Australia’s East Coast in 30 days: the ultimate guide
We've planned out the ultimate itinerary for 30 days on Australia’s East Coast just for you!
Days 1-5: Sydney & Blue Mountains
Welcome to stunning, shimmering Sydney. The world-famous gateway city to Australia is the perfect place to start off the trip of a lifetime. Base yourself one of our central Sydney YHAs for the next three nights and enjoy everything the Harbour City has to offer.
- Take a walk around world famous Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanic Gardens
- Admire the Sydney Harbour Bridge and climb it if you dare
- Explore the Rocks district and pop into the Museum of Contemporary Art
- Break in your flip-flops on the Bondi to Coogee Beach coastal walk
- Catch the ferry and spend the day in laid-back Manly
- Fill up on local produce at the Carriageworks Farmers Markets
- Devour everything delicious in authentic, bustling Chinatown
After Sydney has swept you off your feet, it’s time for your first slice of R&R in the nearby Blue Mountains. On day four, drive or hop on the train and in two hours you’ll be in Katoomba, the main mountain town of the Blue Mountains. Before you do anything else, catch sunset at Echo Point, which looks out to the valley and the famous Three Sisters rock formation.
Head up the road and check in for two nights at Blue Mountains YHA. Cosy up next to the hostel fireplace or walk down Katoomba St to find dinner. Station Bar is known for its insanely good wood-fired pizzas and live music.
Wake up refreshed, breathe in the fresh Aussie mountain air and check out these top spots for your day in the Blue Mountains:
- Katoomba Falls & Scenic World for a jaw-dropping cable car experience
- Sublime Point Lookout
- Go abseiling, rock climbing or canyoning with High ‘n Wild Adventures (YHA members get $10 off full-day trips, and $5 off half-day trips - just ask at reception!)
Enjoy a second night at Blue Mountains YHA after a big day outside, and get ready to start your journey north tomorrow.
Days 6-12: Port Macquarie & Byron Bay
The next few days involve gorgeous beaches, crazy coastal outlooks and Australia’s best surf towns. Say goodbye to the hustle and bustle of the big cities for a while, and get ready to live the beach bum life. Your next stop is Port Macquarie, the perfect place to call it a night after spending the good part of the day snaking up the stunning Pacific Highway.
Check in for two nights at Port Macquarie YHA, just a couple of blocks from the harbour, beaches and restaurants. This holidaymaker's haven is one of the coast’s most popular stop offs, sitting neatly in between Byron Bay and Sydney, and featuring plenty to do in a two-day visit.
- Hire a bike for $5 and peddle around the town
- Hit the surf or hire a paddleboard (ask at reception!)
- Go whale watching (between June and November) and almost certainly see dolphins, too!
After two days in Port Macquarie, it’s time to head north!
Head up the road to famous Byron Bay, the hippie and party town that has it all, and is around 4 hours’ drive north.
Check in at your choice of two Byron Bay YHAs for three nights of pure backpacker bliss. This is THE meeting point for backpackers travelling Australia’s east coast, so soak it in.
- Sunrise at Cape Byron Lighthouse, Australia’s most easterly point
- Chill out at Wategos Beach
- Watch a sunset drum circle at Main Beach
- Kayak with dolphins
- Stretch out with some yoga (book at reception for $5)
- Book a surf lesson
- Dance on the tables at Cheeky Monkey’s Backpacker Bar
Days 13-19: Gold Coast, Brisbane & Noosa
After three days in Byron Bay, the time has come to move on (sigh) and continue the journey north (yay!) Follow the light towards the shimmering Gold Coast, just over one hour’s drive away.
Check in for one night at Coolangatta YHA, dip your toes in the sand and enjoy the world-class surf breaks.
- Watch the pro surfers at world-famous Snapper Rocks and Point Danger
- Check out the magical rainforest and waterfalls of the Gold Coast hinterland
After all these beach trips and nature breaks, it’s about time for another city destination. Bustling Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, sits right ahead, just over one hour’s drive north from Coolangatta.
Check in for three nights at Brisbane City YHA, which is perched high up on a hill and right in the middle of where it’s all happening.
- Southbank Lagoon (aka Streets Beach), a beach in the middle of the city
- Caxton Street’s bars (especially Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall), just around the corner from Brisbane City YHA
- Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art
- Mt Coot-tha’s hiking trails and lookout
- Newstead’s breweries – check out Green Beacon Brewing Co and Newstead Brewing Co
- West End’s markets and boutiques
- Take a day trip out to Moreton Island – snorkel the famous Tangalooma Wrecks and sandboard down the island’s giant sand dunes
Now that you’ve loaded up on all that Brissie has to offer, it’s time to hit the road again to nearby Noosa on the dazzling Sunshine Coast.
Check in for two nights at YHA Noosa Heads , a gorgeous heritage-listed guesthouse just 100 metres from Noosa’s Main Beach.
- Window shop along Hastings Street with some fresh baked goods and coffee in hand
- Walk the trails through Noosa National Park – make sure you look up to spot koalas and go for a dip in the Fairy Pools
- Visit the Eumundi Markets, just 20 mins drive or bus inland from Noosa
- Enjoy a drink or meal with some live music on the hostel’s dreamy outdoor deck
- Make time to explore the UNESCO-recognised Noosa Everglades, a pristine area of wetlands north of Noosa Heads reminiscent of its Florida namesake. You can stay right on the doorstep at YHA Noosa Everglades Kangarooms.
Days 20-25: Hervey Bay, K’gari (formely known as Fraser Island) & Cairns
What you’ll see on K’gari:
- Crystal clear Lake McKenzie
- Float down Eli Creek
- Enjoy the natural sacuzzi that is the Champagne Pools
- Dingos and more!
You’ll get back late, so pop into Hervey Bay YHA again for the night, and ready for a flight in the morning.
Hightail it back to Brisbane and head straight to the Domestic Airport for a two and half hour flight to tropical Cairns, where you’ll spend the next three nights at Cairns Central YHA.
- Snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef
- Get high on the Kuranda Scenic Railway
- Bungy jump off a bridge in the rainforest with AJ Hackett
- Get lost in the Daintree Rainforest
- Waterfall hop in the Atherton Tablelands
- Relax by the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon
- Experience Cairns’ legendary backpacker nightlife
Days 26-30: Mission Beach, Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach & Whitsundays
Phew, after three packed days of tropical adventure in Cairns, it’s time to escape south towards Mission Beach, where there’s less crowds and more tropical paradise all to yourself.
- Skydive and land on the beach
- Trek to the summit of Bicton Hill for views on the mainland and islands
- Hit the mountain bike trails of Djiru National Park, right behind Mission Beach YHA
- Hop on a free rainforest and creek walking tour (sign up at reception)
- Ride the rapids on the Tully River
- Day trip out to Dunk Island for snorkelling, walking and relaxing
Okay, so maybe you didn’t get much of a chance to relax with all these incredible things to do. Your next stop is three hours south and a short ferry ride from the mainland city Townsville across the water to laidback Magnetic Island.
- Horse riding along the beach
- Laze on secluded beaches
Your last stop on your ultimate east coast road-trip is ahead. All good things must come to an end, so you may as well go out with a bang. Hit the road south for three hours and find Airlie Beach, the gateway to the blissed out Whitsunday Islands.
What you’ll do in the Whitsundays:
- Relax on unspoilt beaches, including Whitehaven Beach
- Snorkel amazing fringing reefs
- Help raise the sails or relax on the deck
See you on the east coast!
Image credits: Destination NSW, Tourism and Events Queensland, Tall Ship Adventures
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