Backpacking The East Coast of Australia: The Wheres, Whats & Hows04:31 PM on Tue 08 Jul 2014

The Whitsundays, Fraser Island & The Great Barrier Reef - all popular Australian destinations not to be missed! Here are our tips on backpacking the east coast of Australia....  

How long does it take to travel the East Coast?

The East Coast of Australia is huge! To give you an idea – it would take around 30 hours of non stop driving to travel the entire coastline between Sydney and Cairns. You will find most of the popular tourist destinations along the way – The Whitsundays, Fraser Island and Cape Tribulation – require at least 2 days to experience at their best. Usually 5 weeks is enough time to view all of the destinations comfortably , however  (although we recommend more time) the east coast can be 'done' in 3 weeks if you are willing to sacrifice certain amazing locations. Lucky enough, there is an entire Base Backpackers network along the coast to assist you. 

What is the best way to get around? 

Most travellers will purchase an east coast public bus pass. Greyhound and Premier bus lines offer backpacker friendly passes that allow open dated, flexible, hop on and hop off travel. Both bus lines stop in all tourist destinations and provide at least one departure per day. You will find that the buses are safe and an easy way to meet like minded travellers. The bus passes are a great option if you are running low on time. For 5% off your Greyhound or Premier Bus Pass email 

For the adventurous, Campervan Hire allows flexibility and easy accommodation. Companies such as Spaceships Campervans offer one way rentals. All cooking and camping facilities as well as linen, road maps and in some, DVD Players, are equipped in the van. In many tourist destinations along the Coast it may be difficult to find free parking in town. Keep your eyes open for ‘No Camping’ signs. However as you travel north of Brisbane the towns begin to get smaller and smaller and  you will be able to find free camping areas if you are willing to drive 5 to 10 minutes out of town. Many hostels, such as Base Backpackers Airlie Beach and Cool Bananas in 1770 also offer cheap camping and use of the facilities at the hostel. For quotes on campervans email 

Fully guided tours are also a quick, easy and cost effective way to travel the East Coast of Australia. There are many companies that will organise everything for you - including accommodation, transport and activities. These are a great option if you are short on time or eager to meet like minded travellers! For more information on East Coast tours email 

Where can I stay? 

Hostels are located all along the East Coast of Australia and in all tourist destinations. Base have hostels in Melbourne (St Kilda)SydneyBrisbaneAirlie Beach & Magnetic Island - as well as BASE MATES in Surfers Paradise, Byron Bay, NoosaRainbow Beach, Hervey Bay, 1770Emu ParkMission Beach and Cairns... as well as Perth, Darwin and Alice Spring! Booking a 10 night Base Jumping Pass for $269 will save you money - you simply use your pass to book at any Base Hostel or Base Mate as you travel - easy! Book here

Most hostels offer bus station pick up if located out of town. 


Aghh Melbourne... the cultural, artistic and musical capital of Australia - through the busy streets and grafitti laneways you will find live music, good coffee and great shopping. 

We suggest staying in Melbourne's alternative beach side suburb - St Kilda. St Kilda is like no other place in Australia and just a 10 minute tram ride from Melbourne city. Book at Base St Kilda here

If visiting Melbourne we also suggest visiting the Great Ocean Road - one of Australia's most famous stretches of beach. You can choose from Day Tours, Overnight Tours and 3 Day / 2 Night Tours that will also take you to the Grampians National Park. Book your Melbourne Accommodation and Great Ocean Road Package here

Also worth checking out - Eureka Skydeck - offering 360 degree views of Melbourne and surrounds, as well as the Aquarium, Queen Victoria Market, Royal Botanic Gardens and the inner city laneways. 

If you have a few days to explore we also recommend checking out Melbourne's bohemian counter culture in the northern suburbs of Brunswick, Fitzroy and Collingwood. Here you will find loads of international and vegetarian eats, cool bars, live music and quirky shops (and locals). - Also a great place for op shopping and picking up some cheap, kooky clothes and accessories. 

The coastline between Melbourne and Sydney is one of the less travelled routes in Australia - which makes it a must do for those willing to explore the unexplored. South of Melbourne as you follow the coast towards Sydney, you will come across Phillip Island - home to some of Australia's best surf beaches and the famous Penguin Parade. Following the coast, make sure you visit Wilson's Promonotory National Park - a 30km national park with hiking trails and Aussie animals in the natural habitat. 

As you continue north 90 Mile Beach is home to loads of uninhabited surf beaches and sleepy sea side towns. Lakes Entrance, Mallacoota & Batemans Bay are also worth a pop in. 


Our #1 Sydney Must Do: The Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach walk. This famous stretch of coastal walkway will guide you through amazing surf beaches, tiny towns and fantastic views. 

There is more to Sydney than just the The Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach. Darling Harbour is one of the best locations to stay - Book at Base Sydney! Darling Harbour is bustling with harbour side cafes, bars, shops, the IMAX Theatre, Aquarium & Madame Tussauds. A trip to the Sydney Eye Tower is also well worth a visit. 

If you are keen to learn how to surf - Surf Camp Australia offer overnight surf camps south of Sydney. For more information email 

The Blue Mountains is also a must see! Located just one hour from Sydney - day and overnight tours are available. Prepare for nature walks, wildlife and plenty of photo opportunities. 

When exploring the funky suburbs of Sydney we suggest Glebe, Surrey Hills and Manly Beach. Getting a ferry to Manly is cheap and a great way to explore the city from boat! 

To book Activity and Accommodation Packages in Sydney - go to this page

Sydney to Byron 

Some of Australia’s most amazing, unpopulated surf beaches are located between Sydney and Byron Bay. If you have more time than the regular backpacker (most travellers tend to catch an overnight 15 hour bus direct from Sydney to Byron), stop by the chilled out suburbs of Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.

If surfing (or the desire to learn) is on your bucket list, do not leave Australia without a visit to Mojo Surf Spot X Surf Camp! Situated 3 hours south of Byron Bay and nestled on a private beach, this two story beach house offers surf lessons , volleyball, parties and ultimate relaxation. The public buses stop at a small town called Woolgoolga where the Spot X crew can pick you up!

Byron Bay is the most easterly point in Australia: a surf side haven for travellers, down to earth locals, music, markets and organic food.. If you missed out on surf lessons at Spot X you can pick up a half day surf lesson here. Snorkelling, Kayaking & Scuba Diving and Water sports are also on offer, as well as the infamous day tour to Nimbin!

Nimbin was once a self sufficient hippie community hidden in the rainforest. Today it is a popular insight into the alternative lifestyle that embodies Byron and its surrounding areas. Jump on board a day tour and experience the waterfalls, the rainforest, the popular ‘Hemp Bar’ and the Marijuana Museum.

Byron Bay & Surfers Paradise 

An hour north from Bryon Bay you will stumble upon the Gold Coast - a popular holiday spot for Aussies. Picture high rise buildings, a beautiful stretch of surf beach and night clubs and bar crawls every night of the week. Aquarius Backpackers provide a chilled out safe haven close to town. Be sure to visit one (or all) of the theme parks and the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (where you can hold an actual koala!)


45 minutes north of the Gold Coast you will find Brisbane - Australia's sunny city and the capital of Queensland. There are 3 Base hostels to choose from: Base Brisbane CentralBase Embassy and Base Uptown. All are located within the city and offer modern, secure and clean accommodatdion. Down Under Bar will provide a night of unforgettable entertainment. If you missed the Gold Coast, be sure to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Take a tour of the home of Queensland’s favourite beer XXXX or travel by ferry to Moreton Island (great for sand boarding, snorkelling and dolphin spotting).

Brisbane's outer suburbs are oozing with culture, music and alternative scenes. Fortitude Valleys is a must do when heading out for a night on the town. You will find quite a mix of up market night clubs (we suggest Cloud 9 to check out their amazing light / waterfall feature), beer gardens, live music venues and backpacker bars. 

West End is where the locals eat and drink. You will find cheap international restaurants, cafes, funky clothes shops, markets, night clubs and loads of outdoor beer gardens. 

Southbank is also a must - with an outdoor lagoon overlooking the city, night markets and garden areas. Take a ferry from Southbank to Fortitude Valley - it's the best way to check out the sunny capital. 


Made famous by Steve Irwin, Australia Zoo is situated half way between Brisbane and Noosa. Hold a koala and say hello to plenty of Aussie animals. Noosa is situated around Noosa River and nestled within the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Surf lessons are on offer, as well as Paragliding, Jet Skiing, Kayaking or a canoe trip through the Everglades.

Fraser Island

The world’s largest sand island! Ferries depart from both Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay (located about 3 – 5 hours north of Noosa). Fraser Island must be explored by 4WD and at least 2 days is needed in this tropical paradise! Fraser Island is home to some of the most amazing, white sandy lakes and rivers the world has ever seen - inlcuding Eli Creek and Lake McKenzie. Here you can learn about aboriginal history,stroll through the eucalyptus forests, explore sand blows, hidden swimming spots and the infamous Maheno Shipwreck. Camping is by far the most popular of experiences, however is digging your own toilet is not your cup of tea - there are tours on offer that provide hostel or motel accommodation on the island. 

Nomads Noosa offer 2 & 3 day, 4WD Adventures to Fraser Island. Pre and post tour accommodation is included and all island food and camping equipment is provided. Click here for details of the tours.


1770 was discovered by Captain Cook and this little beach side town is the end of the Surf Coast and the arrival of the Great Barrier Reef. With a similar vibe to Byron Bay (and a lot less touristy), 1770 is a popular spot for chilling out after a hectic Fraser Island experience.  Cool Bananas is an awesome little hostel that also offer cheap camping for those travelling with campervans. Surf lessons are also very cheap here. Scooteroo is one of the East Coast’s most talked about experiences. Grab a leather jacket, prepare the aviator sunglasses and jump onboard a Harley Davison scooter to watch the sun set over the headlands and spot for Kangaroos!

Airlie Beach – The Whitsundays

Every backpacker visiting Australia wants to take a photo of three Australian attractions – The Sydney Harbour Bridge, Fraser Island and the Whitsunday Islands! The Whitsunday Islands can be explored from Airlie Beach – a tiny beach side town with a crazy night life and a small town feel! 74 islands make up the Whitsunday Group – all residing upon the Great Barrier Reef. What is the best way to see them you ask? By Boat!

One day is not enough! 2 day / 2 night Sailing Trips are the best value for money with many Tours on offer – from fast paced, Maxi Racing Yachts to Pirates of the Caribbean style party boats! Stay onboard, snorkel, scuba dive, visit the most photographed beach in the world, Whitehaven Beach, and knock back a cold one as the sun sets over the ocean!

Most of the tours arrive back into Airlie Beach at about lunch time. Ensure that you have accommodation booked for you returning night as most tours will organise dinner and a night out on the town for their newly appointed ‘crew.’ Base Backpackers Airlie Beach Resort is the place to be with bungalow style accommodation, a tropical swimming pool. Down Under Bar & Grill offer affordable meals and a nightly buzz.

Check out our Whitsunday Sailing and Airlie Beach Accommodation Packages

Magnetic Island

Base Backpackers Magnetic Island - home to the only beach front bar in Australia! The easiest way to get to this little island paradise is by booking an all inclusive ferry and accommodation package. Greyhound and Premier stop by the ferry terminal in Townsville, just four hours north of Airlie Beach. Two to three nights is recommended here depending on how much time you need to relax. Snorkel, Scuba Dive or explore the island by Moke (a mini car with no roof).

Be sure to stay tuned for Base Magnetic Island's monthly Full Moon Party

Mission Beach

An hour south of Cairns sit the peaceful rainforest town of Mission Beach. Relax by the huge pool and pour yourself a glass of goon at Scotty’s Beach House. Skydiving here is more popular than any other destination on the coast – after all, they do offer a beach landing! Tully River is also a popular spot for White Water Rafting. Day tours from Mission Beach (tours also depart from Cairns) are available– allowing you to experience 45, Grade 4 – 5 rapids in the middle of Tropical North Queensland’s Rainforest!


The adventure capital of Australia! Bungy Jump in a must do! Visit the hippy village of Kuranda nestled in the midst of the rainforest. Experience Barron Falls on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Visit the markets and the local wildlife park. Catch the Cable Car from Kuranda back to the Skyrail Station - the views are absolutely stunning!

An hour south of Cairns and 600m above sea level sits The Atherton Tablelands. Home to breath taking waterfalls and natural water lakes. Swim underneath the infamous Millaa Millaa Falls - Peter Andre's 'Mysterious Girl,' - which was filmed at this very location. 

The Great Barrier Reef is the greatest attraction to Cairns. Take a scenic flight over the reef or alternatively, take a boat tour! Tours range from day tours, to overnight tours, to 5 Day Learn to Scuba Dive Courses. All tours offer the option to experience a scuba dive with a guide. 

Cairns itself is a beautiful city and oozes a tropical atmosphere - visit the wildlife dome, the crocodile park or enjoy the sun by the lagoon.

Check out Nomads Cairns here! 

Cape Tribulation

A visit to Cairns is not complete without an adventure to Cape Tribulation – Say goodbye to sealed road and venture to the middle of nowhere! Cape Tribulation is located two hours north of Cairns and is accessible by a short ferry ride over the Daintree River. An overnight tour is recommended. Most tours will offer a crocodile spotting cruise on Mary River (highest concentration of crocs in Australia), a tree top walk to the tip of the rainforest canopy, rainforest walks and an abundance of photo opportunities! Overnight accommodation is available in dorms or private rooms.

Wow! How do I get more information?

Whether you are looking for a fully inclusive East Coast trip, or a flexible Hop On / Hop Off Bus Pass & Accommodation package - email


An easy way to save $ when travelling the East Coast is to buy a 10 Night Base Jumping Pass!

The Pass is just $269 and you can book at each hostel as your go!  

You can use your Base Jumping Card at: Base Melbourne, Base Sydney, Base Brisbane, Base Airlie Beach, Base Magnetic Island, Aquarius Backpackers Surfers Paradise, Nomads Byron Bay, Nomads Nossa, Palace Backpackers Hervey Bay, Cool Bananas 1770, Scotty's Beach House Misson Beach, Emu Beach Resort Emu Park, Nomads Cairns


**Greyhound Sydney <> Cairns Hop On / Hop Off Pass + 10 Night Base Jumping Pass $599 - email 

**Base Jumping Pass - 11th night FREE! $269 email 

**5% off Greyhound Pass (only when booked seperately) email 

*Whitsundays / Fraser Island / Greyhound / 10N Base Jump $1599 includes: 

- 2 Day / 2 Night Whitsunday Sailing on New Horizon 

- 3 Day / 2 Night Frasers On Rainbow Tag Along Safari

- 3 Month Greyhound Sydney <> Cairns Pass

- 10 Night Base Jumping Pass

*Upgrade to the Atlantic Clipper for $60

*Ugrade to a Melbourne <> Cairns Greyhound Pass or a 6 Month Greyhound pass 


Tags: Australia , East Coast , Whitsundays , Fraser Island , Cairns

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