Backpacking East Coast Australia Travel Guide (2019)

JUMP TO : East Coast Australia Travel Itinerary | Places to Visit | Where to Stay | Travel Tips | Cost of Travel

East Coast Australia is easily one of the world’s top travel destinations. Every year thousands of budget backpackers head to Australia for an adventure. This ultimate guide to backpacking East Coast Australia has everything you need to plan your trip and to hit the ground running…

East Coast Australia has it allan endless coastline of gorgeous beaches, chilled spots to wind down, crazy nightlife to ramp it up, unique wildlife, and epic road trip and camping opportunities for adventurous backpackers.

If sailing the Whitsundays, camping among the dingoes on Fraser Island, and scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef get you excited, you are in luck.

I have compiled the following East Coast Australia itinerary to help you plan your trip.  A three to four week itinerary is ideal to travel up the coast and stay several days at most locations. However, you can tweak this guide depending on your time and budget constraints!

This is the first part in our backpacking Australia series! Be sure to check out our full guide to Backpacking Australia as well as our guide for Backpacking Tasmania. Both are extremely informative and are sure to imbue you with even more knowledge on the country.

Backpacking East Coast Australia

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Where to go Backpacking in East Coast Australia

Australia’s East Coast is an expansive land of never ending, picturesque beaches stretching 3,150 kms between Sydney and Cairns. The best way to experience this stunning and varied land is by hitting the road on an East Coast Australia road trip that takes in many of the best spots along the way.

It is, of course, possible to hitchhike part or all of this journey, but make sure you are well prepared and have plenty of water, getting stuck on the side of the road in Australia can be deadly!

The best way to do this journey is with your own transport. If you can afford it, I recommend hiring a campervan or car, throwing a tent and cooking stove in the backpack, and heading out.

For campervan hire in Australia, I recommend going with Wicked Campers. They have been providing quality campervan rentals to backpackers for a long-time. Plus their campervans are painted with all sorts  of eye catching art work (and sometimes a dirty joke or two). Check them out!

If you don’t have the budget, you can get around with Greyhound Australia’s hop on, hop off pass.

UPDATE (24/5/2018): 

Note that this guide will cover more than just the literal coastline of Eastern Australia but sections of the Outback and Great Dividing Range as well. Many of the lesser-visited parts of New South Wales and Queensland are just as beautiful as any beach. For backpackers who are willing to go the extra mile, visiting these off the beaten track locations will be very rewarding.

In this detailed travel guide for backpacking East Coast Australia, we've covered all of the itinerary stops in detail, as well as travel costs, tips, and tricks for visiting Australia on a backpacker budget!

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Check out the getting around East Coast Australia section below for more information!

 

Best Itinerary and Route for Backpacking East Coast Australia

East Coast Australia Map for Backpacking East Coast Australia

This is the best itinerary for tackling an East Coast Australia road trip! You can travel in either direction, although, chances are you will fly into Sydney internationally. This is the best place to purchase a vehicle or organize your transportation. (*)

This is a great 3-4 week itinerary for East Coast Australia, though, you can easily spend more time exploring these destinations.

 

Places to visit on your East Coast Australia Trip

I have covered over 13 amazing destinations from the East Coast Australia itinerary below, including what to do, the best places to stay, and some insider tips and tricks for your ultimate road trip.

Get ready for some surf, sun, and adventure.

 

Backpacking Sydney

Sydney, the capital of New South Wales and the largest city in Australia, is home to the busiest airport in the nation. Likely, this will be the location backpackers begin their journeycheck out this post for a breakdown of the best hostels to crash at in Sydney. 

Sydney is a great introduction to East Coast Australia, noted for its iconic Sydney Opera House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No visit to Australia would be complete without an Instagram photo of this amazing piece of architecture. Located at Circular Quay, in the harbor, you can catch the train directly from Sydney Airport.

Circular Quay is also home to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can enjoy an exceptional view of this steel bridge and the harbour, while having a drink at the Opera Bar.

The bridge is a major connector in the city for all means of transportation. Take a ride over the structure and catch another view of stunning Sydney. If you are brave enough, you can legally climb the southern half of the bridge with Sydney Bridge Climb!

One of the most spectacular ways to view Sydney Harbour is on New Year’s Eve. The fireworks display is possibly one of the most beautiful light shows in the world, firework fan or not.

Circular Quay is also the location of the city’s main ferry terminal. You do not want to miss the 30 minute ferry ride over to Manly. One of Sydney locals most favored beaches, Manly has a lovely promenade, many restaurants, shops, nightlife, and more.

Darling Harbour is just adjacent to the city center and easily accessible by public transportation. This is home to many of Sydney’s attractions and museums. Paddy’s Market, Aboriginal Centre, the casino, Sydney Aquarium, and many other public facilities have roots here.

Sydney, like most metropolitan cities, is bustling with places to go and things to see. Some of the best things to do in Sydney include Hyde Park, Kings Cross, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney Tower Eye, Taronga Zoo, The Rocks, and Luna Park.

However, what makes this city unique and special is most certainly its famous beaches. Especially relevant, Bondi Beach is one of the most visited tourist sites in Australia. A quick train ride from the city to Bondi Junction, you can easily catch a bus, Uber, or taxi down to the beachfront. Whether you surf, swim, or skate, the beach has many options for recreation.

Take a dip at the Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club or stroll along the popular coastal walk. The coastal walk stretches from the cliffs of Bondi to Coogee with incredible ocean views along the way. The beaches on the coastal route are well maintained and pristine. My personal favorite is a smaller beach in comparison to the rest, called Tamarama.

Here is our neighborhood guide on where to stay in Sydney.

 

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Byron Bay

Byron Bay is about a 9 hour drive from Sydney. I recommend getting a late coach out of Sydney and catching some Zzz’s through the night. You want to be ready to enjoy the sunshine upon arrival.

Byron Bay is known for it’s laid-back, chill vibe worldwide. Shoes are optional, weed is plentiful (more on that in a bit), and the surf culture is huge. Come early, and stay late. No matter what time of day, Byron Bay does not disappoint.

Let’s start with the free activities, afterall, we are backpackers on a budget.

The lighthouse walk is one of the prettiest in the bay area. This walk can take about 2.5 hours, but it is well worth the exercise. Start your trek at Main Beach and head to The Pass. Continue on the trail towards Wategos Beach for a little break or swim. Then, head up towards the lighthouse for a spectacular sunrise, sunset, or possible whale spotting.

The Cape Byron Lighthouse stands on the most easterly point of mainland Australia, so be sure to check that one off of your bucket list. At Byron Bay, you can checkout local markets, dance in a sunset drum circle, or most importantly, catch some rays at the beach, all free of charge.

If you have ever wanted to surf, Byron Bay is a great place to learn. Take a lesson at Main Beach or rent a longboard and head to Wategos. For adventure, checkout the experienced surfers at The Wreck or Tallows. Rent a kayak to be among the sea turtles and dolphins, go horseback riding along the beach, or snorkel in the turquoise waters.

Allot an extra day for a trip to Nimbin while staying in Byron Bay. Nimbin is a small, quirky town known as the Amsterdam of Australia. Join others on a colorful, eccentric bus driven by Grasshopper Tours. Trust me, you don’t want to drive after a day in Nimbin.

This is a tiny hippie town; marijuana is illegal here, but absolutely everyone is going to try and sell you “special” cookies. Enjoy yourself, just know how very potent these cookies can be. Have a wander around the local shops and art galleries. Chat with the locals and get your munchie fix. Red-eyed and relaxed, kick back while the tour takes you to the Byron Hinterlands to explore some amazing waterfalls.

Check out my ultimate guide to the best hostels in Byron Bay here

Book Your Byron Bay Hostel Here

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Gold Coast

Just as you cross the border into the sunshine state of Queensland, about an hour outside of Byron Bay, you arrive at Australia’s Gold Coast.

Known for its surfing beaches, like Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast has a completely different vibe than most of Australia’s East Coast. Often called “Australia’s Hollywood”, this is the core of the nation’s entertainment industry. High rise buildings are sprawled along the coast in Surfers Paradise. The Gold Coast embraces it’s touristy image, and the local culture has been impacted greatly with the, “sun, sand, surf, and sex” marketing tactics.

Go surfing, then grab a bite at one of the many oceanfront restaurants or do some waterfront shopping. Just beyond the coast, there are many rainforests to explore and animals to meet.Take a visit to Tamborine Mountain for some breathtaking views.

A backpacker’s true love for Gold Coast is the vibrant nightlife. Pub crawls hosted by local hostels are popular due to the year round gorgeous weather. You receive VIP entrance into Surfers Paradise best clubs when you join the fun every Wednesday and Saturday nights. This is a great way to socialize and meet other travelers.

Spend as little or long as you would like in the Gold Coast. Just be sure to pick up some medicine from the shop before heading out. If you are making a stop in Brisbane, it is only an hour drive and not nearly enough time to sleep off that hangover.

Book Your Gold Coast Hostel Here

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Brisbane

Brisbane, or Brissy as Australians refer to it, is the capital city of Queensland. Brissy is defined by the Brisbane River winding through the city center, which divides the city into a north and south side. Brisbane is the third most populous city in Australia. Surprisingly though, there is a good blend of city-life and nature.

South Bank in South Brisbane, obviously, is the cultural precinct and home to the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, Queesnland Performing Arts Centre, and several museums like the Queensland Maritime Museum.

Visit Streets Beach, a man-made, beach-style lagoon in the heart of the city. Make time for a stroll along the Rainforest Walk in the South Bank Parklands. Located on the riverfront, the parklands consist of 17 acres of rolling greenery, ideal for a picnic. Be sure to snap a shot of the giant BRISBANE sign while you are here or checkout some live music on Saturday nights at City Sounds.

If you are short on time or just passing through Brisbane, there is still plenty to experience. Enjoy the Riverwalk, a permanent pathway extending from the CBD to New Farm Park. Take a ride across the Brisbane River with CityHopper, a free transportation vessel. Shop at the Queen Street Mall or grab a bite at Eat Street Markets in the Portside Wharf.

Restaurants here have been reconfigured out of old shipping containerscool! Oh, and there are craft stores and live music in the evenings.

Book Your Brisbane Hostel Here

Pebbles the Koala Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Noosa and the Sunshine Coast

Just up the road, a 100 km (62 mi) north of Brissy, is the Sunshine Coast. A gorgeous stretch of coastline on the Pacific Ocean, the Sunshine Coast is a must stop while backpacking East Coast Australia.

Noosa, the most well-known area, is a personal East Coast Australia favorite of mine.

Noosa is a vibrant area that maintains a small, beach town feel. Hastings Street, conveniently located near the beach, has lovely cafes, shops, and restaurants. Noosa is most noted for its national park that is rich in vegetation. Check out this post for plenty of inspiration on things to do in Noosa. 

A wildlife sanctuary, Noosa National Park is an easy place to spot a koala resting in a tree. Bike, hike, or walk along the coast for one of the most scenic coastal walks in all of Australia. The pathways are nestled in a dense forest with spectacular views of crystal clear waters. UNESCO has classified Noosa as an official Biosphere Reserve.

Rent a surfboard or soak up the sun at one of the many awesome beaches within Noosa National Park. Reminiscing about Tea Tree Bay, a truly special beach, the word tranquil comes to mind.

An additional day should be given to explore the Noosa Everglades, one of only two everglades systems in the world and an Australian best kept secret. About 25 minutes drive from Noosa Heads, I would recommend using a tour company to see the most of the everglades as it is not currently possible to explore on your own here.

A morning pickup location will be set; then it is off to a boat loading dock on the Noosa River. A knowledgeable guide will motorboat you through these serene waters and point out the birds and other abundant wildlife.

Morning tea is served at Fig Tree Point before a cruise through the Cooroibah and Cootharaba lakes. Lunch is served on the waterfront, a traditional Australian BBQ, and you may even spot a goana near your picnic site. It is here that you may take a swim in the dark waters. Then get geared up for a canoe ride down the River of Mirrors.

Known for its deep color and reflective properties, the Noosa Everglades will inspire awe.

Book Your Noosa Hostel Here

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Rainbow Beach

Approximately 2 hours north of Noosa is Rainbow Beach, This is the Gateway to Fraser Island, and a beauty in its own right. The town name derives from the rainbow-colored sand dunes that surround the area. Mineral rich and massive, these dunes are the perfect back drop for this rugged four wheel drive beach.

Carlo Sand Blow is an impressive stretch of over 15 hectares of land with a moon-like appearance. A short distance from Rainbow Beach, this is an amazing place to view the sunrise or sunset. Slide down the colorful dunes or try paragliding for those adventure junkies out there.

If you are looking for something different than swim and surf, go fishing at Rainbow Beach, one of the areas top attractions.

Visit Double Island Point Lighthouse, and try to spot marine life like dugongs and sharks. This is also the longest wave break in all of Australia.

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Fraser Island

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Do not miss this island when backpacking East Coast Australia!

Due to it’s remote nature, you will probably want to jump onto a guided tour to visit Fraser Island. 

The beach is strictly 4-WD, so sport utility vehicles will be provided by these companiesdo not forget your driver’s license! (Yes, these vehicles are manual transmission so USA travelers: take note.)

Accommodation on Fraser Island consists of expensive resorts and campgrounds, so your tour will provide your group with everything that you need to camp.

Park fees and food are also covered, so there is no other way to experience Fraser Island than with a 3-day, 2-night tour.

The only thing you need to organize before arriving on the island is booze. By this point in your East Coast Australia trip you have likely drank plenty of Goon, boxed wine, an Australian staple. This is the cheapest way to catch a buzz with Australia’s high alcohol prices, and conveniently for your camping trip, the wine bag doubles as a pillow. Just blow it up after you have finished drinking your wine.

If you do have the time to experience Fraser Island on your own, keep a few things in mind. The island is absolutely massive and shops are few and far between, so supplies should be bought ahead of time unless you want to pay a hefty price.

You must obtain a camping permit from the Department of Environment and Resource Management before arriving on the island. A 4-WD vehicle must be rented and ferry tickets purchased to get to the island, as well.

Be sure to acquire your visitor pack with vehicle permits, maps, and park and safety information. Have a read over this site to make sure you have all of the information to camp like a pro!

Fraser Island is a true wonder of the world and an East Coast Australia must do. The sea surrounding the island is not swimmable due to unpredictable rips and shark infested waters.

With over 100 freshwater lakes on Fraser Island, some of the cleanest in the world, this is a perfect alternative to the local beaches. Lake Mackenzie, the most popular lake, consists of pure, white silica sand and crystal blue waters, a true jewel of the island.

Lake Wabby, an emerald green colored lake, sits adjacent to a giant sand mass. This lake is full of little fish that eat dead skin, so you can get a free pedicure while toprelaxing in the sun. Beware if you are on the ticklish side.

The main “road” on Fraser Island is the Seventy-Five Mile Beach where you can drive to some of the islands best attractions like the incredible Maheno Shipwreck and Eli Creek. Eli Creek has a boardwalk for easy access to the tip of the creek. The water is so clean you can drink it or spend some time floating down the current.

Indian Head, a coastal headland and the most easterly point of the island, offers spectacular views of the ocean. Climb the rocky outcrop and search for rays, sea turtles, and sharks down below.

Fraser Island’s natural jacuzzi, Champagne Pools, is another magnificent spot to take a dip. Formed by waves crashing over volcanic rock, these pools get their name from their bubbly waters. This is the only place to swim in seawater on the island.

Dingoes are another special treat for Fraser Island. They number in the hundreds. These are some of last remaining pure dingoes in Eastern Australia, and a real wildlife marvel to see. Most camp sites are enclosed by dingo-proof fencing in order to keep these animals out of your tents.

Maheno Shipwreck, Fraser Island Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Agnes Water and the Town of 1770

Heading north along the coast of Queensland, approximately 4 hours from Rainbow Beach, is Agnes Water and the Town of 1770. A popular backpacker destination, Agnes Water is one of the last places you will find surf on the East Coast, and the lessons here are some of the cheapest.

The atmosphere of this town is chill, and it is a great place to de-stress with a nap on the beach or a swing in a hammock. Laid back and barefoot, the locals are some of the most rad people, and they will happily invite you to their bonfires on the beach at night.

Join a bike gang in Seventeen-Seventy with Scooteroo Tours! The historical Town of 1770 is home to the mini chopper tours and its main attraction. Scooteroo offers the application of temporary tattoos, flamed leather jackets, and a 3 hour bike ride into the sunset. Prices run at about 85 AUD.

Your “Harley” style chopper does not require a bike permit so your driver’s license will suffice. There are plenty of opportunities to spot Kangaroos and Wallabies for an authentic Australian experience and of course views of the ocean. Photograph opportunities are given so everyone can see how dope you look on a bike.

Book Your Agnes Water/1770 Hostel

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach is about 8 hours from Agnes Water/1770, and an entire day’s drive. I highly recommend catching a late bus to Airlie Beach and getting some sleep, as it is considered the party capital of the north, and you will need energy upon arrival.

Wise backpackers like us know how to quickly become acclimated to our surroundings in order to make the best of our East Coast Australia trip. This means spending your morning preparing for your boating excursion. Afterall, Airlie Beach is the Gateway to the Whitsundays! There are loads of shops and markets to grab all of the things you will need to set sail.

Airlie Beach Lagoon, is a clean, man-made style lagoon in the heart of the city. An afternoon well spent would involve a dip in the lagoon waters and lounging under the palms in the Australian sun.

Airlie Beach is a smaller town, but its energy radiates at night and it comes to life. Whether you are off to set sail in the morning, or coming back from the Whitsundays, everyone is buzzing no matter what is next on their agenda. This is a destination with many bars, backpackers, and clubs, and you will not have a dull night during your layover here.

Check out my ultimate guide to the best hostels in Airlie Beach here.

Book Your Airlie Beach Hostel Here

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking The Whitsunday Islands

Ahh, the Whitsunday Islands is what dreams are made of with their indescribable beauty. These islands also form part of the Great Barrier Reef. Who would have thought, a broke backpacker like you would have the opportunity to experience this dream?

Due to its stunning beauty, The Whitsunday Islands are made up of  luxury resortsno hostels. However, camping is possible on some of the islands if you have a boat to reach the sites and bring your own food. Camping permits and fees do apply and you can find campsite information on this site.

The truest way to experience the 74 Whitsunday Islands is with a sailing trip. With over 200 sailing excursions to choose, this would not be the ultimate guide to backpacking East Coast Australia if I did not let you in on the best choice. True Blue Sailing is hands down the most popular tour company with the most exciting tall ships to explore the islands. The Atlantic Clipper is their famous vessel that no other ship can rival.

The Atlantic Clipper consist of 3 levels, 21 cabins, several sundecks, a spa, high dive board, and a waterslide. The ship, at 35 meters, offers a 2 day, 2 night cruise with a fantastic crew on board. Be aware: sailing trips run at about 500 AUD so it would be wise to pre-book your ship before your east coast journey to make sure you stay on budget.

Day 1: The Atlantic Clipper departs from the Airlie Beach marina and sails past the Molle group of islands, via the Whitsunday Passage. Anchorage is set at the southern end of Hook Island, one of the largest islands, via the Hook Passage. Opportunity arises to dive from the tall ship into the stunning waters below. If that is too scary, there is always the waterslide or warm hot tub to get your fix.

At twilight, enjoy a cocktail and marvel at the gorgeous sunset. Equipped with two huge fish spolights, the Atlantic Clipper lights up the sea, to spot dolphins, black and white tip reef sharks, and many species of fish. If you choose, you can sleep under the stars on the top deck, a truly remarkable experience out at sea.

Day 2: An early start to the day, your ship arrives at Whitehaven Beach, possibly one of the most brilliant beaches in all of the world. The sand here is exquisite, made of pure white silica that does not retain heat. It’s perfect for sinking your toes in. Wade in the shallow, tropical waters of a place that can only be described as pure paradise.

Head up to Tongue Point, a lookout location with views of Hill Inlet. Noted for its fusion of incredible colors and winding, creamy sands, Hill Inlet is the 4th most photographed place in Australia. Around lunchtime, the Atlantic Clipper sets sail for a snorkel and dive location, allotting the rest of the day for exploration of the coral reef.

The oldest ecosystem in the world, these waters are rich in marine life. Another evening of fun is had on deck, before setting sail to Langford Island for an epic sunset. A chart read is done to review all of the flora, fauna, and underwater wonders you have encountered in the Whitsundays.

Night two is all about the party! Passengers and crew get dressed up for interactive games, dancing, singing, and an all around fun night.

Day 3: Early morning, The Atlantic Clipper heads off to a new and final dive site. Take another snorkel or dive on the reef, or just continue the party on deck. Anchor up, the ship sets sail back to Airlie Beach with another ride across the Whitsunday Passage.

If you are nice or flirtatious, one of your newfound friends on the crew may even let you sail the boat into the jettylike me! Indigenous education and didgeridoo lessons are given back in Airlie Beach. An after party is organized for one last hurrah with your fellow captain, crew, and backpackers.

Hill Inlet, The Whitsunday Islands Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Townsville

Continuing up the coast of Queensland for about 3 hours, you will make a stop in Townsville. Often just a pit a stop for most, if time permits, there is plenty to do in this large city.

Top recommendations include the Reef HQ Aquarium with hundreds of coral, fish, and other sea species, as well as a turtle hospital. Just south of the city is The Billabong Sanctuary. Considered “Australia’s best interactive wildlife sanctuary”, there are over 100 species of Australian animals on site.

SeaLink, Townsville’s Ferry, will get you to and from the remote Magnetic Island. The real reason you came here.

Book Your Townsville Hostel Here

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is 8 km offshore mainland Australia, another must do on your East Coast Australia trip. The mountainous island can be seen from the coast of Townsville just begging to be explored. Named after it’s mysterious magnetic effect, Magnetic Island has a lot of curious characteristics to be discovered.

Another World Heritage listed site, Magnetic Island is rich in forests and boasts it’s 23 secluded beaches and bays. A water sports haven, many of the hostels rent out snorkel gear. You can take a nice kayak tour or rent jet skis and water skis. As always, take time to rest on one of the island’s private beaches.

There are over 25 km of walking trails on Magnetic Island waiting to be hiked. With so many spectacular views, cover more distance by renting a bike or scooter. If that is not your speed, there are plenty of places to hire a 4wd vehicle and go off-roading, for a more rugged experience.

Take a drive to Bungalow Bay Koala Village for an awesome opportunity to hold Magnetic Island’s iconic koala in your own arms. The rangers are knowledgeable about their local wildlife, and even offer the chance to hold a python, small crocodile, lizards, and more. This is an extra special means of learning about Australia while having fun.

Oh, and Magnetic Island is home to Australia’s premier full moon beach party! Keep that in mind, party people.

Book Your Magnetic Island Hostel

Base Backpackers, Magnetic Island Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Mission Beach

Mission Beach is another holiday gem if you have a day or two to spare. Drive just 3 hours north of Townsville.

This destination is known for it’s natural beauty and adventure. Hidden off the beaten path, it is only a matter of time before the backpacker village is discovered by mainstream East Coast travelers. Nestled between sea and farmlands, Mission Beach always maintains its small town feel.

Dunk Island, an island surrounded by reef and covered in rainforest, can be reached by Mission Beach Water Taxi. A lovely location in the tropics, the island has endless walking trails with amazing panoramic views. Spend the day spotting some of the 100 local bird species, snorkel the warm waters, or enjoy a cold brew at one of Dunk Island’s beaches.

As a true backpacker, you are all about adventure, and Mission Beach offers just that. Get that adrenaline pumping while white-water rafting down the Tully River or head out mountain biking, fishing or sailing. For the ultimate thrill, go skydiving with an incredible beach landing.

Book Your Mission Beach Hostel Here

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking Cairns

Just over 100 km from Mission Beach, you finally arrive in Cairns. This Australian city is not to be missed, known for its tropical climate and being the gateway to the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns esplanade has a large swimming lagoon, popular for most Australian cities, but at this lagoon you can sunbathe topless. Hey, it is extra humid here!

Cairns has plenty of options for food, drinks, and shopping on a backpacker’s budget. Want to go out with a bang? Cairns is also home to Australia’s only bungy jump, with the option to jump as many times as you would like, for those real daredevils.

Cairn’s crown jewel, one of the 7 wonders of the natural world and the largest living organism on Earth, is the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space, so you should feel pretty lucky to experience it and the best way to do that is to head out on a scuba diving excursionthis is of course not cheap.

Certified diver or not, you can check this off of your bucket list. Most day tours include multiple dives (linked to a dive master to those not certified), snorkel opportunities, and glass bottom boat rides. These are the most up-close and personal ways to discover the vast, awe-inspiring ecosystem at your feeterr flippers.

 

The perfect way to end your time in Cairns is at the instagram famous waterfalls at Atherton Tablelands.

Herbal Essence filmed their rainforest commercial here, and for good reason. Girls, or long-haired lads, let those locks down and get an awesome hair flip shot in front of Millaa Millaa Falls: a cool reminder of your ultimate backpack journey to the land down under.

 

Check out our list of the best cheap hostels in Cairns!

Book Your Cairns Hostel Here

Great Barrier Reef Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Backpacking the Daintree Rainforest and Port Douglas

The Daintree Rainforest, an ancient landscape, is the oldest rainforest in the world. The forest can be explored, via Cairns, in several ways. Head to Cape Tribulation to learn about the indigenous peoples of Australia.

View the fascinating Cassowary bird, spot crocodiles, swim, and of course stop at the rainforest’s best locations.

Cape Tribulation is one of the finest beachs in Australia! Here is a huge stretch of bleached sand, the likes of which is juxtaposed wonderfully by the verent jungles of the Daintree. Do be careful of the crocs as they like to hang out in the esturaries around the cape. Also know that this is about as far north as you can go without having a powerful 4×4 vehicle.

If you want to stay in an alternative to Cairns, try Port Douglas on the edge of the Daintree – it’s more resorty but has a great beach and some down-tempo hostels as well. You can participate in many of the same activities as Cairns and at comparable rates. The Great Barrier Reef is actually closer to Port Douglas as well so the boat trip out is shorter.

Book Your Port Douglas Hostel Here

Cape_tribulation-Mwarnes-wikicommons

Good place to chill. | Photo: Mwarnes (wikicommons)

 

Off the Beaten Path on the East Coast of Australia

The East Coast of Australia isn’t just beaches and rainforests! There’s plenty of mountains and deserts in this part of the country. They’re a little out of the way (because they’re not on the coast, obviously) but they’re still totally worthwhile. Take some time out of your East Coast Backpacking trip and visit one of these spectacular destinations.

 

Backpacking the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains offer some of the most spectacular scenery and thrilling adventures in all of Australia. Either by one of the many drive-up viewpoints, from the trail or even by canyoneering, the Blue Mountains are a feast for the eyes.  

An offshoot of the Great Dividing Range, the Blue Mountains are classified as an escarpment – a long, plateau-like feature that comes about from erosion. These mountains are heavily-forested and contain lots of narrow canyons and gorges that make navigation difficult. For many years, in the infant days of Australia, settlers had great difficulty charting the Blue Mountains and, for a time, deemed them impassable.

Nowadays, the Blue Mountains are not so intimidating. There are several roads that snake throughout the range and offer lots of brilliant views. Many of the most iconic views, like those at Echo Point and Govetts Leap, are accessible by car.

The main town in the Blue Mountains is Katoomba. This is a very artsy commune and has a reputation for being full of hippies. The good news about this is that you won’t find many large retail chains or corporations here – only locally owned boutiques and cafes. Bad news is that Katoomba’s reputation is quickly growing and it’s now receiving lots of tourists annually.

Other settlements in the Blue Mountains include Springwood, Leura, and Blackheath.

From just about any town you can arrange a walk and go hiking on one of many trails. Popular trails in the area include the Giant Stairway, the Grand Canyon, and National Pass Trail. If you’re the really adventurous type, try canyoneering. The Blue Mountains have some of the most breathtaking gorges in the world and are a real treat (to those who can manage the technical difficulty).

Book Your Blue Mountains Hostel Here

The Three Sister from Echo Point Lookout.

The Three Sister from Echo Point Lookout.

 

Backpacking Queensland Outback

Guess what?! Queensland has an outback too! You wouldn’t think it by looking at all of those tour adverts or pamphlets but drive far enough west and you’re bound to hit some red rock.

Most end driving through Queensland’s Outback on their way to the Northern Territory, home of Uluru and the city of Darwin. It’s a long, really long drive though and with not many attractions. This part of Australia is remarkably flat (even by Outback standards) and the skies are absolutely enormous. The Outback’s iconic red rock is obviously present but don’t expect anything on the scale of Uluru.

The majority of Queensland’s Outback is composed of tiny little agricultural communities. Ranching is quite prominent here and the locals love to play country games involving riding and dancing. Not saying they’re all like this but the sort that comes from this part of the Outback can also be quite eccentric and even somewhat stereotypical. If you’ve ever wanted to meet a Crocodile Dundee type or a bogan (Australian redneck), than your best bet will be here.

There are several large communities in the Queensland Outback that are able to offer lodging, food, and a couple of tourist attractions. There are a couple of informative ones but most of the attractions are pretty corny though. For example, Charleville has the Vortex Guns, which were a failed science experiment that tried to change the weather, and Eula has the Lizard Racing Tracks, which is exactly like it sounds like. Make no mistake, things can get weird in this part of Australia.

Other popular settlements in the Queensland Outback include Mount Isa, Longreach, and Biloela. For more information on where to go in this part of Australia, refer to this website.

Book Your Mount Isa Lodge Here

1024px-Boulia-outback-queensland-australia-www.gondwananet.com-wikicommons

Welcome. | Photo: www.gondwananet.com (wikicommons)

 

Backpacker Accommodation in East Coast Australia

Backpacking East Coast Australia is all about the hostel experience, although, Airbnb and Couchsurfing are always an option. In the land down under, the price of a room has no effect on the overall experience. Australia thrives on their backpacker hostels, and each destination has a plethora of accommodation choices.

The youth hostel can enrich your travel experience. You will meet many travelers during your stay, often on the same journey as you. Hence, ask your fellow backpackers to share a room at the next stop on your trip, and if you are lucky the hostel will upgrade your room to keep you all together.

Your average 8-12 bed mixed dorm is going to run at about 20 AUD per night, depending on your location.

To help you find the best places to stay during your backpacking Australia adventure, be sure to check out this post on the best hostels in Australia.

Book Your Australia Hostel Here

 

Where to stay in East Coast Australia

LocationAccommodationWhy Stay Here?
SydneyBounce SydneyThe highest rated hostel in Sydney, conveniently located near Central Station with a new and modern feel.
Byron BayNomads Byron BayA perfect location and price. Offering free WiFi, linens, and breakfast.
Surfers ParadiseBUNK Surfers ParadiseClean and new. All the freebies you need and 150 m to the beach.
BrisbaneBreeze LodgeWiFi throughout the building, rooftop bar overlooking the city, and very clean.
NoosaNoosa FlashpackersFree surfboard and body-board hire, free breakfast, unlimited WiFi, and free cheese and cracker Mondays.
Rainbow BeachFrasers on Rainbow BeachThe only place to stay before and after your Fraser Island camping safari, hosted by this hostel.
Agnes Water/1770Cool BananasFree shuttle to the Greyhound bus stop, free tea and coffee, and great meals.
Airlie BeachAirlie Beach MagnumsBeautiful tropical location with free luggage storage and possible early check-ins.
TownsvilleCivic Guest House BackpackersNewly renovated and inexpensive. Free transfers to the ferry and Greyhound station.
Magnetic IslandBase Magnetic IslandSituated right on the ocean, beach bar, stunning views, and the best party on the island.
Mission BeachJackaroo Treehouse Mission BeachLocated within the rainforest, this treehouse style hostel is affordable and beautiful.
CairnsGilligan's BackpackersUpscale hostel at a great price. Nice facilities, restaurant, bar, pool, and more.
Port DouglasDougies BackpackersExcellent hostel w/ all sorts of accommodation types including singles, dorms, and parking for camper vans. Nice pool area. Can organize trips to Reef.

 

East Coast Australia Travel Tips

The following is a breakdown of the basics and everything you need to know before your East Coast Australia trip. Whether you are a first time backpacker or experienced in the art of travel, it is always nice to have a reference of useful information.

The Best Travel Backpack?!

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite carry on backpack is the Nomatic Travel Backpack – Best of all, TBB readers get a massive 20% off! Just use the code: brokebackpacker20

Check out this post to read our full review!

 

Books to Read on Australia

The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here. 

Lonely Planet: East Coast Australia – Relevant, up-to-date travel information and advice from the world’s leading travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet.

Half a World Away in Australia: Travelling in a Land Down Under – Discover the land down under from someone who has dedicated his life to it. The English born author fell in love with Australia, moved there, and has been discovering and writing about it ever since. This is one of the best books set in Australia, full of fascinating stories, written in a down-to-earth style, this book is sure to be a hit for anyone intrigued by Australia.

My Story: Schapelle Corby – An Australian woman writes this true story about her imprisonment in Indonesia for something she did not do.

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence – A book about Australia’s history and it’s treatment of the Aboriginal peoples. A sad story but fascinating read to gain a little insight about Australia’s history.

 

Australian Travel Phrases  

English is the spoken language of Australia, but the Aussie vernacular may leave even a native English speaker perplexed. Slang is so commonly used, you may question if Australians are speaking English at all!

I have compiled some of the most popular phrases, so you are not left dumbfounded while having a chat with the locals.

Ta – thank you

Arvo – afternoon

Barbie – barbeque

Bottle-O – liquor store

Esky – cooler

Mozzie – mosquito

Servo – petrol station/gas station

Roo – kangaroo

Ute – pickup truck

Whinge – wine

Bathers – swimsuit

Bush – the Outback or anywhere outside of town

Fair dinkum – true, genuine

Grog – liquor, beer

Sheila – woman

Thong – flip-flops

Tinny – can of beer

Tucker – food

Chunder – vomit

Dunny – toilet

Footy – Australian Football League

Maccas – McDonalds

Mates Rates – discount

She’ll Be Right – everything will be fine

Stubby – can of beer

Bloke – guy

Truckie – truck driver

How Ya Goin? – a friendly greeting

The entries are just a selection of common phrases, but you could fill an entire book with Australian slang.

When in doubt, assume an Aussie chopped a word in half and maybe slapped an “o” on the end. i.e. Defo for definitely, Cuppa for cup of tea. No one has time to use full words in Straya!

 

Staying Safe in Australia

Australia is a safe country with a low crime rate. In order to maintain your safety follow this advice, “Don’t be stupid!”

A few notes that you may not think about: wear sunscreen, hats, sunnies, and light clothing when going out in the Australian sun. Sun rays are dangerous especially being ever so close to the equator. Drink water and always carry fluids on you. A surefire way to destroy your trip is by ending up in the hospital with dehydration symptoms.

Swim between the flags on the beach. Oftentimes, shark nets are used on popular beaches for protection. Ocean rescue can easily see you when you are with the crowd, if any trouble were to arise. In addition, no matter how advanced you may feel you are at swimming, the sea is a mystical place, so do not think you are stronger than any current. The flags are there for good reason.

Never swim at night in the sea. I was once told, in reference to the crocodile riddled waters of the north, “If you do not see an Australian swimming, you should not get in.” and that can be a good rule of thumb to follow.

Although it may not be common, there is the risk of being bitten by a snake or spider while backpacking East Coast Australia. Always tell someone the areas you are exploring, and try to find a buddy to join if you are headed into the bush.

I was stung by a blue bottle jellyfish after accidentally sitting on it at the beach! Thankfully, the lifeguard knew exactly what to do and there were showers nearby to rinse off. I would have been frightened had I been all alone.

Check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe while backpacking East Coast Australia. Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road. Every backpacker should have a good headlamp.

Check out Will’s post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps.

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Australia

Backpackers and Australians alike are down to party. Every stop you make will have places to drink and, generally, several choices: clubs, bars, pubs, music venues, strip clubs, hostels. You name it; Australia’s East Coast has it.

Be sure to pre-game to stay on budget. Set an alarm before you go out. You do not want to miss your bus, or be charged an extra night for failing to check out of your hostel on time.

Party drugs should be easy to come by especially in places like Gold Coast and Sydneybut that is your prerogative.

If you are looking to get high, the people of Nimbin or Byron Bay are sure to offer up advice. As backpackers, we are all in this together, and your fellow travelers are likely to invite you to join them while smoking. One of the best parts about traveling is meeting new people, drinking, smoking, and sharing stories.

For more information, check out this post about drugs on the road.

 

World Nomads Travel Insurance

Get insurance! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your East Coast Australia backpacking adventure, but take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of dollars on an insurance claim before, you need it.

As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be travelling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! I highly recommend World Nomads.

 

Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.

 

What to Pack for East Coast Australia

On every adventure, there are five things I never go traveling without:

AR Security Belt

1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.

 

2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!

 

AR microfibre towel

3. Microfibre TowelIt’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

 

Headlamp4. HeadtorchI would never travel without a headtorch. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see).

 

Hammock for backpackers5. HammockTaking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colorful and tough.

For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out Will’s full backpacking packing list.

Look Awesome, Do Awesome!
Want to embrace the hippy backpacker style and look? Active Roots hippy trousers are chic, comfortable and perfect for yogis, backpackers and adventurers alike. Help us support the elephant conservation centre in Laos! 10% of your purchase goes towards saving the Asian elephant population so you can look awesome, feel awesome and do awesome – all at once. Pretty fucking awesome right? Use the code ‘ TBB10 ’ for 10% off your order.

 

Best Time to Travel East Coast Australia

The Australian continent is in the Southern Hemisphere, so it celebrates its summer from December to March and winter from June to September.

New South Wales is in a subtropical zone with hot summers and cool winters. Where as, Queensland is in a tropical region with with warm temperatures year-round; therefore, the wet and dry seasons need to be considered.

In Queensland, the wet seasonsummeris said to be a poor time to drive north due to serious rainfalls and the threat of cyclones. The early dry seasonApril to Mayis when the land begins to rejuvenate itself.

Accordingly, you may want to consider your arrival in Sydney during late summer when the weather is sunny and warm. Then continue up the coast during the early dry season to avoid natural disasters. However, I traveled East Coast Australia through January and caught amazing weather, little rain, and a serious sunburn. I took a risk, but I am also not bothered by hot temperatures.

Take note, the humidity in Cairns was unlike anything I have ever known.

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Apps to Download Before Backpacking Australia

Maps.Me – My favorite offline map app. Download your map and route before you venture out to stay on track while backpacking East Coast Australia.

XE Currency – The most accurate app for currency conversions.

HIDE.ME –  I always have a VPN ready to go on both my phone and laptop, and use Hide Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections which is handy for keeping all of your devices connected without having to purchase multiple VPN packages.

Wi-Fi Finder – Locate fast, free WiFi anywhere. Hotspot locations are revealed on a map. Wi-Fi Finder can be used offline, obviously.

CityMaps2Go – A library of guidebooks that can be pre-downloaded. As a result, you will have access to railway maps, town maps, and destination guides when you do not have internet access.

 

East Coast Australia Travel Guide to Getting Around

Most international flights will fly into Sydney or Melbourne. Regardless of the airport, the process for arrival remains the same.

Purchase your visa prior to your flight and have a valid passport. Declare any items necessary on your Incoming Passenger Card. Most importantly, do not do anything stupid and respect Australia! This means no import/export of any illegal items or substances.

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Australia Entry Requirements

There several different types of tourist visas available to those who wish to go backpacking in Australia. The three primary tourist visa types are:

  1. Visitor visa (subclass 600)
  2. Electronic Travel Authority Visa (ETA) (subclass 601)
  3. eVisitor (subclass 651)

The 601 and 651 visas essentially function in the same way albeit with different application processes. The 600 is for those who want to stay in Australia for longer than 3 months at a time and for those who don’t qualify for either a 601 or 651. The grand majority of nationalities can apply for all of these visas online.

The ETA (601) and eVisitors (651) are the simplest and easiest visas to acquire. Both enable unlimited entries into Australia within the span of a year – the duration of stay cannot exceed 3 months at a time. The biggest difference between these two types of visas is that they are only available to specific countries. Americans and Canadians, in addition to several other nations, must apply for an ETA. British, as well as most European citizens, must apply for an eVisitors visa.

The Visitor visa (600) is the most expensive of Australian visas but can grant the most time. Applicants can apply for a 3, 6, or 12-month duration at rates that vary from AUD140 to AUD1020. For any nation that doesn’t qualify for a 601 or 651, the 600 visa is the only means of entering Australia.

Upon arriving at customs, your visa will be checked and you’ll be subject to search. Australian customs takes declared items very seriously so you must be sure to do so. Also, note that criminal offenses and felonies may bar you from entering the country.

whitehaven beach australia

You’re almost there… | Photo: Leon Wilson (flickr)

 

Working Holiday Visas in Australia

Several nationalities have the option of applying for an Australian working holiday visa, which authorizes travelers to work legally in the country. This visa is an amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to stay and go backpacking in Australia for a longer term.

There are two types of working holiday visas in Australia:

  1. A Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)
  2. A Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462)

(If you’re thinking to yourself how stupidly similar these visa titles are, I’m right there with ya.)

Both visas entitle visitors the ability to work in Australia for a period of 12 months. Note that the possessor of a 417 or 462 can only hold a single job for a period of 6 months. Certain countries can only apply for a 417 or 462 i.e. the English can qualify a 417 but Americans must apply for a 462.

To apply for either visa, applicants will need to show that you have at least AUD5,000 in their bank account. Both visas will also require a bill of clean health and clean criminal record.

Applicants of a 462 visa will need to provide some key additional details. With the exception of the United States, those applying for a 462 must provide a letter of support from their government. 462 applicants will also have to pass a character test in which they’ll need to prove that they’re of good moral quality. Usually, a certificate of excellence, like a diploma or special certification, will suffice for this.

The most important difference between a 417 and 462 is that possessors of the former can apply for a second year given they’ve met some criteria. Unfortunately, American citizens and other 462 applicants can only have a working holiday in Australia for up to a year.

 

How to Travel in East Coast Australia

You can hire a car, camper van, or take the greyhound busthese are the most popular options.

My ultimate guide to backpacking East Coast Australia focused on using the Greyhound hop on, hop off pass to give you the most bang for your buck. Although you can shorten or extend your bus route to meet your own needs, the Greyhound Australia pass is valid for unlimited travel in one direction for up to 3 months. You can purchase a bus pass in either direction that you choose to travel. Also, a bus pass offers the freedom to explore each destination at your leisure.

The OZ experience is an option of using this bus system while including bundle packages to places like Fraser Island, which saves you hassle and money.

Premier bus system is a cheaper option to Greyhound, but timetables and stops are a bit limited; therefore, this pass requires more precise planning.

Hiring or buying cars and campervans is always a great option in Australia as well, especially if you have longer than 3 months in Australia or you are visiting on a work visa.

If you are short on time or can’t be bothered to buy a car, you can always rent one. You can sort your car rental here. Booking in advance is generally the best way to score the cheapest price and your choice of vehicle. Airport rentals are often the cheapest too.

 

Hitchhiking in Australia 

Hitchhiking Australia is an option for those savvy and adventurous travelers.

A few country specific things to keep in mind: Australia is massive. Point A to point B may take a lot more effort to find a ride than in smaller countries.

You will need far more water than you anticipate, and then you will need even more than that. Dehydration is very serious and a real threat in the land down under.

Also, it can be dangerous driving through the night due to those cute kangaroos. Most Australians avoid night driving outside of populated areas.

Be wise if you choose to hitchhike!

Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Having a Campervan in Australia

Traveling Australia by campervan is by far the best way to get around Australia. There are many car rental companies in Australia that offer long-term contracts. Each has a wide variety of vehicle types from sedans to 4x4s to campervans.

Campervans are definitely the most popular way of getting around Australia as they provide both transport and lodging at the same time. Living out of a campervan can be convenient, fun, and cheaper than conventional travel. By having the ability to sleep anywhere you want, you’ll save money and get more out of your Australian adventure.

Thanks to the plethora of rental companies available, it’s a breeze to hire a campervan while backpacking Australia. Most offer good rates especially for longer periods of time. Make sure to check the contract though – many rental companies impose certain restrictions on going offroading and over a certain amount of miles per day, and charge extra fees for not following these parameters.

If you plan on staying in Australia for a long time (more than 6 months) try buying your own campervan. Doing this will allow you more flexibility and, if you took care of the car, the chance to sell it when you’re done. You can find adds for used campers in many hostels and on the online boards like gumtree.com.au.

When buying a camper, be sure to take the vehicle to the shop to get it checked before actually committing. Most auto shops are used to this kind of request and will charge a competitive fee.

campervan in australia

Your home for the next several months. | Photo: Ed Dunens (flickr)

 

Onward Travel From East Coast Australia

Australia, being in Oceania, may not share borders with another country, but that should not deter you from traveling onward.

Japan, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Fiji are all popular travel destinations for Australians. Bali and Thailand are also huge backpacker favorites. These countries can be reached at fairly reasonable prices from OZ.

You came all of this way, though. Why leave now? While the country as a whole could take years to fully travel, Australia has so many regions for backpackers to discover.

Head to the Red Centre to discover the Outback. Go north to see the crocodiles in Darwin. Ride Camels on the beach in Broome. Travel up the West Coast and compare the Ningaloo Reef to the Great Barrier Reef. Enjoy wineries in Adelaide. Cruise the Great Ocean Road and wind up in Melbourne. Catch a ferry or flight to Tasmania, under down under.

Australia is a magical land so take the time to discover all of it’s wonders.

 

How Much Does Backpacking East Coast Australia Cost?

Let me be honest, Australia is not cheap, but the price to travel there is worth every cent.

I arrived in Sydney and met my friend for lunch, saw the bill, and immediately began looking for a job. Your costs are going to solely depend on where you stay, how you travel, what you eat, activities you choose, and your alcohol intake. The following are a few guidelines to keep your travel costs down.

Your bus pass is already saving you on transportation. Greyhound’s Sydney to Cairns pass is currently 445 AUD, but it would be wise to look into the package deals that include the excursions you want to try.

Stay in large mixed-bed dorms at hostels that offer freebies like breakfast, tea, coffee, and surfboard rentals.

Try to grocery shop, pack snacks, and cook dinner with your friends because food will be your biggest cost in Australia.

Purchase all alcohol from the bottle shop to avoid paying high prices at the bar. Buy plenty of Goon and pre-game before going out.

Pre-purchase any flights, rooms, and excursions that you can ahead of time. This allows you to pay in your own currencydodging hefty conversion fees.

It would be wise to budget 100 AUD, per day, if you plan to book all excursions, travel by bus, eat out occasionally, and drink booze.

 

Money in Australia

Australia’s currency is the Australian Dollar. The current exchange rate is 1 AUD: 0.78 USD, 0.64 Euro.

Major credit and debit cards are accepted throughout Australia. Being a first world nation, you will find many banks, currency exchange locations, and ATMS.

The process for opening a bank account is fairly easy even for those on a working holiday visa, and it is in your best interest to load up your bank card and steer clear of international transaction fees.

GET IT HERE

You should always have some emergency cash hidden on you and Will (Broke Backpacker founder) has written an entire post on the best places to hide your money. If you want to carry a fair bit of cash safely on your body, your best bet is to get hold of a backpacker belt with a hidden security pocket.

 

Top Tips for Broke Backpackers

Camp: You cannot get much cheaper than free when it comes to accommodation. Check out this post for a breakdown of the best tents to take backpacking or a camping hammock if you prefer.

Eat local food: By local, I of course mean, the local supermarket, where you can purchase instant noodles for nourishment. If you are camping on a really tight budget; it’s worth taking a portable stovecheck out this post for information on the best backpacking stoves.

Volunteer: If done properly, volunteering is an excellent way to cut down your costs on the road. I strongly recommend Workaway – you pay $29 for the year and have access to thousands of projects all around the world, where you can help out in exchange for food and board.

Work in Australia: Many countries can easily obtain a one year work visa in Australia. (See visa requirement section above.) Many backpackers work in Australia for several months and save up plenty of cash to travel around Australia afterwards.

Hitchhike: Again, if you have the time, save significant amounts of money on transportation by Hitchhiking

Pack a travel water bottle  and save money every day! 

To learn how to travel the world on $10 a day, check out the backpacker’s bible.

 

Live in Australia

Moving to Australia may not be as easy as it was for say, our parents, but still possible.

The stepping stone, in my opinion, would be to get a Working Holiday Visa and go from there. This allows you to immerse yourself in the culture and get a feel for life down under. You can then attempt to stay another year or consider your options for a more permanent stay.

One popular means for emigrating to Australia is with a work sponsorship. Your chance of receiving a sponsorship is going to increase exponentially if you are already living and working within the country.

Indian Head, Fraser Island Photo: Alexandria Zboyovski

 

Internet in Australia

You should have no problem logging-in while backpacking East Coast Australia.

Hostels, fast-food chains, restaurants, cafes, and shopping centers should all be public wireless hotspots. Internet cafes will be available in the major cities and offer fast speeds.

You can purchase an international travel adapter or Australia specific adapter on Amazon for a low price.

If you are bringing your smart phone, you will need an international calling plan, ora cheaper way of having internet accessunlock your phone and purchase a SIM card in Australia.

Phone and internet use is limited when you are in the bush.

 

Must Try Experiences in East Coast Australia

  1. Drinks at the Sydney Opera Bar for sunset
  2. Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
  3. Visit Nimbin, Byron Bay
  4. Party in Surfer’s Paradise
  5. Kayak the Noosa Everglades
  6. Camp on Fraser Island
  7. Scooteroo in 1770
  8. Sail the Whitsundays
  9. Hold a Koala on Magnetic Island
  10. Skydive with a beach landing
  11. Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef
  12. Learn to surf

 

Meet the People

Australia is a Western culture, but that does not mean that Aussies subscribe to the same values as other Westerners. Religion and politics are not often discussed in everyday conversations. As a multicultural society, consisting of many ethnic groups, Australia is optimistic and welcoming.

Aussies are known for their laid-back attitudes, love for sports and the beach, drinking and BBQ’s, friendliness, and most importantly their adventurous personalities.

Aboriginal Australians are considered to be the oldest known civilization on Earth. These indigenous peoples were the target of many injustices committed by white people over two centuries of colonization. In 2008 the Prime Minister delivered a historic apology for the mistreatment of Aboriginal Australians.

Stolen Generations were the tens and thousands of Aboriginal children taken from their families by the Australian government in an attempt to assimilate them into white society. This was the main focus of the Prime Minister’s public apology.

Today, Australia has made it a national commitment to close the gap on employment, education, and health between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. You will often find that most white Australians share the same sentiment that Aboriginal Australians were horribly mistreated and misunderstood. Many try their best to show respect for their native peoples’ culture, and feel remorse for the choices of many of their ancestors.

 

What to Eat in Australia

You can find any cuisine you desire in Australia’s major cities.

If you would like to eat like a local does then your diet is going to consist heavily upon meat. Common meals include meat pies, fish and chips, roast dinners, lamb, and Australian bush food.

Native fruit is always a great snack or breakfast idea.

Australians love to stop for ice creamhey, it is hot!

For an authentic Australian experience be sure to try: Kangaroo, Emu, Vegemite, Tim Tams, and Lamingtons.

Wine is a huge export for Australia with many wine regions throughout the continent. Be sure to try local wine during your visit. Goon—boxed wineis huge for budget travelers. Beer always remains a popular Aussie staple. Common names in beer include XXXX, VB, Tooheys New, and Carlton Draught.

For more on popular dishes in Australia, check our backpacking Australia guide!

 

Festivals in Australia

Australia’s gorgeous weather allows festival-goers the opportunity to celebrate all year round.

Luckily, a tour up the East Coast will offer many options for events in places like Sydney and Brisbane, entertainment capital Gold Coast, and super hip Byron Bay. During any given month you can search event pages for all local festivals, concerts, and shows.

Splendour in the Grass, Stereosonic, and Vivid Sydney are all awesome music festivals featured at East Coast venues.

 

Scuba Diving in Australia

You can dive nearly everywhere in Australia, so naturally, there is no shortage of dive centers.

If this is something you would like to pursue, you can easily schedule a course to become PADI Open Water Certified. Prices do vary depending on the course you choose and location. Total cost of scuba diving certification will likely run at about $350-$450.

 

Being a Responsible Backpacker in Australia

Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough travel water bottle.

Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.

Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.

Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.

Recently, my gear-venture, Active Roots has started to sell water bottles. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, whether you take an Active Roots bottle or not – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your plastic footprint, don’t be a dick. 

Need more guidance? – Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.

Australia and New Zealand are close pals, but let us not forget that they have two distinct cultural identities. It is very rude to assume the nationalities are one in the same.

Be kind and respectful, mind your P’s and Q’s, and always greet people even if they are a stranger. The word “mate” can go a long way. Australians pride themselves on their friendliness.

Australians drive on the left side of the street. You should also walk down the footpath on the left. However, on escalators you want to stand on the left and pass on the right.

Tipping is not expected and can sometimes be considered rude. I once told a cute bartender in Byron Bay to, “keep the change” and he looked at me like I was a huge bitch. You can use that line on taxi drivers, though, and it will be okay. Restaurants will accept tips if the service was exceptionally good.

Never refer to an Indigenous Australian by a slang name, and always be respectful of their culture.

 

A Brief History of Australia

Aboriginal Australians arrived on Australia mainland between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago. Their traditions relating to music, art, and spirituality are among the longest surviving in human history. Before the arrival of the British, the amount of Aboriginal people living in Australia was between 300,000 and 1 million.

In 1770, Lieutenant James Cook claimed the land for Great Britain, after the Dutch first sighted Australia in 1606. In 1788, a fleet of 11 boats arrived in Botany Bay to establish New South Wales as a Penal Colony. Furthermore, convicts were sent to all states, but South Australia became a free colony in 1836. More than 162,000 convicts were transported to Australia from Great Britain.

Australia began to look like a desirable location after the discovery of gold and the kickstart to their economy. The Eureka Stockade at Ballarat, in 1854, was a rebellion against taxation. Some see this as a crucial event in the evolution of Australia’s democracy.

Chinese immigration began at this period with 50,000 Chinese establishing roots in Australia.

In 1901, a federation of all of the states, the Commonwealth of Australia was created. The creation of Canberra marked it as the capital of New South Wales, with a temporary parliament in Melbourne.

The Australian and New Zealand Anzac Corps took part in the World War I Gallipoli Campaign, in 1915. April 25, ANZAC Day, was the same date as the first landing at Gallipoli. Australians remember and pay their respects to the sacrifices of their armed forces on this day.

After World War II and the Vietnam War, an influx of migrants moved to Australia. Between 1949-1974, The Snowy Mountains Scheme, employed 100,000 people. 70% of these people were migrants from 30 different nations. Today, people from all over the world call Australia home. The continent has become known for it’s equality and lack of clear class distinctions.

 

Make Money Online Whilst Backpacking Australia

Traveling in Australia long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring? 

Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.

Learn what it’s like to be a VIPKID teacher, a top company in the field of online English learning.

In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.

 

Final Thoughts on Backpacking East Coast Australia

East Coast Australia is a backpacker dreamland. An endless coast of pristine beaches makes it the ideal journey for relaxation or adventure.

The opportunity to discover new wildlife, rainforests, and islands is a daily treat. Sailing, surfing, scuba diving are all options, and you can party in some of the most famous cities in the world.

It does not matter if you are a first time backpacker or experienced and well versed, East Coast Australia is a land of wonders ready to be explored by anyone!

 

Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible for FREE!

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”


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In this detailed travel guide for backpacking East Coast Australia, we've covered all of the itinerary stops in detail, as well as travel costs, tips, and tricks for visiting Australia on a backpacker budget!

3 Comments

  • Destiny Schick says:

    Excellent article written by a true explorer.

  • Ryan Ames says:

    Very insightful.. Thanks Much!

  • Bryan Fisher says:

    This is an excellent article. Many people do not realise the extent of Australia and how it has so many different climates and cultures. I have not visited yet but hope to do so in the next year or so and top of my list will be snorkeling, followed closely by surfing, and perhaps some bush walking!

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