Complete guide to East Coast Australia

Complete guide to East Coast Australia

Sydney

This is the most popular place to start the East Coast road trip and is full of sights to see, beaches to surf and bars to drink. Check out my guide to Sydney on a budget for more https://bigadventuresonabudget.com/2014/05/30/sydney-on-a-budget/

Port Macquarie

This is a quaint little town 5 hours from Sydney with a vibrant atmosphere and a good place to stop for lunch or overnight. As we were camping, we stayed at the Edgewater Holiday Park. It was clean, cheap and spacious, however it was 3km out of town, the road to which had no footpath.

For nightlife, check out the x bar on the beach. It’s modern and has a great live DJ on the weekend. Otherwise, the pub Zebu Bar is full of young locals and has $10 cocktail deals. I would allow a day in Port Macquarie, unless you’re in a rush, in which case it should at least be a stop on your way through to somewhere else.

Coffs Harbour

Another 2 hours from Port Macquarie, this is a gorgeous beachside city that you should definitely stop at. Sit by the water and enjoy the beautiful coastal view for a few hours. If you’re there on a weekend, spend some time at the markets. They have at least 10 delicious different food stalls from around the world. Grab a sunny patch of grass and enjoy the live music for the afternoon.

Coffs Harbour waterfront

Coffs Harbour waterfront

On your way out of Coffs Harbour visit the Big Banana. This may not be what you expect; a giant banana sprouting from the ground. It is actually a huge amusement park with shops, laser tag, ice skating, water sports and tours. You could spend anywhere from 10 minutes there taking a photo of the Big Banana itself, to a day enjoying the attractions.

The Big Banana

The Big Banana

Byron Bay

This beach town has developed a name for itself among most backpackers, rendering it a must see on their east coast trip.  Generally, it attracts the laid back hippy type.

How to get there

By car or bus, Byron Bay is 3 hours past Coffs Harbour. By plane, you can fly to Ballina Airport from any Australian city.

Where to stay

There is a fantastic camping ground off the main street that is full of backpackers. Otherwise, stay somewhere near Johnson St (the main road) for the best location. Nomads is always full of backpackers and is easy to meet people.

What to do

1. Cape Byron Lighthouse walk

This is an incredible walk that is great for an afternoon. It starts from the main beach and winds its way through a mix of forest and beach views, to eventually reach the lighthouse. During the course of the walk you will see spectacular views of the bay and surrounds.

Lookout at Lighthouse walk

Lookout at Lighthouse walk

2. Take a surfing lesson

This is a great place to take a lesson for beginners before you head up north, as you can then rent surf boards as you go with more confidence. I did a lesson with Kool Kats surfing and I would highly recommend it.

It is run by a hilarious and sociable Terry, who takes you to the best spot to learn for that particular day. You don’t waste any time getting in the water to practice standing up and the groups are small so he is able to help you personally the whole time.

3. Rent a surf board

If you don’t need a lesson, go ahead and rent a board from one of the surf shops, camping grounds or hostels for $25-$30.

4. Take a sea kayak tour with the dolphins

You can book these through the campground, hostels or any tour shop on the main street (there are plenty). This is a great way to see the coast if you’re not a surfer or want to try something different.

5 Chill out on the beach.

The main beach at Byron is beautiful and is a popular place to sit day or night, as backpackers often host their late night parties there.

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End of Byron beach

6. Take a mountain bike tour

This is a great way to see the area along with spectacular viewpoints and can be booked at any tour office, hostel or camp ground.

Nightlife

Check out the Beach Hotel any night of the week; it’s lively with a DJ, situated on the beach and attracts all the backpackers. Ginger Pig also has a great atmosphere, open late most nights and playing reggae on Mondays.

Cheeky Monkeys is on the other end of the main street and has a $5 parma and pot of beer deal, if you like table top dancing and wet t-shirt competitions!

How long to stay There is a lot to do here and you could spend up to a week to properly enjoy it.

Nimbin

This is a hippy village 1.5hrs inland from Byron Bay and is definitely worth visiting for a bit of a change of atmosphere! Walk up and down the main street and basque in the laid back vibes, buy some tie dye clothes with a special cookie and check out Mingle Park. Have a meal at Nimbin Hotel and sit on the balcony in the treetops.

Nimbin shops

Nimbin shops

I would recommend staying here the night as there are a few guest houses at the end of the main street that would be an incredibly interesting experience.

Surfers Paradise

This is a bit over an hour from Nimbin and is another essential stop on the trip, being home to the 5 biggest theme parks in Australia. Surfers has developed into a large beach city, boasting a decent sized skyline of waterfront offices and apartments.

How to get there

By car or bus, this is just over an hour from Nimbin, or 1.5hrs from Byron Bay. By plane, you can fly to Gold Coast airport which is a short drive from Surfers Paradise.

Where to stay

If you’re camping, the closest Holiday Park is 3km out from the main street called Gold Coast Tourist Park. Despite this, it is still full of backpackers to go out with (even in winter).

Otherwise, stay as close to Caville Ave as possible, as then you can walk to all your destinations. I would recommend Surfers Backpackers Resort, as they are the only hostel I know of so far that provided free laundry (and we know how impressive that is!)

What to do

1. Visit the theme parks!

If you like adrenaline, visit one of the 5 theme parks in Surfers Paradise: Dreamworld, Movie World, Sea World, Wet n Wild and White Water World. You can often get cheap deals if you buy several passes at once and they are great fun! I would recommend one day for each of them, as there are a lot of rides and some are in different locations to the other.

2. Go up Q1 tower

This is one of the biggest residential towers in Australia and you can go to the top to enjoy a cup of coffee and an amazing view of the entire beach.

3. Do a pub crawl

The pub crawls in Surfers are on every night and are guaranteed to be a great time as you are taken to 4 of the best clubs in town with a huge group of backpackers.

4. Stroll down Caville Ave

This is the main street and mall area with all the shops, cafes and bars you could need.

5. Enjoy the beachfront

Surfers has a long beach you can sunbaked on, as well as a busy esplanade with a walking track and night markets every week.

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6. Check out Chevron island

Beyond Surfers Paradise about a 10mins walk inland are many islands, hosting heaps of boutique bars, pubs and tapas places. People who live here don’t consider themselves from Surfers and residents never cross the bridge back.

Nightlife

Surfers has an incredible nightlife every night of the week. In Caville Ave you will find a stand with ‘nightlife information’ ran by a bunch of promoters who can tell you where to go that night.

They also run great pub crawls a few nights a week which are the best way to experience a few bars in one night and easily meet people. To give you an example, the last time I was there was a Tuesday night in winter. Sin City nightclub had ladies night, with free entry and $10 all you can drink (including spirits) and was packed full of backpackers and locals.

How long to stay

I would allow 2 or 3 days to enjoy Surfers. If you’re planning on visiting the theme parks, add one day for each park as they are a day trip each.

Brisbane

Brisbane is about an hours drive from Surfers Paradise and is the last capital city you will encounter on your road trip. It is a great place to stop for a change of scenery and a taste of city life. Spend the day on Southbank, a beautiful man made lagoon with a unique view of the city skyline in the background.

Lagoon

Lagoon

This is a great place to stop for lunch, dinner or a drink as there are a number of great restaurants on the waterfront as well as in the the blocks behind.

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Southbank

Noosa

Noosa is a beautiful beach resort town, divided up between Noosa Heads (which has most of the action) and Noosaville. It is mostly catered for the rich older retirees or vacationing families and is therefore quite different to Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise. However as a result it is full of nice restaurants with high quality food, clean beaches and good shops.

How to get there

By car or bus Noosa is 2 hours drive from Brisbane. By plane it is easiest to fly to Brisbane and then take a transfer north.

Where to stay

If you’re camping or caravanning, Noosa River Holiday Park is the place to be. It is inbetween Noosa Heads and Noosaville and you can park your vehicle just 2m from the water. The sunsets are phenomenal and it is the most impressive and peaceful place I have camped in Australia.

Sunset at the campsite

Sunset at the campsite

Waterfront at the campsite

Waterfront at the campsite

What to do

1. Stroll down Hastings Street

This is the main street in Noosa Heads and stretches about 1km. For shopping, it has incredible boutique shops with great beachwear. There are also an abundance of cafes and restaurants that are great for people watching. The food is a little pricey but it’s well worth it if you can afford it as the quality is exceptional.

2. Discover Noosa National Park

The National Park begins 1km from the end of Hastings Street and is full of beautiful walking tracks

3. Eumundi Market

This market is enormous and is quite well known. You can easily spend half a day wandering around here buying all sorts of trinkets and tasting different food. It’s on every Wednesday and Saturday morning.

4. Walk through Noosa Woods

Once you’ve walked the length of Hastings Street you will see the entrance for Noosa woods. You can take a short walk through here and it will reveal a beautiful waterfront. Here you can sit and admire the countless islands with luxurious condos that make up Noosa.

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5. Relax on the beach

Noosa beach is white, clean and great for surfing. If you don’t feel like swimming you can indulge in a drink in one of the nice restaurants on the waterfront.

Noosa beach

Noosa beach

Nightlife

Bicycle Bar in Noosa Junction is a great bar recommended by locals. Alternatively, the pub at the end of Hastings St is busy on weekends. Otherwise, Noosa is a pretty low key place and is great for a break from going out.

How long to stay

Allow 2 full days in Noosa and 3 if you are going to the market.

Rainbow Beach

This is the closest point to Fraser Island from the mainland and is usually where tours depart from. It is a great place to stay a few days either side of your tour and has a lot to offer itself.

Rainbow

How to get there

By car, rainbow beach is a short 1.5hr drive from Noosa. By plane the nearest airport is Hervey Bay, however this is 3hrs away.

Where to stay

If you’re camping, Holiday Village is the best location. You can park right on the beach with a beautiful view of the water. However there was only one grill for the entire campsite and you had to pay for it, which is unlike most other places.

Campsite in Rainbow beach

Campsite in Rainbow beach

If you don’t mind being slightly out of town, Inskip point has incredible camp ground for only $5 a night. This is on the way to the ferry point to Fraser Island and is surrounded by bushland and beach. This campsite is literally on the water, however it only has toilet facilities. In terms of hostels, Frasers Backpackers and Dingos are on the main street and are always quite popular.

What to do

1. The beach and coloured sands

This is one of the most spectacular and peaceful beaches I’ve ever seen. Walk along the beach from the Surf Club for 20-30mins and discover the stunning coloured sand cliffs.

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Along the beach you will see black boulders on the sand with messages and pictures carved into them  as well as into the cliffs. Before asking how it’s possible to carve into stone, don’t be fooled- these are all made of sand! Run up and down the sand dune cliffs and enjoy this empty and serene beach. You can easily spend an afternoon on the beach.

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2. Sand blow and rainforest walk

A few turns behind the Holiday Village is the entrance to the sand blow. Walk through the rainforest for 10mins and suddenly you will see an enormous open sand blow. Walk to the end of the blow on the left and there will be a view of the entire Rainbow beach bay and beyond that will leave you speechless.

3. Sky diving

This is a beautiful area to sky dive as your flight will capture Rainbow Beach bay and Fraser Island on the ascent, and a beautiful beach landing on the descent. The prices here are cheap and you can book late notice, just visit the tour store on the main road.

4. Surfing

Whether you’re a beginner or pro, this is a great beach to surf. You can take surfing lessons in Rainbow bay where you are surrounded by dolphins. Otherwise, the locals try to avoid the surf spots where the lessons are and go to either Snapper Rocks or Point Danger

Nightlife

As it is a small town, there aren’t a lot of options in the way of going out and places close at 12am on a good night. Fraser Backpackers or DIngos are the place to go and the bars are open every night.

Otherwise, try the Sports Bar a block behind the main street petrol station. On weekends, check out the Rainbow Beach Hotel. It’s full of young locals, has a live band playing and a nice outdoor courtyard.

How long to stay

I would sped 3 days here to fully explore the hidden gems of the surrounding areas.

Fraser Island

Fraser Island is one of the highlights of the East Coast and is the image that most foreigners think of when they envision Australia, along with the Whitsundays. This is the biggest sand island in the world and the amount of wildlife and nature around is unbelievable.

How to get there

The most common way to go to Fraser Island is through a tour leaving either from Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay. Cool Dingo tour is great to meet other backpackers and covers all the essential places. The tours can range from 6-24 people depending on the season. The drivers are all great fun and are extremely knowledgeable about wildlife, history and all you need to know about Fraser.

4WD bus

4WD bus

If you’re going without a tour and have a 4WD you can buy a barge ticket and cross over to the island.

Where to stay

There are two resorts on different sides of the island; Eurong and Dingos. Eurong Resort was built in the 1960s and had a strange empty feel about it (probably because it was winter). This is where the tours like Kingfisher stay which are catered for families.

Dingos Resort was built in 1990s and is where the Dingo tours stay in winter. There is a pool, hot tub and luxurious lodges as accommodation. In summer, tours camp on the beach.

What to do

1. 4WD driving around the island

This is one of the best things to do on Fraser. Make the most of the lack of roads and being able to drive on the beach and explore! Just make sure you have information on the tide times so you don’t get caught in high tide.

If you want a change from the beach, take the rollercoaster inland routes and hold on for your life as you drive through the bush and rainforest! If you’re on a tour in summer you will drive around on 4WD buggies on the beach and throughout the island. In winter you will be in the 4WD bus to cater for the weather changes.

2. Swim in Lake Mackenzie

This is the most famous image of Fraser Island and is pure paradise. With white sand beaches and turquoise water you can spend all day floating in the shallow waters.

Fraser

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3. Climb Indian Head

Park your car on the beach, take a short walk up the hill and basque in the outstanding 300 degree view of the Fraser Island coast.

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Fraser2

4. Swim in Champagne pools

These are naturally created rock pools connected to the ocean in which you can swim.  You can feel the exhilarating wave pool effect of the waves from the ocean as they crash into the pools.

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Fraser4

5. Take a rainforest walk

Discover the rainforest in in Pine Valley. They take from 20-45mins and curl around some beautiful scenery, wildlife and nature. There are also some BBQ facilitates here and is a great spot to stop for lunch.

Pine Valley

Pine Valley

6. Go tubing in Eli Creek This is a great place to float down in a tube in the sun with some drinks. If you’re in a tour they will provide the tubes, otherwise you can still enjoy the swim there.

7. Drink at the pier bar for sunset Just outside the Dingos Resort on the water is a bar on the pier. This is the best spot to watch the sunset on the beach.

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8. Coloured Pinnacles

These are beautiful coloured sand cliffs looking over the beach. Their multi coloured appearance is quite breath taking!

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9. Take a scenic filght

For just $75 you can take a 20min scenic flight over the island. This is the cheapest I have seen so far and it gives you a completely different view of Fraser. You glideo over the water and see the whales, as well as inland to see the lakes, sand barges and forests that you won’t see by foot.

Fraser from a plane

Fraser from a plane

Nightlife

There are a few bars on the island but most are within the resorts. Dingos bar is open every night and most nights it gets pretty crazy with cheap happy hour deals.

How long to stay

There is so much to explore on Fraser island, if you’re not doing a tour (which are usually 2-3 days) I would recommend spending 5 days there.

Bundaberg

Bundaberg won’t be on everyone’s list of places to stop, but the Bundaberg Distillery is something you have to see. If you don’t know what Bundaberg is, it’s Australia’s famous rum. In most bars in Queensland you will hear the expression “Can I have a bundy and coke?” every couple of minutes. It’s a nice change from beaches and nature related activities, and of course because there’s alcohol involved.

Bundaberg distillery

Bundaberg distillery

It is 5mins from CBD and tours run every hour from 10am-3pm. You don’t need to boo in advance, just arrive 20mins before they begin. It costs $25 for the guided tour which takes you into the factory and explains the whole production process. This also includes two full tastings of rum including many which are not available to the public. Even if you aren’t a fan of rum, this will give you a new found appreciation for the drink and all its different varieties!

1770

1770 is a small beach town with an absolutely stunning beach. It is a peaceful and the perfect place to spend a few quiet days before heading to Airlie Beach.

How to get there

By car, 1770 is another 2.5 hrs from Bundaberg. If you’re taking the bus this is usually one of the stops between Fraser Island and Airlie Beach.

Where to stay

If you’re camping, there are two camp grounds available. I would recommend 1770 Camp Grounds as it is in a great location, both on the waterfront and near the 1770 Hotel and several pubs. It also has an awesome cheap restaurant in the camp ground with fresh seafood.

Restaurant at the campsite

Restaurant at the campsite

If you’re staying in hostels, I would recommend either Backpackers @ 1770 or Cool Bananas hostel. However, both are further away from the beach.

What to do 1.

Walk along the beach

1770 has a stunning stretch of beach full of fascinating plant life and mangroves. This is a great walk to do, especially at sunset.

1770 beach

1770 beach

2. Water sports

On the beach you will see signs advertising all sorts of water sports for rent. Take a kayak out and enjoy the peaceful surrounds!

Nightlife

1770 is pretty quiet, so nightlife may be limited. However, if you’re staying in a hostel this won’t be a problem!

How long to stay

I would stay 2 days in 1770 to relax and recharge.

Airlie Beach- Whitsundays

How to get there

By car, it’s 7hrs from 1770. Otherwise you can fly to Airlie Beach airport.

Where to stay

If you’re camping, I would recommend Base. This is also a hostel but has a camp ground attached to it. It’s on the main street, has a bar and plenty of backpackers!

Otherwise I would stay at Backpackers By the Bay. It’s just behind the main street and only has 4 bed dorms which is a nice change. It’s quite an intimate place and is ideal if you want to meet people easily. There is a pool and outside courtyard area where they have a BBQ and host trivia every night. The guy who runs it is extremely helpful, laid back and really makes it feel like home. What to do

1. Whitsundays!

This is the place of paradise that foreigners envision when they see photos of Australia. The most common way to see the Whitsundays is by booking with a tour company. This doesn’t need to be done in advance as there are tour shops EVERYWHERE which can book it for you basically the next day.

Sailing Whitsundays

Sailing Whitsundays

You go out on a boat for 2 days and sail around the beautiful Whitsunday Islands with a group of backpackers. You visit Whitehaven beach as well as the Hill Inlet looking, which gives a spectacular 180 degree view of Whitehaven Island.

Hill Inlet lookout

Hill Inlet lookout

You can also snorkel and dive the Great Barrier Reef from this trip to see some beautiful marine life.

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Diving Whitsundays

If you are pressed for time, there are also plenty of day trips available. The  type of boats vary from speed  to sailing boats, it just depends what you would like to get out of the day.

Diving Whitsundays

Diving Whitsundays

Mantaray boat has a great day trip which incorporates Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet lookout, snorkelling and diving. However if you didn’t want to dive then there are other boats which spend more time on the islands which may be more suitable.

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach

2. Skydive!

Airlie Beach has some of the cheapest skydiving I’ve seen starting at $200. This is a beautiful place to do it so why not take the plunge!

3. Relax at the lagoon

Airlie Lagoon is a beautiful area by the water and is the best place to sun bake. It is always full of people and has a ping pong table free for use.

Lagoon

Lagoon

4. Take a walk to the marina

There is a beautiful walk from the lagoon to the marina overlooking the water. It only takes 15mins and then you can check out one of the delicious cafes by the marina.

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5. Cedar Creek Falls

This is a short 25min drive from Airlie Beach and is definitely worth vitiating if you have a car! The water is great to swim in and you can climb the top of the waterfall for a great view.

Cedar Creek falls

Cedar Creek falls

Nightlife

Airlie Beach has a great nightlife down the main street that goes off every night, and all you need to do is stroll down a short while to find it. Magnums is a bar (also a hostel) with a huge outdoor patio. This is a great place to drink in the beginning of the night, as they also have delicious dinners.

Pheonix is at the end of the street and always has a pumping dance floor every night. They also have some of the cheapest drinks in town with spirits for $4.50. Paddy’s Shenanigans is a popular Irish pub which has great live music and is usually full of locals. If you want a late night dance with house music, Mama Africa is the place to be. This picks up after 12am and stays open pretty late.

How long to stay

I would spend 3 days minimum here, not including the days you are in the Whitsundays.

Magnetic Island

How to get there

Magnetic Island is 8km off the coast of Townsville, and there is an hourly ferry which leaves and returns every day. Tickets are $30 and you can leave your vehicle in the car park while you go.

If you want to take your car, it’ll set you back $180.  Unless you are going for a week and really want the freedom of having a car, it’s not worth it. There is a public bus system on the island that is pretty thorough and regular to compensate.

Townsville from Magnetic Island

Townsville from Magnetic Island

Where to stay

If you want an authentic experience, stay at the Bungalow Bay Koala Village. This is in Horseshoe Bay and is attached to the Koala Sanctuary. The hostel grounds are huge and are submerged into the forests, so you are staying in amongst lots of beautiful wildlife.

There is a bar, pool land an open chill out area with beanbags to relax. You stay in lodges which are really clean, cheap and comfortable.

Bungalow Bay Koala Village

Bungalow Bay Koala Village

If you want to stay in the main street, I would recommend staying at Base hostel. They also have full moon parties on the beach which are great fun.

What to do

1. Do the Forbes walk

This is near Horseshoe Bay and is easy to get to by bus, as there is specifically a Forbes walk stop. This is a beautiful and easy walk through the bush and you are bound to see koalas everywhere in the trees.

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It takes about 2hrs round trip and the views from the top are magnificent.

top of the Forbes walk

top of the Forbes walk

2. Snorkel in the bays

Magnetic Island has incredible snorkelling and you don’t need to do a tour to experience it. You can hire snorkel gear and stinger suits at your hostel and take the public bus to either Geofrey and Nelly Bay. Here you can snorkel off the beach and there are trails you can follow to see the best marine life.

3. Horseshoe bay

This is a beautiful beach with a strip of great restaurants and cafes on the waterfront.

Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay at sunset

Horseshoe Bay at sunset

4. Koala Sanctuary

This is in Horseshoe Bay and is attached to the Koala Village hostel. This is a great experience and you can even eat breakfast in amongst the koalas a few times a week.

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Nightlife

Both of the hostels have bars, but Base hostel is super lively and have awesome beach parties.

How long to stay

I would spend 3 days here to have time to explore all the bays and bush walks. Keep in mind the bus runs every hour so getting from place to place on the island may take more time than you initially expect.

Cairns

How to get there

By car, Cairns is 5 hours from Townsville and Magnetic Island. You can also fly to Cairns International airport from any Australian city direct a few times a day, as well as internationally.

Cairns from the plane

Cairns from above

From the airport there is no public transport going to the city, but you can take a  taxi for $20. Also, most hostels have free transfers you can book in advance.

Where to stay

If you’ve heard stories about Cairns , you’ve probably also heard stories about Gilligans Hostel. This is hands down the best party hostel I’ve ever stayed at. With over 800 beds, there are always hundreds of people to meet every night.

You can stay in 6, 8 or 10 bed dorms which all have an ensuite and are cheap and social. If you want a bit of peace or luxury you can stay in a deluxe 4 bed dorm with a fridge and TV for only $5 more. These are often further away from the bar so you can get a better nights sleep.

The club at Gilligans is the biggest in Cairns and is full every night following the various themed evening events. There are two levels and a beer garden, and you get cheap drinks for staying there. Each night they have a variety of activities such as Bogan Bingo, international DJ nights, pool parties and wet t-shirt competitions.

If this wasn’t enough, during the day you can relax by the huge pool and fountain to cure your hangover. They offer you great deals on tours and activities and you get a free dinner every night when you buy a $6 drink!

What to do

1. Lay by the lagoon

Due to the crocodile infested beaches in northern Queensland, the water is unsuitable to swim in. However, as compensation a beautiful lagoon and man made beach has been developed by the waterfront. This is the ultimate place to relax and is pretty lively everyday with local live music playing. There are also free BBQ you can use so bring some meat down and cook some lunch Aussie style!

Cairns Lagoon

Cairns Lagoon

2. Explore the Great Barrier Reef with Deep Sea Divers Den

Whether you snorkel or dive, this is a MUST do. No place in Australia will compare in visibility or marine life. I recommend booking with Deep Sea Divers Den; I did a day trip with them and it was magnificent.

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They take you on a huge luxurious boat fitting around 100 out to the reef (we went to Norman reef) where you can admire the gorgeous views from the deck or inside. You can either snorkel, do 2 fun dives if you’re certified, or an introductory dive if you haven’t before. The dive instructors are lovely, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the best areas to explore.

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Norman reef

Norman reef

They feed you a delicious buffet for lunch, as well as having free coffee, tea and water all day. They also sell sea sickness tablets, which almost everyone purchased for just $1 (but they worked!).

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There is a relaxing deck where you can sunbaked as the boat cruises and meet fellow backpackers. This was a great day out and I thoroughly recommend it!

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3. Take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

You can take a gondola over the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest canopy and its surrounds. This is an amazing way to get a dose of the rainforest for a day if you won;t otherwise be visiting the Daintree. The cable car travels through the tops of trees from Kuranda to Smithfield and you can go either one way or return. If you go one way, you can take the Kuranda scenic railway on the way back for a slightly different view. This will set you back $85 and $100 if you need transfers from Cairns.

4. Spend a day on an island

There are two accessible islands you can take a ferry to from Cairns; Green island and Fitzroy island. Here you can lay by the beach, snorkel or indulge in some water sports. It costs $75-$80 return and there are several times per day you can go.

5. Go Skydiving

This is one of the cheapest places to skydive in Australia, along with Airlie Beach, at an average $250-$300. I booked with Paradise Travel who use Skydive Cairns and would highly recommend it! You get transfers to and from your accommodation and once you arrive at the dive centre you get straight up in the air!

The guides who you dive with are awesome fun and keep your relaxed. You take a 15min scenic flight as you ascend to 14,000ft and the views are phenomenal; Great Barrer Reef on one side and inland mountains on the other.

View from 14,000ft

View from 14,000ft

Once you’re at the right height, you roll on over and jump out! You freefall for 60 seconds and then paraglide back down while enjoying a 360 degree view.

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6. Go bungy jumping

This is hugely popular in Cairns through the company AJ Hackett and is usually $160. If you don’t want to bungy, you can try their ‘Mingin Swing’ flying fox in a group which is equally as crazy!

Nightlife

If you stay at Gilligans, nightlife will never be an issue. They have parties every single night and on weekends open up their second level club, The Attic, often featuring international DJs.

There is also a pub crawl for $35 that takes you to a range of bars with a couple of free drinks. You can book these online for cheaper through http://www.bookme.com a few days in advance. However I don’t really think you need the pub crawl, as every bar is so social anyway.

PJ O Brien’s has great live music on weekends and always attracts a crowd. Also, the Woolshed has a $10 for 5 drink special and is full of backpackers.

How long to stay

I would stay 2 nights plus an extra day for each activity you want to do

Daintree Rainforest

How to get there

You can do tours of the Daintree, however I strongly recommend hiring a car for a few days and doing it yourself. There are so many hidden creeks and rainforest walks that a tour might not take you to and with a car you have the freedom to stop wherever you please.

Also, the road through the forest is windy and surrounded by beautiful tall trees and it is much more enjoyable if you are experience this drive yourself!

Driving

By car it is 2hrs to the Daintree river. Here you will cross by ferry with your car and begin the drive up through the forest for another hour or so. It’s just one main road up and back so every couple of kilometres you will see a sign for a lookout or walk so you won’t miss anything.

Where to stay

Lync Haven Rainforest Retreat is a magnificent camp ground in the middle of the rainforest. This is one of the best places I camped in on the East Coast, as you are surrounded by forest and there is wildlife all around you!

Lync Haven Rainforest Retreat

Lync Haven Rainforest Retreat

They also have daily crocodile and wallaby feeding for free which is incredibly interesting to watch. There is also a restaurant on site with delicious food.

Crocodile feeding

Crocodile feeding

Lync Haven Rainforest Retreat

Lync Haven Rainforest Retreat

What to do

1. Daintree river

You can park your car by the ferry and take a river cruise down the Daintree, where you will get up close and personal with lots of crocodiles!

2. Alexander Range Lookout

This is the first stop after the river and you can get out and marvel and the spectacular view over the forest.

Daintree viewpoint

3. Stop at Jindalba Boardwalk

Along the main road you will see a sign for Jindalba Boardwalk and the Discovery Centre. Here you can take several rainforest boardwalks. These are relaxing, free and give you first hand experience of the Daintree Rainforest.

Rainforest Boardwalk

Rainforest Boardwalk

4. Have fish and chips by the water

There is a gorgeous little cafe by the side of the road in Noah Beach with the sign ‘Fish & Chips $15 deal’. It backs onto the water and you eat on this beautifully tranquil beach in what seems like the middle of nowhere.

Fish and Chips restaurant

Fish and Chips restaurant

5. Swim in a creek

There are plenty of fresh water creeks nestled in the rainforest which are hidden behind the main road and they are a great place to stop. You can see countless turtles swimming around and it’s gorgeous!

One in particular is Myall Creek, on the left before you get to Myall beach. You pull into the general store and then will find the creek nestled behind it.

Fresh water creek

Fresh water creek

6. Cape Tribulation

This is the only place in the world where two World Heritage sites are side by side- the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. This is the last stop before the road turns to dirt which is often where rental cars can’t continue (only 4WDs). At this point you can take a short walk onto the beach and up to a viewpoint.

Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation

Nightlife

There isn’t much in the way of nightlife here, unless you stay south in Port Douglas. However this is a great place to relax, unwind and take a couple of days off from going out.

How long to stay

I would spend a couple of days in this area to be able to stop at all the beautiful creeks and walks.

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