East Coast Australia is the ultimate destination for any backpacker. There is so much to do and so many different people to meet that I really cannot recommend it enough. These were my highlights during my trip from Sydney to Cairns:
1. Sail the Whitsunday Islands
The 2 days/2 nights I spent on a boat sailing around the Whitsunday Islands was undoubtedly a high point on my trip. Whitehaven Beach was covered in white sand, the water was blue, the sunsets were pretty spectacular and there were plenty of fish-spotting opportunities during snorkeling sessions. I even got to help steer the boat at one point and met some really interesting people.
2. Tour Fraser Island
During my time in Australia in 2010, there was talk of modifying the self drive tour around Fraser Island so I’m not sure if it is quite the same these days. When I did it, we were all divided into groups, given a truck and camping equipment and set off in a convoy to explore the island. During the 3 days, we swam in lakes and creeks and during the 2 nights we drank goon around the bonfire and chased off dingoes. Whatever form this trip may now be in, I would thoroughly recommend doing it.
3. Dance in Cheeky Monkey’s, Byron Bay
Byron Bay is the ultimate place to spend your days chilling on the east coast and Cheeky Monkey’s Bar is the best place to spend your nights partying. It’s a backpacker bar and restaurant where, if you get there early, you can get a good, reasonably priced meal and later, when the plates have been cleared away, you can get onto the reinforced tables and dance with your fellow backpackers. There are also competitions giving you the chance to win travelling related prizes. This was the main reason the Gap Year Buddy and I spent several days in Byron Bay and it remains one of my favourite places in Australia.
4. Visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane
You cannot go to Australia without meeting the local wildlife and Lone Pine is a great place to do just that. We fed kangaroos, wandered with emus, cuddled koalas and cautiously held snakes and crocodiles. If you’re hoping for that perfect Facebook photo with some exotic creature, this is a great place to get it.
5. Take a Scooteroo Tour, 1770
I was rather nervous at the prospect of my first biking experience but thankfully, the roads in Australia were not nearly as bumpy and covered in potholes as they are at home. The leather jacket with flames on it also helped me feel like a confident biker I think. After whizzing around spotting kangaroos and taking pictures, we rode down to the beach and watched the sun go down whilst munching on potato wedges. Perfect.
6. Learn to Surf
When in Australia, do as the Aussies do. This obviously means surf (and BBQ if you get the chance). We were told that the town of 1770 was the last place we’d be allowed to surf as we headed north- I’m not sure why. As part of my Oz Experience bus ticket, a surf lesson was included. I can’t say I was particularly good at it- I only managed to kneel on the board- but, after 3 hours of being battered by the waves, I was still smiling and I regret not trying it again.
7. Photograph the Sydney Opera House
Obviously you cannot go to Australia and not visit its most famous landmark- the UNESCO listed Sydney Opera House. Enough said.
I’m not sure how much of a viable option this is but as another part of my Oz Experience bus ticket we got a trip to a ranch to take part in a goat rodeo. We learned to crack a whip, lasso, round up goats and ride a mechanical bull (I fell flat on my face instantly- twice). I also learned that goat meat is delicious. If you ever get the chance to try this, then please do.