Updated: Nov 15
Mine and Tommy's seven week trip down the East Coast of Australia!
CAIRNS - (5 days, 6 nights)
Me and Tommy went diving in the Great Barrier Reef with 'Passions of Paradise'. I really recommend this company - super friendly, lunch buffet to die for (tom went up for tenths), spacious boat with loads of areas to get that tan on in between diving locations and offers intro dives for those who have never dived before. (You can also snorkel if you'd prefer!)
Cost: You pay for one dive at $75 and if you want to dive the second time, you pay an extra $45. (head to day five to discover a more remote area to see the Great Barrier Reef in an even more beautiful way).
Stayed: Gilligans Backpacker's $24-120 - A very loud, party-hard, rugby lads kinda vibe.. was my preference so moved to Globe Trotters which was way nicer! A very chilled hostel with a chill out area, pool, modern kitchens and free (basic) breaky in the morning - coffee very good mind!
We spent a full day exploring all the gorgeous waterfall wanderers in the rainforest. We visited Wooroonooran National Park waterfall, the Millaa Millaa waterfall (where the herbal essences advert took place!) and the Mount Hypipamee National Park waterfall.
We stopped off to see the huuuuge Curtain Fig Tree in East Barron - one of the largest in Tropical North Queensland. To finish off, we visited the Crater Lakes National Park lake where you can walk around or enjoy a lovely swim and picnic.
We ventured to Fitzroy Island which is absolutely stunning - highly recommend! We went on a walk to the summit to see the whole view of the Island (take water - we failed to do so in 45 degree heat which was a rookie error!) We walked to the lighthouse and visited the turtle hospital. Nudi Beach and the secret garden trail are recommended to do but unfortunately it was a too rainy for us to complete by this point (crazy to think it stormed despite how sunny it was in the picture!).
Cost: It was $74-84 for return boat trip over from Cairns to Fitzroy Island (45 minute one way) - a bit pricey but so worth it!
We got a bus up to Cape Tribulation where we stayed over night in the Daintree Rainforest (2 days 1 night). We got a boat across the Lower Daintree river to reach the heart of the Daintree Rainforest. This lake is where many hungry, sea water crocodiles are found so keep your fingers inside the boat is all I'm saying... You could visit Cape Tribulation in one day, but I would recommend booking a hut to stay in overnight in the Daintree to make your experience of the rainforest more 'Bear Grylls' style - watch out for the snakes and tarantulas!
Where we stayed, it had it's own private beach. We walked along the deserted beach (at your own risk...) which was the most eerie experience with nobody but ourselves on this long stretch of sand. The water is infested with sea water crocodiles and sharks so no swimming or even paddling by the edge of the water unless you want to be someones yummy dinner. (on a serious note, we weren't putting ourselves in danger by walking on the sand so that is allowed - just no swimming/paddling!)
Stayed: The Beach House $29 - a hut in the middle of the Daintree rainforest which has a lively bar/restaurant and a swimming pool (not infested with crocodiles!)
FYI: There aren't many resources here, just 1 supermarket quite far out.. so make sure you go to the shops for food/essentials before heading to Cape Tribulation.
FYI: look out for the Cassowary birds (a bit like emus but prettier) which are found in the Daintree. We spotted one crossing the road which is apparently very common! Such peculiar, funny looking birds.
Today was one of the best days! We took a smaller speed boat of around 20 of us to the Great Barrier Reef to do some snorkelling (diving wasn't necessary as the reefs were so shallow). This snorkel was honestly incredible, seeing rays, white-tip sharks, jellyfish, eels, puffer fish, hammerhead parrot fish, clams.. basically the whole of finding nemo! but the highlight was definitely swimming with turtles for around 45 minutes. I highly recommend doing a snorkel from the Daintree Rainforest as there is only one boat that goes out from this location (unlike the trip from Cairns), so the places you go are a lot more remote and therefore the reefs are more beautiful and you see a lot more! We headed back to Cairns via Port Douglas.
Company/Cost: Ocean Safari $139. It is pricy for a 1/2 day snorkel but I can't emphasise enough how amazing it was - money well spent.
Eating in Cairns:
- The Lillypad Cafe. $. Directly opposite Gilligans serving yummy crepes, cooked breakfasts with veggie options available and refreshing fresh juices.
- Pineapple Cafe. $. Healthy breaks spot serving acas and smoothie bowls.
- Night Markets. $10-15. Cheap, asian-style food, and incredibly tasty.
- Prawn Star. $$. Everything served has been freshly caught that day, alongside beautiful harbour views.
- Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant. $$ might not be the prettiest of restaurants but the food is incredible - make sure you indulge in the starters.
- Three Wolves. A fab selection of cocktails with a Melbourne feel to the place.
- Conservatory Bar. A relaxed, tropical, wine bar with great cocktails and craft beers too.
MISSION BEACH - (2 days, 1 night)
We arrived at Mission Beach in the evening so spent the day exploring Mission Beach which is a very small, relaxed town. Make sure to pick up the loose mangos from the trees - incredibly tasty!
The next day we did a full day of whitewater rafting down the rainforest which was suuuuper fun with a BBQ lunch in-between. I recommend the full day rather than the half day as it makes it more worth while! You can choose between normal or advanced - pick normal as there is no difference between the two options other than a two second swim under a waterfall and it being a lot more expensive (clarified by our instructor - a way of making money the cheeky devils).
Mission Beach is a recommended place to sky dive as its one of the only sky dives in the wooorld where you can land on the beach so definitely do this if you can - unfortunately we didn't have time.
Travel: Greyhound: Cairns to Mission Beach - just over 2 hours. Stayed: We stayed at Jackaroo Treehouse Hostel $12-15 which had such a lovely vibe and beautiful view of the sunset from the treehouse balcony overlooking the Coral Sea, with many hammocks so slum in, and an unlimited BBQ.
Eating: Dinner - Bingil Bay Cafe $$ is a colourful, vibrant restaurant serving brunch, lunch and dinner but known for its burgers - rated top 25 burgers in Australia!
MAGNETIC ISLAND - (3 days, 2 nights)
We caught the Greyhound to Townsville and then a boat over to Magnetic Island. When arriving at Base Hostel, we hitched a lift to the West Point to watch the sunset. This is the best place to watch the sunset on the beach so you must go! but you need to go by car as it's too far to walk.
Travel: Greyhound: Mission Beach to Townsville - 3 hours 20 minutes.
Ferry: Townsville to Magnetic Island - 20 minutes. (every 40 minutes)
Stayed: Base Backpackers $32-37. the best Base Hostel we stayed in, with cute little beach huts overlooking onto Nelly Bay. There's a bar (with many happy hour options), hammocks, swimming pool, pathway straight onto the beach, and they serve incredibly yummy breakfasts! Definitely have the smashed avo on sourdough with salmon - divine! There's also a make-shift gym for those who want a morning workout watching the sunrise. Battleropes and all!
Today was the day to properly explore the island! It is common to buy barbie cars/4x4s here on Magnetic Island to get around the island, however we saved the 200+ bux and hitch hiked everywhere which is pretty easy in Australia! Especially in a pretty remote island like this one. We went on the Fort walk (a place you see wild koalas, if you catch them on the 4 hours they aren't sleeping and its not too hot! - we didn't get to see them unfortunately). We also went to Horseshoe Bay which was a beautiful beach. Alma Bay is where you can feed the rock wallabies - they come out around 5pm. Florence Bay and Arthur Bay are recommended places to snorkel. All the Bays are beautiful.
In the evening, we walked to Hawkings Point where we watched the sunset, with a picnic and a refreshing beer - much needed after a pretty steep climb. Nobody else but us. Stunning views.
- Base Backpackers. $. As I mentioned earlier, such a scrumptious breakfast. You are given breakfast tokens to those that stay at Base which makes it even better!
- Cafe Nourish $. Beautiful energetic cafe with a selection of healthy wraps and smoothies, as well as breakfast options!
TOWNSVILLE - (1 day, 1 night)
We caught the boat back to Townsville in the afternoon. People often leave Townsville and head straight onto Airlie Beach, but I recommend staying for one night. Cute little town, and stayed in one of the nicest hostels - Rambutant. Nice to relax and chill by the pool before the next adventure. We headed to Airlie Beach in the evening.
Stayed: Rambutant - despite this is a hostel, it had a very hotel feel. A gorgeous restaurant/bar with a rooftop pool with G&Ts for $5 during happy hour (that's £2.50!). Sold.
AIRLIE BEACH - (4 days, 4 nights)
This is one of the highlights of Australia, going to the Whitsundays. Unfortunately, the Cyclone meant we didn't experience the beauty of the Whitsundays but it is supposed to be absolutely stunning - especially Whitehaven! (See picture above). We went on New Horizons boat - everyone says this boat is highly recommended or the Clipper boat which is said to be a 'party boat' but depends on the people you go with! The boat trip is 2 nights, 3 days. On the third night, it is common for the crew to organise a dinner with everyone and a night out - discounts everywhere you go!
FYI: It's a BYO system so make sure to stock up on all the drinks you want beforehand - and no zips allowed on the boat (as they attract bedbugs. Fun fact for you all). Meals all included.
Travel: Townsville to Airlie Beach - between 3 hours 30 minutes - 4 hours 30 minutes (depending on the time you go).
Boat Company: New Horizons or Clipper Boat ("party" boat)
This was an inbetweeny day before catching the overnight Greyhound to Rainbow Beech. A day to explore Airlie Beech (not a lot there tbh), go to the lagoon, and enjoy a chilled one on the beech.
Travel: Airlie Beach to Rainbow Beach - overnight bus around 17 hours 30 minutes - 18 hours 30 minutes
Stayed: Nomads: cute little huts, right in the centre of Airlie.
- Garuma. $$-$$$. Such great salmon. And presentation.
- Treehouse. $$-$$$. Lovely food, and atmosphere with a definite treehouse feel.
- Village Cafe. $$. Massive breakfasts with lovely reef views.
- Wisdom Health Lab $. Cheap takeaway food and juices/smoothies.
- Spicy Thai. $-$$. cheap food and super tasty.
- Boaty's. $. Cheap drinks and pub lunch food.
RAINBOW BEACH (1 day, 1 night. Base before Fraser Island tour)
As we hadn't seen sun for a few days, and didn't have the best sleep on the coach, we spent the day on yet another stunning beech and chilled for the rest of the day.
Stayed: Dingos - their Fraser Island tours are highly recommended which is why we stayed here.
FRASER ISLAND - (3 days, 2 nights)
Another epic part of the holiday - Fraser Island!! We spent 3 days and 2 nights on Fraser Island, camping within the forest. We all drove jeeps around the island which was an insane experience. You could do this on your own but I recommend you book through a company as they know all the hotspots and you can just enjoy driving a jeep on the sand rather than worrying where to go! We went to Lake Wabby, sand dunes, Eli Creek (lazy river), champagne pools, visited Maheno Shipwreck and Lake Mckenzie. All stunning.
The camping ground was such fun - cooking facilities were fab, tents weren't the most comfortable (no pillows provided and a pretty hard surface!). Make sure you go to the beach at night to see the stars - one of the most surreal, amazing things I've ever seen. Dingos live here, so make sure you take your dingo bat with you during the night and walk in more than a group of 2 - and no children on their own!
Before leaving Rainbow Beach, we got up early to feed wild dolphins. Such gorgeous mammals. Next stop.. Noosa.
Travel: Rainbow Beach to Noosa - 2 hours 45 minutes.
NOOSA (3 days, 3 nights)
When we arrived in the afternoon, we spent the day just exploring Noosa Village. Noosa was such a glamorous town packed with boutiques and cafes.
Stayed: Halse Lodge: $33.50. A cute beach-house look, very close to Noosa's main beach and Noosa National Park. They have a pool, pingpong table and their own pretty restaurant lit up by fairly lights which many locals go to - pub lunch food.
We went canoeing down the Everglades which was absolutely stunning (there's only 2 Everglades in the world!). At the end of our tour, we were treated with the best, poshest tour lunches - definitely not backpacker style! Sooo many wild kangaroos were found here too which I loved!
We completed the popular 10.8km Costal walk around Noosa's National Park (takes around 4 hours), overlooking the stunning beaches and coves. It isn't uncommon to spot koalas in the trees as well as dolphins/sea turtles in the ocean so keep your eyes peeled!e
- Blended Health Bar. $. Great coffees, juices and smoothie bowls.
- Raw and Rice. $. Super colourful and healthy poke bowls, offering so much choice!
- Cafe Le Monde. $$-$$$. (also recommended for breakfast and lunch!) A beachy vibe cafe restaurant and bar. Their menu is seasonal so take advantage of the locally sourced meat, seafood, veg, and fruits. - you must order their seafood platter and yellow coconut curry! Oh, and the Kiwi and Blueberry Caprioska cocktail..!
- Betty's Burgers $.
- Village Bicycle $. - retro, lively feel, with street art and live tunes. Burgers and tacos are available too.
- Noosa Beach House $$-$$$. Beautiful chic bar, with delicious cocktails.
BRISBANE (2 days, 2 nights)
Here's where we picked up our camper van which offered so much freedom - definitely recommend if you can! (We used Lucky Rentals company).
We went to the renowned Steve Irwin's, Australia Zoo! So much fun, where you can be at one with the Kangaroos and feed them, hold koalas, watch the croc show, and even take a trip to Africa and South East Asia!
In the evening we walked around South Bank in Brisbane City, walking through the fairylight walkway, enjoying the Christmas markets and the summery bar vibe with an aperol spritz.
Stayed: Brisbane Backpackers $21-34. beautiful panoramic view of the whole city, with a great pool and bar area. Easy walk into Brisbane City.
We headed to Mount Coot-Tha (7km walk or there are taxis/busses available) to see the panoramic view of Brisbane. Unfortunately it was a pretty cloudy for us, but it is meant to breathtakingly beautiful!
We headed back down the Brisbane's City centre and walked around the Botanical Gardens before continuing our trip.
Eating in Brisbane:
- Kiss the Berry, $. South Bank. I would recommend the "Watermelon Split" with handmade granola, banana, coconut yoghurt, watermelon and passionfruit.. mmmm.
- Felix for Goodness $. Industrial, arty vibe cafe with great coffees and decent brunch options.
- Mucho Mexicano $. for taco Tuesdays!! Unlimited tacos for $25. Winner. The pumpkin tacos were a dream. Tom broke the record of 42 tacos. Can you beat him?
- Gauge $-$$. Modern Australian food, cafe-style with a quirky food menu and extravagant wine list. Go check out their 'blood taco' their signature dish and their banana bread.
- Bar Pacino. $$. A rooftop riverfront balcony.
- The Plough Inn $$. Beer garden and deck.
SURFERS PARADISE / PALM BEACH (2 days, 2 nights)
DAY TWENTY-SIX - DAY TWENTY-SEVEN
"Surfers Paradise" is the common place people stop off however, for us, it was way too touristy so instead drove 10mins down the coast to Palm Beach which was absolutely stunning. (Burleigh Heads is also a beautiful spot just before Palm Beach). Theres a beautiful costal walk from Palm Beach to Burleigh Heads which I recommend doing for sure, ending with a sunset picnic looking out to the sea.
We drove to Springbrook National Park and walked through the subtropical rainforests to see the waterfalls, creeks and cascades. (Better than the Currumbin Rock Pools!) - There are more national parks around if you'd like to explore more such as Lamington National Park.
Stayed: Palm Beach Holiday Park.$$ Family resort campsite with great facilities opposite Palm Beach.
Travel: Brisbane to Palm Beach - 3hr 30mins drive.
- Borough Barista $ - Burleigh Heads. Friendly vibe with cool tunes in an edgy 'shack'. Enjoy a chia bowl with the local surfers.
- Justin Lane Pizzeria & Bar $$ - Burleigh Heads. Onto of a shop, quirky bar is very lively and makes the most delicious pizzas and pasta dishes.
BYRON BAY (5 days, 5 nights)
DAY TWENTY EIGHT
We drove to Byron Bay - my favourite place on the East Coast - a completely different vibe to the rest of the coast, resident to a lot of hippies, quirky cafes, and yet again more beauuuutiful beaches.
Via the Captain Cook Lookout, we walked to the easterly point of the Australian Mainland -- suuuuper duper windy so watch those hats and sunglasses! We then headed to the Cape Byron Lighthouse to see the stunning views of Byron Bay. Continuing the walk round, you reach Tallow Beach which is stunning - this 3.2km of stretched sand has hardly anyone on it which is a perfect place to relax and take in the beauty.
In the evenings, there's always extremely talented, street performers who are fab. Hard to miss due to the mass crowd that surrounds them!
Stayed: Discovery Parks, Byron. $$ A family resort campsite with pool, great facilities at the backend to the campsite - the other side is rather hippie/rundown. They offer free yoga classes on Monday, Wednesdays and Saturday mornings.
DAY TWENTY NINE
Brunch at The Folk. (Linked with our campsite - delicious!) A day to take in more of Byrons fabulous quirky wonders and the gorgeous beaches. Go to Wategos Beach which is where many of the locals go which is stunning and never busy. In the late afternoon, I recommend heading to the grassy patch at the top of Byron Bay's main beach where there's always an acoustic performer playing whilst the sun sets. Super relaxing with a cider in hand. We did this multiple times.
As it was the third Sunday of the month, we headed to Bangalow Markets which was an extremely hippy scene with such a variety of stalls: from fresh homemade lemonade, to jewellery, body oils and your own personal meditative massage for up to 120 mimutes! There were some interesting positions I saw whilst walking past... But the best Sunday Market I have been to!
Nimbin is a popular place for tourists to go - most commonly known as the town that legally sells Australian Weed. However, this is quite far out so if you want to experience a similar hippie vibe but closer to Byron Bay, head to Mullumbimby which is less touristy too!
DAY THIRTY-ONE - THIRTY-TWO
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - so a lot of drinking, a lot of barbequeing and a lot of beaching.
Travel: Burleigh Heads to Bryon Bay - 1hour drive.
Eating Byron Bay:
- Combi. $$. Acai Bowls are to die for.
- Sunday Sustainable Bakery. $$.
- The Folk. $$. Organic, plant based cafe with excellent coffee outside campsite.
- Byron Corner Store. $$. make your own salads. mmm. Roasted pumpkin and eggplant, roasted almonds, spinach, beetroot, balsamic glaze... yum.
- Byron Fresh $$ - the BEST dinner I had! (their brunch looked amazing too!) Try the Balinese Vegan Curry with roasted eggplant, chickpeas, sweet potato, peanut crumble... Absolutely delightful. Their local bakery of pastries are also renowned to be incredible - their signature is the double chocolate croissant. (ask them to heat it up, wow). The evening is topped off with a live performance.
- The Balcony Bar & Oyster $$-$$$ - buzzing atmosphere offering brunch, cocktails and tapas.
- The Mez Club. $$-$$$. exotic choices of G&Ts.
- The Loft. $. Such a great vibe with a beachy atmosphere and cheap drinks all night.
YAMBA (1 day, 1 night)
THIRTY-THREE - THIRTY-FOUR
We started our long drive back down to Sydney stopping off at some recommended destinations on the way. The first stop was Yamba - some often say its a mini Byron Bay. A very cute village which was quite a sleepy town when we went, but with lovely cafes and of course more stunning beaches. If you feel like you want to put your feet up and have a movie evening, head to Yamba Cinema (there's two) which is a very basic cinema but what more do you want than some yummy popcorn, $10 tickets and a comfy seat.
The next morning we drove to Sunrise Dolphin Park Beach to watch the sunrise - absolutely gorgeous and like the name suggests, we saw so many dolphins playing in the sea! Afterwards we walked to the Angourie Blue and Green Pools.
Travel: Byron Bay to Yamba 1hour 45mins.
COFFS HARBOUR | PORT MACQUARIE (1 day)
After a morning in Yamba, we headed down to Coffs Harbour and completed the Muttonbird Island Walk to see the views of the solitary Islands.
We then drove to Port Macquarie and did the coastal walk which is roughly 4km to Flynns Beach - such a scenic walk, views of beaches, and walking through the rainforests.
In the evening we drove to Blue Mountains so we had the whole day to explore.
FYI if you are driving a camper van make sure you book in advance if you're going to arrive late - we failed to do so and had to park at a petrol station and take turns on who was asleep and who was awake... (You get fined if you're found parked on a street - they are very hot on it!)
Travel: Yamba to Coffs Harbour 1hour 40mins.
Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie 1hour 40mins.
BLUE MOUNTAINS (1 day)
After seeing a lot of beautiful beaches, it was great to experience something completely different - the amazing Blue Mountains in Katoomba, a very quirky village which had a very European feel.
We headed to Echo Point first to see the dramatic scenery of the Three Sisters sandstone rock formation. There are so many different walking tracks which are recommended. We walked down the Grand Stairway - hand-carved stone steps giving access to the valley below Wentworth Falls. Walking through sections of the track on the side of the cliff, we passed many beautiful lookouts of Jamison Valley and Wentworth Falls.
Travel: Port Macquarie to Blue Mountain 4 hour 40 mins. (Option to stop off at New Castle on the way which is roughly half way - we just wanted to get to Sydney!).
TWENTY-FIVE - THIRTY-FIVE
At the end of this trip, we spent just under two weeks in Sydney, where Tommy was living for 7 months. But if you have more time you mustttt go to Melbourne as I have heard nothing but amazing things about that City (another reason for me to come back)!
We were based in Manly which was by far my favourite place in Sydney - just a 20-30minute boat from Sydney City Central. This week and a half was a great time to purely relax after all our active travels and make the most of the layed-back holiday vibe. Manly has such an active feel as everyone is undoubtedly up by 6am running along the seafront, swimming in the sea or playing volleyball on the beach. It is surrounded by so many organic, rustic, beachy cafes and restaurants so make sure you have time to give them all a try!
We completed many of the go-to walks: Coogee to Bondi Walk (4.3k), Manly to Spit Walk (10k), as well as Manly to North Head (4k). We headed to Palm Beach (about an hour bus from Manly) and walked up to the lighthouse which offered stunning beach views.
If you are in Sydney for New Years Day, you MUST get tickets fo Field Day Festival - the best festival of the year in Sydney City.
We spent a couple days in Sydney Central before I departed. Make sure you go to China Town and Haymarket to immerse yourself within the Asian culture and guarantee yourself some flavoursome dishes. Walk around the Botanical Gardens, Darling Harbour and of course the Sydney Opera House. You can walk up the Sydney Harbour Bridge but unfortunately it was too wet and rainy for us.
Travel: Blue Mountains to Sydney 1hour.
Eating: (mostly Manly Based)
- Boathouse, Shelly Beach. $$-$$$. Rustic/posh beachy cafe. Stunning interior and presentation. A must go.
- Manly Wine $$-$$$. chic all-day cafe with beachfront views of Manly main beach.
- Girdlers. $$-$$$. Delicious breakfast dishes from eggs to pancakes to smoothie bowls. The lunch menu is also divine serving colourful nutritious superfood salad bowls.
- Rollers. $$. Great coffee and so many pastry choices, sweet and savoury. You can't go wrong.
- Dolche. $$. Build your own salads. Such great big portions filled with goodness.
- Lal Quila - Darling Harbour. $$-$$$. Indian, with delicious, authentic tender chicken curries. The Tandorri chicken as a starter is definitely a recommendation.
- Peanut Butter Jelly. $$-$$$. The charred cauliflower, peanut butter chicken skewers and curry arancini balls for starters are a winner. The whisky cocktail is amazing, with peanut butter in too!
- Watsons Bay Hotel, Watsons Bay. $$-$$$. Bar looking out onto the seafront. Live music, jazzy saxophone vibes.
As Tom lived there for 7 months, we didn't need accommodation. However, Air BnB is recommended in Manly as you're able to get some very nice places, especially if you want to get out of the hostel life/cramped hot camper!
When we went to the Sydney City Centre, we stayed at Meriton Suites, Campell Street which was a rather posh hotel, very central to everything! I booked this very last minute on booking.com for an apartment room for $300 for 2 nights (£150) - this was our treat for the end of our trip, and for the location and the area, pretty damn cheap!
Other recommended hotels:
Ovolo Woolloomooloo $$-$$$
Old Clare $$$
Thank you Tommy for making this trip happen and for creating such incredible memories. All good things must come to an end, but good things happen again. Until our next adventure... X