Ultimate Itinerary of Australia’s East Coast: Sydney to Cairns

A trip along Australia’s east coast will probably be one of the best in your entire life. Perfect beaches, unique wildlife, amazing food, and genuine people; it does not get much better than the land down under.

1.Sydney

No trip to Australia is complete without visiting Sydney.  This city completely stole our hearts and will forever be one of our favorite places in the whole world.  For us, it’s Sydney’s atmosphere and way of life that made it so special.  We love the big city vibe and surf culture mix.  It is also a paradise for foodies and fashion addicts.  There is enough to see and do here to fill up more than an entire week but I will start by mentioning the non-negotiables for those who only have a few days.

-The Sydney harbour and its surroundings are a classic.  This is where it smacked us in the face that we were actually standing in SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.  The view of the opera house on one side and the bridge on the other is quite iconic and you cannot skip out on this part of the experience. 

Bondi Beach and the Bondi to coogee coastal walk.  This is probably our favorite way to spend a day off in Sydney.  Starting from the famous Bondi beach, and continuing down one of Australia’s most renowned coastlines, the views are sure to amaze you.  Along the walk, you can stop at any of the following beaches for a refreshing dip in the ocean: Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, Coogee.  It is 5km from one end to the other, and it honestly is such a beautiful walk that it feels effortless.


-Eat Gelato from Anita’s in Bondi Beach! BEST.ICE.CREAM.YOU.WILL.EVER.TASTE.

-Go for a swim at the famous Bondi Iceberg Pool!  This is probably the most instagrammable pool in the world.  It is beautiful and offers a perfect view of the striking Bondi Beach in the background.

Sydney’s northern beaches.  A little further from the main action, you can find 3 more of Sydney’s splendid beaches.  Manly Beach is the most famous of the three, as it is the easiest to access from the center of Sydney.  From the harbour, you can take a ferry that will get you to Manly town in less than 30 minutes.  It is a long beach, with good surfing, and plenty of shops and restaurants to keep you busy for an entire day.

  A little further away, you can find Curl Curl beach and Palm beach.  Curl Curl has a more remote feeling and is much less crowded than all the other Sydney beaches mentioned earlier.  Palm beach is unique in that it offers a walking trail up to a lighthouse and a scenic view.

Cafes and restaurants in Surrey Hills.  Surrey Hills is the place to be if you are looking for trendy hip restaurants and cafes.  It also has Sydney’s gay village where you are guaranteed to have a good time. 

Luna Park.  Luna Park is another attraction around the Sydney Harbour.  It is another fun way to spend the afternoon around Sydney’s center.

2.Byron Bay

Byron Bay is in our top 3 towns in Australia.  We have not met anyone in our 4.5 months in Australia that disliked Byron Bay.  It is the epitome of the Australian surf town.  The hipster ambience will hit you as soon as you step into town.  It also has amazing food, beaches, live music and so much more.  We have an entire blog post about this awesome town so make sure to check it out right here!

3.Surfer’s Paradise

Although we chose to skip Surfer’s paradise in order to spend more time in other areas along the east coast, it is a very popular destination amongst backpackers and higher-budget travellers alike.  It is a place for surfing, nightlife, and is perfect for those who enjoy a busier and more chaotic beach vacation.

4. Noosa

Noosa was one of those destinations where we wished we could have added another day, or two, or three to our stay.  Although we felt like we got to see a lot that it had to offer, we still did not feel ready to leave.  These are our top recommendations for this area.

Coastal walk & national park.  We mentioned how much we loved the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk earlier, well this managed to top it.  The water is such a perfect blue, you are surrounded by trees, and we were lucky enough to see Stingrays, turtles and dolphins during our walk!  It has got to be one of Australia’s prettiest National Parks.  There are also plenty of small bays where you can swim almost entirely by yourself.

Main beach.  Noosa’s main beach can definitely get quite busy but it still did not take away from its beauty.  It is also a good place to take a surf lesson or simply rent a board and try to catch some friendly waves.  Best spot for this is past the rock wall on the left of the beach.

-great coffee, restaurants, and shopping scene in the main town. While we did not eat out too often, there were so many restaurants that looked incredibly appealing.  The only spot we tried was a small and casual Mexican restaurant called “Taco Boy” that we can definitely recommend for a quick lunch!

Laguna lookout for sunset.  For a gorgeous view over all of Noosa and a fantastic sunset, look no further than laguna lookout!

Everglades kayaking.  We unfortunately skipped out on this activity this time around, but we have heard that it is a really unique experience and we will be sure to give it a try next time we are on the Sunshine Coast!

5. Fraser Island

Fraser island is another epic destination along this coastline that we unfortunately had to skip this time around.  Just another reason to come back!  It is the largest sand island in the world, and there are many agencies that offer day tours or multiple day tours of this amazing island and everything it has to offer.  Crystal clear lakes, large sand dunes, 4WD cruising along the beach, shipwrecks on the beach, dingos, and many more incredible adventures await you on this island.

6. Agnes Water

Agnes Water is the ultimate chill surf town.  It has the most-laid back atmosphere, and is the perfect place for a few days of relaxing and surfing or simply enjoying the ocean.  The waves are fun, the water is refreshing, and the locals are incredibly friendly!

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7. Airlie Beach & the Whitsundays

Airlie Beach completely took us by surprise! We were expecting this town to be nothing more than a quick stop before our two-day sailing trip around the Whitsundays. However, we had so much fun here! It’s a very pretty seaside town that is entirely along one main street. There are two different beaches you can visit, and one of which has a stinger net to keep the jellys away. The main street is filled with bars, restaurants, cafes, shops, and hostels. We have to admit, a big part of our fun in Airlie is attributed to Magnums hostel. Not only is this hostel huge and clean, it is situated in the middle of some very tall trees, giving it a total jungle vibe. They are also attached to a pub that has live music all week long.

The Whitsundays are another absolute must-see while travelling through Oz. They are a cluster of 74 islands and are blessed with a tremendous amount of lush greenery, marine life, and pristine water. We spent two nights on the water with “true blue sailing”, and they made our trip even more fun than we anticipated. Not only did we see sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, and devil rays, but we had perfect weather to witness the purest silica sand in the world at Whitehaven beach. The pictures aren’t exaggerating; this place is a wonderland. We felt like we were on a different planet whilst walking along this beach. Despite all these amazing experiences, the best part of this trip was to develop relationships with our crew and bunk mates, whom without this trip wouldn’t have been what it was. A big thank you to Will, Amy, Georgie and Alex for being the people they are. The crew took incredible care of us, fed us extremely well, and allowed plenty of time for activities and chilling. It was a remarkable two days, and we can’t recommend it enough!

8. Magnetic Island

The first thing you need to know about Magnetic Island is that it is HOT! It’s quite remarkable how rapidly the heat and humidity rise once you get into the northern part of Queensland. Magnetic Island is a beautiful little place just a 20-minute ferry ride away from Townsville. Without sounding too antisocial, the best part about Magnetic Island is that it feels totally empty at times. Its population is about 2500 people in the summer, and it doubles for the winter. Within this small island, there are dozens of beaches and bays to visit, and each one is beautiful.

We stayed at a small hostel called “C Stay” in picnic bay, and they took wonderful care of us. For those of you looking for a more social setting, there is a huge hostel called “Base Backpackers” and it is the number one party and drinking spot on the island. They also have game nights, and a great restaurant. Another highlight about Maggie Island (as the locals like to call it) is that every evening at Geoffrey Bay, the rock wallabies come out and you can feed them (carrots and apples are the best food choices). If you want a chance to spot koalas and other animals, the famous Forts walk is an activity you can do! We didn’t end up doing it since we wanted to take advantage of the car to explore other areas, and it was so hot that taking a long walk didn’t seem all that pleasant.

We’ve all seen the pictures, this is the place where you can rent real life Barbie cars and drive them around the island. Since we can’t drive a manual car and wanted something a little more suited to dirt roads, we rented a 4WD topless jeep. It was 120$ for 24 hours, with the insurance included.  If you don’t want to rent a car, there is a bus that goes all around the island. However, there are dirt roads that the bus doesn’t go on, and if you want to access the more remote places on the Island, a 4WD car is necessary.

9. Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

Here we go. This part of our trip was something we’d been dreaming about for several months prior: scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. It was an absolute dream come true. We only had one day in Cairns before hopping on a boat from “Diver’s Den”, which brought us to their amazing live aboard vessel for 3 days. During our time on the live aboard, we dove 11 times, including a night dive, witnessed an amazing show called “Sharks in the dark” (they feed the sharks off the stern of the boat and you can watch underwater from the drop deck), and were treated to three wonderful meals each day. We were so impressed with the punctuality and professionalism of the crew. They stuck to their schedule impeccably, and were always ready to answer any questions we may have had. A great thing to note is that prior to each dive, they do a group briefing to give us all the details about the reef we will be exploring. That is also your opportunity to ask for a guide if you don’t want to dive on your own (with a buddy of course). They prepare and take care of all the equipment, and you have your own “dive station” for the entire time you’re on board. We couldn’t have had a better time during these three days.

Cairns itself is a lovely tropical city with a gorgeous boardwalk. There are heaps of restaurants and bars to choose from, and of course, plenty of great shopping opportunities. We didn’t spend a lot of time in the city since we only had one day after returning from our diving trip, and we were staying just outside of the city. We enjoyed a nice evening walking through the streets and the boardwalk, saw some beautifully colored parrots, and dipped our toes in the man-made lagoon that is totally free and accessible to anyone.

So there you have it! These are the must-sees along Australia’s east coast, and each one has something wonderful and unique to offer you. We hope this post helps you plan your next adventure in this beautiful country.

Lots of love,

Ben & Bianca

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