Tropical rainforests, dreamy beaches and unique Australian wildlife are what you can expect on Australia’s East Coast.
My sister came to Australia to visit me in March 2019 and we decided to travel the East Coast for 6 weeks.
Renting our home on 4 wheels was the best decision we could have made!
- Byron Bay
- Gold Coast
- Fraser Island
- Whitsunday Islands
- Magnetic Island
- Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation
After I showed my sister around in Melbourne and introduced her to my life, favourite places and friends in this amazing city, it was time to hit the road and travel along the East Coast.
➳ Read: Melbourne- my home for 2 years.
Spa Day with my sis at the Hot Springs close to Melbourne. Happy to have each other back.
First stop: Sydney!
We planned to stay here for a few days to explore the city, pick up our campervan and start our adventure.
A view from the airplane couldn’t be any better! Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and Opera House from the top.
Even though this was my third time in Sydney, I always like to come back here.
The city is really different from Melbourne, but has a lot of things to do and see, which make it next to Melbourne a must-visit when in Australia!
We spent time walking around the city at Darling Harbour, inspected the Opera House and crossed the Harbour Bridge.
Beautiful Sydney views from the Harbour Bridge and from the ferry.
Sydney by night.
Besides that, Sydney offers an awesome beach life! We spent a lot of time at Bondi Beach, where we watched the surfers catching waves, enjoyed stunning sunsets and listened to live music at the “Bucket List” restaurant (really recommended!!!).
Furthermore, we enjoyed the Coastal Walk and watched a surf competition at Manly that was very entertaining!
With the ferry off to Manly.
Coastal Walk, ocean views and happy smiles.
After a few days in Sydney, we picked up our campervan.
It was a cute, orange Hippie Camper! We absolutely loved our new home and were really happy with the rental company.
Campervan ready, backpacks ready, go!
When we got together all the things we needed for our road trip and set up the campervan a little more cozy, the adventure could start.
Blue Mountains Nationalpark
First of all, a day trip to Blue Mountains Nationalpark.
We spent hours exploring nature and hiking along a few trails, stumbling across stunning views and waterfalls.
This is a place worth visiting!
These are the views you can expect at Blue Mountains Nationalpark.
Even though the water was freezing, we couldn’t resist having a quick cool down under the Wentworths Waterfalls.
From Sydney, we headed straight to Byron Bay.
Byron Bay is a well known coastal city located 765 km north of Sydney.
It’s the perfect place for chilled-out beach vibes, surfing and alternative atmospheres.
It’s one of my favourite places in OZ!
My favourite kind of view.
But before arriving in Byron Bay, we had a long way in front of us, which is why we took our time to arrive in this little paradise, which meant: wild camping on our way up to the north.
View from our camping spot. Who wouldn’t want to wake up like this?
One of the things I love about travelling with a campervan is the absolute FREEDOM you have. You can freely decide where you want to go, where you want to sleep and with which view you’re going to have your dinner.
This was ours almost every evening!
Cooking in the middle of a parking spot, watching another stunning sunset.
Arriving in Byron Bay, we almost spend 4 days here.
If you don’t have a time limit while travelling the East Coast, definitely take more time to explore Byron Bay. It’s such a beautiful place!
We spent some fun nights at Cheeky Monkey’s, a fun backpacker bar, ate amazing burgers and had some beers at Byron Bay Brewery, enjoyed some shopping in the surfer shops, went to the beach, and did a Kayak tour.
➳ Tip: Be prepared, there are millions of mosquitos in Byron Bay…
My sister and me before starting our turbulent kayak tour. When I wasn’t sea sick yet…
During the Kayak Tour, we spotted a few dolphins, but the waves were high and unfortunately, I got very seasick, also because I was busy keeping the jellyfish that spilled inside our kayak, away from my legs…
Watch out for the stinger season when travelling Australia’s East Coast!
We saw a lot of “Bluebottle Jellyfish” in the water (and inside our kayak…), which is a certain kind of jellyfish that is not dangerous, but causes painful stings. Anyways, there can occur more dangerous and deathful stingers like the “Box Jellyfish“.
Usually, the season is in the summer months from November to May and the further north you go, the more stingers there will be.
During these times it’s important to go swimming with more caution to minimize your risk, preferably wearing stinger suits and swim in areas that are marked safe. Stay informed on current warnings on the beach.
From Byron Bay, we headed to the Gold Coast.
Here we spent one day doing the coastal walk in Burleigh Heads with amazing views on surfers and the skyline.
Coastal walk in Burleigh Heads.
Then, we explored Surfers Paradise, where I spent some time with an Australian family back in 2015. It was such a crazy feeling to be back!
Here you can visit the Skypoint Observation Deck that’s 322,5 metres high and from where you have a stunning 360-degree view of the Gold Coast.
➳ Tip: If you are ready for some more adrenaline, you can also do the Skypoint Climb, Australia’s highest external building climb. You can choose between day climbs and night climbs. Click here for more info.
Brisbane (also nicknamed “Brizzy”) is the capital city of Queensland and thanks to its subtropical climate a good spot to visit any time of the year.
One of the special attractions in Brisbane is Streets Beach at South Bank, a massive beach-style lagoon. As there are no beaches close to the city, this is the perfect spot on hot days to refresh and get your beach vibes.
Brisbane and city skyline.
Other fun activities the city has to offer are galleries, the cute Farmer’s Market in West End and hipster coffee shops, the Wheel of Brisbane, a little botanical garden called Epicurious Garden, strolling around in the CBD for shopping and much more!
➳ Tip: I can recommend you to cross the river by ferry at night- the skyline looks beautiful with its lights in the dark!
Lone Pine Sanctuary
Besides that, Lone Pine Sanctuary is a nice attraction in Brisbane!
You can see many kangaroos, koalas and other unique Australian wildlife and get close to the animals. You also have the option of purchasing special kangaroo food in the sanctuary to feed them.
They are so cute!
Happy kangaroo after getting some snacks.
Noosa is the pearl of the Sunshine Coast!
I fell in love with this place at first sight. Wonderful beaches, dreamy landscapes, perfect surf spots and laid back vibes make this place an Australian paradise.
Located about 2 hours from Brisbane, this is a good place for a stopover during your East Coast Trip in Australia.
A must do when coming here is Noosa Nationalpark to explore nature, have a walk along the coast and do small hikes.
Fraser Island is a must–do when travelling Australia’s East Coast!
It’s not only a fun adventure with amazing people, but a more unforgettable experience!
With more than 120 km, Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world!
It’s an overwhelming feeling to cruise along the white sand beach with 4 WD Jeeps while spotting the one or other wild Dingo.
Cruising along Fraser Island in our Jeeps!
The best way to travel Fraser Island is with a tour company.
Most often you can choose between several day tours and it’s really worth it to plan a few more days on Fraser Island because there is actually a lot to discover!
We booked our 3-day adventure with Nomads Fraser Island Tours.
The tour includes accommodation, food and transportation. We loved our experience, had an awesome time with the people in our group and the funniest tour guide. Highly recommended!
We spotted wild dingos!!
The days on Fraser Island are mostly about cruising through the sand and getting whirled around inside the jeep which is lots of fun.
Besides sand, you will cross rainforests, creeks and visit hot spots like Lake MacKenzie, Elli Creek, Champagne Pools, Maheno Shipwreck and Indian Head.
My sister and me refreshing in Lake McKenzie.
One day I was driving the jeep and realized that it was surprisingly hard to keep control over it when heading full speed over the sand. But it’s an adventure experience you should really try!!
Our group had 4 jeeps. We shared ours with these guys & had loads of fun. 😀
On the road again
On the way to the next highlight, we stopped at a few other places we wanted to visit along Australia’s East Coast. This also included Agnes Water and its laid back beach.
Stopping by at a lookout in Town of 1770 close to Agnes Water.
From here off to Mackay, where we arrived safely in the middle of the night after our fuel was empty, but far and wide couldn’t find a petrol station… After 20 km reserve tank we finally found one!
At Airlie Beach, we enjoyed sunny hours under palm trees and visited Hillsborough Nationalpark. Really worth a visit!
Having lunch- no it wasn’t raining, I was just protecting myself from mosquitos…
➳ Tip: Hillsborough Nationalpark offers many diverse small and long hikes. You will cross stunning, tropical beaches, spot some wildlife and arrive at breathtaking views. The landscape is beautiful!
Beaches in Hillsborough Nationalpark.
Beautiful views at Hillsborough Nationalpark.
Next highlight on Australia’s East Coast: Whitsunday Islands!
There are lots of different options from sailing boats to catamarans that you can choose from. Some are more laid back and others are better known as party boats. But you can find some that are a good middle way of both.
Compare your boat options here.
➳ Good to know: Most companies offer rather day trips or several day trips, where you will sleep on the boat. I’d recommend you to choose a several day trip, as its a unique experience and you’ll connect better to the people in your group.
We chose to travel Whitsunday Islands (2 days, 2 nights) with Powerplay.
The catamaran offers:
– Stand up Paddle Boards
– Double kayaks
– Heated foredeck Spa
– Snorkelling equipment & Stinger Suits
– Blue lights to attract marine life at night
➳ Watch out: The boats only depart on certain days during the week, so you need to inform yourself and plan well in advance!
Chilling in our hot whirlpool on the catamaran, kayaking and stand up paddling. Powerplay offers many activities.
Besides the equipment on the boat, of course, we also visited the famous Whitehaven Beach.
And WOW! What a stunning beach! I have never seen such beautiful scenery with its white sand and bluest waters reminding of dreamy Caribbean beaches.
➳ Interesting: Some parts of the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” were actually filmed on Whitehaven Beach!
Lucky with the weather, we could enjoy this paradise to the fullest.
On Whitehaven Beach you can enjoy the views from the lookout and go down to the beach to swim in the clear water. If you are lucky, you can spot a small lemon shark or stingray. Just make sure not to touch them… 😉
Just saying: the colour of the water!
Magnetic Island was one of our most magical experiences during our roadtrip. We loved this small island and its chilled vibes. You can almost not imagine that people actually live and work here!
It is only a 20-minute ferry ride from Townsville.
Could spend weeks here! Beaches on Magnetic Island.
The best way to explore Magnetic Island is by renting a scooter from one of the several rental companies on the island.
The island is quite small, so it won’t take long to surround most of it.
We spent 2 full days here cruising around and checking out the most important spots.
How we explored the island: by scooter!
For our accommodation, we chose Bungalow Bay Koala Village YHA, a really cute place to stay. It’s located close to the beach and offers tours to the famous on-site Koala Sanctuary.
We loved this place!
The cute bungalows at YHA: a place to relax!
Things to do on Magnetic Island?
You can choose between many different walks, short or long hikes, relax at palm fringed beaches, chill out in beach cafés, do some snorkelling and much more.
Ah yes, and you can rent one of the topless barbie cars. They make your island adventure even more fun!
Ever drove in a topless barbie car? 😀 You can rent them on Magnetic Island.
My sister and I decided on the Forts Walk with its stunning views, where we spotted a few koalas and even a baby one! This was very special.
Forts Walk is one of the most common walks on Magnetic Island with its stunning views of the island.
On the next day, we went from beach to beach enjoying the sun and reading our books. Swimming was difficult because of the stinger season– there were only small parts in the water protected by stinger nets, where it was safe to swim.
Back in Townsville with our Hippie Camper, we continued our roadtrip.
The Wallaman Falls is probably not the most known under travellers on Australia’s East Coast, but I want to share it with you because this spot is absolutely MAGIC!
It was the most impressive waterfall I have seen, and honestly, you shouldn’t miss this place!
With 258 metres, this is the highest waterfall in Australia and therefore quite impressive. A really powerful place!
You cannot only enjoy the waterfall from the top, but there is a walk going down to the base.
It’s a steep, challenging walk and you should plan at least 2 hours return.
We were the only tourists heading down to the base and once we almost got a heart attack because there was a big animal (still don’t know what it was) running inside the bushes right next to us.
➳ Tip: Make sure you get back to the top before it gets dark, you don’t want to hike all the way back up without light!
I literally had goose bumps standing here.
We spent almost one hour at this place, feeling the breeze of the waterfall and its power. Even though we got really soaked! 😀
Next stop: Mission Beach.
Have you ever heard about or seen the famous Instagram Palm Tree along Australia’s East Coast?
Because Mission Beach is where you’ll find it!
Almost everyone comes here to take a photo of themselves lying on the palm tree (like me…).
Of course, this is not the only reason to come to Mission Beach- most people actually come here to Skydive. Skydive Mission Beach is for you if you’re looking for adrenaline!
Arriving in Cairns was almost our end stop travelling Australia’s East Coast.
The city is already in the region of Tropical North Queensland and therefore offers endless sand beaches, tropical warm waters, mountains with breathtaking views, ancient rainforests, several waterfalls and exotic wildlife.
We spent 4 days in Cairns and really liked the city and its sunny days!
There is a restaurant with ocean views called “Prawn Star” that is directly located on the promenade, where we shared a platter of fresh prawns. So delicious!
➳ Tip: JJs Backpacker Hostel offers camping spots for campervans and dorm rooms for good prices. It’s located close to the city centre and is a very cute accommodation choice when in Cairns.
Fresh prawns at Prawn Star- yum!
Great Barrier Reef
We mainly came to Cairns for our next bucket list tick: diving at Great Barrier Reef.
From Cairns, it only takes about 45 minutes by speed boat to get to the first parts of the reef.
Known as one of the 7 wonders of the natural world and the world’s largest coral reef system, it’s home for millions of colourful fish, thousands of reefs, sea stars, turtles, dolphins, sharks and so much more!
Getting ready for our first snorkel at Great Barrier Reef.
Unfortunately, the weather was really bad on the day of our tour. With grey skies and some rain, it was hard to see the reef in its full beauty.
Nevertheless, we saw a lot of unique fish and a sea turtle.
Besides that, we spotted the one and other jellyfish (stinger season), so we were glad our tour company provided stinger suits for us.
➳ Tip: Buy seasickness tablets before you go!!! The drive out to the reef is horror and really no fun if you are not prepared. Half of the people on our boat got seasick, lying on the floor and trying to survive the 45 minutes until arriving at the reef.
Besides 2 hours of snorkel time, people who wanted to scuba dive could book their spot for a surcharge in advance. I was one of them & headed down into the deep waters of the Great Barrier Reef- and look there: I found a Nemo!
Explore the reef by water or air?
Our snorkel and diving experience was great, even though I want to share my feelings about it honestly with you.
I did a lot of snorkelling before visiting the Great Barrier Reef and I have to say that there was nothing new I haven’t seen before.
In the end, I was even a little bit disappointed because I imagined seeing more unique marine life. I just didn’t have the feeling I was swimming in the Great Barrier Reef.
Besides that, our tour was fully booked, which means a lot of people were on the boat. The staff was really stressed and under time pressure to prepare everyone for their diving experience and each group only spent about 10 minutes under water. The snorkeling
Furthermore, the companies only explore a single part of the reef that they have access to, so you really don’t get an impression of the massive size of the reef and they don’t take you to the most beautiful spots because they are not allowed to access it (which is right in respect to our nature).
I have a few friends that took a scenic flight to see the reef from the top and they all said it was amazing!
During the flight you will be able to see more of the reef shapes, also including the famous heart reef. It’s more expensive to book a flight, but probably more worth it, as you will get a better impression of the Great Barrier Reef.
All in all, if you haven’t done a lot of snorkelling before, it will surely be an amazing experience for you seeing different colourful fish and corals.
But if you do have experience and already saw other coral reefs and marine life, it’s maybe a better choice to swap the boat trip for a scenic flight, which gives you a better impression of the reef’s size and is way more relaxed as you don’t have the turbulent drive to the reef.
That’s just my personal opinion, but decide for whatever you feel more comfortable with.
In the end, it counts that you have the chance to see this special place on earth.
Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation
Where the rainforest meets the reef.
On our way, we stopped at Palm Cove and Port Douglas before heading to Daintree Rainforest– into the jungle to the crocodiles.
Here, we did a Crocodile Tour on the Daintree River and spotted more than 3 wild crocodiles, several frogs and a python!
It was crazy to see them from so close in the wild.
Spotted a wild crocodile- can you see it?
After that, we took the ferry crossing Daintree River with our campervan and spent 2 days camping without phone service inside the deep, wild jungle of Daintree Rainforest.
Cape Tribulation was the furthest spot we could go with our 2 WD campervan and was, therefore, our last stop on Australia’s East Coast.
We did a few walking trails leading us through the jungles and along Cape Tribulation Beach, where we enjoyed the tropical nature.
After these days in the wild, we were glad we made it out alive and healthy!
➳ Tip: Leave your car’s windows and doors closed at all times! Messing with mosquitos is one thing, but you don’t want to mess around with poisonous snakes or spiders inside your car. And yes, there are lots of them up here. 😀
What a roadtrip!!
➳ Read: Roadtripping in Western Australia.
This was our roadtrip along Australia’s East Coast! Are you planning to go and have some questions? Leave them below in the comments!