Looking for the best Australia Travel Tips for traveling down the east coast? Well, look no further, because you’ve come to the right place!
From snorkeling in the jaw-dropping Great Barrier Reef, sailing through the idyllic Whitsundays, and four-wheel driving along Fraser Island’s sandy beaches – backpacking along the east coast of Australia is full of adventurous experiences you’ll never forget.
Traveling from Sydney to Cairns, or Cairns to Sydney is an extremely popular route for backpackers in Australia, and you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by like-minded travelers from all over the world (but expect lots of German, English, and Canadians, lol). I just recently completed this trek a few months ago, and had the absolute time of my life! While I wish I wasn’t as rushed (only had about 4 weeks), I was constantly amazed about how magnificent Australia is!
I wanted to share some Australia travel tips that I discovered during this backpacking trip, and hope this will help plan your future travels. If you ever have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below, or shoot me an email (I’m always happy to discuss Australia!)
You might also be interested in these posts as well:
- The Ultimate CAIRNS to SYDNEY GREYHOUND BUS PASS ITINERARY
- The Ultimate SYDNEY ITINERARY
- 30 Music Festivals in Australia To Experience Before You Die
- 14 Words You’ll Start Saying When you Move to Australia
- The Ultimate Guide for Moving to Sydney on a Working Holiday Visa
1) Don’t stress about not seeing everything
Australia is massive, and there’s so much to do! Whenever you get into a new destination, you’ll notice dozens of travel agencies that all offer countless different packaged trips. Unless you’re the richest backpacker in the world, you’re not going to be able to do absolutely everything.
Don’t worry! Research in advance what you want to prioritize, and book those activities / tours. Always be on the look-out for backpacker specials, and you can always try to “copy the tours” activities and do it on your own (or with a group of friends).
2) Buy Groceries & Learn How to Properly Cook 4-5 Meals
This one is important! Food is ridiculously expensive in Australia, and if you eat out for every meal, you’re going to blow through your budget way too quickly. Almost every hostel in Australia will have a communal kitchen that has all the equipment you’ll need to prepare a solid feed.
I was really surprised when I realized how well some of my backpacker friends could cook! The majority of people just make different variations of pasta and rice dishes, but there are a few I noticed who looked like they were competing for Iron Chef.
Everyone has blue “cool bags” to keep perishables safe while they are in transit in between hostels, and has a separate bag filled with spices, oils, and other cooking necessities. You can also check out the “FREE” corner of the hostel, because sometimes people always leave behind things they no longer need.
NOTE: DON’T STEAL OTHER PEOPLE’S FOOD! IF YOU DO — YOU ARE HOSTEL SCUM!
3) Get a Pay-As-You-Go Plan on the TELSTRA Network
When I moved to Sydney on a Working Holiday Visa, I signed up with Vodafone because they had a really great special going on at the moment. I really enjoyed the service, so when I made the journey back to Australia to travel the east coast, I used Vodafone again. That was my mistake.
Once you get outside of the major cities, the Vodafone network is absolutely awful. You need to have a plan on the TELSTRA network!
I made the decision to go skydiving for my first time while I was in Australia, and I highly recommend doing the same! While it is pretty damn expensive, I do think it’s 100% worth it!
There is one main company called Skydive Australia, and there are several great destinations to choose from along the East Coast. While a lot of people say that Mission Beach is the best places to skydive, I’d have to recommend choosing SkyDive Airlie Beach. The views you get of the Whitsundays are spectacular, and you’ll get an unbelievable adrenaline rush + a scenic float on the way down.
Look-out for specials / packages if you book things together.
5) Become a YHA Member
I traveled the east coast and stayed entirely at the various YHA Hostels. If you become a member ($25 AUD Per Year), you gain 10% off every stay, and there’s tons of other benefits like discounts on international hostels and packaged tours.
Every single YHA Hostel I stayed at was very clean, comfortable, and centrally located. At most destinations they have free pick-ups at the bus stations, and everything was just super easy. You can also purchase “E-Packs” for 5 nights, 10 nights, or 15 nights, which made the booking process really convenient.
YHA isn’t quite a “party hostel”, but there’s definitely always a party nearby!
6) Ask the Hostel Staff for Recommendations
Just do it! They know the area well, and are happy to help out!
Every time I checked into any hostel, the first thing I did was ask the staff for simple recommendations on food, nightlife, and the best things to do. It’s one of the best ways to figure out how to spend your time in each destination, and can also can help you save heaps of cash!
7) The Greyhound Bus Pass Works Well
I had the Cairns – Sydney hop-on / hop-off bus pass, and I would 100% recommend it.
The stations were all easily accessible, the buses were (mostly) on time, and I found them all really comfortable. There’s wi-fi that works okay (don’t expect to stream Netflix though), charging ports for your electronics, and even had a bathroom (in case of emergencies).
I found the online booking system extremely easy to use. There were several daily departures to choose from in between the popular destinations, and I never had an issue with getting a seat. If the bus isn’t your preferred travel style, you could always look into buying a campervan in Australia.
8) Don’t Skip Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach, Fraser Island, or Byron Bay
These were my four favorite stops along the east-coast.
- Two Days on Magnetic Island
- Paradise Found: Sailing Through the Whitsundays
- Fraser Island Cool Dingo Tour Review
9) Rent a car in groups for day-trips
You might be surprised to find out that renting a car in Australia is actually pretty affordable.
I rented cars in Cairns, Mission Beach, Magnetic Island, Noosa, and Sydney. It’s really easy to find people at hostels who are down to split the cost, and do some exploring to nearby attractions.
For example, if your’e on Magnetic Island you NEED a 4WD to explore all the bays. So I rented a 4WD Van through Isle Car, and split the cost with several people I met at the Bungalow Bay YHA. It was super easy, and allowed us to make the most of our time on Magnetic Island!
10) Schedule in several “relax” days
You’re really going to need them!
As fun as backpacking is, it can also be pretty damn exhausting. You shouldn’t plan a full-day of activities every single day! Take some time to relax by the pool, chill on the beach, or hang around the hostel.
11) Bring a GoPro
While I did bring along and shoot primarily with my Nikon D750 DSLR (and two lenses), I always carry my GoPro Hero 5 pretty much everywhere as well. It’s a solid option for a travel camera, and perfect for Australia due to it’s underwater capabilities. It also takes pretty great videos, and it’s always a fun idea to make a quick “aftermovie” of your travels!
12) Skip Townsville
It’s simply not worth a visit.
The bus station in Townsville is at the ferry point over to Magnetic Island, so you can easily hop off the bus, and head straight onto the ferry over to Magnetic Island! It’s extremely common, and there’s simply nothing too exciting in Townsville.
The bus and ferry schedules work really well together, so when you’re on your way back to the mainland, just get straight on the bus up to Mission Beach, or make your way down to Airlie Beach.
13) Watch the Sunrise!
The sun rises on the east and sets on the west!!
Do yourself a favor and wake up early to catch the sunrise at least once or twice a week, because it’s one of the most beautiful and best ways to start your day (or end a night of partying).
14) Work for Accommodation
Don’t have an end date for your backpacking adventure…?
At pretty much every hostel I stayed in along the east-coast, I noticed job opportunities exchanging a few hours of work each day for accommodation and 1-2 meals. If I didn’t have to get back to Sydney in a few weeks, I definitely would have picked up one of these jobs for a few months.
I think it’s great when you can stay somewhere a bit longer, and become more involved within the local community. If you’re really enjoying a certain stop, why not stay there a couple months?
15) Join the Australia Backpacking Facebook Groups
Australia Backpackers — Currently has over 77K Members! It can be great group to find travel buddies, ask for recommendations, and get new ideas for things to do. While you’ll probably read heaps of farm-work horror stories, and look-out at gross pictures of spider bites, I’d still highly recommend joining. It can be a great resource!
Here’s a few more you can join:
- Australia Backpackers 2017 — 6.5K Members
- Australia Backpackers — 13K Members
- Australia RideShare for Backpackers — 21K Members
- Fruit Picking Australia Network Backpackers — 10K Members
16) Don’t Travel Without Insurance
Haven’t you heard of all the evil creatures that want to kill you…?
The worst thing that can happen to you in Australia is getting bit by some tiny spider or attacked by a poisonous snake, and not have the proper Travel Insurance. While both of the above scenarios are extremely rare, you don’t want to risk thousands of dollars in medical bills!
With that being said, it’s just always a good idea to have Travel Insurance anytime you head overseas. As awful as it is, people do steal belongings while staying in hostels, but if you have proper coverage you can always file a police report. I highly recommend HeyMondo due to their extensive range of cover for all situations and trip lengths, their fair pricing, and their handy app which allows you to not only manage any claims within the app, but also access free assistance online so you don’t need to rack up an expensive phone bill while abroad!
17) Don’t be a rude, inconsiderate, or overall shitty person
This is just a general rule of life, but I wanted to discuss it in this post.
Last but certainly not least — when you’re traveling the east-coast, you will have a 99% chance of running into the same people in several different destinations. Everyone is working their way up / down the coast, and pretty much makes stops at all the same places. So just don’t be a dick, and be friendly and respectful towards everyone!
Those are my top Australia Travel Tips for Backpacking The East Coast!
Think I’m missing something important? Let me know! If you’ve got any questions, feel free to reach out so I can keep this post updated with valuable information! THANKS FOR READING & BE SURE TO FOLLOW MY ADVENTURES AROUND THE WORLD ON FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM
I’m so glad I stumbled upon your post, Dave! Thanks for giving me an idea for my travels in Australia!
No problem Agness. Glad you found it useful. :-)
I really enjoyed your post, it really sums up the reasons that I want to travel.This article is indeed a good help.:)
This is all so helpful! If you had to pick, Noosa Beach or Byron Bay??
Great shots! all the places are enhanced by your good photography. Thanks for posting this.
Great tips here, I am/did experiance many of the same things. Looking forward to Byron Bay and Magnetic Island in the coming weeks.
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Visiting Australia in a Month, i can’t wait to skydive!!
I really love to read your post. Next month I will go to Australia for family vacation. Your post really help me to make a great vacation
I have always wanted to visit Australia, I will definitely be using this as a guide when I go!
The pictures are impressive, what a heartwarming and beautiful article. Thank you.