Greyhound Bus Pass Hop-on / Hop-Off: Cairns-Sydney Route Bus Itinerary

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I had always known about the Greyhound Bus Pass options in Australia, but for some reason I was skeptical about it.  I was afraid the system would be flawed, and thought it might be a bit too complicated.  My dream of traveling the east coast of Australia was always to-do an epic road-trip from Cairns – Melbourne, but for my first trip in Oz that wasn’t quite possible.  So I got myself a Greyhound Bus Pass, and began my travels!  I must say…the entire trip was incredible, and I’d definitely recommend Greyhound to my friends and readers!

I remember searching for details about the Greyhound Bus Pass, but never found a really great blog about it.  So that’s what I’m going to give you guys.  I’ll share with you my detailed Cairns – Sydney route, timetable, and some other helpful information.  If you are planning a similar trip, feel free to shoot over an email, and I’d be more than happy to help in anyway I can.

Flying over Whitehaven Beach and the Whitsunday Islands in a sea plane was just as epic as you'd imagine it to be. 🛩📷😎

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Hop-On/ Hop-Off Bus Pass Prices

All passes valid for 3 months, but can be extended for a fee.

Cairns x Brisbane (includes Byron Bay) —  $345 AUD ($260 U.S.D)

Cairns x Sydney   — $439 AUD ($330 U.S.D)

Cairns x Melbounre — $529 ($400 U.S.D)

If you’re planning on booking one of these passes, there’s tons of great packaged deals where you can get these for even cheaper than these listed prices!

A good option is just to choose the Cairns – Brisbane bus pass, and then book a budget flight in between Sydney & Byron Bay.  There’s really NOT MUCH to see in between Byron Bay & Sydney.

Greyhound Bus Travel Tips

  • Buy snacks and water in advance from Woolworth’s or Coles. The food options at all the rest-stops are really expensive.
  • Buy sleeping pills for the overnight bus rides!  I always took a couple Tylenol PM’s, and they helped really helped me sleep.
  • Bring a book, mp3 player, or laptop to watch a movie to keep yourself entertained.
  • Show up at least 15 minutes early.  They tell you to show up 30 minutes prior to boarding, but it’s not necessary.
  • There’s no need to print out your boarding pass.  Just simply show them your booking confirmation on your phone.  If you don’t have a data plan, make sure you screen shot while you have wi-fi.

Overview of my trip…

1 ) Cairns to Mission Beach

GX 458 — Depart 1:45 P.M –> Arrive 3:50 P.M

There are tons of options to choose from.  I liked this option because it allowed me to sleep in, have breakfast and lunch in Cairns, and do a bit of exploring before leaving.  I arrived at Mission Beach, and got picked up from the bus station and headed over to Scotty’s Mission Beach YHA.

Mission Beach was super chill, and I’d definitely recommend spending a few days there

I've always said I wanted to get married on a beach. Destination wedding anyone…? 🚁 @nautilusaviation

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2 )  Mission Beach -> Townsville

GX456 — Depart 8:50 A.M –> Arrive 12:40 P.M

  • Take the 12:55 P.M ferry from Townsville to Magnetic Island
  • Take the 2:15 P.M ferry from Magnetic Island to Townsville

As I discuss in my post about Top Australia Travel TipsI’d highly recommend skipping Townsville.  The bus drops you off right out front the ferry terminal, and the bus + ferry schedule work really well together.  Just take the bus from Mission Beach down to Townsville, and hop directly onto the ferry to Magnetic Island.

I went chasing waterfalls…😎 I honestly had no idea there were so many waterfalls up in North Queensland, but I had one of the best days renting a car and completing the "waterfall circuit". Thanks to the lovely receptionist at @scottysmissionbeachyha for giving me all the information and the map detailing the route! Such an amazing day. ——————————————- #MissionBeach #waterfallcircuit #Australia #EastCoast #DiscoverQueensland @discoverqueensland #thisisqueensland @queensland #visitqueensland #helloqueensland @visitqueensland #ExploreTNQ @ausbackpacking #SeeAustralia #wow_australia #travelblogger #travellerau #exploreaustralia #exploringaustralia #bbctravel #TLpicks #travelstoke #huffpostgram #exploringtheglobe #wolderlust #lonelyplanet #travellushes #ig_australia #aussiephotos #australiagram #australiagram_mobile #yhaoz #JonesAroundTheWorld

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3 ) Townsville – Airlie Beach

Bus GX414 — Depart 4:00 P.M –> Arrive 7:30 P.M

After spending a few days exploring Magnetic Island, hop directly onto the ferry down to Airlie Beach.  I liked this 4:00 P.M departure time because it still gives you the morning time to visit a couple more bays before you leave the island.  There’s no rush getting down to Airlie beach anyway, because all of the sailing trips require early morning departures.  

4 )  Airlie Beach ->Hervey Bay

GX447— Depart 9:00 P.M –> Arrive 11:00 A.M

The only reason real reason people come to Hervey Bay is because it’s the main jumping off point for FRASER ISLAND tours.  I went on the 3-day / 2 Night  Cool Dingo’s Tour which left Hervey Bay around 7 A.M.  So you’ll get there the day before you leave, and can have one full-day to explore the town a bit, and chill on the beach.

TRAVEL TIP:  For the majority of the packaged trips to Fraser Island, you can choose your return location to either Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach.  I’d highly recommend heading back to Rainbow Beach, because it will save a lot of time, and you’ll get to see a new destination.  I didn’t do this and I really regret it!  

UberSeaplane…? Yeah, that sounds great to me. "Take me to a private area of the Great Barrier Reef please…". 🛩📷🌍😎

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5 )  Rainbow Beach -> Noosa

GX411:  Depart 10:00 A.M -> Arrive 12:40 P.M

So after a couple awesome days on Fraser Island, I hope you took my advice and made your way over to Rainbow Beach.  I’d recommend spending a few days there, and then hop on the 10:00 A.M bus down to Noosa.  It’s not too long of a trip, and hopefully when you arrive it’ll be perfect timing and you can check into your accommodation.

6 )  Noosa -> Brisbane

GX511: Depart 11:30 A.M –> Arrive 2:10 P.M

After spending some time in Noosa exploring the national park, mangroves, and kayaking, hop on the 11:30 A.M bus down to Brisbane.  I think this was the best option because it means you can sleep-in, enjoy breakfast, and won’t feel too rushed in the morning.  Plus, arriving into Brisbane at 2:10 P.M is perfect because you’ll get there right at check-in.  You can drop off your bags, and then head out into the city for some sight-seeing.

When you think the sunset is gonna be awful because it's overcast, but then run down to the water with your camera just in case…😍

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7 )  Brisbane -> Surfer’s Paradise

GX422:  Depart 2:30 P.M –> Arrive 3:45 P.M

The short drive from Brisbane to the Gold Coast goes by super quickly compared to other trips on this journey.  I chose the afternoon departure because my friend was picking me up at the station after he finished work at 4:00, but you could easily grab an early morning bus from Brisbane instead!

8 )  Surfer’s Paradise -> Byron Bay

GX426:  Depart 12:15 –> Arrive 2:00 P.M

Out of all the daily departures that go between Surfer’s Paradise to Byron Bay, this is the quickest!  All the other options are almost an hour longer!  It’s a short drive between these two spots, so make sure you get on this one!

9 )  Byron Bay -> Sydney (Overnight Bus)

GX423:  Depart 10:55 P.M –> Arrive 11:35 A.M

While most people who have the Hop-On / Hop-Off bus pass will make a few other stops in places like Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, and Newcastle — I unfortunately had to get back to Sydney!   So I hopped on the rather long direct bus ride, and arrived back to my favorite city in the world!

That’s what I did during my trip along Australia’s East Coast.  It was honestly one of the best trips of my entire life, and I can’t wait to get back to explore more of the country.  I know I missed out on a few key spots, but I’m planning on moving back to Australia soon, and will try to hit them up them.

Thanks for reading!


3 replies
    • Dave
      Dave says:

      Thanks so much Steph! You’ll love Australia when you make it there, and I’d highly recommend taking the Greyhound. It was super easy and comfortable. 🙂 Hope you’re doing well!


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