• 15 Day Pacific Coast Touring Route

    Explore one of Australia’s great driving routes from Sydney to Cairns—the perfect way to see the best of East Coast Australia.

    The route up Australia’s East Coast has earned its rep in offering a seemingly endless supply of must-do experiences. The classic Sydney to Cairns route introduces you to both sides of modern Australia—the bright lights of big cities and the raw beauty of the Outback. You’ll have the chance to experience a ton of unique activities—everything from wine-tasting to sailing to snorkelling.

    Route Map

     

    Day 1 – Sydney

     

    Spend the morning in Sydney’s historic harbour side precinct, The Rocks, and take full advantage of Sydney Harbour YHA’s close proximity to all major attractions. Take a walk around Circular Quay, enjoy a Harbour Cruise or stop by Opera Bar to take in the spectacular Harbour Bridge views over lunch. Don't miss the largest Australian beer list in Sydney at The Australian Heritage Hotel—right next door to the hostel.

    Sydney Harbour

     

    Day 2 – Hunter Valley

     

    Leave the hustle and bustle of Sydney behind and head on to the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine producing area. There are a ton of activities and attractions in the Hunter Valley. Go horse riding, hot-air ballooning or bike riding. A wine tour is a must—speak to the staff at the best hostel in the wine country for their recommendation.

    Hunter Valley

    Image credit: Shutterstock; Neale Cousland

    Day 3 – Port Stephens

     

    Head north for Port Stephens, a holiday haven with 26 beaches and a mountainous, rainforest-fringed peninsula. Drive to the Nelson Head Lighthouse or walk to the top of Tomaree Headland in Tomaree National Park. Both spots offer panoramic views over the bay. 

    Join a dolphin-spotting cruise from Nelson Bay or go quad biking over the infinite sand dunes at Stockton. Tuck yourself away for the night at Port Stephens YHA where you’ll spend dreamy hours in a bungalow nestled in amongst the trees.

    Port Stephens

    Image credit: Sand Safaris

    Day 4 – Coffs Harbour

     

    Keep heading north towards Port Stephens. On the way you can stop and enjoy Forster’s beaches and visit dramatic Ellenborough Falls near Taree. Well worth the stop, a camel ride along Port Macquarie’s Lighthouse Beach is unforgettable. Drive on to Coffs Harbour YHA and you’ll not miss The Big Banana—which has been stopping traffic since 1964.

    Coffs Harbour

     

    Day 5 – Byron Bay

     

    Rejoin the Pacific Highway and head north through bustling Ballina, where the Big Prawn will have you yearning for some fresh seafood. Ride the rolling waves at Lennox Head before heading into Byron Bay for the evening. Byron Bay YHA is right in the heart of the town, with unspoiled beaches and spectacular walking and cycling trails just minutes away. Ask the staff about the best local surfing spots—they may even join you!

    Byron Bay

     

    Day 6 – Byron Bay/Nimbin

     

    Don’t miss a stroll along Cape Byron to the Byron Bay lighthouse on Australia’s most easterly point. Sunrise is particularly magical if you can get up early enough. This bohemian beach paradise is also the place to swim with dolphins, learn to surf and try yoga on the beach. Take a day trip to hippy Nimbin and visit a Farmers Market or stay in a tepee at Nimbin Rox YHA.

    Byron Bay Lighthouse

    Image credit: Legendary Pacific Coast

    Day 7 – Brisbane

     

    Enter Queensland's capital to find out why Brisbane is boss. With big city vibes, a sub-tropical climate, friendly atmosphere and vibrant outdoor spaces it’s no wonder the locals love it. The city boasts trendy boutiques, museums, bustling laneway bars and al fresco dining on every corner. Brisbane City YHA has got you covered while you're in town.

    Brisbane

    Image credit: Shutterstock

    Day 8 – Brisbane

     

    Take a day to explore the city. Check out our guide to do Brisbane like a local.

    Brisbane local

     

    Day 9 – Hervey Bay

     

    Head on towards to Hervey Bay where multi-award winning Hervey Bay YHA is conveniently located within an easy walk of nearby beaches. There are a ton of activities to keep you busy from kayaking to stand up paddleboarding to fishing.

    Hervey Bay

    Image credit: Shutterstock; Tanya Puntti

    Day 10 – Fraser Island

     

    Take the day to visit Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island. Swim in the crystal blue waters of the famous Lake McKenzie or enjoy a full day's worth of exploring by 4x4 to hit all of the highlights Fraser Island has to offer.

    Fraser Island

     

    Day 11 – Rockhampton

     

    Travel up the 'Capricorn Coast' and make your way to Rockhampton, which is a little further inland and widely regarded as 'cattle county'. Ask the staff at Rockhampton YHA about an Australian Outback Farm Experience and see what Outback Australia is really all about.

    Rockhampton

    Image credit: Shutterstock; Leah Kennedy

    Day 12 – Airlie Beach

     

    Keep heading north and you'll reach Airlie Beach, gateway to the gorgeous Whitsundays. Airlie Beach YHA is located in the centre of town, close to the swimming lagoon, restaurants, cafes and Airlie's thriving nightlife.

    Airlie Beach

    Image credit: Derwent Hunter - Tallship Adventures

    Day 13 – Whitsunday Islands

     

    Take the day to explore the Whitsunday Islands by your choice of land, sea or air. You absolutely can't miss the famous Whitehaven Beach!

    Whitsundays

    Image credit: Tourism Queensland

    Day 14 – Cairns

     

    A little further north and you'll reach your final destination at Cairns Central YHA. Cairns is a backpacking mecca and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Dive into the technicolour water world exploring coral ecosystems as you scuba dive or snorkel the reef.

    Great Barrier Reef

    Image credit: TEQ; Darren Jew

    Day 15 – Cairns

     

    Make the most of your last day and get the adrenaline pumping by skydiving, whitewater rafting or bungy jumping. Find out why Far North Queensland is Australia's adventure capital.

    Cairns Skydive

    Image credit: Tandem Cairns

     

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