi Beach attracts the likes of everyone! At only one kilometre in size, it lures in fitness addicts to take a jog on the beach front, families to that can enjoy a swim in the far freshwater pool and wannabe surfers taking lessons on the water! (The category we fall into for sure!) As well all the amenities on the front the surrounding area is full of things to do, cafes, shops, bars, play parks and a skate park – where you’ll always see world-class skateboards and roller bladders doing their thang! It really is a great place to kick back and relax, as long as you don’t mind doing so with the rest of Sydney!
Top Tip: If you want to take a surf lesson in Bondi, Let’s Go Surfing is the only company that do surf lessons here! So don’t waste your time trying to look for a cheaper deal, you won’t find one but I can tell you it’s worth the price! They are amazing!
75 Mile Beach – Fraser Island
Fraser Island, where do you even start? Everything about Fraser Island is fascinating and that doesn’t exclude its beaches! In fact, I think the main Fraser Island Coastline is the most unique of all the beaches in Australia! There was no way it wasn’t making it onto my Beast Beaches in Australia list! This famous coastline on the island stretches a whopping, yes you guessed it, 75 miles long! It’s hard to even imagine it without seeing it!
Though you’d think this beach would be perfect for sunbathing and swimming that is extremely far from the truth! Fraser Island is home to some of the most dangerous animals and sea life in the world. If a Dingo catches you off guard sunning yourself you can say goodbye to your leg! Sharks also lurk very close to the shore at Fraser Island so you’re not allowed in the waters! Although for some crazy reasons that doesn’t seem to stop everyone!
So what exactly is this beach used for? Well, this beach is the main highway on Fraser Island! Yes, you can drive up and down this beach to your heart’s content! It’s actually classed as a national highway, therefore, all the regular driving rules apply! Speed limits, indicators, safety when driving you’ve got to abide by it all! It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience to drive along this amazing coastline!
Rainbow Beach – Queensland Australia’s Best Beaches
Now, I can’t imagine Rainbow Beach makes it onto many peoples Best Beaches in Australia lists! I don’t know why but it takes a far while off the beaten track to get there and the town is pretty average, sorry not sorry! But I personally found the beach quite special! It was pretty dead when we visited with only one or two others enjoying the beach! Rainbow Beach is surrounded by sand dunes which is why I found it so cool! I was not expecting the mountain of sand piled behind the beach! Apparently, you can even sand board down some of them, we could see a few people tackling the dunes in the distance! Other than this it’s simply a lovely beach! I imagine it gets busy in the summer months but it’s definitely worth a visit if you’ve got the time! I found it unique and beautiful!
As for the area, there isn’t much to do at Rainbow Beach. The beachfront is lined with a few bars, cafes and tourist shops! A lot of people go to Rainbow Beach as it’s where a lot of the Fraser Island day tours depart from! So if you heading to Fraser from Rainbow Beach make sure you take a visit to the beach!
Top Tip:You’ll also find this cool Rainbow stairway if you drop down onto the beach!
Manly Beach – Northern Beaches Sydney
If you haven’t guessed by all the beaches listed that Sydney hosts some of the best then you can’t have been reading properly! Sydney is full of beaches wherever you turn and I know there are some beautiful ones that I haven’t even explored yet like Palm Beach! But the town of Manly is what you expect when you think about living in Australia! It’s one of the most sought after areas to live in Australia and with its gorgeous beach and wharf, it’s no surprise why!
Manly is home to a few beaches but the most popular are Manly Beach and Shelley Beach! The boasts a lush stretch of pale golden sand met with aqua coloured water at the shore. You can also find some of the best waves for surfing in Sydney here at Many Beach. It sure attracts hundreds of surfers and beachgoers every day! Though Manly Beach is full of tourists you also get a lot more locals, unlike Bondi Beach where every local avoids! There are loads to do when visiting Manly Beach, you can hire a surf or body board, go for a walk along the beach front, sunbathe on the grass or enjoy one of the many cafes or bars that line the beach front.
Top Tip:Manly is located on the Northern Beaches in Sydney, therefore, can take a bit of a commute when coming from the city! The best way to reach Manly is via ferry! You can take the regular ferry taking 30-40 minutes from Circular Quay or the fast ferry taking about 20, also from Circular Quay. The ferry can be quite expensive so make sure you go on a Sunday when travel on transport is capped at $2.70.
Agnes Waters Beach – Agnes Water
I ummed and ahhed about where this last spot of my list of Best Beaches in Australia on the East Coast should go to! It was always going to be between Agnes Waters and Noosa! Even though the beach is gorgeous at Noosa it is very tourist heavy and it’s more the town I loved in Noosa rather than the beach! For that reason, I’m going with Agnes Water! I had no idea what to expect when we arrived in Agnes Water! I didn’t know much about it other than it was a surf town alongside 1770. Everybody I had spoken to and blog posts I had read said it was worth visiting!
It’s the Perfect Surfer Town…
The town of Agnes Water is Quaint and gorgeous! The beach is equally stunning and said to be home to Australia’s most northerly surf. What I liked about this beach is it reminded me of beaches in the UK! I know totally weird and probably not a huge compliment but the sand at Agnes Waters was a deep golden colour a lot like the beaches I used to play on as a child. It was filled with an array of visitors from surfers, backpackers and families.
The vibe here was total relaxation! Everyone walking around with nothing but their swimmers and maybe a surfboard in tow, it really felt like a haven away from the backpacking hustle and bustle you find on the Australian East Coast! That could’ve had something to do with the lack of phone signal too! – NIL. Sadly, I don’t seem to have photographs of Agnes Water (and I call myself Travel Blogger – HA) so if you have any please feel free to share!
Top Tip: Don’t expect to do anything that you need a mobile signal or internet connection for in Agnes Water! Unless you go searching for WIFI!
And there you have it! My Best Beaches in Australia! I loved every single one of these beaches and feel they all have something different to offer! So if you’re exploring the East Coast make sure you pop them into your itinerary! I hope you enjoyed thist post and if you did I would love it if you could share this post!
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Hidden deep in the hinterland of the Atherton Tablelands lay some of the most beautiful waterfalls on the East Coast of Australia. There’s something about waterfalls that gets my adrenaline kicking and the sudden to jump in and feel the water is strong. If chasing waterfalls in Australia is on your bucket list then Far North Queensland has you covered. From natural water slides at Josephine falls to the picture perfect Millaa Millaa, the Atherton Tablelands is the place to catch your next waterfall fix!
With over ten incredible waterfalls to experience and only 48 hours in the tablelands, it’s no surprise we didn’t manage to jump in them all! We did, however, create our own little self-drive waterfall tour that I’ll be sharing with you today! We managed to spend a fair length of time in each of these waterfalls in just one day! So this guide is perfect for those who don’t have a lot of time to spend in this gorgeous part of Australia.
Top Tip: Pencil in as much time up here as you can. The Atherton Tablelands scream’s natural beauty and peace, it’s a far cry away from the backpacking hustle over in Cairns and actually one of my favourite places we explored on our East Coast Road Trip! If true nature is what you’re looking for then look no further.
I like to call the Tablelands my hidden Queensland gem. Of course, it isn’t hidden at all and is popular with visitors to Far North Queensland. Despite my in-depth research into the Australian East Coast, I mean one-year planning and reading every blog post on Australia kind of research! I just didn’t seem to come across the Atherton Tablelands very much and I guess I completely forgot about it!
It wasn’t until one of my work colleagues in Brisbane was raving on about how much we have to go visit. As in ‘this place will literally change your life’ that I started looking into the Tablelands a little more. All I have to say is thank you, Vanessa, because we loved it! I can’t wait to share my ultimate guide on the Atherton Tablelands with you guys soon!
No time? Save this article for later!
But first back to stunning waterfalls! We visited three breathtaking waterfalls on our Atherton Tablelands self-drive waterfall Trail. It may not sound like much but if you’ve ever driven in Australia you’ll know how far apart everything is! Any more than three waterfalls on this day and we’d be rushing around, spending more time looking at the road in front of us rather than these natural splendours.
Atherton Tablelands Self-Drive Waterfall Trail
Before we get started if there’s one tip I can give it’s if you have a car or camper van then visits the waterfalls yourself! There are plenty of tours that offer waterfall tours from Cairns up to the Tablelands but there’s nothing like going at your own pace! We saw a couple of tours come in and out of the waterfalls and honestly? They really didn’t get much time to splash around and enjoy the water at all! They were in, took a few snaps, a quick dip and were off to the next place! I’m sure there are some brilliant tours out there but for us driving it ourselves gave us way more freedom and time to explore!
Atherton Tablelands Self-Drive Waterfall – Driving From Cairns
The Atherton Tables sits about an hour and a half inland from Cairns and about 50 miles or 80 kilometres. But obviously, you’re going to be taking a lot of detours to the falls. This round trip from Cairns to the waterfalls and back again will set you back almost 300 Kilometres so staying overnight after you finish the trail is by far your best option! Especially If you don’t want to be driving at night – which trust me in Australia you don’t! Besides, the Atherton Tablelands is home to some astounding lakeside camping that you’re going to want to check out!
First Stop, Josephine Falls
I remember this day and the feeling I got when we approached Josephine Falls like it was yesterday. The excitement that flowed through my veins was unimaginable. I had never seen anything like it. Both Dave and I were completely speechless, eyes wide opened staring at the beauty in front of us! Josephine falls is made of up three pure freshwater pools, the water is amazingly clear and I’ll warn you extremely cold! Located in Babinda it’s only around an hour from Cairns. See the map below for clear driving instructions!
Stop Off Point: As you drive out of the city and to the falls you will cross signs for ‘Babinda Boulders’ which is another great tourist spot that if you have time you should totally stop off at! We, unfortunately, didn’t have the time but when I got home and googled #babindaboulders on Instagram I was pretty gutted we didn’t get a glance!
Getting to Joesphine Falls
The walk up to Josephine Falls from the car park is a mere 700 metres which will take you through the rain forest. There is an easy path to follow which leads you up to the falls. The walk is actually lovely but watch out for those huge spider webs lurking in the trees! Once you arrive at the falls you’ll find three main lookout areas, for each stage of the waterfall! I recommend heading straight to the top, you get an overview of all the pools which are simply stunning. The best place to get your photographs is up here! Once you’re looking down from above you’ll probably be itching to join everyone else in the water! I literally couldn’t wait to get in!
Swimming in the Falls
Okay, so yes you are allowed to swim here at your own risk of course! There are no crocs so you’re not going to get eaten but I urge you to be very careful! Josephine Falls is made up of boulders which lay underneath the water surface. When these get wet they become very very slippery! You need to go extremely slowly when navigating around the falls! In the end, I found the best way to get around inside the falls was just to dunk right under and let the current take you!
Important: As much as I urge you to have fun in the falls you must read the warning signs! Josephine Falls is susceptible for flash flooding and when the waterfalls are flooded swimming is out of bounds. Over the years fourteen people have died because of going into the falls when they weren’t supposed to! So follow the signs and just be careful.
That said you’ll have an epic time swimming in these waters, I honestly had to pinch myself, I couldn’t how amazing this experience was! The top pool is extremely high and out of bounds for swimming but the bottom two are great to have a splash around in! There’s a small beach area where little ones can enjoy some shallow water! But the main attraction, drum roll, please…
Is the natural water slide! Granted this wasn’t built by nature intended to be an epic slide for us humans but that’s what it’s turned into. The last pool at the falls over the years has become famous for people taking to the small waterfall and you guessed it, sliding down! This was so much fun! You can see the video below for some hilarious video footage!
Don’t be fooled by how slow it looks on video – I was terrified!
Boring Bits! – Josephine Falls
Seen as the Atherton Tablelands is quite remote I thought it would be handy to let you know what facilities are at each of these waterfalls! Josephine Falls is really accessible with wheelchair access all the way to the viewing areas. It also has all the main facilities, toilets, water, picnic areas, and BBQ areas. Unfortunately, no camping is allowed in this National Park! See more on the facilities here!
Josephine Falls was 100% my favourite waterfall of the three that we visited! We spent almost three hours here, soaking up the sun and letting out our inner adventure! If you’ve been to Josephine Falls I would love to see your photos and if you’re going I would love to see them too! Make sure you subscribe to our mailing list in the footer and use the hashtag #aliciaoverseas on Instagram so I can see the fun you get up to here!
The next stop off on our waterfall chase was Millaa Millaa Falls, about an hour from Josephine Falls, 80 kilometres. You can find a map and clear driving instructions below. The walking route from the car park to the waterfall is easy but does involve stairs. If you are unable to negotiate stairs then follow the signs to the coach car park which takes you all the way down to the waterfall.
Now you may have heard of or in fact seen Millaa Millaa falls in a couple of places. On the television and all over Instagram. Millaa Millaa falls was where the famous Herbal Essences Advert came to life, you know the one where the drop gorgeous gals are flicking their hair in the waterfall like it’s the most natural thing to be doing! So yes, when you arrive you will be surrounded by Instagrammers trying to recreate the image! Lucky for you I don’t like to follow the world so I didn’t try my luck, instead, I went in the whole hog and swam right underneath the falls!
Swimming is also permitted at Millaa Millaa.
Again, a little like Josephine Falls the water is freezing and getting into the falls is quite difficult because of the slippery rocks at the surface! The water is also a lot less clear here and the place its self gives off a totally different vibe, think hidden in the tropical rainforest! In whole, Millaa Millaa was pretty beautiful.
Boring Bits! – Millaa Millaa Falls
Millaa Millaa has all the basic facilities that you would need. Including toilets, changing rooms, and picnic benches. Unfortunately, there is no fresh drinking water here so make sure you’re stocked up before arriving. Go here for more information on that!
Now the one thing that you simply cannot go without on this self-drive waterfall trail is an action camera! The big DSLR cameras are great for getting the ultimate nature shots here at the waterfalls but the real action happens in the water!
There is no other camera that I can suggest other than The GoPro! Waterproof and so compact it couldn’t be more perfect for adventure travel! We shoot all of our under and in water shots on our Go Pro Hero 5 Black! There are newer editions of the GoPro but why pay more when the 5 does everything you need and more? Click below to grab one for yourself!
I also highly recommend a selfie stick with a wrist strap! You do not want to lose this baby down the waterfalls!
Self-Drive Waterfall Trail Australia: The Crater and Dinner Falls
The final leg of our self-drive waterfalls trail took us over to Mount Hypipamee National Park, home to The Crater and Dinner Falls. This is your shortest journey as these landmarks sit only half an hour from Millaa Millaa, 30 kilometres or 19 miles. I guess this final stop is a little different to the others as you get to see the incredible Crater as well as Dinner Falls!
The waterfall at this gorgeous little spot is Dinner Falls which leads onto the Barron River. To get to Dinner Falls for the parking area it’s approx. a 1.2km walk where you can find a collection of three waterfalls. We didn’t spend too much time at Dinner falls because of the time we had and to be honest, the crater is way more impressive! We arrived near the end of our day and didn’t want to get all wet again, spoilsports I know, so we didn’t go swimming! You can do a loop walking circuit here on the Bitumen Path which will lead you to The Crater as well – go here and here for some more in-depth details on the walks!
The crater formed here at Mount Hypipamee National Park, which is a heritage listed wet tropics park, is like a volcanic pip way. The crate was created by heaps of pressure below the surface rocks which eventually exploded upwards sending volcanic bombs across the surrounding area. The crate is 61 metres wide and 82 metres deep, pretty impressive if you ask me! It’s one of the moments where what your looking at doesn’t even look real!
Again facilities are limited here with just toilets and picnic benches available!
After finishing exploring Mount Hypipamee National Park that was the end of our Atherton Tablelands Self-Drive Waterfall Trail! But don’t worry if you’ve got more time and want to smash out all of the waterfalls in the area then there are plenty more for you to choose from! It all depends on how long you want to spend at the falls! For us, we wanted to take it slow and just enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors. We spent a few hours at both Josephine and Millaa Millaa where if you wanted you could just take a quick photograph and move on – not our style!
If you want to drive back to Cairns then the drive from Mount Hypipamee National Park is about an hour and a half via the Gilles Highway see driving instructions below! A quick word of warning about the Gilles Highway, it is extremely windy! For me, I managed to drive it in a high top camper van and was fine! Don’t be put off by how windy it is as it’s manageable as long as you take your take and drive slowly!
Where to stay overnight after your Waterfall Tour
So if you’ve got some extra time to enjoy the beauty of the Tablelands then stay overnight! I recommend staying at Lake Tinaroo Holiday Park! Whether you’re in a camper van or are pitching up a tent this place is the perfect spot for the evening! This campsite offers lakeside camping with extraordinary views of Lake Tinaroo! One day we will 100% return for a couple of nights stay here! There are all sorts to get up to from hiring boats and kayaks to long walks around the lake! You can visit their website here for pricing and more details!
If you are heading to the East Coast of Australia soon then subscribe to our mailing list! Then you’ll be sure that you don’t miss any tips and tricks! You can also see my Cairns-Sydney post which goes through all the places we recommend visiting on the East Coast!
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Heading to Byron Bay this year? Well if you are I’ve got a great bunch of Things to Do in Byron Bay in 2019 right here! PS. I’m extremely jealous and hate you a little at the moment.
As we crossed the border from Queensland to New South Wales we could hardly believe that we were heading into the last week of our road trip. We had spent the three weeks before this one exploring the beauty of the Australian East Coast. From golden beaches longer than you can imagine, 92% silica sand, floated in freshwater lakes and danced in breathtaking waterfalls. So as we approach our last leg or the trip, I had one question on my mind, can this possibly get any better?
From the moment that we joined the queue of rusty old camper vans, yes I was lusting over each one, Byron Bay captured my heart almost instantaneously. Famous for being one of Australia’s most sought after backpacking destinations I was a little dubious to how I’d like Byron Bay. I had imagined a town bursting with students and eighteen-year-old brits knocking back too much goon on the beach! Whilst, of course, there was some of that I was greeted completely by surprised as we drove through the town taking in the sights we were greeted with. From young families, students newlyweds to retirees, it appeared that nobody would be stuck for things to do in Byron Bay this year (or any year), no matter how candles you blew out on your last birthday.
In this post, I want to chat about all the remarkable things to do in Byron Bay in 2019. Because this surfer town, believe it or not, has so much more to do than surf! Whether you’re into lazing around on the picture-perfect beaches to hiking through the hinterland, Byron Bay has you covered. You even might be lucky enough to meet some of the locals (No I’m not talking about the local guitarist either!)
Things to Do in Byron Bay!
Cape Byron Light House Walk
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (thank you) then you’ll know that as well as being a beach babe I love being active! Growing up in Sheffield in the UK hiking is a way of life for us in the Peak District so any chance for a good walk to keep the muscles going, I’m in! My favourite way to explore a new place is on foot, that way you don’t whizz past anything incredible by accident! So we knew immediately that we would tackle the Cape Byron Light House Walk! If you’re in good shape/active, I say this because there are a fair few steep hills on this trail, then you must do the lighthouse walk! You are seriously missing out on some of the best views that Byron has to offer if you don’t do it – It just isn’t an option right?
The Cape Byron Light House walk is a 3.7-kilometre walk and will take anything from 1-3 hours, but plan for the latter because you’ll be stopping a lot to take in the scenery. The walk starts from the bay but you can choose various starting points whether it’s from the beach or the real start of the trail! We started at the trail because we walked from the campsite (which took our walk up to about 5 kilometre’s, cue one very sweaty couple!). You can check out this website for the official trail route, maps and tonnes of information about the walk. As you make your way up to the lighthouse, an architectural wonder itself, you stroll along beaches, clifftops, bush walkways, rainforests and even a café/bar if you fancy a beer or wine to get you up those hills!
As if the natural beauty of the walk wasn’t enough you’ll also get to see some epic landmarks too! Like, did you know that Byron Bay is home to the most easterly point in Australia? Well you do now and you’re going to walk straight through it (and take an obligatory photograph of course!) And to top it all of you’ll get to meet some of the locals too.
I think that’s what made this walk so magical for me was the wild and sea life we were lucky enough to spot! As much as we enjoyed spending time at Australia Zoo it’s always a magical feeling when you see animals in their natural habitat, which is exactly where they should be. During our hike we got to see not one but TWO pods of dolphins, a lizard that totally freaked me out because it looked like a snake with feet (see photograph below!) and little did we know that Byron Bay would be the place that we spotted a Koala in the wild, which if you’ve been to Australia you’ll know they can be hard buggers to spot!
I may be a little biased because of the blissful weather we had and the wild and marine life we got to see but the Cape Byron Walk has to be on the top of your list of things to do in Byron Bay! But if you are unable to make the walk due to health reasons or you simply can’t be arsed then at least take a drive up to the lighthouse as the views really are breathtaking and this is where we spotted our pods of dolphins!
Close your eyes and imagine a rainbow coloured street, rainbow-painted houses, shops, public toilets you name it, everywhere is painted the colours of the rainbow. Imagine vintage shops lining the streets and shops so full that whatever they are selling is spilling out of every nook and cranny, there’s a certain smell in the air, not dirty but definitely not clean either. And if you’re really creative you might even imagine being asked if you’d like to try one of Nimbin’s speciality cookies on several occasions as you walk down the street mesmerised by what you’re witnessing before your eyes.
If you’ve already been to Nimbin then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about! When you visit Byron Bay you have to take a drive up to see it, a tiny rainbow-infused town nestled in the hills of the hinterland.
About an hour or so inland from Byron Bay is the town where people sell you weed on the streets and offer you cookies, yep you guess it full of weed as well. For the locals, it’s their way of life and probably really normal but it’s something I haven’t experienced too much of – very hard to write this without sounding like a total snob (Which I really am not!). If I could explain Nimbin to you it’s the exact definition of free-spirited land hippy living. I guess Nimbin is what I expected Byron Bay to be like. Which if you’ve ever visited both places you’ll know how different they really are!
We arrived in Byron Bay late afternoon on our first day so we decided to head to the main beach and take a stroll and boy am I glad we did! What was meant to be a short walk for some fresh sea air and to get the sand between our toes again turned out to be major beach exploration! We ended up walking a good length of the beach from main, all the way down to The Pass. The Pass is one of the most famous places in Byron Bay to surf but the waves were tame so the beach luckily for us was tame too. If you are heading to Byron Bay in the summer be mindful that this section of the beach will be jam-packed! That said it’s still worth a visit just to see Fisherman’s Lookout.
You won’t be able to miss Fisherman’s Lookout, sometimes called staircase rock when you reach The Pass! The lookout is a rock formation that looks back on Byron Bay and out into the glittering ocean and is simply stunning. The lookout is a natural landmark made from rocks that have been formed over the years. Make your way up the rickety steps and take it all in!
Visit the Byron Bay Markets
One of the things I adore about Byron Bay is its vintage chic feel. From the shops to the people Byron is full of a hippie, free-spirited and relaxed vibe. It even comes through in some of the shops you visit and the markets in Byron Bay are incredible! Byron Bay has markets twice a week and extra ones dotted around the year, so you’ll no doubt stumble upon one or two no matter when you visit! We were lucky enough to be in town during the Twilight Markets which are held every Saturday from October to Easter.
These markets gave us everything from glorious food to some talented local artists, photographers, dressmakers and heaps more! Byron Bay also holds a large flea market full of everything you can think of every second Saturday! You can check out this website for a list of the local markets and what dates they are on, so you can be sure to be in town!
Take a Surf Lesson with Let’s Go Surfing
Okay, so I may be kind of cheating a little with this one but don’t give up on me just yet! The ultimate activity we longed to do in Byron Bay was to surf! I mean come on Byron Bay is the place to surf! It’s where every Aussie hit’s up for the holidays to get out on the waves! But we kind of had a freak out when we saw the price, yes surfing is expensive and decided to be sensible sausages and save it for another time! That said we have had now had three epic surfing lessons in Sydney with the same company that run the surf lessons in Byron Bay!
Let’s Go Surfing is the only surfing company on Bondi Beach down south and teach hundreds of amateurs to surf a week! The experience we’ve had with these guys has been world-class and I wouldn’t recommend any other surf company! We even managed to stand up on the boards on our first lesson! The surf is good in Sydney but I know it can be better in Byron and whilst you’re visiting the ultimate surf town it would be rude not to give it a go right? But if you’re like us and strapped for cash because you blew it all on the rest of your roadie, then fear not you can hop on aboard when you get to Sydney!
Sunrise at Tallow Beach
What is it about the sunrise that makes you raring to go for the day? I can remember the day we headed to watch the sunrise at Tallow beach like it was this morning. As the alarm rings in my ears at 5:30 am I’d already been lying awake for half an hour prior. You see, camper-vans aren’t very soundproof and those Australian birds are singing at the top of their beaks way before the sun is up! But I could think of a lot worse noises to wake up to, I loved listening to them as I lay in the back of our home on wheels.
When Dave is eventually ready to head to the beach we look like two ninjas in the dark stumbling out of the van! Without a care in the world, we walk 500 yards and we are on the beach, crazy I know, it was 5:30 am and I was stood on a beach in Australia, in my pyjamas waiting for the sun to rear its head. It honestly felt like it was a movie.
I vividly remember being shocked at how many people were out at that time in the morning walking their dogs, jogging or just having a stroll! But if I lived that close the beach then I reckon I’d be there most mornings (note to self, get to Bondi Beach in the mornings more often!). The sky was clear with just two strands of pink cloud, looking a lot like candy floss in the distance. The sunrise was simply spectacular and well worth getting up early for!
Now, Tallow Beach is about a 15-minute drive from Byron Bay in Suffolk and I highly recommend you get up there for sunrise if you can, you can see the lighthouse in the distance as well as the glistening ocean with your feet buried in the sand! Another popular option for the sunrise is actually heading up to the lighthouse – we are saving this one for our next trip!
After the sunrise make sure you head to Suffolk Bakery and grab a pastry and coffee – they honestly do the best of both in Byron! There wasn’t a day or time when this bakery wasn’t bustling with people, the smell of homemade baking goods lures you in from the street and honestly, it tastes just as good as it looks!
Soak up the sun on some of Australia’s most stunning beaches!
The Byron coastline is full of fantastic beaches! From the gorgeous Main beach to the more quiet and mellow Tallow Beach, you are spoilt for choice! They all ooze beauty with glorious waters to swim, paddle and splash around in! There is even a tonne of water sports activities you can get on board within Byron Bay! You can go here for some more details on those!
It can be difficult when choosing which beaches to explore especially when you’re on a time constraint – we had the same problem so I feel ya! That said we did manage to get around a few of them like a pair of beach hussies on the loose! So below are our favourites & the ones we think you should visit!
Stating the obvious I know, but it’s impressive how many people avoid the main beaches of coastal towns like Byron Bay because of the high volumes of tourism people expect to find! The Main beach in Byron Bay wasn’t like that at all and it has so much more to offer than just a beach. Begin on the grass near the car park and you’ll be invited in by acoustic music!
We listened to a fair few talented guitarists during our visit! You can bring a picnic up the grass and just listen and hang out on there if you like! Or you can drop down onto the beach which yes, will be busy but still beautiful. Main Beach importantly has lifeguards patrolling which is somewhat lacking on the other beaches! So if you’re up for a swim in the sea the best place to be is Main Beach so you can stay safe and swim between those flags!
I know I’ve already talked about how tranquil this beach is but that isn’t just at sunrise. Tallow Beach is stunning at all times of the day! The view of the lighthouse makes it extra special as does the lack of people! If you’re looking for a quieter strip of sand so that you can fall right into the pages of that holiday read then Tallow Beach is the place for you! You won’t find any facilities at Tallow beach so make sure you’ve plenty of food and an empty bladder!
We stumbled across this lovely little bay and beach area when we were hiking up to the lighthouse! A gorgeous little cove makes for an idyllic place for a sunbathe, swim and BBQ! There is a car park, a grassed area and plenty of facilities for your toileting needs! A perfect place for a group get together and family fun!
I briefly mentioned The Pass in an earlier section but I just want to touch on it a little more here. This can be one of the busiest spots in Byron due to the awesome waves that surfers love to ride when the conditions are right!
My advice would be to stay out of the water if you find yourself here on a day like this – best not to get wiped out by a surfboard, unless you’re a pro that is! But this beach is definitely worth a visit. I don’t know about you but I love watching surfers and it’s home to Fisherman’s Lookout, a perfect place to spot marine life and gaze onto the horizon. As well as that, like every spot in Byron, it’s perfect to sunbathe!
The great thing about Byron Bay is that it’s surrounded by trees, whether it’s pandanas, palm trees or pine trees you’re bound to find a spot of shade on any of the beaches! The most open of the four I’d say is tallow beach.
Eat Your Weight in Gelato
Okay, so I’m for sure not a foodie blogger but god do I love my food and Dave certainly loves his deserts! I had to give this place mention in this post because the Gelato we had from this counter was unreal! I have never tasted anything so light, like ever! Bella Rose has every flavour you can think of from coconut to Ferrero Rocher and it doesn’t make you feel all frumpy afterwards – it’s honestly THE BEST!
Bonus Tip: Where to Park Your Home on Wheels
Before you go I just thought I’d add one more piece of information to this post! Of course, the best way to travel the Aussie east coast is by camper van! So if you’re like us and jumped on the bandwagon, or van in this case! You’ll notice as you drive further south the pricing for the campsites slowly starts to increase! When in Byron Bay I recommend staying at Suffolk Beachfront Holiday Park! Though about a 10 – 15-minute drive from the centre it’s a lot cheaper than some of the sites nearer the city & a bonus is that it’s set back from Tallow Beach! You can have a look at their website here but I couldn’t recommend it more!
We had more than two during our five days here! There are, of course, countless ice cream counters throughout the town, you only have to turn your head sideways and another one will most certainly be in you’re view!
So, in case you didn’t quite get the message in this post-Byron Bay has a very large chunk of my heart. I would go as far as to say I could happily live in Byron Bay for a long period of time. The people, the culture, the lifestyle isn’t anything short of perfection! & some of those houses dotted around the bay – wow! I might want to live there but whether I could ever afford would be another story, I’ll let you know if I ever make it!
But honestly, I would happy in the back of pastel green VW camper van for the foreseeable future! There are so many things to do in Byron Bay and we only scratched the surface but I look forward to updating this post the more we get to go back and explore!
Why is Byron Bay Special to us?
Byron Bay is a magical place and honestly it was the most at peace with ourselves we felt the whole road trip. We even made a huge decision whilst strolling the beach.
When we first arrived in Australia we were adamant we going to undertake the 88 days of rural farm work you have to do to extend you’re working holiday visa (Check out my post about WHV’S here). But in reality, neither of us were really being honest with each other. I was secretly dreading the whole thing, so much so that it was stopping me enjoying Australia to the full! Dave, on the other hand, would be able to hack the farm work but was wondering how I’d handle it! Turns out I ’m just not cut out for it and that’s okay.
So it was as we walked hand in hand on Wategos beach that we decided, no farm work! I suddenly felt a weight lifted from my shoulders and a deeper love from Byron Bay! It might sound crazy but this place for sure has something special about it!
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Byron Bay was just one of the amazing spots we loved on the East Coast of Australia. I’m so excited to finally be writing about each and every place! You can take a look at all of the destinations we hit up on our road trip in part 1 (Queensland) and part 2 (New South Wales) – click on the states!
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
Sydney Harbour Bridge view from Circular Quay.
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’
The Sydney Opera House, just in case you didn’t know…
My favourite view of The Opera House is from Milson’s Point!
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!
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!
Because of the current and the density of the sand, the swirls at Whitehaven Beach change all the time. No two photographs taken here will ever be the same!
The sunsets were incredible!
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!
Another great thing about Fraser Island? It’s incredibly peaceful!
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!
My favourite shot I took in Byron
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!
Don’t forget you’re the waterproof camera!
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.
These fellas we’re not afraid to get close!
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!
See what I mean? True Beauty!
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.
The view from the back of our van!
& 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!